I would like to thank you for posting these sections. I read something in thread you posted in a few days ago...and the Lord gave me a victorious revelation on something I've been struggling with and confused over for years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. God used you so mightily...and you don't even realize it. Please tell me, the article you posted by Nee - "Our Life" - where did you get it from?
I am staggering by something I read in it.
Here's the link:
"Our Life" is the second to the last. I'm so glad you were encouraged from it. :-) I found it very encouraging to me and so much of a revelation like you said in so many ways.
I was thinking today about how we get into this trap of trying to stop sinning in a particular area and God keeps reminding me that this is my old man trying to take over again and it's the old man that has to be crucified. It's not about "stop sinning" it's about dying to the old man. Anyway that was the revelation He gave me and when I go throughout the day sometimes I forget this. The blood deals with our sins but it's the cross (dying) that deals with our old man.
| 2008/3/20 15:25|
I really enjoyed the discussion about the [b]value[/b] of the Blood!
I like the illustration of the lintel and the door posts and how he uses it to describe our standing with God. He said when He sees the blood He will pass over. We cannot see the blood or really know the value of it and only He sees it. We just believe by faith that He sees it and He will pass over.
| 2008/3/20 15:43|
Thank you for the link! I knew it wasn't in "The Normal Christian Life", as I've been reading it but haven't noticed the reference to Gal. 2:20 as he does in this amazing article.
What Nee is teaching here is so tremendous, so revelatory that if grasped and [i]reckoned[/i] it could very well change our walks forever. The reckoning of a death already accomplished and a constant looking in faith to the risen Son of God, in Whom our lives are now hid. I was reading the epistle Romans this morning, in particular, the grafting of the wild olive tree branch into Christ the root, and that saw that the sap of the root now flows through the ingrafted branches. A grafting that was done without any effort on my part. God has done all the work.
O brethen, if we can but grasp this truth in the spiritual; if God will but open our eyes and grant us a [i]reckoning[/i] by grace unto the deaths of our bodies of sin with Christ...and the newness of life we now have in the resurrection life of glory by faith in the indwelling Son of God - we can truly live the life in Christ we were meant to have. To finally see that our lives are really hid in Christ, and the life we now live we live in Him and in His strength. Behold, the entire thesis of the New Testament in two blessed words - "In Christ"! So many scriptures will suddenly congeal effortlessly and give a blessed unified clarity and cohesiveness unto the revealed truth of our lives "in Christ" that we will rise in exhalted praise and shout "Hallelujah! We are dead! It is finished! To live is Christ and to die is gain!"
Paul Frederick West
| 2008/3/20 15:43||Profile|
The other great revelation given to me was that we sinned because we were first sinners by our inherited nature from Adam. We were not sinners because we first sinned.
| 2008/3/20 16:21|
Quoting from third article 'Christ our life'. (Sorry about long quote)
For years we have been so wrong. We have committed so many sins and have been bound by so much weakness, pride, and temper. It is about time that we give up on ourselves. We should come to the Lord and say, "I have done enough; nothing has worked. I give up. You take over! I have been crucified on the cross. From now on live in my place!" This is the meaning of "it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."
IV. LIVING BY THE FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD
The other part of Galatians 2:20 is also very important: "And the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith in the Son of God." Christ lives in us. From this point forward, we live by faith in the Son of God. We believe daily that the Son of God lives in us. We say to the Lord, "I believe that You are living for me. You are my life; I believe that You are living in me." When we believe this way, we live this way. No matter what happens, we will no longer make any move. The fundamental lesson of Romans 7 is that we should not make any resolutions. The basic teaching is that it is better that we not will to do anything, because such a willing is useless. Since it is useless to do anything by ourselves, we should simply stop all our moves.
The purpose of Satan's temptation is not only for us to sin but also for the old man within us to move. When temptation comes, we must learn to refuse to move and to say to the Lord, "This is not my business. This is Your business. I look to You to live in my place." Always learn to look to Him. Never try to move on your own. We are saved through faith, not through works. In the same way our life is based on faith, not on works. We were saved through looking to the Lord alone. Today we live through looking to Him as well. Just as salvation is accomplished by the Lord, without the involvement of any of our work, so also our living on earth today is a living of the Lord Himself, without the need for any involvement of ourselves. We must look up to the Lord who saves us and say, "It is You alone, not I.
After we say this, if we still move on our own, we are saying this in vain. We must stop our own activity before these words can be meaningful in any way. Brothers and sisters, we must remember that failure comes not because we do too little, but because we do too much. As long as man keeps on working, God's grace will not operate and man's sins will not be forgiven. In the same way, as long as man is occupied with his own work, trying to do everything by himself, Christ's life will not be manifested. This is a rule. The cross will not produce any effect on those who trust in their own work. When we insist on our own goodness, we will not be saved. But when we turn away from ourselves to the Lord, we will be saved. The same is true today. If we are working and operating, instead of the cross working in us and the life of Christ operating in us, this speaking will be in vain. We must learn to condemn ourselves. We must confess that we will never overcome by ourselves. Do not will and do not try to do anything. Simply look to the Lord and say, "I look to You as the One who is living in me! Live on my behalf. I look to You for victory! I look to You to express Your life through me." If we say this, the Lord will accomplish it for us. But if we frustrate our faith by our own work, the Lord can do nothing. We have to settle this question once and for all. We have to believe daily and speak to the Lord daily in a definite way: "Lord, I am useless! I take Your cross. Lord, keep me from moving. Lord, be my Master and live out of me." If we can believe, hope, and trust in this way, we will be able to testify daily, "It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives."
All three articles spoke volumes to me, but this little excerpt I think is of real practical significance.
