The Rule of the Heavens
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 5 - Spirituality

Reading: Rom. 8:3-6,9; 1 Cor. 2:6-15, 12:1; Eph. 6:12,13.

Continuing our meditation on the rule of the Heavens, we have in part seen two of the great symbolic meanings of the heavens - that is, universality and sovereignty or ascendancy. Now we come to a third significance of the term "the heavens," and that is spirituality. It is an exceedingly important matter. It is really basic to all else. If it is true, as we have been seeking to show, that the last word from God's standpoint in every matter is the heavenly word and the heavenly meaning and the heavenly interpretation of a thing - the Divine thought about it, not men's thought or judgment or conception or presentation, but what God means by it - if that is final, it is then clear at once that spirituality in that sense is the great governing factor - the ruling thing.

We at best, even the Lord's children, are very materialistic in our conceptions, in our judgments, in our appraisals, in the way in which we receive things and measure things. We are so tremendously governed and dominated by these soul-senses of ours, by how things effect and impress others naturally, what their reaction is to them, just how far they carry weight amongst men. So the bulk, the size, is a very great factor in the eyes of men. It is just how it impresses the world, and what others think about it. It is a part of the real work of the Cross in us to bring us to the place where it does not matter what the world thinks. It sounds easy and it sounds as though we ought to be there, and yet there are times when we are all found out in that matter. Just how it appears to men, how it affects them, how it stands before them, just whether it would carry weight with men, what we have been trained to call "success," all judged and decided and determined by this soul-life of ours. This is all materialism and all relates to the senses, and we have to come to the place where these things cease to influence us at all and where we get the heavenly viewpoint about everything - where we come to see that two or three gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus in the Holy Spirit represent a mightier factor in this universe than a thousand or five thousand gathered together in some earthly cause.

Spirituality is a tremendously potent factor, and it is true that we are tremendously materialistic even in our spiritual lives. It sounds like a contradiction, but there is no doubt about this; and what the Lord is seeking to do with every child of His who is going on with Him is to make Him spiritual, to develop spirituality. The Lord seeks most definitely to add to the spirituality of His children. The new birth is a spiritual birth, and "that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." You have in a truly born-again child of God two entities, not what the natural man calls the good and the bad but you have got this outer man, this old man, this man who is still the man of natural reasoning, natural feeling, natural choosing. He is still with you, but inside of him there has been brought to birth by the quickening of the Holy Spirit another man, the inner man of the heart, a new entity, and he is spiritual. That which is from God is there.

God's Focal-point of Interest

It is with that "new man" that God is concerned. All His interest is in that. What He is after is to develop, that and to bring that into a state of maturity. He knows that He can deal with the rest of the man through that. The soul and the body, while having their place in redemption which is in the Lord Jesus, God begins with the spirit, the new creation man, and works out through that to the rest of the man to bring his natural man into captivity. It is with this new man, with a new set of faculties, that God is concerned. The natural man has his faculties of reasoning and understanding and feeling, of expressing himself, of acting, of choosing, all these things are connected with this outer man. He has none of the spiritual faculties until he is born again, born from above, and the new man comes in. This new man is endowed with a whole new set of faculties which the natural man has not got. He has a faculty of understanding which is spiritual understanding. He has a new sense of value of things Divine. The Lord's attention, by the Holy Spirit, is given to the development of those faculties. The writer to the Hebrews speaks about our "child training" which the Father of our spirits brings us into and brings upon us. It is in order that we may have our senses exercised thereby to discern good and evil, but those senses are the senses of our spirits - to bring our spirits to full-grown manhood.

Having seen this, we are able to understand a good deal of the Scriptures. "We walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit." "The mind of the flesh is death, the mind of the spirit is life and peace." That is one of the great governing principles in guidance, how to know whether a thing is of God or not. If you are walking in the Spirit, you decide whether a thing is of God or not by whether you have life and peace, or whether you are without it. If the thing is not alive, and if you have a good deal of unrest about it, you leave it alone. But, if walking with God, you have peace and life about that, then you have the mind of the Spirit. It is not the reasoning of the natural man as to whether it is right or wrong. It is because the Holy Spirit is resident within your spirit giving life. It is more than an enlightened conscience it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the things of God.

What Spirituality Is

Spirituality is that which is signified by the heavens, and it is that which governs. The measure of spirituality is the measure of finality, certainty, definiteness and power from God's standpoint.

What do we mean by spirituality? We have met so many people who have thought that when you speak of being spiritual you mean that you are other-worldly, unreal and only imaginary: that you have become an abstraction and have lost all that is practical. It is not that. It is a very practical thing indeed. There are others who think you are only using another term for mysticism. But there is a vast difference between mysticism and spirituality. It is a dangerous thing to use the word "mysticism" and we ought to make it clear what the word "mystery" when used in the New Testament means. "Mystery" in the New Testament only means a thing which up to a certain point was covered and a secret, but which has now been brought out to light. "Mysticism" is another thing entirely. It is always trying to find some hidden, psychical reason for things, getting back behind things that appear just to give them some kind of suggestion that is not apparent. Many a saint has been called a mystic, and it has spoiled his ministry entirely. It is a different thing entirely from spirituality. It is often on the imaginary side of things. Spirituality is real. One is purely a soul thing. You can have "mystics" who can produce the most beautiful presentations of things, and they may be evil to the core of their moral characters.

