The Cross, and the Unity of Vision and Ministry in the Church
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - One Ministry

Concluding Address at February Conference
February 6th, 1928.

Reading: Mark 6:47; Philippians 3:1-15.

"And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land. And He saw them toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them; and about the fourth watch He cometh unto them walking upon the sea; and would have passed them by; but when they saw Him walking upon the sea they supposed that it was an apparition (something seen by the imagination, or something supernatural breaking through the veil of sense), and they cried out with fear: for they all saw Him and were troubled. But He straightway spake with them, and said unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And He went up unto the ship; and the wind ceased." - Mark 6:47.

You find a somewhat similar experience of fear on the part of these disciples who so loved their Lord after His resurrection as recorded in Luke's gospel, 24:36:-
"And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said unto them, Peace be unto you. But they having become terrified and affrighted supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do reasonings arise in your heart? Behold My hands and My feet; that it is I Myself: handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones according as you see Me to have. When He had thus spoken He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet believed not from joy, and wondered, He said unto them, Have ye any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb. And He took it and did eat before them."

In the Philippian epistle (3rd chapter) you find the dimensions of this vision of Jesus changed altogether. Now He is known as Very God, and yet you find the same banishing of all fear from the heart of a sinner, the heart of one whose life had in all its strenuous years been misspent, who had found that he had been living in a wrong direction, and had been brought to such extremity at last by the enmity of his carnal mind against God that he had not only been persecuting the church, but had blasphemed the Name of Jehovah. Yet He is able now to say, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice, in the Lord." He then proceeds to give certain admonitions, and speaks about himself and all the others who with him have the same joy, that if their joy is in any danger of waning, to remember that they are now of the circumcision, that which has been cut around, encircled by the blood of the Cross, cut off by that encircling of His blood from fear, and from the devil, so that nothing can pass that ring of the Divine Life into which they have been gathered. We are the circumcision, he says, which worship God in the Spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. He then enumerates all those things which might have given him some standing before God, and declares that all these things which were his own, his self-righteousness, self-satisfaction and self-appraisement, he has counted to be but loss on account of Christ, of Whom he has tasted in measure; of Whom there has been a revelation, a revelation not only of His glory, but of His grace.

He not only saw the Lord out from heaven as Judge of his sinful and desperate flesh, his wrong nature, but there had come in the same moment, well-nigh, the revelation of that Judge as Saviour also. There always is that. God in the same breath of revelation of His glory gives the revelation of His grace. This is the day of grace, unlimited grace, grace flowing like a river. It is the current of the Divine Love that is now turned, as it were, in its fulness upon us, through the Cross, so that no matter what may be the degree of our self-despair, when once we have seen Jesus Christ, and HIM crucified, our very self-despair is the ground of God's mercy; our brokenness is the very opportunity for God's help. Once we have come to that place where we recognise that our nature is like a festering corpse that will become more and more corrupt to our own consciousness as the days pass, so, on the other hand we see there is another Life offered to us freely which we receive by faith, which is within us by faith, which springs up by faith, and is maintained by faith out from Him Who is our God and our Saviour. Then we get clear of the phantom atmosphere of fear, terror, fright, lest the glory of God, Who is a Consuming Fire might break out upon us to our judgment and destruction.

Now the fact is that some of the children of God are afraid of the coming of the Lord for this very reason. The devil has got them into such a state that they are afraid of the coming of the Lord, because, you see, they have not recognised yet that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. They have not recognised the fulness of that salvation from sin which God hath wrought Himself. It is upon this ground the Apostle tries to expostulate with us - "Who is he that condemneth? Why it is God that justifieth." It is the God Whom you fear in His glory and majesty, for the justifier is Christ, Who is God in another form. It is He that died. "I am He that became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore." Of course the impact of the glory of God upon our flesh is always to smite us with fear, if we live in the flesh; if we stay there; if we think of meeting God in our flesh. If we think to meet Him on any ground of self-justification; if we are thinking that we can bring before Him something by which we have earned a share in His glory, then, of course, there is a fear in that realm. There will be an impact of dread, and the Apostle knows of this in the realm of his flesh. "Therefore knowing the terror of the Lord we do persuade men." He knows it, but he is not living there. He is living on this side of the Cross.

