Features of Zion

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 - The Glory of Divine Initiation

“Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Ps. 87:3).

“Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22).

“Unto Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever” (Eph. 3:21).

We have been walking about Zion in these messages, taking account of some of the aspects of this heavenly spiritual seed which is Christ and His own.

Now we come to that which is gathered into the one word - ‘glory’, the glory of Christ and of His own people. Now a very simple survey of the New Testament with that word ‘glory’ in mind - and you will only have to glance down the columns of a concordance under that word - will make a tremendous impression. The impression will be that this idea of glory, this matter of glory, seems to govern everything.

Glory Governs Everything

If you read the Gospels regarding the life of the Lord Jesus here on the earth, you will be impressed that in His life the dominant note and the motive of everything was the glory of God, that glory manifested in Himself and handed on to His disciples, His followers, His church. Anyone familiar with the New Testament or with the Gospels will find Scriptures, statements, leaping up to their memories at once. “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), and that is a comprehensive statement, for undoubtedly John, writing so very many years after the passing of the Lord Jesus to heaven and the conclusion of all His earthly life, was taking the sum of things. Perhaps he was remembering one particular point in His transfiguration of which both he and Peter, who were eyewitnesses, spoke as of beholding His glory then, yet covering those works of His from the beginning of his signs in Cana of Galilee, when he manifested His glory (John 2:11); covering all His works, covering all His movements, covering all His doings and His refusal to do, and His movements and His refusing to be moved, showing that the motive of everything in the life of the Lord Jesus was the glory of God, and that manifested in Himself.

Think about it. Recall the words: glory, glorify, glorified. How often they occur in connection with His time down here. And, although the cross seemed to be so very much other than fraught with glory, the undergirding and overriding thing of the cross and the work accomplished thereon and thereby is glory. On the one hand, the removal of all that could never be to the glory of God, the removal of the man, the kind of man, the old Adam, order of man, the removal of all the sin and its consequences, the whole mighty work of atonement, all to put out of the way that which could never be to the glory of God and never be glorified, the ground that was entirely against glory; and, on the other hand, in resurrection triumph, to bring in the ground for glory, it is glory that governs the work of the cross.

And then again it is the governing idea of all the apostles in the second section, coming in with the Acts. It is the spirit of glory that comes in in Acts 2, the Spirit of the glorified One, and He comes in in glory. The church was filled with glory, the church was brought in in glory, because Christ had been glorified, and that was the note, the triumphant note, of the church and of the preaching. This One Whom they had crucified, God had glorified. All the instruction, all the admonition, all the exhortation, all the warning, and all the ministry of consolation in the letters of the apostles has to do with this one matter of glory. “Our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). It is glory that is there in the ministry of consolation, explaining the trial. If it is warning, it has to do with losing the on-high calling, losing the glory. And so the second great section of the New Testament is really dominated by this one thought of glory. We make the general statement and come to it more particularly as we go on.

And what can we say about the book of the Revelation? It is introduced with a presentation of the glorified and glorious Lord, and the doxology so soon breaks out. “Unto Him that loved us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood... to Him be the glory” (Rev. 1:5). And from that introduction, the presentation of the glorious Lord, right through, the one thing that is governing all is the issue of glory. All has to be dealt with, the nations, the forces of evil, because God is going to fill His universe with His glory, and all that is not according to glory must be dealt with and got rid of, and at last that book of the Revelation emerges in the unveiling of the glorious city. It is only, in other words, the church in union with Christ - “having the glory of God” (Rev. 21:11). Well, do we need to stay to gather more evidence that the New Testament, at least, is governed by this thought of glory?

Now, that whole matter in general is divided into three main divisions. Firstly, there is the glory in divine initiation. Secondly, the glory in hidden operation. Thirdly, the glory in final manifestation. I think that sums up the matter so far as the Word of God is concerned. Of course, there is a vast amount of detail, but in general that is what it amounts to.

Glory in Divine Initiation

We shall now occupy ourselves with the first of those three: glory in divine initiation. I think two outstanding instances can be cited as sufficient indication. We take the birth of the Lord Jesus and then the birth of the church. There are many other initiations in the Bible, in the Old Testament and in the New. We might say there are as many divine initiations as there are saints. And we find that they are all with glory.

