by T. Austin-Sparks
By way of linking up with what has already been before us, may I just bring very hurriedly and briefly into view what it is that we judge to be the Lord's object for our understanding and apprehension at this time, in these gatherings, it is that the Lord is concerned above all things for the glory and honour of His Name. And we have been seeing how God's sovereignty and power are always brought into operation in the interests of His Name; for no other reason. The honour of His Name is in a people. He has bound up His Name and its glory with a people. And that glory is found in a people in life, and strength, and wealth, and food, and oneness. These things, spiritually interpreted, are the things which display His glory in His people. Then in the third place, we went on to see that there are certain factors for which God looks as a basis for His work in securing that state in His people. Last evening, we gave our whole time to seeing the characteristics in Gideon - a typical instrument sovereignly chosen of God for that very purpose of the glory of His name in His people. And those of you who were here will remember the things which came to light as characteristics of Gideon in relation to God's purpose.
This morning we were occupied with the fact that God calls instruments, specifically, according to His purpose, that is, with His glory as the end in view. Now this afternoon we shall look at that matter again from a different angle. And I just remind you of the words addressed to Gideon, as in the sixth chapter of the Book of the Judges, verses 12 and 14 (you know them so well by now you hardly need look them up): "The angel of the Lord appeared unto him, (that is, Gideon) and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." Verse 14, "And the Lord looked upon (or turned towards) him and said, Go in this thy might and save Israel."
Now I want to read some words that are very familiar to you in the letter to the Philippians, chapter 2 at verse 5: "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondslave, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the Name which is above every Name, that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
And our occupation this afternoon will be with the ground of the presence and power of God. If one thing is evident about Gideon, it is that he does set forth, very strongly and forcefully, the power of weakness. The power of weakness.
I have on the fly leaf of my Bible something that I wrote there many years ago, in a time of perplexity and difficulty in the work of the Lord, and seeking very much to know the way of strength, of power, of wisdom, I came upon this; it is in the life of Lillias Trotter, whose work in North Africa will be known to many of you. And it just met my need. I'll read it to you. "So many questions lie ahead concerning the work. A great comforting came to me this morning in reading the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Job about the way of wisdom and the place thereof. It tells how God finds the way for the wind and the water and the lightning, and it came with a blessed power what those ways are. The way for the wind is the region of the greatest emptiness. The place for the water is the place of the lowest depth, the way for the lightning, as science proves, is along the line of the greatest weakness. If any man lack, there is God's condition for the inflow of spiritual understanding. Praise be to His Name." The ground of the presence and the power of God. Of course, inclusively and preeminently the ground is His Name, and His jealousy for His Name in the heart of any servant of His. But the way of the power is:
The Way of the Cross.
The words which we have read, with which we are perhaps too familiar in that letter to the Philippians, analyse for us the meaning of the Cross, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." In other words, let your mentality be the mentality of Christ; your mindedness the mindedness of Christ.
Now, here we have a wonderful thing. Paul, in these words, reads, reads the motive of the Incarnation and the Cross. He reads right back into the glory, into the presence of God where the Son is and reads the mind of the Son as the decision is arrived at to leave that estate and to come here and take the way of the Cross. He reads a motive in the mind of Christ. The motive has evidently sprung from the fact that another name had taken the place of the Lord's Name, His Father's Name; another name had intruded, it fell into the place of the Name of the Lord. And, that being the case (and we know quite well the whole of that story, that story of the one who said, "I will... I will be equal with the most High," who sought to make for himself the name above every name. We know about that) that being the situation, it was not enough for the Son to sit in equality with God in heaven when His Father's Name was dishonoured on earth. He could not be at rest and be comfortable and be satisfied. Indeed, He could not endure it, that He should be there in His glory in possession of that position and that estate while in the creation another name was being honoured, another name had usurped His Father's Name. And the motive was jealousy for the Name of God, jealousy for God's honour. That lay behind everything: "He emptied Himself..." and all the other things mentioned here which we are going to look at one by one.
But first of all notice the Incarnation, the Cross, and the ultimate exaltation above all names rested upon one thing: jealousy for the Name of God. The great, "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him" sums up all the steps of the great cycle from the glory back to the glory, but relates preeminently to this: Wherefore, why for? Because all that was in jealousy for His Father's Name. This mind, this mindedness, it's a kind of mindedness, you see. Unless you've got a mind and a motive then you could not do all these things. It's of little use to apply this scripture to Christians and say it now, "You ought to have the mind of Christ, and the mind of Christ works out like this, in this way, and this way; and you've got to be Christ-like, you've got to be Christ-minded." You see, that can bring a tremendous amount of pressure and weight like a legal obligation to bear upon Christians, "I'm not a bit like that! That is not at all my mind, my way". You've got to have a motive, a motive that will make you, cause you, to take this path of the Cross; a motive strong enough to make it something that you must do, you can't help doing it. That is Christ-mindedness, He could not help it. The constraint of this jealousy for His Father's Name was so strongly upon Him that there was nothing else to do, He must, He must, take this way.