You find that when John, who had lived by the grace of God so holily and devotedly in His service, had the manifest glory of the Godhead in Christ revealed to him, he fell at His feet as one dead. The impact was so terrific upon his consciousness. But there came the voice, "Fear not, I am the first and the last. I am He that liveth, the Living One, and I became dead. It was I Who became dead. It was I who went down into that spiritual death for you, and behold, I am alive for evermore. But not as I was. I, the Living One, the eternally Living One, Who from everlasting to everlasting am God, I now am alive for evermore as Man for your sake, partaking of your nature, and I am not a phantom, not a spirit, I am JESUS! This is the revelation that removes all fear. I am Jesus." So glorious, so stupendous, so beyond the range of all our thought. From that Form God, in Whom dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead, bodily, sustaining the universe by His substance, there comes the Voice, "I am Jesus." This is the parable of the One Who treads the stormy, heaving sea. There came something of that terror of God, that impact upon their consciousness of the fear of Him when they were toiling in rowing, and when He came to them upon the storm they thought they had seen an apparition. Is your God an apparition? Is your God a phantom? He may be a phantom vast and tremendous, a God formless and unknown, Whose approach brings upon you the sweat of terror, of judgment because there is a breaking in upon you of the unseen and unknown. Is that your God? Then, ah, of course, you will have fear; you will have terror, judgment. But is He Jesus? He says, you see, out of all the terror of that night, and of all the supernatural impact of the way of His coming, a way that was beyond their reason and their sense, "Be of good cheer. It is I. Be not afraid." He came walking upon the sea! Supernatural, surely! Yes. But He says, "It is I." And so in His resurrection, surely this one Who bursts through space and presences Himself in the company of His disciples, though His glory is veiled as yet, this is a terror-striking experience; they are affrighted, and think they see a phantom, and He says, "Be not afraid, it is I. Spirit hath not flesh and bone as ye see Me to have. Have ye anything here to eat?" He comes down to the level of their consciousness and their need, and He eats with them. Communion! He wants to commune; He wants to eat and to drink, and that we may eat and drink with Him and have fellowship with Him.

Now this is the vision of God that satisfies. The near vision of Jesus. It is also the vision of Him in the throne, but that might be a mental one. You might be dimly seeking to apprehend some vastness which is called "God." You might be trying to descry some glory beyond the stars; but by the Holy Ghost He comes and presences Himself in order that we might partake of His substance; that we might eat and drink with Him, and He with us. That is His message strangely enough to the last church, the church of Laodicea. "Behold, I stand at the door. It is I, Jesus." The Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Eternal God? Yes, but the Spirit of Jesus. "I stand at the door and knock. If any one hear My Voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with Him and He with Me." The intimacy of Jesus! His desire that we should entertain Him - open our heart's door constantly to Him, and banish all this phantom fear which the devil brings upon our minds by reason of past sins and present unworthiness that haunt and depress us.

"He showed them His hands and His feet. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." That is the attitude of the disciple. The vision of Jesus, not in the mental range, as one has already suggested, but in the way in which He comes to us in nearness by the Holy Spirit, and you and I become His temples. Well, what does it mean to be a temple of the Holy Ghost? Is it to be some kind of strange mystic clay vessel in which there is some element of God's substance? It is not only that. It is true that there is a substance of God in you, since you are begotten out from Him, but to be a temple of the Holy Ghost means that the Spirit Who comes to dwell within you, comes as a loving Friend. "When the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you - the Strengthener - He shall teach you; He shall comfort you; He shall guide you. He shall be in you and to you, what I am now. I will come unto you. The Father and I, We will come unto you and make an abode in you."

