SPARKS WRITES ABOUT ZION
BY: AUSTIN T. SPARKS
EGYPT FLATTERS SELF — ZION SLAYS IT
AMBITION RIGHT IF SELFLESS
HOLY AMBITION — TO ATTAIN TO ZION
You can read all of three articles Sparks wrote about this at this link, and you can read all of Chapter 5 of which the following is an excerpt, and click the links there till you’ve read the three best Chapters on his book about this subject, which are chapters 3 through 6 if you want the fullest glory on this subject so urgently important for our lives – our Great God and His great works through us!
EGYPT FLATTERS SELF – ZION SLAYS IT
But the rest is so subtle, it does find so great a response in us. It is here, of course, that the enemy cunningly works to arrest spiritual progress. The world? “Oh yes,” you may say, “I have given my life to the Lord: I am born again, I have finished with the world, I am out and out for the Lord now. All my life, service and energy is for the Lord”. “Very well”, says Satan, “let us placard your name everywhere as a great witness for the Lord, and then you will begin to be made a lot of by organized Christianity!” It is all wrapped up under the guise of affording you a great opportunity, and you are altogether unaware of how nice it is, and how you like it. What has happened? That is not the way of the Lamb. What is the way of the Lamb? He “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7) – “made himself of no reputation”, A.V. “He emptied himself”: the devil is out to FILL you. Since he could not fill you with the world, he is going to fill you now with the gratification of the natural life in the service of God. It will not live very long. It will spend itself, and it will, moreover, mean spiritual immaturity. It is not the way of the Lamb.
If we were to press this, we could expose that whole thing very thoroughly by a good deal of evidence. If the enemy cannot get us in one way, he will get us in another, and he has got many a young life by flattery, ruined many a powerful servant of God by popularity. Yes, he has brought him down from his excellency by deeply-laid devices in the way of fame, pushing on, bringing to the fore; getting into the limelight, giving a name. Spiritual life has gradually receded and the end has been tragedy. That is not fiction – that is a tragic fact. The way to Zion, the way to the throne, the way to spiritual ascendancy is the way of the cross, and the cross ever more deeply planted right down to the very roots of self-interest, self-gratification, self-pleasure, even in the things of God. In the end we shall be brought to the place where it is not the Lord’s things that delight us, but the Lord Himself alone Who is our life. So the whole scheme of the enemy is to make the work of the Lord so attractive, to offer the prizes, the spheres, the opportunities, and all that sort of thing. It is very nice, it is very pleasant, it answers to something in our fallen nature. That something has to pass through the crucible of the cross. It may be something legitimate, something God-implanted, something essential to the outworking of this divine purpose, but it has been dragged into a realm of defilement.
AMBITION RIGHT IF SELFLESS
You can call it what you like; aspiration, ambition, wanting to get on, wanting to rise. It is there in the constitution of man, and rightly so; God put it there. “Thou makest him to have dominion” (Psa. 8:6) That is not just official, positional. That is the fulfillment of some divine power at work in the very constitution of man that makes him feel he must rise, but it has been perverted. It is perverted by the great pervert, who himself was perverted by his own pride when he said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14) and who came down to Eve and said, “Hath God said…? Why, God knows that in the day that you eat, you will have the root of the matter in you, you will not be dependent on God for your knowledge, you will not have to obey God, you will have it in yourself!” Adam and Eve fell to it, and the race fell with them, and from that day to this that holy thing of aspiration – shall we call it ambition? – that great power in us that makes us know we are born for a destiny, is perverted and tainted by self, by pride. So that a man has advanced far on the road to holiness who can never be caught along the line of flattery and popularity, to whom the siren charms and voices are as nothing, because he walks so humbly with his God, meek and lowly in heart. All the prizes and baubles have no attraction for him. I say that is IN THE HOLY HILL OF ZION. We are touching another thing now, how holiness is inherent in ascendancy. But that must wait.
It is not wrong to have ambition, to have aspiration, but it is wrong to have it actuated by personal interest and motive. That has to go through the crucible of the cross and be burnt out. [SPIRIT OF BURNINGS?] Here is the paradox, the problem, the difficulty of a true Christian life: to be broken, emptied, humbled, reduced to nothing, and yet at the same time to have a fiery ambition. How reconcile these two things? I find it in Paul. With the exception of the Lord Jesus Himself, no man was more mastered by the spirit of ascendancy and dominion – shall we call it ambition, aspiration? – than he was, and no man was more selfless in it all. How he suffered at the hands of those who owed everything to him instrumentally! There is no personal thing here. He is the man who can write, “Love… seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly – giveth itself no airs”. All that is ascendancy; not just geographical location, but spiritual ascendancy. Oh, let us ask the Lord to put in us a passionate ambition for His glory, and that we may be kept purified by the cross so that our glory does not force its way in. That will need a lot of the grace of God.
HOLY AMBITION – TO ATTAIN TO ZION
All this is the meaning of Zion, of spiritual ascendancy, and we have really to face its implications. As I have said before, it is a matter which has a very present application. I know I run the risk of being charged with spiritualizing everything in the Bible. However, what I am after is that which is eternal. Everything else will go. It may be a casket in which eternal jewels are deposited, but the casket will go. I am after the jewel. At the back of all the symbols and of all actualities there is something spiritual, and for me it is far more profitable to get to what is God’s inner thought in things that He says, than it is to be only occupied with the thing said. You may take the book of the Revelation and deal with it historically if you like: you can take it on the futurist basis if you like; you can interpret it literally if you like; but it does not get you very far spiritually to do that. What we need is that spiritual life should be increased, and what I see as the grand issue of the book of the Revelation is a company standing with the Lamb upon mount Zion, whatever that may be. For me, interpreted in the light of all the Scriptures, it is not merely a time nor a location. IT IS THE ARRIVAL AT THE END OF GOD’S THOUGHT IN OUR REDEMPTION, COMING TO THE FULLNESS OF THE MEANING OF HAVING BEEN REDEEMED FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD AND TRANSLATED INTO THE KINGDOM OF THE SON OF GOD’S LOVE, AND REACHING THE PLACE OF HIGHEST USEFULNESS TO HIM WHEN TIME SHALL BE NO MORE. I suggest to you that it is those things that have very much more immediate spiritual value for us than such questions as whether or not the Jews are going back to Palestine.
In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given, his writings are not copyrighted. Therefore you are free to use these writings as you are led, however we ask if you choose to share these writings with others, please offer them freely – free of changes, free of charge and free of copyright.
ZION – SPARKS WRITES ABOUT [T. Austin Sparks] 1