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It has been a very long time since Michael Clark and I wrote our last joint article. As we are both dependent on God’s leading and inspiration, we know that we cannot ‘produce’ any blog post unless the Holy Spirit nudges us to write and publish. We are also aware of the fact that Satan has tried to destroy our spiritual fellowship more than once during the last nine years. These continuous onslaughts by the enemy are something we cannot fight against unless we use spiritual weapons since the devil is a spirit, too. It seems when you and I, dear brothers and sisters, are seeking fellowship with someone who is like-minded with us, the devil is instantly ready to fire. T. Austin-Sparks in his article “Spiritual Warfare” (1) wrote,

[…] the enemy hates corporate life and will do anything to break it up, and always by the simplest means possible whenever these will succeed. If you are a moody person, just a mood – ‘I don’t feel like it’ – and you very soon fall out of the corporate life. That is all the enemy needs very often with some people to put them out, and he strikes a blow at the very destiny of the Church by the moods and temperamentalism of Christians. And if on simple lines he cannot succeed, he will press to the more complex or highly developed forms, just to destroy the relatedness and fellowship of the people of God; therefore fellowship and relatedness become a battleground.

Some think fellowship is a kind of picnic, a religious festival, having a good time. Praise God for all the joy and blessedness of fellowship, but it goes far beyond that, and it is more a matter of real battle, warfare. A field of desperate conflict is the maintaining and preserving of true inward heart fellowship with all other Christians – not with just the sort that we like, but with all. (1)

One might ask then why Satan so furiously fights fellowship? The reason is that his own kingdom is threatened as soon as two or three of us have become one with the mind of Christ. Then, and only then, Christ continues to live His life on earth through His Body which is the Church as TAS also mentioned in another entry. Our enemy knows that God’s goal and purpose to bring forth sweeping spiritual changes on earth and in the heavenly places fully depends on the fact of functioning fellowship. Firstly between Christ and His saints and secondly between us, dear brothers and sisters. Have you ever experienced that your problems, worries, and other worldly concerns just disappeared from your mind’s eye as soon as you felt the presence of God? Haven’t you felt more connected to God and to other believers with or for whom you prayed, too?  🙄

Many of us have been part at one time or another of churches that emphasize spiritual gifts or Bible knowledge. But in most cases these gifts were used to elevate those who exercised them as being “more spiritual” than those who did not. In fact in some of them one gift listed in the first letter to the Corinthians was seen as a manifestation that you were really “Spirit filled” and if you did not manifest it you were some kind of spiritual invalid. In other churches your Bible knowledge is a sign of your maturity. Yet, Paul in this same letter commenced to show the Corinthians with all their gifts that they were anything but that! Right in the middle of what Paul had to say about spiritual gifts is the famous “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, which starts out saying,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Cor 13:1-3, ESV2011)

Satan loves nothing better than to pit one saint against another, whether it be by spiritual elevation, “Don’t touch me, I am holier than thou,” by setting ourselves apart with a display of our Bible college, and seminary degrees, and let’s not forget the lofty titles we insist on being addressed by. Even a display of our spiritual gifts, something given by the Spirit to edify the whole body, can be used by Satan to cause division among the saints. The love of God does not practice such things, but pride does.

Paul ends chapter 13 by saying,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Cor 13:4-12, ESV2011)

It is easy to see by the context that “that which is perfect” is the person that walks in the love of God and does not walk in arrogance and pride insisting on his own way. When will our emphasis on speaking in tongues, prophesy, flaunting our Bible knowledge, etc. end? It ends when we grow up IN Christ and start walking in His perfect love for the body of Christ. It is in His love that we will strive to do all things unto the edification of others and not ourselves. When that which is perfect comes into our hearts, the need for those partial things passes away.

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

The measure of our spiritual life is no greater than our heart; the knowledge that is in the head is not the measure of spirituality, the way for your release, emancipation, increase, abundance is the way of the heart. Spirituality is not mental agreement on things stated in the Word, it is the melting of one heart to another – to all saints. The devil has locked up a number of the Lord’s children as in a padded room of their own limitations; frozen their love by something between them and other children of God. The way out is by increase of love; and we shall remain locked up until we are there…. True spirituality is the measure of love of God shed abroad in the heart, all the spirituals rest upon and have their rise out of love. Not power, or knowledge, or different gifts, these are not the first things, the first thing is love. That leads to the increase of God. (2)

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1John 4:12, ESV2011)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. (1John 4:16-17, ESV2011)

The love of God makes all the difference in whether we experience true fellowship IN Christ. His love flowing through us makes unity with other saints possible. We pray that the Lord grants each of us the love and unity of Christ with all His saints, even if it is only one person He has put us in fellowship with so that we all might see what is possible to God and that we all enjoy the freedom that is ours in the love of the Father. Amen.

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000652.html

(2) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002964.html

“In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statment included.”

Photos by Susanne Schuberth 2022/2023