The Recovery of Spiritual Power

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 6 - The Three Primary Factors

I believe, Beloved of God, that it is the Lord's mind that in these days of our gathering together, we should be concerned with the matter of the recovery of power. That seems to be the way in which He has been leading my own heart in relation to this time.

The recovery of power. Of course, that immediately implies the loss of power; and I think there would be very little difficulty in persuading you to believe that there has been a considerable loss of power amongst the Lord's people, and that we are very greatly in need of a recovery of power. Taking that then for granted, we proceed in the assumption that it is so, and if this is the Lord's leading, then it does surely indicate that the Lord sees a need in His people with regard to spiritual power.

The Three Primary Factors

I want you again to come back to familiar chapters in the letter to the Romans. Chapters 7, 8 and 6, for in these chapters we have three primary things in relation to spiritual power. The close of chapter 7 gives us the first, out of which everything else comes. Verse 24 - "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." In that last clause we have Christ set forth as the Object by whom, through whom, there is the emergence from all that this chapter contains. Chapter 7 of the Roman letter, as we know, is a very morbid chapter; a chapter full of failure, full of weakness, full of disappointment, full of heartbreak, full of problems, full of contradictions, and that chapter certainly is not a revelation of spiritual power - anything but that. How then are we to emerge from such a condition of paralysis, morbidness, defeat, failure, collapse and contradiction? The answer is given at the end - "Through Jesus Christ our Lord." What I am anxious for you to see is that He is presented as the Object, if I may say it, also as an Object. You see the explanation of the weakness of chapter 7 is that the object all the way through is "I." That is the trouble. The object in view is "I." You know how this chapter is simply full of the personal pronoun "I," and what there is always before the one who is represented as "I"; and there is no deliverance until that object gives place to the Lord Jesus. There is no power, but all weakness while "I" is in view, and not the Lord Jesus. Now that is a very simple statement I know, and yet upon this fact and this truth there hangs everything for the Believer in the way of emancipation from defeat and failure and spiritual weakness.

The Paralysis of Self-occupation

ALL SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IS WEAKNESS. Now if you forget everything else, write that down - all self-consciousness is weakness. Self-analysis, self-scrutiny, self-investigation, self-occupation of any kind whatsoever is self-consciousness, and self-consciousness of every form and kind is weakness, weakness, and it is in that respect and connection that the subjective side of truth is a very perilous thing.

You know what I mean by the subjective side of truth. We speak much about what Christ has done for in being made good in us; the inwardness of the work of the Lord Jesus by His Cross; the Cross applied within; the inwardness of identification with Christ in death, burial and resurrection and all that follows. Now that is all true, all necessary, all vital, and not one bit of it must be sacrificed, missed or lost. At the same time it is just in that connection that the Believer comes into touch with the greatest peril of his or her life. There is a great peril always associated with the greatest blessing. When you are touching something of very great value, you have not far to look for something which is of very great danger. The higher you get spiritually the more perilous your position becomes from another standpoint, and it is here in the matter of the subjective side of truth that we meet that peril which, if it overtakes us, will work in us the most terrible bondage, defeat and spoliation of everything. I want to try and explain what I mean by that. If you can grasp this word, beloved, you will find it an emancipating word as the Holy Spirit brings it home to your heart. You see, when the truth is applied subjectively, so often we relate it to ourselves, and ourselves to it as some thing apart instead of Someone. For instance, we have thought and said a good deal about the tripartite nature of man. We have spoken much about spirit, soul and body, and especially about soul and spirit, spirit and soul and we have dwelt much upon that. The mental grasp of this by many of the Lord's children has brought them into confusion, and they do not know where they are, and all the time they are afraid of themselves, they are afraid to open their lips lest it might be "soulish," they are afraid to do anything lest it might be "soulish" - all the time looking within to see if it is soul or spirit - trying to read themselves.

They get a phraseology about their spirit all the time, "they have it in their spirit," and it brings death and weakness. It is perfectly true that it holds up activity very often; real activity; so that as I have said, very often prayer is not forthcoming because people are afraid to pray lest they should not pray in their spirit. Many are afraid to take part in many of the active aspects of the spiritual life lest it should be other than in their spirits, or out from their spirit, and, do you see what has happened? Their spirit has taken the dominion, they have their spirit always dangled before their eyes, and asking questions about it, trying to analyse it and get to know it and understand it. It is the inward ego. It is the "I." [It] may be the spiritual "I" that is in view all the time, and that being their governing, dominating obsession, is a weakening, enslaving thing. It is a subjectivity which is generally introspective, producing self-consciousness that makes you afraid to do anything, and all self-consciousness, be it spiritual or not, is weakness. Now beloved, we have got to be delivered from our spiritual selves, from occupation with our spiritual selves. What is the way of deliverance from all these contradictions that arise, and there are many, in this realm? Often the people who are always talking about "having it in their spirit" do the most outrageous things - things that are a sheer contradiction of the Word of God - that violate the Word of God, very often because they have "got it in their spirit." Forgive my emphasis.