Here we have these two. The divine initiation marked by the incarnation, the coming into flesh and into this world of the Son of God, the Son of Man. We ought to read the story again in Luke chapter 2, but it is hardly necessary.

The angel and his announcement, and then suddenly with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host singing, praising and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased” (Luke 2:14). It was a scene of glory, an occasion of glory, tumultuous glory in heaven breaking through into this world.

Something in a spiritual way happened like that on the day of Pentecost. We can only deduce that the ascension of the Lord Jesus was a wonderful scene in heaven. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors: And the King of glory will come in. Who is the King of glory?” (Ps. 24:7-8). It is a scene of ecstasy in heaven, the receiving up - not just the ascending up, but the receiving up of the Lord of glory, the Prince of glory, and out of heaven’s joy, heaven’s tumultuous joy, the Holy Spirit came forth, and if what happened expresses one thing here on the earth in the church, it does express joy, it does speak of glory. Oh, what a day that was when the church was born out of the heavenly glory and filled with that glory!

Glory a Matter of Joy, Peace and Satisfaction

The initiation in both cases was with glory. There is no doubt about it, God’s beginnings, God’s own beginnings, are always in glory. And glory, if you break it up, if you look at it through the prism, is a matter of joy. It is not just some blaze of external light. It is joy, strange, often inexplicable joy. It is peace: discord ceases, strain departs, there is a wonderful sense of everything being all right. There is peace and satisfaction. An answer has been given to all that we have felt in our deepest being needed to be, ought to be, for the vindication of God, for the justification of God, for the explanation of heart questions and problems. When God acts, your problems cease, your questionings go out in satisfaction. You are satisfied God has done this, that is all there is to it. How He has done it, that does not matter; by what means, sometimes so simple. We thought it was going to mean a mountain-removing miracle, and just quietly it has taken place. Satisfaction has entered into our hearts. We are not like Naaman of old - I thought at least He would have come out and done some extraordinary thing! “Are not Abanah and Pharpar the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?” (2 Kings 5:12), demanding something very extraordinary, No, it is just in this simple way God does it, and you are satisfied. When God does a thing, it is like that. That is the essence of the glory of God, that you are satisfied; and God’s beginnings, God’s initiations, are in glory in that sense, without anything of the external to account for it.

Take the birth of the Lord Jesus, that great initiation of God. Well, look at the conditions, look at the circumstances, look at the surroundings, look at everything naturally. No palace, no earthly comforts, no accompaniments of those sovereign activities of God which are according to men’s ideas that everything should be just so beautifully and wonderfully arranged on the earth side - no, everything to the contrary. From the earth standpoint: weakness, poverty, want, discomfort, and yet it is in glory; there is no contradiction of the divine glory. Heaven is satisfied, heaven is rapturous in glory, and anyone who has any real touch with that is quite satisfied. There is something here that is deeper and more wonderful than anything external. Is it not like that every time the Lord Jesus has a new birth? Forgive me putting it that way. Was it not like that when He was born in your heart and in mine? Well, on the outside, things did not seem very different. The home was the same, the business place was the same, the world was the same, the circumstances did not change a bit, but somehow there was a glory inside: joy, peace, satisfaction, glory.

Perhaps some of you say, I was brought up in a Christian home, there was no great crisis in my experience, I seemed to move quite naturally into the Christian life. Have you never since in your spiritual history had an experience of the Lord, the Lord coming into your life, the Lord moving in in some way, in this way? The strain went out, the fret went out, the shame went out, the discontent went out, the disappointment went out. You were at peace, great joy flooded in, you were satisfied. I think we can all speak of that, and that more than once. God’s new beginnings are always in glory. It was with His Son, and - let me put it in this way again - every birth of His Son in a life or in a place is accompanied with these tokens of glory.