Dear friends, I am beginning upon this very strong note. There is a very great need in you and in me and in the people of God and in the servants of God today for more of this, this terribly fierce jealousy for the Name - the honour and glory of the Lord's Name. Well now, this whole thing commenced, we see, with a motive, but that motive led to a reckoning, a reckoning. In the motive was an accounting. It says, "He counted it not a thing to be grasped, to be held onto; to be equal with God". "He counted it not...." A reckoning took place with Him - that's the suggestion or implication. "On the one side, here am I in a place of equality with God; I have the glory of which He spoke in His prayer, 'The glory which I had with Thee before the world was', I had that. Here I am up here in possession of all that. Down there my Father's Name is dishonoured, robbed of its glory and another name is put in its place. Is this, My having this position, and all this possession and all this glory, of greater importance than My Father's Name being glorified down there?" And He came to the conclusion, "No it isn't. Putting these two things into the balances: My own glory, My own personal position, is far, of far less importance than My Father's Name being glorified down there". He weighed it up, the one thing against the other, put them both into the balances, and the honour of the Father's Name in the creation or with Him, altogether outweighed His own glory and His own personal fullness. It was a reckoning. He counted, He counted, He reckoned.
Now, dear friends, when the Apostle says, "Let this mind be in you," and he sees the issue, the wonderful issue of this: God committing Himself. Committing Himself, I think we may say rightly, in a way, in a way, fuller than ever before to His Son and it says, "He gave Him the Name which is above every name that now, now in the Name of Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, the Incarnate Lord, every knee shall bow in the universe, and call Him the Incarnate Lord. Lord of all." With that in view, the apostle says, "Let this mind be in you." In other words, he says, "If God is going to commit Himself to you, if God is going to presence Himself with you, as with His Son, for it was written, 'and God was with Him.' And if the power of God is going to rest upon and work through you, you have got to have a fundamental reckoning." This is something which every servant of God has to face at the outset. For this, after all, is the thing which constitutes a servant of God. This is the very essence of service.
What is Service?
What is the essence of service? What is it that makes a servant of God? We talk so much about the Lord's service; sometimes we substitute the Lord's "work". We are concerned and anxious to be "in the service of the Lord" and then we think about missionary work, and ministry, and one thing and another, and this, this really is what we mean by the service of the Lord and by being the Lord's servants. But what is the heart and essence of service? What is a servant of the Lord? It is nothing more, because there can be nothing more, and it is nothing less, in truth, than bringing glory and honour to the Name of the Lord. That covers and compasses all service and that makes a servant of the Lord.
We may do a thousand things, but unless it results in the Lord's Name being glorified, it's not service to God. Jesus is the great Servant of Jehovah. There never was such a Servant of the Lord. He has served the Father as none other has ever served or could ever serve the Father. But how has He done it? He has brought back the Father's Name to its place of honour and glory. He has come down and entered into the dispute with the other name, and now He is far above every name that is named. He has dealt with the challenge to the Father's place, and in that way, He is the greatest of all servants: "Let this mind be in you". We have got to weigh all our Christian activities and efforts in this way: how much real glory is coming to the Lord in this? How much is the Lord coming into His own, His place in this? Not how much am I doing, but how much positive glory to the Name of the Lord is bound up with what I am doing?
That is followed out in the fuller analysis of this great statement in the letter to the Philippians. I was saying this is something that every servant of God, every aspirant to service for God, has got to settle at the outset
A reckoning - comparative values. Moses made that reckoning. It is said of Moses, he accounted, "accounted that the reproach of Christ was greater riches than the treasures of Egypt"; accounted, made a reckoning. It was a tremendous reckoning, wasn't it? My word, look what that involved: all the treasures of Egypt, his place, his learning, everything that he had in the palace of Egypt. On the other hand, what he did come to and into, with the Israelites. And yet, he weighed it all up at the beginning and accounted before, before he took his step, "That's greater riches down there than this. I've weighed these things up, and for me the greater importance is that, because it's there that the Name of the Lord is involved, the Lord has chosen that people through Abraham to be the vessel of the glory of His Name; that's my place, whatever it costs." It was a reckoning.