Oh, beloved friends, all our vision, and all our ministry is impossible without a personal acquaintanceship of God in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. You and I have not got a religion that we are trying to live up to; we have not merely a series of doctrines, very tremendous in their range so that when people come to hear us they say, "They have wonderful truth and deep teaching!" If we have not JESUS we have nothing. He, Himself, is God manifest in the flesh, not a Spirit only, but a MAN who has become such that you and I may share His Life and Substance. And once fear is taken away there is then, of course, the incoming of that perfect love. Fear is cast out when love is made perfect, when we see Who Jesus is, not only in the range of His Godhead (and we need that vision), but in the very fact of His retained humanity, the Man in the throne, the One Who comes nigh in the Spirit is the One Who died for our sakes. Thus there can be that intimacy with Jesus on the part of the disciple. This is the blessed provision that the Holy Ghost makes, the present Jesus!

And one does desire that amid all these declarations of truth we do not become "heady"; we do not have lines that reach out into the infinite where we lose ourselves in conjecture, but we do come down to the actual and the personal fact that Christ presences Himself by the Holy Ghost, and in Him you know your God. It is the people who do know their God who are strong and do exploits. You will find that some of the simplest people, who would not use your phraseology, know the Lord better than you do. I remember telling a young brother who had a good deal of the truth of this testimony and who was meeting a certain Christian person, "now remember she knows the Lord far better than you do. She has not the phraseology, but she has known Him for many years." That is the principal thing, beloved, to KNOW the Lord, not to see some phantom coming across the waves, not to see some apparition of the night, but to hear and to know His welcome voice, "It is I, be not afraid."

Now, I believe that all the scriptures are deeply prophetic, and that this passage is prophetic of the last hour. I believe the parable of His coming in the fourth watch, the disciples toiling in rowing because the winds are contrary, pictures us in these days surely, as there comes in the impact of the supernatural opposition to our advance, as you and I are seeking to press through into that position we believe is for us in the heart of God. Is not the wind contrary? We find it very difficult. It is a battle! There are principalities and powers in their rage hotly against us, and we are toiling in rowing; but it is just at such a time He is coming. It is when the battle is tensest, when success seems distant, and an impossible thing. But you and I are still rowing. You don't give up. You don't become passive. You are still rowing, resisting, fighting.

Oh, don't think that all this means passivity which I am speaking about. I have discovered this rest in God is the best fighting tonic there is, but if you are so to speak spluttering and gasping and trying to keep your head above the waves in a desperate effort to keep on top, that is not fighting. It is when you are assured that your rest is in God, that is the best fighting spirit. Still there is a fight on, a terrific fight, and the impact of evil is going to become more and more terrific; but there is nothing to fear. Just when there might be the possibility, if there could be the possibility of His grace and His indwelling strength to fail us, He comes walking upon the sea. That is the vision for these times. We expect His coming, the breaking through of His Person, but not as a phantom of the night, not as an apparition that frightens and terrifies the senses, but as one who says "It is I - I AM," not an apparition, a phantom; not even a vision, a hallucination, something strange. But actual. "I am bone of thy bone, and flesh, of thy flesh. I am the One Who has begotten thee, and by My Spirit thou art Mine." Such is the climax of our knowledge of Jesus, but you must have that knowledge also as the starting ground for all this pressing through.

Now in the third chapter of the Philippian epistle you have this pressing through. Here is the Apostle Paul living in that timeless life of the Christ: "that Eternal Life," - speaking the same thing that you and I now speak because of the grace of God; here we have the language of the fighting saint. Paul was a pattern member of the Body (not the pattern Christian, because the Lord is the pattern Christian; it is He who has given an example for us to follow in His steps). But Paul is the pattern member of the Body. So wonderful, this man's epistles, written under such conditions that he never thought they would see the daylight of the twentieth century and be scattered all over the world, known in practically every tongue! Here he is, speaking language that the Holy Ghost has put within his spirit as a member of the Body, and declaring as a member of Christ's Body, that he with every other member, shall, by the grace of God, break through into the heavenlies by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is our individual responsibility before God, as we rely upon the Spirit within us to press through into that Oneness with our Lord in the Throne. And because we have no confidence in the flesh, and have accepted the judgment of the Cross upon it, we have entered into the realm of no condemnation.