Every day we battle against the old man and get frustrated and filled with guilt when we sin and it interrupts our fellowship with God which is so precious to the new man.
But the old man is [b]me![/b] and I'm not willing to die! I want fed. God, however, has crucified me with Christ.
Example - If I'm watching TV (which I probably shouldn't because it opens the door to Satan, but for the sake of this example....) and a smutty scene comes on the TV or the talk becomes ungodly and I choose to switch channels or turn off the TV I could then start to feel proud that I've made the decision, but this is the old man. The fact is that the new man (Christ living in me) turned off the TV and that I in myself (because I'm a crucified sinner) have nothing to be proud of.
I don't know if this example is a good one, but it's what I've taken from this.
In the end the articles have made me realise that really we are only scratching the surface of God and His love for us.
In Christ (I understand what this means a bit more now)
| 2008/3/21 8:06||Profile|
I feel like I need to just sit on chapters 1 and 2 for a few weeks....but on to chapter 3 anyway. :-)
The Path Of Progress: Knowing
Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the resurrection. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new" (2 Cor 5:17). The Cross terminates the first creation, and out of death there is brought a new creation in Christ, the second Man. If we are 'in Adam' all that is in Adam necessarily devolves upon us; it becomes ours involuntarily, for we have to do nothing to get it. There is no need to make up our minds to lose our temper or to commit some other sin; it comes to us freely and despite ourselves. In a similar way, if we are 'in Christ' all that is in Christ comes to us by free grace, without effort on our part but on the ground of simple faith.
But to say that all we need comes to us in Christ by free grace, though true enough, may seem unpractical. How does it work out in practice? How does it become real in our experience?
As we study chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Romans we shall discover that the conditions of living the normal Christian life are fourfold. They are: (a) Knowing, (b) Reckoning, (c) Presenting ourselves to God, and (d) Walking in the Spirit, and they are set forth in that order. If we would live that life we shall have to take all four of these steps; not one nor two nor three, but all four. As we study each of them we shall trust the Lord by His Holy Spirit to illumine our understanding; and we shall seek His help now to take the first big step forward.
Our Death With Christ A Historic Fact
Romans 6:1-11 is the passage before us now. In these verses it is made clear that the death of the Lord Jesus is representative and inclusive. In His death we all died. None of us can progress spiritually without seeing this. Just as we cannot have justification if we have not seen Him bearing our sins on the Cross, so we cannot have sanctification if we have not seen Him bearing us on the Cross. Not only have our sins been laid on Him but we ourselves have been put into Him.
How did you receive forgiveness? You realized that the Lord Jesus died as your Substitute and bore your sins upon Himself, and that His Blood was shed to cleanse away your defilement. When you saw your sins all taken away on the Cross what did you do? Did you say, 'Lord Jesus, please come and die for my sins'? No, you did not pray at all; you only thanked the Lord You did not beseech Him to come and die for you, for you realized that He had already done it.
But what is true of your forgiveness is also true of your deliverance. The work is done. There is no need to pray but only to praise. God has put us all in Christ, so that when Christ was crucified we were crucified also. Thus there is no need to pray: 'I am a very wicked person; Lord, please crucify me'. That is all wrong. You did not pray about your sins; why pray now about yourself? Your sins were dealt with by His Blood, and you were dealt with by His Cross. It is an accomplished fact. All that is left for you to do is to praise the Lord that when Christ died you died also; you died in Him. Praise Him for it and live in the light of it. "Then believed they his words: they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:12).
Do you believe in the death of Christ? Of course you do. Well, the same Scripture that says He died for us says also that we died with Him. Look at it again: "Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). That is the first statement, and that is clear enough; but is this any less clear? "Our old man was crucified with him" (Romans 6:6). "We died with Christ" (Romans 6:8).
When are we crucified with Him? What is the date of our old man's crucifixion? Is it tomorrow? Yesterday? Today? In order to answer this it may help us if for a moment I turn Paul's statement round and say, 'Christ was crucified with (i.e. at the same time as) our old man'. Some of you came here in twos. You traveled to this place together. You might say, My friend came here with me', but you might just as truly say, 'I came here with my friend'. Had one of you come three days ago and the other only today you could not possibly say that; but having come together you can make either statement with equal truth, because both are statements of fact. So also in historic fact we can say, reverently but with equal accuracy, 'I was crucified when Christ was crucified' or 'Christ was crucified when I was crucified', for they are not two historical events, but one. My crucifixion was "with him". Has Christ been crucified? Then can I be otherwise? And if He was crucified nearly two thousand years ago, and I with Him, can my crucifixion be said to take place tomorrow? Can His be past and mine be present or future? Praise the Lord, when He died in my stead, but He bore me with Him to the Cross, so that when He died I died. And if I believe in the death of the Lord Jesus, then I can believe in my own death just as surely as I believe in His.
Why do you believe that the Lord Jesus died? What is your ground for that belief? Is it that you feel He has died? No, you have never felt it. You believe it because the Word of God tells you so. When the Lord was crucified, two thieves were crucified at the same time. You do not doubt that they were crucified with Him, either, because the Scripture says so quite plainly.
You believe in the death of the Lord Jesus and you believe in the death of the thieves with Him. Now what about your own death? Your crucifixion is more intimate than theirs. They were crucified at the same time as the Lord but on different crosses, whereas you were crucified on the self same cross as He, for you were in Him when He died. How can you know? You can know for the one sufficient reason that God has said so. It does not depend on your feelings. If you feel that Christ has died, He has died; and if you do not feel that he died, He has died. If you feel that you have died, you have died; and if you do not feel that you have died, you have nevertheless just as surely died. These are Divine facts. That Christ has died is a fact, that the two thieves have died is a fact, and that you have died is a fact also. Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And "he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:7, A.V.). This is the Gospel for Christians.
Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only be accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross. Our eyes must be opened to see the finished work of Calvary. Some of you, prior to your salvation, may have tried to save yourselves. You read the Bible, prayed, went to Church, gave alms. Then one day your eyes were opened and you saw that a full salvation had already been provided for you on the Cross. You just accepted that and thanked God, and peace and joy flowed into your heart. Now salvation and sanctification are on exactly the same basis. You receive deliverance from sin in the same way as you receive forgiveness of sins.
For God's way of deliverance is altogether different from man's way. Man's way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God's way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power. 'If only I were stronger', we say, 'I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper', and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control.
But this is altogether wrong; this is not Christianity. God's means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the Divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything but by removing him from the scene of action.
For years, maybe, you have tried fruitlessly to exercise control over yourself, and perhaps this is still your experience; but when once you see the truth you will recognize that you are indeed powerless to do anything, but that in setting you aside altogether God has done it all. Such a revelation brings human self-effort to an end.
The First Step: "Knowing This..."
The normal Christian life must begin with a very definite 'knowing', which is not just knowing something about the truth nor understanding some important doctrine. It is not intellectual knowledge at all, but an opening of the eyes of the heart to see what we have in Christ.
How do you know your sins are forgiven? Is it because your pastor told you so? No, you just know it. If I ask you how you know, you simply answer, 'I know it!' Such knowledge comes by Divine revelation. It comes from the Lord Himself. Of course the fact of forgiveness of sins is in the Bible, but for the written Word of God to become a living Word from God to you He had to give you "a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" (Eph. 1:17). What you needed was to know Christ in that way, and it is always so. So there comes a time, in regard to any new apprehension of Christ, when you know it in your own heart, you 'see' it in your spirit. A light has shined into your inner being and you are wholly persuaded of the fact. What is true of the forgiveness of your sins is no less true of your deliverance from sin. When once the light of God dawns upon your heart you see yourself in Christ. It is not now because someone has told you, and not merely because Romans 6 says so. It is something more even than that. You know it because God has revealed it to you by His Spirit. You may not feel it; you may not understand it; but you know it, for you have seen it. Once you have seen yourself in Christ, nothing can shake your assurance of that blessed fact.
If you ask a number of believers who have entered upon the normal Christian life how they came by their experience, some will say in this way and some will say in that. Each stresses his own particular way of entering in and produces Scripture to support his experience; and unhappily many Christians are using their special experiences and their special scriptures to fight other Christians. The fact of the matter is that, while Christians may enter into the deeper life by different ways, we need not regard the experiences or doctrines they stress as mutually exclusive, but rather complementary. One thing is certain, that any true experience of value in the sight of God must have been reached by way of a new discovery of the meaning of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. That is a crucial test and a safe one.
And here in our passage Paul makes everything depend upon such a discovery. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Romans 6:6).
Divine Revelation Essential To Knowledge
So our first step is to seek from God a knowledge that comes by revelation -- a revelation, that is to say, not of ourselves but of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. When Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, entered into the normal Christian life it was thus that he did so. You remember how he tells of his long-standing problem of how to live 'in Christ', how to draw the sap out of the Vine into himself. For he knew that he must have the life of Christ flowing out through him and yet felt that he had not got it, and he saw clearly enough that his need was to be found in Christ. 'I knew', he said, writing to his sister from Chinkiang in 1869, 'that if only I could abide in Christ, all would be well, but I could not.'
The more he tried to get in the more he found himself slipping out, so to speak, until one day light dawned, revelation came and he saw.
'Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the Vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine -- the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed.'
Then, in words of a friend that had helped him:
'I have not got to make myself a branch. The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of Him and I have just to believe it and act upon it. I have seen it long enough in the Bible, but I believe it now as a living reality.'
It was as though something which had indeed been true all the time had now suddenly become true in a new way to him personally, and he writes to his sister again:
'I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful -- and yet, all is new! In a word, "whereas once I was blind, now I see"....I am dead and buried with Christ -- aye, and risen too and ascended....God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best....Oh, the joy of seeing this truth -- I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.'
Oh, it is a great thing to see that we are in Christ! Think of the bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are! Think of the absurdity of asking to be put in! If we recognize the fact that we are in, we make no effort to enter. If we had more revelation we should have fewer prayers and more praises. Much of our praying for ourselves is just because we are blind to what God has done.
I remember one day in Shanghai I was talking with a brother who was very exercised concerning his spiritual state. He said, 'So many are living beautiful, saintly lives. I am ashamed of myself. I call myself a Christian and yet when I compare myself with others I feel I am not one at all. I want to know this crucified life, this resurrection life, but I do not know it and see no way of getting there.' Another brother was with us, and the two of us had been talking for two hours or so, trying to get the man to see that he could not have anything apart from Christ, but without success. Said our friend, 'the best thing a man can do is to pray.' 'But if God has already given you everything, what do you need to pray for?' we asked. 'He hasn't', the man replied, 'for I am still losing my temper, still failing constantly; so I must pray more.' 'Well', we said, 'do you get what you pray for?' 'I am sorry to say that I do not get anything', he replied. We tried to point out that, just as he had done nothing for his justification, so he need do nothing for his sanctification.
