Collecting my car after a repair, I noticed a motorcycle badge and slogan on the counter. It was a Harley Davidson badge and the slogan read ‘If I Had To Explain, You Wouldn’t Understand.’ Having owned Japanese Honda’s all my life, I probably wouldn’t!
At the same time I had been reading T. Austin Sparks’ ‘Stewardship of the Mystery’ Part 2 [cf note at end of blog]. Sparks explains how God in his sovereignty can put us into a certain life/ministry situation – in my own case, pastoring denominational churches for 38 years, going ’round and round the mulberry bush’ as a missionary couple in China put it to me concerning their previous institutional ministry. Then he sovereignly and graciously intervenes and gives a new understanding of things and puts us into a new situation closer to his heart – in my case, facilitating Christ-led organic churches, which directly touch the poor and lost. All this comes via a divine revelation and new understanding of God’s ultimate purpose which is to exalt CHRIST in his universe (cf. Eph. 1-3; Col. 1-2) [so many churches are so busy exalting themselves and their own ministries and kingdoms that they miss God’s ultimate intention completely]. Sparks reminds us of Abraham leaving Chaldea, Moses leaving Egypt, Saul of Tarsus leaving his prescribed Judaism – God sovereignly moved these figures on through deeper revelation and understanding concerning his saving purposes.
It is only such revelational encounter and understanding that brings the forward-move in God’s kingdom. Think again of Paul and his Damascus road encounter, his retreat into Arabia (the Damascan country-side) – God removed Paul from negative religion to proclaim Christ and plant vibrant ecclesiae in the Near East, Asia Minor and far-flung Europe. Only after such revelational encounter and understanding can we live and serve with divine authority and direction. If you are perhaps at a crisis point in your life, at a place of apparent contradition between reason and faith, it might just be God beginning a new, deeper thing in your life for the coming years. I mean think of Paul, born a Jew, ‘of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews… a Pharisee,’ now preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to all nations including the despised Gentiles!
Try and explain your new-found revelation of Christ and his ultimate purpose to others (Col. 1:24, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – note, ‘the glory’ relates very much to the present). Try and explain to the average believer or the average leader in the average institutional church, as I and some of my dear brothers and sisters have tried to do – at best there is a tiny glimpse or recognition of the truth on the part of one or two, but generally folk ‘don’t have a clue’ as to what you’re talking about. Like the time I was invited back (under some duress) to preach at my previous congregation which I had pastored for 23 years – I was warmly welcomed because of the deep relational ties of many years, but most in the gathering that morning just could not grasp my message to the effect that essentially ‘church’ is not something we ‘go to’ but what we are (24/7), individually and corporately.
Austin Sparks puts it this way, “We cannot make too much of this matter of revelation, illumination, seeing. It is basic in salvation (Acts 26:18). It is essential to effective ministry (2 Cor. 4:6) and it is indispensible to full knowledge and full growth (Eph. 1:17). Jesus made a tremendous amount of spiritual seeing, as a reading of John’s Gospel will show. ‘Eyes’ were – in His teaching – a criterion of life or death. Indeed, a fundamental and pre-eminent work of the Holy Spirit has to do with spiritual enlightenment as to the significance of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is all in the Scriptures, but still our eyes are holden.’ Take for example Jesus’ words to Peter in Mt. 16:16-18 on his confession of Messiah: “‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven… I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.'” [Steve McVey in Grace Walk puts it like this, ‘A deep knowledge of God won’t come by biblical education alone (the mistake of much Sunday School teaching? my comment), but through divine revelation as He chooses to open our eyes to understand Him more.’]
Sparks suggests that the next time you are asked what denomination or association you belong to you, you reply ‘[please, not in some super-spiritual or self-righteous way – my comment], ‘Oh brother, I have seen Jesus the Son of God, and in seeing Him I have seen the Church, and in that only true Church there is not this mix-up of nationalities, colours, names, social or cultural differences and distinctions… ‘ Perhaps then point them to Gal. 3:26-28, ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’
You object ‘But I know all this… I’m a mature believer…’ Listen to what Paul prayed for those well-taught believers in Ephesus (Eph. 1:15ff), ‘Ever since I heard about your faith and your love for all the saints [somewhat of a head-start on much of our contemporary Christianity, wouldn’t you say?], I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit (or, spirit) of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe… God placed all things under his (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills everything in every way!’
So where do we go from here? I guess, indwelt and empowered by Christ’s divine life, we:
- keep on being ‘obsessed’ with Christ and his ultimate purpose…
- keep on ‘explaining’ the mystery of Christ, in total dependence on the Holy Spirit for his revelatory work in the minds and hearts of those within the daily circle of our influence (cf 2 Cor. 4:1-6)…
- keep on praying that we may all receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation with regard to the mystery of Christ… [some time ago a fellow-blogger asked that we regularly pray for each other Paul’s prayer in Eph. 1:17]
- keep on ‘obsessing,’ ‘explaining’ and praying, in the sure and certain knowledge that the Christ, the Son of the living God will build his church and be glorified in all the earth!
Any one out there with a Harley? I might just understand and be converted!!
[T. Austin-Sparks (1888-1971) was a British pastor, teacher and author who set up a conference and training centre in S.E. London. He engaged in teaching throughout Britain, Europe, the USA and Asia over a period of many years. In more recent years his writings have been ‘re-discovered,’ to the help and blessing of many]