There must be the foundation of joy in your Christian life. You must be a happy warrior. There are no dismal, successful (sic) warriors of Christ. Those who appear to fast do not really fast. Those who give the impression to others that Christianity is a heaviness, a groan and a burden, are no commenders of our Lord. The joy of the Lord is your strength; and the burden is upon your spirit, not upon your mind. There is a vast difference between a burden upon your mind, and a burden upon your spirit. The burden upon your spirit, that comes when you are before the Lord; you take His yoke upon you, and your heart is pressed with the travail of His love; but a burden upon your mind you will carry everywhere, and you will be an oppression to your friends and a block in the meetings if you carry a weight which is purely mental. That is all psychical; but the burden of the Holy Ghost is upon your spirit. And so you find the Lord saying, "When thou fastest, appear not unto men to fast; but wash thy face and anoint thine head." That is, commend your faith. Give witness to your salvation. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. It is very important to recognize this.

The basis of all successful conflict is joy. It is the joy of your salvation. Your helmet, the protection for your mind, is the helmet of your salvation; otherwise the devil breaks in upon your mind and possesses you with fear. He haunts you with yourself. He crowds you with phantoms. He is everlastingly portraying before you some dismal prospect. But if salvation has come to you; if you are resting upon the finished work of God in Christ, then you are free. If He has quickened you, He has also raised you together with Himself and enthroned you. You do not struggle to keep your feet upon the throne of God. You cannot do that. You are there! Your life is hid with Christ in God. And so, upon the ground of personal experience, your life is sheer joy; the assurance of salvation; the absolute confidence in the work of God. It is for this reason the apostle says, finally "to sum up everything, brethren, - rejoice, and again I say, rejoice!" Why? Because we are they who worship God in the Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit we worship. It is not with our mentality; it is not by way of any kind of outward ritual or mental adjustments that we approach God, when we do Him service, but it is by the energy of the Holy Ghost, for we have no confidence in the flesh.

The flesh means, of course, as you are well aware, not the physical tissue, but the whole make-up of the natural man. No self-confidence! But every confidence in the finished work of Christ, and in the grace of His Spirit's indwelling. The basis of all prosperity in Christian service and any progress in the Divine Life is that you are not afraid of Jesus. If you are afraid of Jesus, well, He tries to reassure you and says, "Be not afraid, it is I." He tries to let you know that God and He are identical, "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." There is no difference. And so in the Vision of that Face, there is absolute joy.

Of course, if your heart condemn you, that is another thing. It is because God "readeth your heart and knoweth all things." It may be there are some in whom is an evil heart of unbelief. It may be, that, secretly, you are not following Him. It may be that you have some reservation; that you are not free. That is another question. But I say that every man and woman absolutely abandoned to God has nothing to fear. Yielded to Him there is nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The love of God is in Christ. You remember that wonderful paean of confidence at the end of the 8th chapter of Romans:- "I am persuaded neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Rejoicing in the revealed Lord as Saviour is the basis of all advance in life and service. We cannot think of ministry until we have such a vision of God as brings Him to us actually in Christ Jesus. As I have said, if there be fear, there may be a ground for it. I do not want you to have that fearlessness of Ignorance who went blithely whistling along, but had never come through that Wicket Gate, and had never fled from the City of Destruction. If you are still making sport in the City of Destruction; if you are still looking back upon Sodom and Gomorrah; if you are not surrendered to God, of course there can be nothing but lifelong contradiction and eternal loss awaiting you. But if you are surrendered to God; if you have come to Him via the Cross, and really recognise the judgment of God upon your entire nature; that there is nothing good in you at all; if you have given yourself to Him upon that basis and believe in the blood of that mercy seat, which in Christ Himself, God Himself manifest in the flesh, crucified on your behalf; if you have come to see our absolute need, now BELIEVE, and never let another doubt trouble you as long as you live. The devil is a liar! And all these fears and terrors and accusations are of hell; and they are quenched by the blood. You can quench them if you only believe in the omnipotence of the Blood of Jesus.