(It is a very important thing to know the difference between the Natural (GK. Soulical or Psychical) and the Spiritual, but our spirit is not the object of Government or really the seat of knowledge, it is only the vehicle or instrument of the Holy Spirit within. Our spirit may be affected by the Natural influences and suffer deviations like the compass, thereby showing that even a renewed spirit is not infallible. The Lord will never allow infallibility to be a part of us, and a life of utter dependence and faith is the only way of being led aright.)

We must know the way of recovery of spiritual power. What I am feeling more and more is just this: that a large amount of spiritual knowledge, spiritual teaching, spiritual instruction, is not the secret of power at all. That is not power. In this realm of spiritual things teaching and instruction and doctrine, and light as such are not the secret of power at all. You find this terrible contradiction that so many who have a large amount of light, and a great measure of teaching and instruction are sometimes the chief offenders, and sometimes they bring death, sometimes they are a sand-bag, they are an arrest, they bring in weakness, and it may be that with a very great deal of light, knowledge, truth, there is still the upper hand of the enemy with impunity. You know what I mean. The enemy can be laughing all the time at our knowledge of truth and making a mess everywhere, while we are so well versed in all the doctrine of the Bible. (I am discriminating between mental knowledge and spiritual knowledge, dealing with the latter in the next message).

Power is the thing that meets the enemy in his challenge. We want to know the secret of power. Am I not right that very often with all our wonderful teaching, we have not got power? There is not sufficient power to bring to an end the activities of the adversary, and to bring about the works of God. Why is it? Maybe because we are occupied with the spiritual ego, the spiritual "I." That may be the object all the time. Wrapped up in our spiritual selves. The way of deliverance and the way of power is to have the Lord Jesus as the Object, but subjectively objective. Not out there, but in here. Himself, not I. Not you, HIM. Subjectively objective. It is the "knowing the Lord," not knowing ourselves. Having the Lord and knowing the Lord inwardly. Not knowing our spirit and being occupied with our spirit, but the Lord. There has got to be an inward detachment from ourselves and an attachment to the Lord. You may not be able to feel that. I know its conclusion - it seems drastic but it is very real - a thing of the greatest value and, of course, only those who have come into this problem, perplexity, can appreciate it to the full, but I do want you to recognise, whether you can feel all that I am saying from experience or not, I do want you to recognise that the Object with whom we are to be occupied all the time is the Lord Jesus Christ inwardly. Apart from that you have only spiritualised psychology - you have only developed in a new form the spirit, the natural spirit of man, and tried to bring him into a spiritual realm. The natural man who is not born again has a spirit just as much as we have. Every man is spirit, soul and body, and you can have all the features of the natural spirit developed and becoming the governing laws of your spiritual mind with the result that you have only swung over your own spirit into a spiritual realm occupied with yourself, listening to the voice of your spirit, and you are gravely in danger of getting false leadings.

It is the spirit of man which is linked to the whole spirit world, and the natural spirit linked to the fallen spirit world, and if you are going to concentrate upon developing your own spirit, you are going to expose your spirit to false light, false guidance, and death may still remain when you have developed your spirit to a large degree and made it exceedingly sensitive to all psychical influence; but death still remains and bondage is still there, and there is still weakness, not true spirituality. What has happened? You have simply developed yourself - one part of your own being, your spirit, and made it the law of your life. While our spirit must be inwardly renewed by the Holy Spirit, our spirit must not be the law of our life.

Not "I" but Christ

IT IS THE LORD JESUS WHO IS TO BE THE LAW OF OUR LIFE. He is to be the Object with Whom we are occupied. Having said all that mysterious stuff, to many of you, let me say this, that if the Lord is concerned with the recovery of spiritual power in and amongst His people, He must bring them back to the Lord Jesus in a new way. He must bring them back from things, as things; doctrine as doctrine; from anything that has to do with the spiritual life as a thing in itself. He must bring them back to the Lord Jesus, and there is no way of recovering spiritual power until we have come to the place where the Lord Jesus is everything; where He is LORD, where He is Master, where the government is upon His shoulders, where He is our very life: and if this is true, then can we not discern the movement of the Lord today? In the day of weakness, a day when there is disappointment in the matter of spiritual power because of weakness: a time when the Church is a sorry spectacle in the matter of spiritual power. There must be this characteristic feature, that He is bringing His Son into pre-eminence in the hearts of His own where things are ceasing to satisfy. Teaching, movements, fellowships, all bearing the marks of disappointment. The Lord does not let them become the dominating thing in the life of His children - He will allow disaster to overtake things upon which our hearts have been set and which have become the object of our strength. He allows those things to break down, to disappoint us; allows other people to disappoint us, opens our eyes to see how disappointing everything is, until we wonder if there is anything at all that is really satisfactory, really according to God; whether there is anything that really does come up to the standard. The Lord is working very much in that way today, beloved. Disappointment with things, with people, with fellowships, with Christian movements, with Churches - everywhere there is weakness. It is an age of spiritual weakness.