Just then a third brother, much used of the Lord, came in and joined us. There was a thermos flask on the table, and this brother picked it up and said, 'What is this?' 'A thermos flask.' 'Well, you just imagine for a moment that this thermos flask can pray, and that it starts praying something like this: "Lord, I want very much to be a thermos flask. Wilt Thou make me to be a thermos flask? Lord, give me grace to become a thermos flask. Do please make me one!" What will you say?' 'I do not think even a thermos flask would be so silly,' our friend replied. 'It would be nonsense to pray like that; it is a thermos flask!' Then my brother said, 'You are doing the same thing. God in times past has already included you in Christ. When He died, you died; when He lived, you lived. Now today you cannot say, "I want to die; I want to be crucified; I want to have resurrection life." The Lord simply looks at you and says, "You are dead! You have new life!" All your praying is just as absurd as that of the thermos flask. You do not need to pray to the Lord for anything; you merely need your eyes opened to see that He has done it all.'
That is the point. We need not work to die, we need not wait to die, we are dead. We only need to recognize what the Lord has already done and to praise Him for it. Light dawned for that man. With tears in his eyes he said, 'Lord, I praise Thee that Thou hast already included me in Christ. All that is His is mine!' Revelation had come and faith had something to lay hold of; and if you could have met that brother later on, what a change you would have found!
The Cross Goes To The Root Of Our Problem
Let me remind you again of the fundamental nature of that which the Lord has done on the Cross. I feel I cannot press this point too much for we must see it. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the government of your country should wish to deal drastically with the question of strong drink and should decide that the whole country was to go 'dry', how could the decision be carried into effect? How could we help? If we were to search every shop and house throughout the land and smash all the bottles of wine or beer or brandy we came across, would that meet the case? Surely not. We might thereby rid the land of every drop of alcoholic liquor it contains, but behind those bottles of strong drink are the factories that produce them, and if we only deal with the bottles and leave the factories untouched, production will still continue and there is no permanent solution of the problem. The drink-producing factories, the breweries and distilleries throughout the land, must be closed down if the drink question is to be permanently settled.
We are the factory; our actions are the products. The Blood of the Lord Jesus dealt with the question of the products, namely, our sins. So the question of what we have done is settled, but would God have stopped there? What about the question of what we are? Our sins were produced by us. They have been dealt with, but how are we going to be dealt with? Do you believe the Lord would cleanse away all our sins and then leave us to get rid of the sin-producing factory? Do you believe He would put away the goods produced but leave us to deal with the source of production?
To ask this question is but to answer it. Of course He has not done half the work and left the other half undone. No, He has done away with the goods and also made a clean sweep of the factory that produces the goods.
The finished work of Christ really has gone to the root of our problem and dealt with it. There are no half measures with God. "Knowing this," says Paul, "That our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Rom. 6:6). "Knowing this"! Yes, but do you know it? "Or are ye ignorant?" (Rom. 6:3). May the Lord graciously open our eyes.
| 2008/3/21 9:25|
JOINING THE CHURCH
Scripture Reading: Eph. 2:19, 22; 1 Cor. 12:13, 27
The immediate question every believer asks after his conversion concerns joining a church. We have covered the matter of separation from the world. This does not mean, however, that a person only needs to separate himself from the world and then can stop there. On the positive side, he needs also to join the church. (The phrase joining the church is not a proper one; however, we will borrow it for our use for the time being.)
I. THE NEED TO JOIN THE CHURCH
Twenty or more years ago, when our testimony first began, six to eight out of ten persons who were saved had no thought of joining a church. This was very strange! They thought that it was good enough to be a Christian by themselves and that there was no need to join a church. You may think this is a very strange thought, but according to our experience, quite a number of people think this way. The want Christ, but they do not want the church. They want to have something to do with Christ, but they do not want to have anything to do with the church. They want to be solitary Christians. Can we pray by ourselves? Yes. Therefore, they say that this is enough! Can we read the Bible by ourselves? Yes. Therefore, they think that this is enough! They think that as long as one can pray and read the Bible by himself, it is good enough. They think that it is troublesome to join with others and that it is good enough as long as one believes in the Lord and fellowships with Him alone. This concept exists in China, and it exists in other countries.
However, we must realize that whether we like it or not, we have no choice but to join the church. When a person is saved, he should see that there is an individual aspect as well as a corporate aspect to his Christian life. On the individual side, he has received the Lord's life, and he can fellowship with the Lord and pray by himself. He can lock himself up in a room and believe in the Lord by himself. However, he only knows the individual aspect, his testimony will not be complete. In fact, he will not last long and will grow very little. I have never seen a reclusive Christian progress well, none in the past and none at present. During the two thousand years of church history, many people have thought that they could be believers individually. They have thought that they could live like hermits, shutting themselves up on a mountain and caring for nothing except their fellowship with the Lord. But the spiritual lessons that these ones experienced were very shallow; they could not withstand temptation. When the environment was right, they thrived. When the environment became adverse, they could not persevere.
We must realize that there is another side to the Christian life -- the corporate side. In the Bible, as far as the corporate aspect is concerned, no one can be a solitary Christian. First of all, God's Word tells us that when a person is saved, he becomes a member of God's household; he becomes God's child. This is the revelation of the Bible. Once a person is born again, he is born into God's family, and he becomes God's child together with many other children of God.
Second, the Bible shows us that all the savbed ones are God's dwelling place, that is, God's house. This house is different from the housefold or family we spoke of earlier. The household refers to the family, while the house refers to the dwelling place.
Third, Christians are collectively called the Body of Christ. We are members one of another, and together we are the Body of Christ.
A. Being Children of God
Together with Many Others in God's Family
After a person believes in the Lord, he receives not only an individual life but also a life that is related to many other people. As members of God's family, His dwelling place, and the Body of Christ, we are merely a part of the whole. It is impossible for us to exist alone. If we tried, we would surely miss the fullness and the riches in God. We may be a useful part, but if we are not joined to others, we are like a piece of cloth cut off from the whole or a spare part f a big machine, and we cannot express the light of the fullness of the highest form of life. The fullness of that light exists only in the church.
