The Building Work of God, by Witness Lee

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Now we will go on to see how we can know that a church has been built up. In other words, what is the condition of a built up church? I would like to point out several things from the last two chapters of Revelation.

First, a built up church has God’s presence. Revelation 21:22 says that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, for God and the Lamb are its temple. We know that during the Old Testament times the temple was the center of Jerusalem. Therefore, that God and the Lamb are the temple means that God and the Lamb themselves become the center of the city. In other words, God is with the city, and the city has the presence of God.

This shows us that where there is building, there is the presence of God. God’s presence follows His building. Does not our experience also tell us that whenever we are built together with all the saints, we have God’s presence, and whenever we are individualistic, we immediately lose the sense of God’s presence? In the last chapter I used an illustration of three persons who were discussing when to have a gospel meeting. One of them suggested having it in the evening, another one suggested having it in the afternoon, and the third one suggested having it in the morning. Eventually they came to a deadlock. I believe many of us would ask, since there are three different opinions, which one should be accepted? At which of the suggested times should the gospel be preached? My reply is that the gospel should be preached at the time when there is God’s presence. This means that when three people are discussing such a matter, the first one should ask, “While I am insisting on having the meeting at 7:30 p.m., do I have God’s presence?” The second one should also ask, “While I am fighting to have the meeting at four o’clock in the afternoon, do I have the presence of God?” And the third one should also ask, “While I am suggesting 6:30 a.m., do I have God’s presence?” Therefore, the time of the meeting should be decided altogether according to God’s presence. If there is the presence of God, then any time is proper, regardless of whether it is in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening. But if there is not the presence of God, then no time is suitable.

If we know this principle and live in it, we will never contend with the brothers and sisters while we are serving God in the church. We know that whenever we argue with them, the presence of God is lost. God’s presence is like a dove that cannot stand any disturbance. Once we argue, it will fly away. Recently while I was abroad, in many places, whether it was in the park or even on the street, I saw many doves flying around. These doves were not afraid of people. While we were sitting in the park, a group of doves came in front of us. If we talked loudly, they would all fly away, but if we just sat there and talked gently, one by one the doves would come near us again. Brothers and sisters, it is the same with the presence of God when we are serving the Lord together. Perhaps your reasoning is right, and your suggestion is the best, but because we argue, the Holy Spirit as a dove flies away.

Therefore, we must hold on to this principle: God’s presence is the criterion for every matter. Regardless of what we do, we must pay attention to whether or not we have God’s presence. Do we have God’s presence while we are expressing our opinions? Do we have God’s presence while we are saying certain things or taking a certain attitude? Is God’s presence in our suggestion or proposal? If we touch the presence of God in all things, we will see that God will be there as the temple, and the building of God will be with us. When we argue with each other, we all may be for the Lord, and our insisting may be quite justifiable. However, due to our arguing we do not have God as the temple—the presence of God. Instead, we have torn down the city.

One thing that grieves me very much is that in all the places that I visit it is rare not to hear the brothers and sisters judging and criticizing one another. In nearly every place I visit, I meet some brothers and sisters who speak to me with words of criticism and judgment. If they are not unhappy with the responsible ones, then they are blaming the workers, or they are dissatisfied with the church. One thing is certain: the brothers and sisters who criticize are the first ones to lose the presence of God, regardless of whether they are right or wrong in their criticism or judgment. They do not have God’s presence, and they do not have God as the temple. Among these ones there is no building.

We must see that in the church reasoning does not matter. What matters is the presence of God. The church is not a law court where it is advantageous to present your reasons adequately. This is not the case! In the church the more you reason, the more God stays away from you. Even if your reasoning is one hundred percent correct and all the good reasons are on your side, the more you argue, the further away from God you will be.

Let me tell you more about doves. Doves do not care whether or not your arguments are convincing. They care only whether or not you have a loud voice and whether or not you have a fierce look. You cannot deceive them. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Scriptures say that the doves’ eyes are the fairest. Through careful observation I have found that a dove’s eyes are its keenest part. Humans cannot cheat them. That day while I was in the park, I tried various ways to lure one of the doves to come to me. However, when my hand moved, even just a little, the dove quickly ran away. When I rested my hand, it came back again. Brothers and sisters, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us is also like this. The Spirit does not care about how right you are. He cares only about your attitude, your intention, and your condition. In the law court the louder a person argues, the greater his advantage is. In the church, however, the louder a person argues, the greater his loss is. The more we reason, the more we lose God’s presence. Please remember that the temple in the New Jerusalem is God Himself. God’s presence is the center of the city. Therefore, in the church we must have the presence of God; we must have God as the temple. Then we will be built up to have the condition of the New Jerusalem.

(The Building Work of God, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)