Now one is dwelling upon this at length because one wishes to impress the fact that when you examine the reason why you fear, if you are really surrendered, there is no reason to fear; if, however, our heart condemn us, it is because "God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things. But if our heart condemn us not, we know that the Blood cleanses, and we have confidence toward God."

You remember what the Apostle says in the Hebrew letter:- "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus; by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh."

Through the flesh of Jesus (of which we are members) we come into the actual presence of God Himself. But do we so come at prayer meetings and gatherings? I think it is most important that we should take up our responsibility, each one of us, to press immediately into the actual presence of God Himself. I think we are far too casual in our gathering together. One has often detected (one does not wish to suggest anything by way of reproach) a lack of realisation that we are in the presence of God, and that where two or three are gathered together there He is actually by His Spirit in the midst. We need to recognise that.

Well, we are in the presence of God now with joy and confidence, because we share His righteousness in the Holy Ghost; then having got to this thing which is in the Apostle Paul, this vision, and this ministry which is in the vision, for the ministry is of God in Christ come down to us by the Holy Ghost, - Here am I! Jacob, so to speak, crooked by nature; and here down to Bethel, which is the house of God, there has come that shaft of Divine light and life. The vision, by the Spirit of God, has reached even me, and I am born out from Him, Whom I see in the Throne, and yet not separate from Him, joined to the Lord one spirit. And what is my way now, my path eternal? It is to mount up and up, and to go through in that way until I am found there in the Throne altogether in Him. That is my vision. That is the vision of the Apostle Paul. Now when every member of the Body has that vision there is something converging; there is a moving towards a Purpose. God, Himself, by His Spirit, is prepared to do all He can from His end, from the throne. He sends down His Spirit to dwell in our hearts; but you and I, by faith, must seek to lay hold of that which has laid hold of us. And as God by His Spirit is seeking to press through our hearts to bring about His Purpose in the Body, so you and I must co-operate in turn by taking hold of Him as He has taken hold of us. That is what is known in the 2nd chapter of the Colossian epistle as "Holding fast the Head."

Holding fast is not holding on desperately to save yourself. It means this holding with a wrestling. The word used to describe Jacob at Peniel where he had the Vision, but it took him twenty years to realise it. At Bethel there he was as Jacob, a man of the flesh, full of his crookedness, yet with the vision of God. The way of the Light came down to him at Bethel, but at Peniel, after much travail in his flesh, and much exercise and busy work for God all in vain, he is left alone, and there comes the other end, as it were, of the Bethel experience; but it comes by wrestling. He wrestles through the night, and he sees God face to face. There you have the Christian experience in parable. You have it actually in the Apostle Paul. He has commenced in Christ, and Christ is commenced in Him; he has seen the wonder of Christ. The vision has come down to him. The glory of God has come; he has seen that God was in Christ. The whole thing has somehow broken in upon his consciousness and he sees Who Jesus is, and what He is prepared to work out in him for His eternal purpose; and now he is pressing back in the Spirit in turn to apprehend Him Who has apprehended him. He is wrestling to know more perfectly the Jesus he already knows.

Some one asked Confucius if there were a word that could sum up all religion, and he answered, "Is not 'Reciprocity' such a word?" One quotes Confucius with diffidence, but is not the nature of the Christian life also found in this word, Reciprocity. We have sung it in this Conference, "I take," "He undertakes," or put it the other way, "He undertakes," "I take." That is true, but He has undertaken. "He who hath begun a good work in me will perfect it unto the day of Christ." "Whom He justifieth, them He also glorifieth." God's intention is perfect, and God's power is perfect. Reciprocity. He undertakes, He takes hold of me; but now I take hold of Him.