One cannot live in a family with five brothers and sisters without being related to them. If I am the only child of my father, I do not have to deal with any brothers or sisters in the family, because I have none. But if I have five brothers and sisters in my family, I am no longer my father's only child; I am one of five children. How can I not be related to the other brothers and sisters and remain the only son to my father? How can I lock myself up in a room and tell the others, "Do not bother me. I have nothing to do with you. I am here to be my father's only son"? How can one do that?
When a person believes in the Lord, he does not become God's only begotten son. He is one among God's millions of sons. He cannot lock himself up and be his Father's only son. The very nature of the life you have received does not allow this. In the physical family, you may be an only child without any brother or sister. But since the day you believed in the Lord, you are bound in fellowship to the other brothers and sisters. You cannot escape from this. On that day, you were born into the biggest family in the whole world. No other family is as big as this one. You have millions and millions of brothers and sisters. You cannot belittle them just because there are so many of them. Because you are only one among many, there is the need for you to know them; there is the need for you to fellowship with them and to be related to them. If you have no desire at all to see them, I have doubts about whether or not you are really a brother or a sister. If you are born of God, you will be drawn towards those who are also born of God. If you can shut yourself off from them, I have doubts about whether or not you are a child of God at all.
The concept of being an individual Christian is not a Christian concept at all. This concept does not and should not belong to a Christian. In our own family we should be brothers to all our brothers and sisters to all our sisters. How much more should this be true in the family of God? This relationship flows forth from the life of God and is full of love. It is a strange thing for anyone to have no affection for his own brothers and sisters or to have no desire to communicate with them! We must remember that while we receive God's life to be His children individually, the life we obtain is also in thousands of other children of God. I am only one among many brothers. The very nature of the life I possess does not allow me to be individualistic. It desires instead to communicate with all the other brothers and sisters.
B. Becoming God's Dwelling Place
Together with Other Brothers and Sisters
The Bible also shows us that the church is God's dwelling place. This is spoken of in Ephesians 2. This fact is one of the greatest revelations in the entire New Testament. We should realize that God has a dwelling place on earth. He needs a dwelling place. In the Bible we see the thought of a dwelling place from Moses' tabernacle to Solomon's temple, including the later rebuilding and restoration of the temple. In the church age God is making man His temple. God once dwelt in a big building -- Solomon's temple. But today God dwells in the church; the church has now become the dwelling place of God. We have been gathered together to be the dwelling place of God. We as God's many children have been gathered together by the Holy Spirit to be the dwelling place of God. This is covered in 1 Peter 2:5. We are the living stones being built into the spiritual house.
How is the spiritual house built? Solomon's temple was built with dead stones. But today the dwelling place of God is built with living stones. Peter, whose name means "a stone," was a living stone. When all the living stones come together, they become a temple. If they are not together, can one stone be a house by itself? No! If no stone is upon another, it is a mark of desolation; this is not a good sign. No stone being upon another is a result of judgment and desolation. As long as we have a house, we have one stone upon another. Thank God that today we are saved and have believed in the Lord Jesus; we are now stones. What use does a single stone have if it is left alone? But when the stones are put together, they become a house. When they are isolated, they are useless. In fact, they may become stumbling stones instead of living stones.
Today we are like the accessory parts of a car. When all the parts are assembled together, we have a car which can be driven around. We dare not say that those who are living stones will become dead if they become isolated. But we can say that if a stone is not joined to other stones to be God's dwelling place, it will lose its function and spiritual riches. As a living stone, we must be joined to other living stones. Only then can we contain God and only then will God dwell among us.
A hundred years ago an Englishman by the name of Mr Stooneg said, "After I was saved, a most wonderful thing happened to me. One day I came to realize that I was building material in the dwelling place of God. This is a most wonderful discovery." The first time I read this, I did not think too much about it. What is so wonderful about being building material in God's dwelling place? But today, as I ponder over it, I appreciate Mr Stooneg's word. Once such a feeling is in you, you will realize how wonderful this is.
Thank God! We are indeed material for the spiritual dwelling place of God. If we, as building material, are detached from the building, we will be useless. At the same time, God's dwelling place cannot go on without us as stones. Without us as stones, there will be holes in God's dwelling place, and thieves will get into this building. Since I am the building material for God's dwelling place, God cannot go on without me.
Brothers, we must see that we are the building material the Holy Spirit is using for the building of God's dwelling place. If you are by yourself, you will lose God's riches. You will not be able to contain God. You must be joined to the brothers and sisters. Only then can you contain God. A wooden bucket which contains and carries water is made out of pieces of wood. If you remove a piece of wood from the bucket, the whole container will no longer hold water. The nature of the individual pieces of wood has not changed, but the riches they contain have changed. Each piece can be soaked with a little water, but it will never hold much water; it will lose all the riches. We are God's house, and as soon as we become isolated we lose all the riches.
Brothers and sisters, you may not see it clearly today. But gradually you will see more and more clearly. As soon as you believe in the Lord, spontaneously there is an inclination within you to contact other children of God. There is a desire within you to look for other materials, other stones. You must go along with this nature. Do not isolate yourself from others through concepts of your own.
C. Becoming the Body of Christ
Together with All the Members
Third, we are joined together in the Body of Christ to become one Body. We are the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:4 says that there is one Body. First Corinthians 12:12 says that there are many members but one Body. These verses show us that it is impossible for a Christian to be individualistic. As a member in God's family, I may be a peculiar person. It may be possible for me not to communicate with all the brothers and sisters. As long as there is no problem between my father and me, I can shut myself in as a solitary child of God. As God's dwelling place, even thou I am a living stone, I can be left alone if I do not like to be built with others; Before Peter joined the church, he was a living stone, but he still was an individual one. You may say, "I do not care if this means leaving a hole in the building. Let there be a hot; I want to be an individual Christian." It is possible to do this.