How will the Lord meet such a time? By bringing His own Son, the Lord Jesus, into pre-eminence and prominence, and making HIM the object, that is how it was in the beginning; how it has always been in the days of power amongst the Lord's people. The secret of power has been that the Lord has been the supreme and all-governing Object of His people's life. Not the things of the Lord, but the Lord Himself. The Ark represented the presentation of the Lord, and when it was at the centre and occupied the place of devotion and honour of the Lord's people, they went forward in strength so that waters were cleft by the mighty power of God as the Ark went in first, and upon that Ark all eyes were set. At the beginning of the Christian era it was the Lord Jesus Who was the one in view; engrossing enrapturing; not fellowships or movements, but the Lord Himself. That was the day of power, and we have to come back there. It has got to be so in the individual life and the corporate life. The Lord is the centre of the life, governing. The Lord in the centre of His people individually and collectively. Not places, teaching, teachers, or fellowships, but the Lord, and then you have recovered power. This simple statement goes a long way - and the cry of a man in despair "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me..." has its answer in hope and assurance - "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

This is a very practical thing for you to take to those who are so introspective that they are tied in and bound with grave clothes. If anyone here is occupied with their own spiritual position, turning your eyes inward, feeling all too much condemnation - beloved, your deliverance is not along the line of having questions answered or someone trying to convince you that it is alright, and that you need not trouble; nor is it a matter of further light and teaching, but changing the "I" for Christ, or Christ for the "I," and putting the Lord Jesus as the subjective Objective of your life instead of the "I." Christ in you is alone the hope of glory, the way out. You meet so many of the Lord's children today with whom you cannot speak for half a minute before they have begun to pour out a terrible story about themselves, their spiritual difficulties, problems, and you do what you can to help them, and they profess to have been helped, but the next time you meet them you get the same thing again. You meet them after months, or years, and at the end of it all you get the same old story. Their only deliverance is that Jesus Christ our Lord becomes the Object of their hearts within as their hope. They must become attached to Him and detached from themselves, even spiritually. A new appreciation of the Lord Jesus - that is the way of deliverance. You will find you get up against situations where you are impotent to help the Lord's people until you have cut clean into their obsession with themselves. The Lord Jesus is to become the Object of your faith inwardly, He will deliver. He is the gate of the arena, around which you have been going so long with that corpse.

The Law of the Spirit of Life

I am going to venture to say a very brief word about the second thing. Chapter 8:2. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." If No. 1 is Christ as the Object, No. 2 is the Spirit as the power. "Made me free." You see the Holy Spirit always works in relation to an Object. He must have that Object and that Object is the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit never works in relation to our self-occupation. Always in relation to the Lord Jesus. So Christ is the way. The Holy Spirit is the energy to take it, to go through. Power comes by freedom. "Made me free." The Spirit of life.

The Spirit's law of life or the law of the Spirit of life. "The Spirit of life made me free." Of course you want to go on to Chapter 8:11. "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you." That is the Spirit of life you see, in you. In you: in relation to the living Christ as the Object. Christ lives now on the other side of the grave, death, sin, bondage to sin, over there on resurrection ground. The living Christ lives in you and the Spirit works in relation to Him to bring you through to where Christ is, making you free just as He made Christ free. The Lord Jesus went down unto death, to which He surrendered Himself, and broke that law, and the Holy Spirit has put the Lord Jesus over there on the ground of emancipation and victory. You have the Lord Jesus on resurrection ground as the object of your faith and of your occupation, and then the Spirit that raised up Jesus and put Him there, in you, works towards that object and puts you where Christ is. We have to honour the Holy Spirit and give Him His place. The place that the Holy Spirit claims to have, is the place of honouring the Lord Jesus and not honouring Himself, and we have to recognise that the Holy Spirit in us must be honoured in His work of honouring the Lord Jesus. So many people put the Holy Spirit in a place by Himself and thereby do despite to the Spirit. It is perfectly wrong. We must recognise that His Object is the Lord Jesus and all His activities are in relation to the Lord Jesus, and an issue which simply reaches the end of making the Holy Spirit everything is a false impression of the present work of the Holy Spirit. The end of all the Holy Spirit's activities is to make the Lord Jesus glorious.