And many others made that reckoning, not least Paul. He weighed it all up: "The things which were gain to me" the things which were gain to me... and he tabulates them and you know what they were: everything that the natural heart would be set upon. "Things which were gain to me, these have I counted loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Here is a basic reckoning, but what the accounting led to, all the suffering, all the affliction, all the trials, oh, everything, and yet, and yet, Paul never abandoned that position. To me, it's one of the most wonderful things, most wonderful things, that of all that he had to suffer, and all the consequences of his great decision and reckoning, Paul to the end held on to this, "It is better, it is better, far better, to be here with Christ than... have all this, than to be back there without Christ, having all that." He weighed it all up.
Now, that's a very, very serious challenge isn't it, this reckoning. You won't come to that conclusion, to that mind, and take that step of letting everything else go, all other possibilities and prospects, unless you have got a tremendously strong and high estimate of the glory of God, of the glory of God. But if you've got an adequate and right conception of the glory of God, and what that is going to mean in this universe, you see everything else, however great, as very small in comparison. "I reckon..." here we are, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present hour are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be." "I reckon." He weighed it up.
We are involved in a very great deal of suffering and affliction and trial and difficulty when we take a stand for the Name of the Lord, for the glory of that Name. It's a very costly stand. We shall only be able to maintain that stand if we have made the reckoning. The Lord Jesus always required such a basic reckoning, didn't He? He never deceived anybody. When He called to discipleship and fellowship with Himself, He made it perfectly clear: "You're in for a bad time, I tell you frankly. This way is going to be a very costly way, don't you have any mistake about it. Be quite clear on this. If a man is going to war, he sits down and counts up his resources, 'Can I, can I, not only make a beginning, but go right through with it? Can I? Have I got resources to carry me through?' A man is going to build a tower; he sits down, 'Now, have I the means not to lay a foundation or to make a beginning; but to complete this thing? Can I go through with it?'" In those ways, the Lord Jesus was only saying what we are saying here now, "Look here, you've got to have a fundamental reckoning over this." This mind that was in Christ Jesus must be in you, and you've got to settle something. This is a thing that has got to be settled. It's a battle that seems to spring up again and again, doesn't it? And yet, and yet, something has got to be done about this. I do want to urge upon you my younger friends, that you're going to have a very difficult time. All hell is going to range itself against you if you take a stand for the honour of the Name of the Lord. You're going to have a bad time, but you've got to reckon that. Is it worth it? Is that Name worth it? Is that glory worth it? You've got to put the things in the balance, and get that settled.
Well, after the reckoning came:
"He counted it not a prize to be grasped, to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself." And although, of course, there is such a difference both in kind, and degree, and measure, between Christ and His servants, that is, we can never empty ourselves of that of which He emptied Himself. We never had it; we haven't got it. That is true. We have no glory that corresponds to His glory. Yet, although there is so great a difference between Him and ourselves, yet the principle is the same. The principle is the same, there is, even with us, with us, strange, strange thing, there is with us, that which is our personal glory. Poor wretched things as we are - and know ourselves to be - somehow or other it almost takes a lifetime to get us emptied of things which are in the Lord's way, to which we cling, which we do count a prize, which we do grasp, and hold onto. He emptied Himself. And if the principle were not the same with us as with Him, Paul would never say it, "Let the same mind be in you." The kind may be different; ah, but the principle is the same, the emptying.
Gideon, the whole story of Gideon is a declaration that the vessel must never have any glory of its own. The vessel that God will mightily use, must have no personal glory. The glory has got to be the Lord's and the Lord's alone. The whole story, I say, declares that, doesn't it? Take the man himself; take the means that the Lord used for the work. It was a case, as we shall see later, of just reducing, reducing, reducing, bringing down lower and lower and lower, and never allowing anything whatever to come into this business which would contribute to the glory of the instrument. When that thing was done, everybody had to say, "Well, that's perfectly marvelous to think that could be done with such instruments in such a way." The Lord was taking precautions, wasn't He? "Lest Israel vaunt themselves," "Lest Israel..." no glory to the vessel. No, it's the glory of the Name, and that glory of the Name is exclusive of all other glory.
Dear friends, what am I talking about? I am talking about the ground of the presence and the power of God. "The Lord is with thee... Go in this thy might": the presence and the power. What is the ground? It's this, it's this: the utter emptying of all personal glory and ground of glorying. Shall we put it the other way: providing the Lord with an utter ground for His own glory. The Lord takes infinite pains to secure that ground. Oh, what a story of weakness and defeat and limitation, and all those things of which we've spoken, simply because men will get their names in, their reputation in, draw some attention to themselves, put their honours in view, call themselves by titles in the work of the Lord, advertise themselves, or be advertised as the great instrument that is going to do this; and the appalling state of things after 2,000 years.