However, there is something more than being the family and the building. God says that we are one Body. Perhaps you are an eye, a hand, or a leg in the body today. An eye is only useful when it is on the head. If it is put in a glass bottle, it is useless. A leg is only useful when it is placed in the body. If it is hung in an upper room, it is useless. Please remember that the body and each member functions in this way. No member can be separated from other members. This relationship is an indissoluble one. One may argue that he can be separated from God's family and from God's dwelling place. But it is impossible for anyone to say that he can be separated from the Body of Christ. Your ear cannot declare independence just because it is unhappy with the other members. Likewise, your hand cannot declare independence just because it is unhappy with the other members. Your leg cannot stand up and say, "I want to be left alone." We have no other choice but to be joined together.
The life we have received does not allow us to be individualistic. The Lord has not given us an independent life. We must emphasize this fact -- the Lord has not given us a life that is independent in itself. The life that we have received is sustained by the life of others. If we had received an independent life, we could live by ourselves. But we have received a dependent life. We have to depend on our brothers and sisters, and they have to depend on us.
Please remember that a member can never stand alone. Once it is alone, it cannot survive. Once it is isolated, it loses all the riches, all the life. If the saints and I are indeed one Body, I can no longer be an individual Christian. By now this should be more than clear. The life I have received demands that I be joined to others.
D. Every Christian Becoming One
by Attaching Himself to Other Christians
I hope that you will join yourself to other Christians once you become a believer. Do not remain a loner after you are a Christian for eight or ten years. Once we have become Christians, we have to see that the life we received from God is a dependent life. God has not given us an independent life. We are Christians attached to many other Christians. Among us, no one is detached. All Christians are attached to other Christians.
You have heard of offices that are attached to a compay. You have heard of departments that are attached to a ministry. You also have heard of people who are attached to a working unit. In the same way, every Christian is attached to other Christians. Everyone is attached to one another. In the eyes of God, no Christian has the strength to exist alone. I hope that you will be attached to others from the beginning; I hope that you will be a Christian who lives by attaching yourself to many other Christians. Through this attachment, you receive the supply, the building up, the love, and the fellowship.
This is the reason that a Christian has to join the church. (The phrase joining the church is a non-biblical expression. However, we borrow this expression for the sake of the new ones' understanding.) We cannot be private Christians. We only can be Christians who join together with all of God's children. We only can be Christians who are attached to other Christians. We should be involved with other people. We should be like the vines of a climbing plant -- always attached to other people. As Christians we should attach ourselves to other Christians.
II. WHICH CHURCH TO JOIN
We should join the church. But there are so many churches. Which one should we join? It is true that some have heard the gospel through you; they may have been saved through you. But many sober-minded persons will not automatically accept your church just because you have introduced them to the Lord. They will consider and want to know which church they should join out of the many.
A. The Differences between the
Many Kinds of Churches
The history of the church is very long; it spans over two thousand years. Different churches have been raised up at different times. This results in differences based on time. Churches also have been raised up through different servants of God. This results in differences bases on persons. Here we see three differences based on time, place, and persons. This is not all. Because there are so many doctrines in the Bible, some have set up churches by emphasizing a particular kind of doctrine, while others have set up other churches by emphasizing other doctrines. As a result, different emphases on doctrines have created different churches as well. When a certain need arises in a certain place, certain individuals are raised up to emphasize certain teachines. As a result, a church is produced. The point of emphasis thus becomes the basis for forming churches.
The above factors have led to the formation of the many churches. How many different churches are there in the world today? There are over fifteen hundred different kinds of churches, and these are only the orthodox ones, the ones which are well established. Moreover, this number only reflects the number of different church systems; it does not take into account the various local congregations within each system. If we considered the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and other well-established groups each as one church, there would be about fifteen hundred such churches. Brothers, when I put myself in your place, I can see why it is not an easy task to choose from among a list of fifteen hundred churches!
With so many churches and so much confusion, is there a right way we can take before the Lord? Thank God, there is a way! God's Word is still with us, and we can read it and find out what God has to say. Thank God that the Bible has shown us which church we should join. God has not left us in the dark.
B. The Reasons for the Many Different Churches
1. Different Places
Let us study in detail the divisions of the church. Some divisions have occurred because of locality. For example, the Anglican church is actually the Church of England. Anglican means that it came form England; in fact, it is the state church of England. But when it spread from England to America, it became the Episcopal Church or the Church of England in America. When it spread to China, it became the Church of England in China. Furthermore, when the Church of England in America spread to China, it became the Church of England in America in China. The Anglican Church first spread to America and then to China. The result is the Chinese American Anglican church. What confusion this is!
Consider the example of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is, in fact, the Church of Rome. We are in Shanghai. What has a Roman church got to do with us here? It is wrong for the Church in Rome to set up churches in other places. This is a confusion of locality. What is the Anglican church doing in America? What is the American Church doing in China? What is the Roman church doing in Shanghai? What is the Shanghai Church doing in Foochow? Every church that is founded upon a place eventually becomes a confusion.