Spirituality is not cultivating our spirit but it is the Holy Spirit gaining the ascendency in us over ourselves. Spirituality is not the cultivating of our spirit, watching over it to see how it is growing, pulling it up and putting it in again as it were to see how it is growing. Some people think the height of spirituality is always giving attention to their own spirit. The Lord deliver us. The real mark of spirituality is that we are coming to a larger enjoyment of the Lord Jesus, where He is having a larger place; and that is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power. The Holy Spirit is the power, but His power is always directed towards bringing the Lord Jesus into the place of living reality and of fulness in our hearts as different from that false spirituality which is constantly bringing ourselves spiritually more into view. There is a lot more to be said about that, but - the third thing, chapter 6:5-6.

The Cross, the Instrument

The Cross. What you have here is the third primary thing in relation to spiritual power - the Cross. The Cross in this sense: the Lord Jesus has died, He was crucified and buried. He died unto sin once for all. We died in Him, but the Lord Jesus having died, having become dead, has changed things in this way, that whereas for the moment in His yielding to death through weakness which He had accepted, death had dominion over Him for a moment - He allowed death to have dominion over Him for a moment, but He, by the Eternal Spirit broke the power of death's dominion, arose from the dead, and took death captive, and instead of death having dominion Christ had dominion over death. The last revelation - how wonderful - "And have the keys of death and hades" - the authority of death and hades. "I am He that liveth: I became dead but behold, I am alive for evermore." "I am alive unto the ages of the ages, and have the authority of death and hades." What have we? Death is in the Hands of Christ! Death is in the Hands of Christ, and the Eternal Spirit, through Whom Christ was raised from the dead, brought back from among the dead, given the power and authority over death. Death is in the Hands of Christ, in the Hands of the Holy Spirit. Now here is the wonder, beauty, glory of this thing, that sovereignly the Holy Spirit is using death against the flesh, whereas death originally was used against Him.

Let me make that plain. What is the ground of death in the natural man? Flesh. Death has its authority, power, ascendency by reason of the flesh. It must have flesh. The flesh has been taken by the Lord Jesus and death has been destroyed by Him, and overcome, and He has taken the power of death and now sovereignly in the Believer the Lord Jesus is using death against the flesh. That is Romans 6. Death is being used by the Holy Spirit against the flesh. You know it. When a Believer touches flesh what happens? There is a consciousness of death at once. The result:- oh, to escape that thing - to turn from it! There is a revulsion when you have touched "flesh." Your first thought is to get out of this. You run to the Lord - "I have been moving in flesh." The Holy Spirit has used death to work against flesh to deliver you.

Paul speaks about his bodily weakness - "Death worketh in us," but it is not the authority of death. Death is in the Hands of another authority to be used to work Life. What is it? The working of the death of Christ in himself. The Life of the Lord Jesus is made manifest in this body because the death of the Lord Jesus is working there. A contradiction but wonderfully true. A conqueror simply wipes out - a more than conqueror uses his enemy to his own ends! He has taken death and the Holy Spirit is using death to teach us not to touch flesh. The Law of the Spirit of Life has made me free from the law of sin and death. The moment we touch flesh we know it badly, and we turn from it. We should never have learned if the Lord had not used death to teach us. The Lord sovereignly using death now in His Hands, using death in order to make Life more manifest. The Lord is using the enemy wonderfully in this age. If only we could get this right into our hearts. We are encountering death everywhere. All the authority has been in the Hands of the Lord Jesus since He arose from the dead, and the very impact of death is intended to be the occasion of the manifestation of the Life. It is not intended that we should be swallowed up of death, but that death should be swallowed up of Life to display what the Lord Jesus has done. We know we learn to shun death because we know by experience that we should never shun the flesh if we did not get our instruction by the Holy Spirit's use of death. More than conquerors; the enemy reserved for the present use of the Lord to teach Saints how to live triumphantly. We must learn that in and by His Cross, the Lord Jesus did conquer death and make death His prisoner, that He conquered flesh, He put away the old man and is using the very power of death, that evil communications corrupt good manners, we must not touch the old man, we must walk after the Spirit of Life.

So often we think that the Cross is to annihilate us, to wipe us out. It is really an emphasis of Life. The message of the Cross ought to produce Life. It produces death in a great many people. Suffocation, putting you down so that you are afraid to move. It ought to be Life by the Cross because we have died, we reckon ourselves dead, therefore we live. "I have been crucified - therefore I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me and that which I now live..." "Now live!" The Cross is the way of power. The working of the death of the Lord Jesus is intended to show us that flesh is paralysis, weakness, impotence: but the Cross has cut us off it, from all weakness, and defeat, which is in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit is using the Cross now to make us know that we are not to live in the flesh.

With all the difficulty of seeing these things, may the Lord show us what they mean, bring them home to us, and help us to see the real Life side of things - the power side of things. He, the Lord Jesus, as risen, being wrought in us by the Holy Spirit because we have accepted and appropriated by faith the fact that we died and now we live unto and in Christ, and Christ triumphant lives in us.

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