ambition, Ananias and Sapphira, ascendancy, aspiration, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, following Jesus, God's guidance, Holiness, joy, Judgment, Life and Death, Light and Darkness, Overcoming, overcoming the world, peace, Pentecost, rest, Satan, self, spiritual power, T.A. Sparks, the cross, the devil, The Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, The Kingdom of Heaven, unholy, walking by the spirit
Today I want to offer you some food for thought by T. Austin Sparks, a man of God of whom I am certain that he really knew what he was talking about from his own experiences in the kingdom of God. Regarding spiritual ascendancy and power Sparks meant that we should follow God’s “inward and upward call” (my words) to overcome, in particular the devil. TAS said that Satan cannot tempt anyone whom he finds poor in spirit. Indeed, if we are fully dependent on our Lord in all things, the enemy is helpless while we are being drawn higher and higher on this spiritual mountain called “Zion”. In that which follows you will find two excerpts from two different articles by TAS.
What was the secret of the church’s ascendancy in those first days? What was the secret of the power of those who represented the kingdom of the heavens? Well, it was their subjection to the absolute Lordship of Christ. Look at Peter in relation to the house of Cornelius, the little bit of battle that was fought out in relation to the mastery, the Lordship, of Christ. But when that Lordship was established, even over Peter’s traditional acceptances and mentality, what power came in in the house of God! Why, heaven came down, heaven was manifested there in mighty power! Peter, in reporting the thing over against the questionings of his own brethren, said, “Who was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). ‘I was perfectly helpless in this matter; heaven took it out of my hands. Just as had happened at Pentecost, heaven took it out of our hands; we were swept off our feet, so it happened there.’ It is the Lordship of Christ.
In the life of Paul it was like that. Paul set out on his way, committing that way to the Lord and trusting the Lord about his way, and he reached a certain point and he thought to go in a certain direction and preach there, but he was forbidden of the Holy Spirit. Then he thought in another direction: this would be the place to go to, this is a needy area, surely it would be the right thing to make Christ known there, but the Spirit of Jesus suffered him not (Acts 16:7). Now, supposing he had leaned to his own understanding and pursued the course of his own judgment, he would have gone into Asia and Bithynia, and there would have been no result. Perhaps he would have got into trouble; that is usually what happens when you pursue a self-chosen, self-directed way. But at that point, the Lord showed him another direction. Perhaps he had never thought of that. That certainly was not in his present mental program, but he was adjustable to the Lord.
The great question for you, for me, for the Lord’s people is this: the question of higher ground. And higher ground means advantage, vantage ground over the enemy and all his work and his power. If that ground is to be obtained, these two things which come out here in connection with the first mountain [i.e., the first mountain of the “Great Commission”, see Mt 28:16-20 – explanatory note] must be realized – things in our own hearts. First, a spiritual disposition found in those laws of the kingdom: the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and so on – a disposition. Persecuted for righteousness’ sake – there is no virtue in being persecuted; anybody can be persecuted for anything, but for righteousness’ sake is different. For example, you do not turn round and say, ‘I will get even with you one day.’ It is a disposition: “Who… when He suffered, threatened not”, it says of the Lord (1 Peter 2:23). That is the secret of power and ascendancy. And then the preparedness to let the Lord have the upper hand in all arguments, to let the Lord have the last word in all matters, to adjust to anything that the Lord brings in a new light. Yes, openness to Him and complete subjection to His full authority. That is the way of going on in power. It is proved in this book, as we have seen, and it always is so. May the Lord bring us on to that mountain.
Upon what does spiritual power rest? Power with God, power from God in our lives and in this world, enabling us to overcome; upon what does it rest? Who shall ascend? “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto falsehood, and hath not sworn deceitfully” (Ps. 24:4). “I have set my king upon my HOLY hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6). This matter of spiritual power is a matter of holiness at its root and foundation. Many have thought that spiritual power is a matter of enduement. To receive a “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, that is said to be the way of power – something that happens to you like that. Let me point out that that concerns power for witness. “Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). But power over the power of the enemy is by reason of the nature of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit – and the witness, the power, of the Church in its effectiveness at the beginning was simply because the Holy Spirit had come to be absolutely in the ascendent as Lord. That is why, when in the book of the Acts you so soon find something unholy rising up in the midst, there was such an instant action of judgment by the Spirit. You will recall the cases of Ananias and Sapphira and others.
That opens up a very long and full history, and you at once see that the great enemy’s one means and method of destroying power over him was to corrupt, to introduce something unholy. That is the history of man.
How persistent the enemy is to get us somehow involved in something questionable! There is an extraordinary phrase used in relation to Israel’s life – a phrase not easy to understand, and I do not profess to understand all it means; but there it is. It is this phrase: “the iniquity of the holy things” (Ex. 28:38). What does it mean? Well, I can see something of what it means, and a great deal more than I am going to say now. I am only going to suggest to you that in the fuller meaning it means this – that there are holy things, and it is in the realm of the holy things that the enemy is always trying to get something that involves compromise.
Love, true love, is the most holy thing, and it is in the realm of love that the enemy is always trying to get something compromising, something wrong. We have said ambition is not a wrong thing. It is a Divinely implanted thing. God made man to have dominion. Perhaps ambition is the wrong word; aspiration is a more spiritual word – the desire, the sensing of destiny, that you were made to rise, made to attain. You were not made a worm grovelling on the earth: you were made with legs; which means that you were made to get somewhere. Interpreted spiritually and morally, God made us to rise, to reach, to attain. That mighty instinct is found in the apostle –
“Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on…” (Phil. 3:12). Here it is at work, that kind of thing. Aspiration is a holy thing. Tell me, is it not just there that all the iniquity is found? – the self-element, the possessive, the acquisitive, the assertive, the domineering, the effort to gain dominion. Then dominion becomes domination, and it has gone wrong: the very spirit of it has gone. Meekness has become pride, the glory of God has become instead our glory. It is the iniquity of holy things: and remember, that the nearer you get to the most holy, the nearer you get to the deepest perils. The deep things of Satan lie next to the deep things of God. “The iniquity of the holy things.”[…]
You have gone with the Lord – “They… follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” – and no one else follows you; you are very much alone; it is spiritual loneliness. We are in this world and if we touch it in a voluntary way we become defiled. I am not saying we have to leave our business. As Paul says, if we are not going to have anything to do with this world in practical ways, we had better go right out of it (1 Cor. 5:10). That is not the point. The question is that of our voluntary moral and spiritual links, our choices. It is not our business obligations that need involve us, but our heart association – the sort of things we want, like, choose. Those things bring a death touch, and we come under arrest. We find we have lost our position, our spiritual power, our ascendency, whatever that may mean – our joy, peace, rest. We have touched the dead realm somewhere in spirit. It is a terrible thing in spirit to touch death – and that is iniquity; you have touched iniquity.
Hence the Lord has to do this work of the Cross in us.
All images © Susanne Schuberth 2022