2. Different Times
This is not all. Many churches are divided according to time. Different churches have been established at different times. Consider what happened in China: The Nestorians first established their churches in the Tang Dynasty during their evangelization of China. The Nestorians were Christians who came to China to preach the gospel during the Tang Dynasty. During the Ming Dynasty the Roman Catholic church came from the West to set up churches also. The churches set up in the Tang Dynasty could not be united with the churches set up in the Ming Dynasty because they were established at different times. When the Protestants came to China during the Ching Dynasty, they established more churches. Now we have the churches of the Tang Dynasty, the churches of the Ming Dynasty, and the churches of the Ching Dynasty. The Brethren came after the formation of the Republic. Now we have another big group -- the Brethren, in addition to the Nestorians, the Roman Catholics, and the Protestants. The Brethren are another group of people; they established another church. Many of these churches came into existence because of the difference in time. Here we see that the church is divided not just according to locality. Even when all the Christians come from the same place, the fact that they are established at different times can also become a factor of division.
3. Different Persons
This is not all. Throughout church history there have also been division based on persons. The church set up by John Wesley became the Wesleyan church. The church set up by Martin Luther became the Lutheran Church. The church became divided through different persons. There is the Wesleyan denomination and the Lutheran denomination. All of these are divided according to people.
4. Emphasis on Different Truths
Some divisions are based on a different emphasis of the truth. Those who emphasize justification by faith are called the "Justification by Faith" Church (i.e., the Lutheran Church). Those who emphasize holiness have become the Holiness Church. Those who emphasize the Holy Spirit are called the Pentecostal Church. Those who emphasize apostolic miracles are called the Apostolic Faith Church. Those who emphasize independence of local congregations are called the Congregational Church. Those who emphasize presbyterian administration and believe in the succession of apostolic authority through the elder are called the Presbyterian Church. Those who believe in the succession of apostolic authority through the bishops are called the Bishop's Church. The have one bishop for one church. Those who emphasize water immersion have become the Baptist Church. Those who came from Bath are called the Bath Congregation. There are such congregations in Canton. Even among those who believe in justification by faith, those who came from Germany are called the Lutherans, while those who came from Holland are called the Dutch Reformed Church. We can see that all kinds of differences exist among the churches throughout the whole world. Every church has its own history and doctrine. In the midst of such confusion, which way should you take? It is difficult to find a church in you locality to join.
III. CHURCHES BEING DIFFERENT IN LOCALITY ONLY
Is there a way out for us? Yes! The Bible is very simple and clear concerning the truth of the church; it si not confusing at all. We can see this in a few verses. The opening words of many Epistles, such as the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles and Revelation, show us such expressions as the church in Rome, the church in Jerusalem, the church in Corinth, the church in Philippi, the church in Ephesus, the church in Colossae, and so on. There were many different churches. In Acts there is the church in Antioch, and in Revelation there are seven churches. There is no doubt that there are distinctions between churches in the Bible, but there is one, and only one, kind of distinction. What is this distinction? You can answer this question yourselves because it is very clear.
Some doctrines in the Bible have two sides. It may not be easy deciding which side should be taken. But if there is only one side to a truth and you make a mistake about it, it means that you are very foolish and blind. Some passages in the Bible say that justification is by faith, while other passages say that justification is by works. We have the book of Romans, and we also have the Epistle of James. One can excuse himself for confusion over such a doctrine. But concerning the church, there is only one way. It is inexcusable for anyone to be unclear about it. Corinth is a locality; so are Ephesus, Colossae, Rome, and Philippi. All of these are localities. In other words, the church can be divided only according to locality, nothing else. Is this clear to you? Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossae are cities. Therefore, the boundary of the church is the boundary of the city or the locality.
A. Anything Smaller than a Locality
Not Being the Church
No matter how big a church is, it cannot extend beyond the boundary of its locality. At the same time, no matter how small a church is, it cannot have anything less than the locality as its unit. If a church is smaller than a locality, it is not a church. If a church is bigger than a locality, it is not a church. What is smaller than a locality? For example, in the church in Corinth some said, "I am...of Cephas." Others said, "I am of Paul," or "I am...of Apollos," or "I am...of Christ" (I Cor. 1:12). They divided the church in Corinth into four parts. This is making the church too small. Therefore, Paul told them they were divisive and sectarian. First Corinthians 1 shows that it is wrong for a church to be smaller than a locality. Was Paul good? Yes! Was Apollos good? Yes! Was Peter good? Yes! But it is wrong to divide the church according to these persons. The church is divided according to localities, not according to the apostles. Paul said that to divide the church according to the apostles is divisive, sectarian, and fleshly. Dividing the church this way is to take the way of the denominations.
B. The Boundary of a Church
Not Being Bigger than the Locality
It is also wrong for a church to be bigger than the boundary of its locality. Please read your Bible. The Bible speaks of "the churches of Galatia" (1 Cor. 16:1), "the churches of Asia" (v. 19), and "the churches of Judea" (Gal. 1:22). In Judea there were many localities with churches. This is why we refer to them as the churches of Judea. We see this in Acts. In the book of Galatians we see "the churches of Galatia." In Revelation 1/4 we see "the...churches which are in Asia." After reading these portions of the Scripture, we should be quite clear about what the Bible says concerning this matter. No church is ever bigger than a locality. Galatia was a province in the Roman Empire; it was not a locality. This is why the Bible does not say, "The church of Galatia," but, "The churches of Galatia." There were several churches in Galatia. This is why the plural word churches is used instead of the singular church. Therefore, it is wrong for a church to be bigger than its locality.
The Bible does not say, "the church in Asia," but "the seven churches which are in Asia"! Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea were all localities in Asia. These seven places did not become one united church. They remained seven churches in Asia. It is wrong for a church to be bigger than its locality. These seven churches did not become one big church. In the same principle, we see "the churches of Judea" because at that time Judea was a province of Rome. Originally, it was a nation. Later, it became a province. In the province of Judea there were many localities with churches. They could not be combined together to become one church.
