"Sovereign Head" - The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 7 - The Law of Heavenly Sustenance

Begotten of God

It is not sufficient that we should have a heavenly origin, but there is to be a definite act by which that heavenly origin is to become an experimental thing, a realised thing - a heavenly begetting. Now this brings in the place of the Resurrection. Paul, by revelation, placed his finger with tremendous emphasis upon the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus was the time and the occasion for a special attestation from heaven as to His Sonship, that "He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." And then Paul in many places points out that our relationship to the Lord Jesus to realise the Eternal Purpose, and to come into our heavenly heritage, and to know our heavenly Life is by a divine act when the power of His resurrection is wrought in us, and by that resurrection power we are separated once and for all from the death of the old Adam into the Life of the New Man, the Heavenly Man, the last Adam, the second Man - a heavenly begetting. It did not come to Paul in the words of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh. John got his revelation that way; he recorded things that Jesus said, but Paul recorded things that he in the Spirit saw. John wrote his gospel and his letters years after Paul closed his last epistle, but Paul has got right through to these eternal realities in the Spirit, and he is understanding in the Spirit what John later wrote as a historic record, "Ye must be born from above." "Ye must be born anew." "Except a man be born anew he cannot enter into the realm of God."

You see, beloved, this whole vast thing of God's Purpose hangs for ever upon that divine thing which we call being born again, born from above. That is a divine act when the reality of our heavenly calling becomes experimental by the impartation of a heavenly Life. When there is a begetting there is the reception of a life, the impartation of a Life out of God which is commensurate with the vast range of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection."

Now for most this is away back in the beginnings of the gospel, but we ought never to get very far from the beginnings while there are still souls who are not sure that they have been born from above, and one stays to stress this in order to interrogate any who may be reading this. Are you sure you are in the Eternal Purpose of God in Christ. How can you be sure? By this, that having received the gift of that Eternal Life you have come to know that you are no longer of this earth, but you belong somewhere else. Now that is a simple test for some of the Lord's people who are troubled, uncertain about their salvation even yet. Are you not quite sure because of certain things? Now is this true of you, that for you He alone satisfies; He alone answers to that something in you which is you really, and without Him everything would be blank, dark, and you would sooner not have a being at all, because you realise that without Him the very spring of your life has been cut off. Are you there? If that is so you have got something to go on with, something to encourage you. Beloved, I have often had to tell my own heart that.... There are times when the pressure is so great, and the enemy's tactics are so severe, and all manner of accusations are brought by him to bear upon us that we have to look into our own hearts and cry - where are we? And for myself, the only answer that I have been able to give which has brought me peace from time to time is, if I lose the Lord I lose everything, and that being the case, that I cannot and have no wish to live without Him, I think it is all right. I think He will accept that at any rate. He has linked me on by His own Life to Himself, and that Life which is Christ then is the hope of glory, the assurance of glory, because it is the power by which there is going to be the full realisation of all the meaning of His resurrection in spirit, soul and body.

I would urge upon you once again to look up Paul as he writes about this thing. The matter of sonship on the basis of resurrection, and our union with Him in that resurrection. "Christ was raised from the dead, so also we." "The exceeding greatness of His power which is to usward, the power which He exercised, or energised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead," and, "ye are risen with Him." Just make a special note of Eph. 2:4-6, Col. 3:1, and look at them again in this connection.

The Law of the Heavenly Sustenance

The next law of the Life of the Heavenly Man is the law of a heavenly sustenance. I think Paul, in re-reading his scriptures, which were scriptures of the Old Testament, in the light of the revelation of Jesus which had come to him, came to see this principle as he saw Jesus right down through those scriptures, and then he wrote to the Corinthians, "I would not have you ignorant brethren, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the Red Sea, and they all did eat of that spiritual meat, and all did drink of that spiritual drink, for they drank of the Rock which followed them, and that Rock was Christ." Here is the sustenance of the Heavenly Man - one who has been called out by God into a heavenly union. It is the impartation of Christ by the Spirit, and you may get at this again by asking your own hearts this question - Have I an insatiable appetite for the Lord Jesus? For that is one of the characteristic marks of a truly born-again life. It is a hunger, it is an appetite. One is so sad sometimes to find young Christians without that appetite - professedly Christians - so many of those who take His Name and claim to be the Lord's people, but they have not really anything of an appetite for spiritual food. Do you hunger and thirst for Him? Is your longing for Him that of the Apostle's, "That I may know Him." And with what does that connect his quest? "I have counted all these other great things of earth as the utmost refuse," and Paul begins that by saying if any man has whereof to boast I can go beyond any man. I have more than any man to boast of, and if you are going to boast then he can catalogue the things that he can boast about, and they are not mean things, but then he comes to this, but "I count these things as the veriest refuse that I may be found in Him." Now, beloved, has everything that you could desire, long for and boast of in this world become the veriest refuse compared with your desire for the Lord Jesus? That is a test, but it is a law of the upward heavenly life.