Coming then to the matter of the increase of spirituality as the governing thing. You will remember that Paul said, "I could not write unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal, as unto babes. I fed you with milk, not with meat." And yet Paul's letter is full of the spiritual. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren" (ch. 12). The significance of this is that these people were exceedingly interested in spiritual things. They were perfectly fascinated with spiritual things. The "spirituals" were the things which occupied them tremendously. Speaking with tongues, and many other things called the spirituals. Yet Paul says, "I could not write unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal." It is possible to have a carnal interest in spiritual things. A good many people today are interested in speaking with tongues, but carnally interested. It is something you can demonstrate. If you want spiritual things for display purposes, that is carnality. If it is because they are evidences to your senses, that is carnality. If you want just to be able to prove things in that realm, that is carnality. And so you can be interested in spiritual things, and yet be carnal. And you know what follows, how he speaks of their saying "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos... are ye not carnal, and do ye not speak as men?" The spiritual man cannot speak as man, but as God. You are commanded not to speak as men. Interest in those things is no mark of spirituality. It may be just the opposite.

The proof of spirituality is that you are able to walk with God without any demonstration at all. When He hides Himself, when you have to walk in sheer faith and you do. Like Abraham, when everything was seeming to deny God, not when all the time you are wanting something to demonstrate God. He is seeking to bring His children to the place where He can count on them to walk with Him by faith without His giving a multitude of evidences to their senses that He is there. It is infancy when we have to depend on God to give us proof. Very often in the history of God's work among the unenlightened He has done wonderful things to demonstrate His power. But, as soon as they begin to really stand on their spiritual feet, gradually those things were withdrawn and God called on them to trust Him for Himself. That is growing up and increase in spirituality.

And are we not being brought to that place in these days? Where He can wean us from signs and wonders and the satisfying of our senses? Where we will walk with Him by faith? Where He will not always be saying to our senses, "It is all right, I am here?" And you notice where the Apostle lands them at last. He says, "Now, concerning the spirituals, brethren," and went through the whole catalogue of them, and then he said that when all that was said, and when you have dealt with all that which you are so interested in, after all there is a spirituality which transcends that (ch. 13). Though I have all these spiritual gifts and be lacking in love, I am not complete. So the spirituality presented is the presentation and manifestation of the love of God according to 1 Cor. 13. When you have read that through carefully, you will see that represents spiritual growth. If only we could come up to that standard, we would be growing spiritually. Of course, love is not a substitute for spiritual gifts, but an indispensable foundation and governing principle of them.

So these Corinthians represented retarded spiritual growth, even while they were so interested in spiritual things. Thus you have to go on to see more of the meaning of spirituality, which is getting God's side of things. It is, to begin with, matter of state. "He that is spiritual." It is the condition of our life, and we never apprehend spiritual things only as we are in the spiritual state. And after a spiritual state, it is a matter of spiritual things.

The Nature and Power of Spiritual Knowledge

Take the matter of knowledge. Men say that "knowledge is power," but they mean natural knowledge. They mean intellectual knowledge. Amongst men it may be power, but there is a spiritual knowledge which is far more mighty than natural knowledge, and Paul says again that the wisdom of this world is so foolish that it crucified the Lord of Life. That is wisdom at its highest development in this world; the rulers did it, the wise people did it. "We speak a wisdom... of God." Spiritual knowledge is a tremendous thing. It is the rule of the heavens. The knowledge of the Lord Himself is the most mighty thing that has ever been given to men - true, personal, inward knowledge of the Lord.

Ultimately it is going to be spiritual understanding that counts. Men are going to to be at their wits ends, and they are fast approaching it. They do not know how to solve the problems of this world, they do not know how to cope with this world's situation. And when that day comes, when men have been utterly defeated in the matter of the wise government of this world, then it will be those who know the Lord who will be strong, who will be at rest. They will be the ones that count. And when men's hearts, fail them for fear, it will be those who know the Lord to whom they will turn.

But do you see that the whole universe is going to be governed by spiritual understanding and knowledge. If the heavens rule now, how do they rule? How do angels and archangels know the will of God and run to do His bidding? We see them co-operating with God in the government of this world. They do not know because they are told, and they do not know because they sit down and reason it out. They know intuitively. Intuition is a faculty of the spirit, not of the soul. They know the same as you would know if you had lived with a person and come to perfect understanding of that person. You would be one with them by long living with them, and you would not need to be told what to do, and it would not be necessary for you to sit down and puzzle it out. You would intuitively know what their mind about a thing was. If God is going to govern the universe through the church, it will be through the intuitive knowledge of His will. We will know what He wants done next. This is the outcome of a close spiritual walk and fellowship with the Lord.

Are we not coming under the hand of God, in His dealing with us? Are we not coming in a minor way to sense what the Lord would have done at a certain time? You know in your hearts what the Lord wants and what He does not want, and you know when the Lord wants it. It has come to you by the Spirit. It is spiritual discernment, spirituality which is spiritual knowledge. But we will get these heads of ours into things and try to bring Divine knowledge down to human understanding, and the Lord has to bewilder us and stun us and bring us to the place where we are in a fog because we try to deal with spiritual things by natural equipment. He wants us to come where He is able to bear witness in us of His will.

"The Word of God must dwell in us richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."

This reaches out to a large number of other things. The world thinks of force as power, the Lord thinks of love and meekness as power. It is love that has conquered; faith that overcomes. It is meekness that has brought God's great victory again and again. And God would develop those. One of the mightiest forces in this universe is holiness. The Lord will go on to add spirituality if we will go on, but His trouble with us is that we do not go on. We still walk in and cling to the flesh and try to bring over all this natural equipment of ours to do spiritual things. We have thought that our zeal and our passion and our energy and our thinking out of all this thing was counting for God. Whatever has been accomplished by that has got to stand the test of the fire yet. What abides for eternity is that which is done by the Holy Spirit, and only that. Only the Holy Spirit can do God's work, and unless the Holy Spirit is doing God's work through us, all that we are doing for God is going to be in vain.

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