The Essence of Divine Glory

But what is the essence of this glory? What was the essence of that glory on the day when Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Now here you have to mark very carefully a discrimination, because it is just here that people go wrong and get into difficulties. The essence of the glory of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem, as is the essence of glory in every event and every fresh movement of God, was and is this: God Himself having brought in that which is to His pleasure. God has introduced and brought in that which is to His pleasure, and the Lord Jesus is the object of the Father’s pleasure. If He is not there, there is nothing to the Father’s pleasure. When He is there, there is something present which is to the pleasure of the Father. The Father’s pleasure, satisfaction and joy is centred in His Son and where His Son is. Now the peril into which so many have fallen is that they have taken the effects of that rather than the cause. The effects - yes, joy and peace and satisfaction and deeply moved emotions, gratification and pleasure, and then, taking the effects, the feelings, the results, they have tried to perpetuate them. They have been afraid that they might go, they get into a state of fear - how long will this last? Shall I wake up in the morning and find it all gone? Will it be amongst those nine days’ wonders? And so they have strained after holding and maintaining the effects, and missed the basic reality.

The basic reality is Christ and Christ is God’s delight and God’s pleasure; not the feelings, but the fact. How many of you are trying to recover the feelings, or to hold on to the feelings, to have the feelings, the effects; reaching out for some abstract thing that you call glory? That is the mistake. God’s facts remain. The feelings may change - that is the second part of this whole matter of glory - the hidden operations of glory, that touches another realm altogether. We are occupied with God’s initiations. But when God gets His Son in, He has not just got a set of emotions, a lot of feelings; He has got a mighty eternal reality, the very object of divine glory. And Christ in you is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), not your feelings about it, but the mighty, basic reality. God has that which is to his pleasure. His pleasure is not in us, in what we are, however we feel. I do not believe that the Lord is any more pleased and satisfied with us when we are having an ecstatic time than He is when we are having a most miserable time. That is just the variableness of our own soul life. We can get up or we can get down; God’s pleasure and satisfaction is centred in His Son, and He wants us to have our hold of faith upon His mighty fact and not the variableness of our own reactions. No, God’s initiation is just this: that God has brought in, where there never was before, that which is to His satisfaction. It is Christ and not first of all the effects of Christ. Oh, the effects are there, praise God for that, but you know so often the effects are the elementary aspect of things, the infant period. You go out into maturity, and in maturity you will have to learn to live on Christ, not on feelings.

God’s Initiations His Basis for Future Operations

Secondly, God, having obtained that which is to His pleasure, His initiations, His beginnings are His standards, and His basis for all future operation. Everything afterwards will be in accordance with the beginning, the initiation. I do not mean that for ever and always there will be that conscious ecstasy, that sense of glory. But I do mean this, that God, having obtained it, introduced that which is to His satisfaction, the seat and centre of His glory. And He will be working for ever after to make that which is in His Son true in us so that we are, in conformity to His Son, on the way to glory ourselves, progressive glory by that which satisfies God being wrought into us so that the glory is spreading out and taking hold, and we are coming nearer and nearer to that of which the Word speaks, “God... called you unto his eternal glory” (1 Pet. 5:10). The beginnings of God govern the end. The end is to correspond to the beginning, but even in greater measure. The beginnings may be comparatively small. Bethlehem in a sense is small, is little; Christ there is limited; and yet all the fulness of the glory is opened up in that smallness, in that littleness. In the end, it will not be additional glory. It will be that glory which has expanded and filled the universe. God is working according to His beginnings to have His end corresponding therewith. So the beginnings of God are the basis of all God’s activities. There will be that in the end which is glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever (Eph. 3:21).

This is practical. If the Lord has done something, has introduced something of Himself, of His Christ, in us personally and individually in this earth, as a work of His, that beginning has been God’s, and it has come in with these accompanying manifestations of deep joy and gratification. And oh, how blessed and precious a thing it is to have the assurance that this is of God, this is not of man, the Lord did this. How assuring and heart satisfying it is to have that realisation! And when God does that in a life that individual is able to say, ‘I did not choose Him but He chose me, the initiative was with God. It was not my doing, it was the Lord’s doing; if it had not been for the Lord I would never be here today.’ Many can say that all the way along what He did at the beginning He has continued to do. I have wandered, yea fallen, but I am here today because God started this thing, and it is going on because it started in glory and glory is not a matter of the variableness of my nature, not at all to do with me. It is His Son, He planted His Son and He has worked and is working all the way through my life on the ground of Christ, not on my ground at all. When I come at last to the fulness of that glory to which He has called me I shall have to say: He did it, it was the Lord’s doing, not mine; He did it!