This is a not passive life, but an intense activity in your spirit. And this is the line of much of the church's activities - One vision - all Christians engaged in this laying hold of God in Christ and all service springs out of it. You need not worry about service. You take hold of God as God takes hold of you, and as you wrestle with God your service will come. You can be obsessed with your personal ministry, and there is no greater danger than that. If you are always talking about it and wanting other people to pray about it, it will end in becoming all in the flesh. But if you are taking hold of God; if you are burdened by the Holy Ghost; why, your ministry is alright. "Out of your inner being (unknown to you) will flow rivers of  living water." You need not worry about your ministry.

Are you loving God in Jesus Christ with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your might? That is the fruit of the Spirit, and as you are bound up with Him in one Life, your ministry will take care of itself. And there will be no rivalry in that ministry. Each one will be minding his own business in the Lord. You find this illustrated in the case of Peter. The last rebuke of the risen Lord was this: when he became anxious to know what was going to happen to John - "What is that to thee, follow thou Me." What is following Jesus? Following Jesus is following Jesus in the Holy Ghost. It is following in this celestial way, the way everlasting, from the dust to the throne. And here you have it all expressed by Paul. It arises out of an intense spiritual love for his Lord, and a love that desires that love may be begotten. Love does not come as a mighty current first of all in your life sweeping you off your feet. It may come first like a seeping spring in your heart as you cry for it. A little love first, and then the love increases and increases. That is the way of our salvation. It is out of faith unto faith; out of love unto love. It is not a great mighty faith first of all, but faith which is simply the quickening of the heart. All life is like that. You do not hear the buds "bang" in spring, they just quietly unfold themselves. God's Life manifests itself like that, but a good many Christians want to go off like squibs all at once. I am using such crude expressions because they really illustrate the principle of the matter. You don't grow like that. Do you see the spiritual reality of it? It is faith unto faith. Faith as a grain of mustard seed, Life as a grain of wheat too, all that same seed of God.

Oh, if you love a little now, and hold on, you will love more and more; and if you believe a little you will believe more and more. It is the gift of God; it is the grace of God. He gives you the beginnings of faith in order that you may ask for more. He gives you the beginnings of life in order that you may ask for more life. You are not so conscious of the Life; but God is faithful, and every one that asketh receiveth, and everyone that seeketh findeth, and to everyone that knocketh it shall be opened. His Spirit is given to everyone who asks, and He turns none away. But it is one of the perils of our time that people expect some phenomenon to break in upon them, they want instead a supernatural experience, and visualise their conversion upon the standard of somebody else's.

Now notice the order of the Cross subjective. The Cross objective is a finished work. Christ has died once for all for sinners, and He dieth no more. And you do not die by way of merit. God does not ask you to add another death to that of Christ. There can be a great deal of mental mal-adjustment about the doctrine of the Cross. If you don't know Jesus; if you have a doctrine of the Cross outside of Jesus, there can be a great deal of distortion about it, and you have people painfully trying to crucify themselves to please the Lord. Well, where is grace? For this would be additional to grace. You cannot present yourself a sacrifice for sin, your own sin! The sacrifice the Lord wants of you is a living sacrifice, and a living sacrifice is a joy that is in the Cross.