So the thing is self-evident; it's self-evident. No, the ground of the presence and the power is this: if it was true in the case of the Lord Jesus (and undoubtedly it was) it was because He, in the other translation, "made Himself of no reputation," and men are always trying to make reputations for themselves in the sphere of God's interests, and God is not in it. He'll have nothing to do with it. Get on with it, and do what you can and what you like, but you cannot count upon the presence and power of God.
It's the form and the function in man-likeness, in slave, bondslave function. I'm not going to stop with the technical points of the different words here in the original fashion and form; that won't be very edifying or helpful to you. It doesn't matter just at the moment. But what it amounts to is this: the form, in the form of a man, the form in which Christ appeared here on this great mission: the form of a man. The function, which He accepted, adopted and fulfilled, was the function of a bondslave. That's what it says. As a man, in man-likeness. All I am going to say about that here for, in keeping with this whole matter of the Presence and Power of God, is this: that He did not appear here as some Superior being of another order. No. So far as the world looking on could tell, there was no difference between Him and other men. Whatever difference there was, it was altogether hidden from the world's eyes. They could look at Him, judge Him, speak to Him and of Him, handle Him, deal with Him, just as they would deal with any other man. No, not as some superior being of another order. You see, you see, there's a principle there, dear friends, of tremendous significance and importance where the Lord is concerned. We have said the great tendency is to put men up and make them of a superior kind. They're great, they're wonderful, they're superior! They're above the ordinary kind of men in the work of God. And oh, oh, what is said about them, the columns about the wonderful things that this man has done and achieved, and is, and all the rest of it.
God looks on this poor thing with pity: pity, if not with contempt. In man form, in man form, not angel form, not some superior order of creation, just man form. We seek our embellishments to make an impression; we add things to convey to people that we are something different than others, to gain access and acceptance and so on. There's none of that in the mentality, the mindedness of the Lord Jesus. If we have not got spiritual influence, God save us from artificially trying to make it, to have it by artificial means. Oh no, none of that. It's men that God wants, not officials, not dignitaries, men, but men of His own making. That's enough for that. In slave function, the form of a bondslave, a bondslave, "I am among you," said He, "as He that serveth; as He that serveth. I came not to be ministered unto..." What a challenge, what a challenge to so much in you and in me. What a challenge to so much there is in Christianity. "I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, but to minister." A bondslave; not a dictator, not an autocrat, not a master. A servant, so it says here, a servant; and surely He was that. But this is the ground of the Presence and the Power, that's the point. It's always like that.
"He became obedient"; obedient. I suppose before the Incarnation He could command. Angels would run swiftly at His behest. The slightest gesture or indication, and they would move to serve Him. But here: obedient. The One who is having to be told, ordered, coming under direction, "obedient unto death". That little word "unto" has a double meaning. It means "right up to death," "right away to death." That is, right to the final, the final step, the final phase, the final fragment of obedience, no more to be done, right unto death. But oh, it implies the depth, the depths to which He went, "unto death, yea, the death of the Cross." How utter was this Bondslave functioning. How utter was this self-emptying.
The Cross here is set as the utterness of God's will, the fullness and finality of the will of God, right through to the last degree and down to the deepest depths. "Let this mind be in you." Ah, it is from that point that the turn is taken. "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name." The "wherefore." Oh, what a lot hangs upon that word.
Well, these things constitute, as we set out to say, the ground of the presence and the power of God. "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man... go in this thy might." The strength of weakness. The strength of emptiness. What is the strength of this weakness, of this emptiness? What is the strength of all this that is no honour to man at all? The strength is "The Lord is with thee," that's all! What more do you want? What more could we have? If the Lord is with us, well, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" I mean that, that's strength isn't it? That, that's power, that's assurance, that's certainty. It's all right, it's all right if the Lord is with us, no matter how weak and empty we are, how little there is that we have to draw upon. It does not matter that we have no name or reputation or title or merits or anything else to display and proclaim, if the Lord is with us, that's enough. Strangely enough, it is not enough for many, many today; they must have the plus of publicity, advertisement, and all that sort of thing. They don't consider that it's enough to have the Lord with them. The Lord seems to them, in their mentality, to depend upon their newspaper advertisements and proclamations about their own wonderful persons and works. Not at all. It's enough, it's enough, if the Lord is with us. That will be all the power that is necessary.
Do you want to know the Lord's presence? Do you want to know the power of God resting upon you? Well, it is the strength of weakness, the strength of weakness. The wind, the water, and the lightning all finding their way where there is weakness, where there is weakness. The Lord give us this grace, this mind which was also in Christ Jesus, for we need Him and we need His power.