God is working on the basis of His initiation. I believe that there is a great deal of very profound truth in the New Testament gathered into that, upon which we will not embark. May it not be that the whole of those deep things of God gathered into Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:4 about being chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, and in Romans 8:29, “whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son”, (which takes us right out of time and all that belongs to time, right out of this human life here and all that belongs to it, and places us right there on the Rock in eternity) that it is all gathered into this, that God has taken the initiative and is working according to His initiating? I am not ruling out our response and all that is incumbent upon us to go on, to be steadfast - that is another side. But all our effort, our determination, would be futile if God had not started this thing Himself and laid the foundation for it. If our obedience, our compliance, our response, our setting of our hearts to go on with God, if all that were not upon a basis that God has laid down, how in vain it would be; but it is simply our coming to the Rock.

Thank God, the Rock is there and the Rock is Christ. He has done it, and so, with our deviations, we come back. With our failures, we rise again. We are ashamed and grieved, we suffer discipline, but we are not cast off. God started this, and that is glory; it is the glory of His grace.

My point is that God is working according to His beginnings. His beginnings are His basis for all His further activities right on to the end, and because Christ is the beginning, the end will be Christ, and the end is Christ because Christ was the beginning. God, then, has commenced with us in glory. How many of us are able to say, Yes, I know something about that. I know at a certain point at the beginning something happened, and the effects of that were great joy, great peace, a great sense of satisfaction. It was just glory. I can only use that word about it, it was glory. I have many times made this terrible mistake of trying to make everything of the effects, the nice feelings that I had then, and I have forgotten the fact of Christ, but I know something of the glory, and every time that the Lord is able to get something more of His Son into our lives that thing happens again. Here is a controversy that the Lord may have with us or we may have with the Lord. We are held up because of some unsettled question. There is a dispute going on between the Holy Spirit and ourselves. We are delaying, we are disobedient, we are slow, we are not girding ourselves to the battle. We have no peace, no rest, no satisfaction, our lives are torn, the glory goes out of our face, out of our testimony. Then the day comes when, under the Holy Spirit’s persistent, urgent constraint, we say, I am going to have this thing settled! We go in and we shut the door and say, This is an end of this, something has to happen. We get before the Lord, and there may be a battle, a bitter battle, but we get through. The Lord is given His place, we step aside, our wills, our desires, whatever may be involved, we hand up to the Lord and say: That is gone, I have finished; now Lord Your will, Your way. When we get through, the glory is back again. Yes, joy, peace, satisfaction. Every bringing in anew or in greater fulness of the Lord Jesus over a matter is accompanied by glory. If only we knew how much glory we are forfeiting by allowing the struggle to go on so long, by not coming to grips with the situation! Oh, we are robbing ourselves of the glory - and we all do it. We are slow to learn.

But here are God’s facts, that it is in His Son and His Son having His place, that glory dwells upon that, and so we close on that note. If the Lord can only have a full place for His Son, the measure of glory in our hearts will be commensurate. Circumstances may not change at all. You may still be up against the hardships, the difficulties of your way and place and work. Things may not change, people may not change and work may not change and place may not change, but the inside is different. And may it not be - one does not want to be exacting - that the Lord does not do anything on the outside until He has that position on the inside, that delay is because we have not got to the place of glorying in infirmities. We want to get glory by deliverance from them; we are not glorying in them. Well, let us ask the Lord about it, but keep in view that God’s thought is glory and all His beginnings, whether it be that first phase of His beginnings, or those beginnings of so many after-phases, when He is beginning a new phase and yet a new phase and still a further phase, (how many new beginnings we have had - not going right back, but as it were a new phase, a new beginning), all God’s beginnings where He gets what He wants for His Son are fraught with glory. The Lord bring us into the glory and the glory into us, the glory which is Christ. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.” “Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God.” “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.”

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