A CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR FOLLOWS A CHANGE OF LIFE
Suppose that a person is very interested in the research of small animals. He wants very much to see a bird swim. To him nothing would be more thrilling than to be able to train a little bird to swim. So he starts teaching a little bird to dive under water, breathe in the water, flap its wings, and exercise its claws in the proper manner. Do you think that he will succeed?
Suppose he continues his experiment by changing the diet of the bird or by altering its posture in sleep, etc., in order to adapt it to a life in water. Will he succeed? No! His doctrines may work. But the life of the bird is different. This life can fly comfortably in the air, but it cannot be made to swim in the water.
The kind of life determines the kind of expression. This is a law. You cannot change it. If you try to change the expression without changing the life, you will totally fail. Based on the principle of this law, we have a most vital and basic doctrine in our faith—regeneration.
REGENERATION IS AN EXCHANGE OF LIFE
Every expression of our living as a human being is based upon the kind of life we possess. A corrupted living is caused by a corrupted life. To change the mode of living, we have to first change the life. If the life is changed, the expression of it will also change. There will be no problem with the latter when the former is taken care of. Otherwise, any endeavor will be as futile as training a bird to swim or coaching a fish to fly. Regeneration is an exchange of life. What Christ offers us is not merely a change of behavior but regeneration based upon a change of life.
One thing we unanimously admit: the human life we possess is corrupt and evil. On the one hand, we blame the wickedness in the world and the demoralizing circumstances around us, but on the other hand, we have to admit that we are basically evil and filthy within ourselves. We realize that everywhere in the world there is a base scramble for power and position, but we also realize that we are fully filled with jealousy and pride. We admit that the heart of man is stubborn and rash. There is not a gentle or loving man. We are not only sinful, but exceedingly wicked. We know that sin is abhorrent, giving no peace to our conscience. We also wish or try to deal with sin and rid ourselves of it. The basic phenomenon of our life is a total involvement with sin.
THE EXPRESSION OF LIVING IS SIN
I have been preaching for more than ten years. I have met many people. But I have not yet known of anyone who claimed to be sinless. In all the places I have traveled through, I have yet to encounter a single individual who can boast of his perfection. Everyone admits to a greater or lesser extent that there are dark spots and flaws in his living. We all have to confess that our way of living is not proper.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)