We must see that God ordains to have only "the church in Foochow"; there cannot be an "XXX church in Foochow." Having this would make the church smaller than its locality. Neither can anyone unite all the churches in the province of Kukien and make them one church. We can only have "the churches in Fukien," not "the church in Fukien"; to have such would make the church bigger than its locality.
C. The Church Bearing
Only the Name of the Locality
Brothers, we must be clear that the church cannot be named after a person, a doctrine, a system, or the place of its origin. It should be identified only by the name of its locality, not the name of its place of origin. There can only be "the church in Foochow"; there cannot be "the church of Shanghai in Foochow." You cannot have the Roman Church in Shanghai. The Roman Church has to go back to Rome. If some believers from the church in Rome come to Shanghai, they can be part of the church in Shanghai, but they cannot set up a Roman Church in Shanghai. The place of origin cannot be brought to Shanghai. The Anglican Church should go back to England. The Anglican believers that come to Shanghai should become the believers in the church in Shanghai. They should not bring the Anglican Church to Shanghai. The church can only be local. In His Word, God has ordained that the church should be divided only according to locality, not nationality. There should not be any Chinese Church or Anglican Church. There can only be the church in London and the church in Shanghai. They are only localities. Churches are based on locality, not nationality. There is no such thing as "the Church of Christ in China" in the Bible.
There should not be any distinction of people, nationality, or doctrines. God's Word only allows one kind of distinction -- according to locality. Wherever you are, you are a member of the church in that locality. If you want to change your church, you have to change your locality. If I am in Foochow, and I cannot get along with a brother, there is only one way for me to leave the church in Foochow -- I have to leave Foochow. God only recognizes the difference of locality. He does not recognize any other difference. I hope you will receive God's mercy to see that there is only one church and that the church is local.
IV. HOW TO JOIN THE CHURCH
Finally, how do we join the church? The Bible does not say anything about joining the church. This very fact invalidates the expression joining the church. However, we are forced to borrow human expressions. There is no better expression; therefore, we still use the expression joining the church.
A. "Joining the Church" Not Being Necessary,
Not Being Possible
We must see that the Bible never speaks of joining the church. It is impossible for one to join the church. This is like an ear deciding to join the body to become an ear. Even the best surgeon cannot do such a thing. No one can join the church. If you are in, you are in; if you are not in, you are not in. Being a part of the church does not mean that one passes a test that qualifies him to be a member of a church. If a person wants to "join" the church, he must first be in the church.
If a person sees something concerning sin and the blood through God's mercy and if he has received salvation, forgiveness, and a new life, having been regenerated through resurrection by God, He has put such a one into the church already. He is already in the church. He is already in and there is no need for him to join. Some people still think that they can join a church. But if there is a church which one can join, such a church must not be a genuine church. One can join such a church because it is a false church. If it were a genuine church, no one could join it even if he tried to. As long as you belong to the Lord and are begotten by Him, you are already in the church; there is no need for you to join.
Therefore, it is neither necessary nor possible for one to join a church. You cannot join a church even if you try. And if you are already in the church, there is no need to join it anyway. Those who are in are in already; there is no need to join. Anyone who wants to join is not in it, and there is no way to join it. This is what the church is all about. The church is a peculiar institution. The issue is whether or not you are born of God. If you are born of God, you are already in. If you are not born of God, you cannot get in even if you try to. You cannot join a church by signing a document, sitting for an examination, writing your resolution, or making up your mind. If you are born of God, you are already in. Thank God that all of us are already in the church; we no longer need to join it.
B. The Need to Seek Fellowship in the Church
If this is the case, why are we telling you to join the church? We are merely borrowing an expression that you can understand. You are a member of the church already. Although it is true that you are saved by God, you are also living among fellow human being. Some may not know you. The brothers may not recognize you. Faith is something that occurs within you; no one else knows it. This is why you have to seek fellowship. You have to go to the church and tell others, "I am a Christian; please receive me as a Christian."
If my father is Chinese, I do not have to join the Chinese race; I am already Chinese. If I am a believer, and the church does not know me, I can go to the church and say," You do not know me, but I am a Christian. Please receive me into your felllowship. Please receive me as one of your own." When the brothers realize that you are indeed one of them, they will have fellowship with you. This is what it means to join the church.
You are already a person in Christ. What you need to do now is to seek fellowship among God's children. You have to seek the fellowship of the members, the fellowship of the Body, and learn to serve God properly in the church. Once your eyes are open to this, that the Lord, you have taken another step forward.
| 2008/3/27 16:08|
| Re: Watchman Nee|
You can find lots of Watchman Nee writings online at
Click on either "Collected Works of Watchman Nee" or
"Selected Titles by Watchman Nee". However, they do not have Normal Christian Life online. May God bless you as you study his Word.
| 2008/3/27 23:45||Profile|
You can find lots of Watchman Nee writings online at
Click on either "Collected Works of Watchman Nee" or
"Selected Titles by Watchman Nee". However, they do not have Normal Christian Life online. May God bless you as you study his Word.
Thanks, I would love to buy all 62 volumes. I really enjoy reading, Watchman Nee.
| 2008/3/28 4:53|
I love Watchman Nee's invaluable efforts, but I would highly discourage from purchasing his books through Living Streams Ministry. Living Streams Ministry is affiliated with Witness Lee, who started a cult movement, deviating from Watchman Nee's balanced teachings. Watchman Nee's books that were translated from Chinese through Living Streams Ministry are different, and incorporates much of Witness Lee's skewed theology into Watchman Nee's books.
I, and many others, would recommend CLC (Christian Literate Crusade) or CFP (Christian Fellowship Publishers) for accurate translations of Watchman Nee's books.
| 2008/3/28 9:52||Profile|