So Paul comes to see the other Jesus "I am the Bread of Life." That is, I am the sustenance, the maintenance, the nourishment, the basis of growth and strength and health in spiritual things. "I am the Bread of Life." That is spiritual meat; that is spiritual drink. He knew what the Lord had said to His people. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live." Do you live by Him? He is the sustenance. Now, beloved, He may be presented to you, to me, in all the wonderful intrinsic value of His sustaining properties, and yet being brought to you, you may just fail to know Him as your sustenance, for you know the real value of food for us is not merely in its inherent properties. You may offer me a most wholesome and nourishing meal, and yet it may not mean life to me, it might mean just the opposite! What is necessary is that there shall be that in me which is able to take hold of it and to break it up and assimilate it and make it mine. That is the law here of Christ in you, Christ being formed in you, but Christ in you as the Life which takes hold of the things of Himself and makes them you. You see you must have a corresponding principle in your own being to that which is in Him, then there is Life in that meal, but unless I have Life in me which can take hold of the Life in the meal, that meal will profit me nothing, and I think that is the peril of conferences and of meetings, that there is not the Life in so many that gets hold of the Life, the corresponding principle which extracts the nutriment and translates it into their own very being. The law of heavenly sustenance.

Now what is the test? If, beloved, I am, by the corresponding principle in me extracting the Life from the meal, I can effectually work. And how much of all that comes to us of the Lord is translated into spiritual effectiveness? It is a test. I am going to stop there, but it is on one's heart - forgive me if it sounds like criticism or judgment, for one has to judge oneself in this - but one does so often feel burdened almost to an aching that it seems that in all the conventions and meetings that are held all over the country and the world, there is not a corresponding spiritual effectiveness that acts like a terrific impact upon spiritual forces. And the proof that all this is doing any good at all will be in as much as He, through us, Who is our life becoming us, does register the almighty impact of His own personal sovereignty upon the forces which are opposed to Him. It works out in our prayer meetings. It will work out in many ways - spiritual effectiveness, spiritual strength - I do not mean many activities, I do not mean programmes and schemes and all that sort of thing, I mean the real spiritual effectiveness that counts behind the human factor that really is felt and powers of darkness say, "Jesus I know, Paul I know, and so-and-so I know, and such and such a home I know, but all this conventioning, who are you?" You know the disparity between the presentation and the working out of the presentation.

Now I am not judging you any more than I am judging myself, but I do feel this, the test and the proof that Christ is our life, and that He is more and more becoming our life, and that we are knowing Him more and more in the power of His resurrection is that He, through us, really does make Himself known amongst the spiritual hosts that are opposed to Him around and back of situations in which we move. That is the proof. Is it working out like that in downright practical spiritual effectiveness? Is it growing, beloved? Is it on the increase? Perhaps you say that is not for us to say. Oh, but there is a realm where "By their fruits we shall know them." It might not be good for us to know that the Lord is doing mighty things through us, but are we impotent and helpless, paralysed in the presence of some spiritual situation which is not essentially complicated, but more or less simple. Well now, don't be disheartened and discouraged, but just see this, that the Lord Jesus wants to impart Himself to us, His children, in that increasing way that shall make Him manifest in the power of His throne and sovereignty through us, and we must see to it that the end of all our receiving Christ does mean that as He gives opportunity and calls for action in Him, we seek definitely to deal with spiritual situations; that we do not go round in a circle all the time of our personal concerns, but that we move out in the Lord. We must, otherwise it is all in vain, and when we meet for prayer that must be the order.


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