There is a Cross subjective. There is a working out of the Cross in your life and mine to the glory of God's grace. It is by grace we are able to be crucified in the laying down of our self-life. Not by regulations and laws, and the impact of our own will, or other people's wills upon us, but by the grace of God; and if you read the tenth verse the order of doctrine is, "That I may know Him (by the Holy Ghost) and the power of His resurrection" - the power of His ascension Life in me. First of all, Life in you, the Life of God, the Life of the Risen Christ, and what does that effect? The intimacy and communion you have with your Lord which the Holy Spirit brings about in you. A fellowship of His sufferings; not those sufferings at Calvary; but the suffering with Him for His Body's sake. The love of God, the love of the Spirit burdening your heart so that you are willing to lay down your life for others, daily, constantly, by the Life of the risen Lord, by the Spirit within you, putting to death the doings of the body. We do need to get our minds clear as to this.

You cannot crucify yourself. Why, if the flesh could not keep the ten commandments of the law of Israel, how do you think the flesh is going to maintain the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus? Except by the Spirit, you are helpless. It would be the most cruel mockery that God could inflict upon us to ask us to attain to a standard of righteousness in Christ when we failed to attain the lower law of the ten commandments. No, it was as many as received Him on the ground of what He did for them at Calvary, to them gave He the power, the authority, to become the children of God; and it is by the power of His resurrection, that ascending power of God that lifts you and causes you to ascend unto the Divine likeness and power. It is that which enables you to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. Not the sufferings of the Christ crucified, but the sufferings that remain in the Holy Ghost, the travail of the Spirit, the love of God, the passion of His love so that you live for the Body's sake. You live for others and you lay down your life for the brotherhood.

But what does this bring to you? This brings you at last to the conformity to His death. The death comes last. Life is first, then; afterwards the fellowship of His sufferings in the Holy Ghost's ministry; the travail of prayer for the Body's sake. There is thus wrought out in you that which makes you conformable to His death. Then as you are being made, by His grace, and by the power of His Spirit, unconsciously to yourself, conformable to His death, then there will be the outbreak of that resurrection that is the goal towards which you are pressing. The negative side is that you disappear, unknowingly to yourself may be, but others are seeing a change, less of self seen, less obtrusive. Yes, we see this miracle of grace happening around us.

Some of God's children used to be so hard, self-righteous; but they are mellowing, becoming more tender, more sympathetic, more thoughtful, more mindful of the weak and the erring and those who are out of the way; more Christ-like, more like Jesus. And oh, beloved friends, that is what we want: to become, like Jesus, so that people may see in your face that you have something of the love of God - conformable to His death, and this ugliness which is "I" disappears. I cannot make it disappear; I cannot crucify myself; but because I know the power of His resurrection in me by the grace of His Spirit, and because there is something in me of the fellowship of His sufferings for the Body's sake, the praying in the Holy Ghost, there goes on in me the conformity to His death, so that I decrease and He increases. Then you have the splendid objective side with the humility of the Apostle: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I press on, if also I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have laid hold; but this one thing I do! (Here is the one line of Christian service; the one line of Christian ministry; the one line of Christian vision, as we have it on our motto-card - not looking vaguely out into the unseen, but "Looking off unto Jesus!" as God in the Throne, coming down to me to live in my spirit, to run the race, not a personal race only, but a race in which you and I are included. And we shall all arrive at home!)

That is the vision to gather us together into oneness by the ministry of intercessory prayer, and by the pressing on of our own hearts to be found identified with our Lord in the Throne, for He also identified Himself with us, and He Who condescends to you and to me to live with us by His Spirit is saying to our fearing hearts day by day, as Satan seeks to oppress us with fears, "Fear not, it is I." It is He who shall ascend in us and with us and the Holy Ghost shall take us all home. It is God's Spirit Who is going to take us home, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. But you and I are pressing towards this realisation of His Life. But His Life is Love, and Love in the Spirit for Him and for the Body. If you love Him Who begets, you love those who are begotten. This is the essence of the Christian Life. Paul is showing the heavenly way, the surpassingly excellent way of love.

May the Lord bless us at the close of this Conference with the one thing needful, that we may not be busy about the many things, the many visions, the many services, the many businesses of the Martha spirit, the flesh, but that we may listen to the Holy Spirit within us, and choose the good part that cannot be taken away from us.

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