ABIDING IN THE LORD AND ENJOYING HIS LIFE
Eating is an enjoyment, and abiding is also an enjoyment. The purpose of our speaking about abiding in the Lord at this time is that we may enjoy the Lord’s life. There is a hymn in Chinese that says, “Abiding in the Lord, His fatness to enjoy; / Abiding in the Lord, His light will brightly shine.” This is wonderful!
Before we speak of the Lord’s life, we must mention the Lord’s redemption. The Bible reveals that God has an economy in this universe. The Greek word for economy is oikonomia which means a household administration, so it is also an arrangement. Paul’s use of the word implies that God established an economy, that is, a plan, an arrangement, to have a great enterprise. Salvation is God’s universal economy applied to us. God’s salvation is that He wants to work Himself into us.
God is a God of purpose. According to His eternal purpose, He has a plan; this plan is His economy. In His economy God created the heavens and the earth and then created man in such a way that He could work Himself into man in order to produce an entity of dual nature, human and divine, to express Himself. When this economy reaches us, it becomes our salvation. This is the central revelation of the entire Bible, especially of the New Testament. The center of the entire New Testament is the revelation to us of God’s eternal economy.
For the accomplishment of His economy, God especially created a spirit in us that He might dispense Himself, the Triune God, into us to be our life, so that we could be one with Him and become a dual-natured entity, an entity with both humanity and divinity, for His expression. This concept does not exist in religion, philosophy, or ethical teachings. In the history of the human race, whether with Confucius in the East, the philosophers in the West, or the religionists throughout the ages, no one has spoken of this. This concept is found only in the Bible. But even in the Old Testament, this view is mysteriously hidden in types and prophecies. It is only in the New Testament, especially in the writings of the apostle Paul, that the word economy is used emphatically to reveal to us God’s plan and purpose.
A CONTRAST BETWEEN RELIGION AND GOD’S SALVATION
The natural human concepts, especially those of the Chinese who have been steeped in and influenced by the ethical and moral teachings of Confucius and Mencius, are full of the idea of human ethics. The so-called human ethics are those principles that distinguish us from beasts, principles that are normal and natural according to human nature.
In addition, people have been influenced by society and philosophy in general. Thus, there is not a trace of the concept of God’s economy in our minds. Even when we believe in the Lord, we may think that we have joined a religion. When I was in elementary school, I had a class on religion which taught that “religion regulates man’s heart.” A deeper saying is that “religion teaches according to its beliefs.” This kind of concept is within us, even if we do not speak it.
Many of us were not clear when we believed in the Lord, and we did not know what we were doing when we believed. But as to another matter we were clear: We knew we were miserable sinners without the Lord and without rest, and as soon as we believed and prayed, we immediately had joy and peace; our burden of sin was rolled away, and our misery disappeared. We thank the Lord for this. But after believing in the Lord, even though we may not have said it aloud, within us we had the concept that we were believing in a religion, and in our living we practiced a religion, which means that we practiced “regulating our heart.” For example, before we believed in the Lord, even though we may not have committed great crimes, we still liked to take the easy way out or take advantage of others; then after believing in the Lord, we felt in our heart that we had believed in a religion, so we should not do anything bad. This is to practice “regulating our heart.” When some children get baptized, their parents tell them, “You used to speak evilly to people, but now that you are baptized, you cannot do that anymore.” This is to control the hearts of your children. Sometimes we rebuke the brothers and sisters, saying, “You have been going regularly to the meetings; how could you still do such a thing?” This is religion which regulates the human heart; it is not God’s salvation.
The Lord’s salvation is not a matter of practicing a religion for the regulating of our heart. In our natural man, it is very easy for us to have a religious concept. The Bible says that wives should submit to their husbands and that husbands should love their wives. It is very easy for us to make such words religious practices for controlling our heart. However, this is absolutely not God’s salvation. God’s salvation is to dispense Himself into us as our life to become our salvation. For example, wherever I go, a number of people say that my ties are too plain. I reply, “I wear these not because I am under a religious restriction but because I abide in the Lord and He regulates me by His life.” Any practice that comes from human teaching or guidance belongs to religion, while any action that arises from the inner sense of life is an issue of God’s salvation.
(Abiding in the Lord to Enjoy His Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)