BEING ABLE TO DO NOTHING APART FROM CHRIST
If two brothers hate one another, someone may pray for them and advise them to love each other. It seems that it is right to do this. However, the brothers cannot love out of themselves. John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another even as I have loved you,” and verse 17 says, “These things I command you that you may love one another.” However, verse 5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” On the one hand, the Lord Jesus tells us that we have to love one another. On the other hand, in the same chapter He says that apart from Him we can do nothing.
The love mentioned here by the Lord is the spreading and increase of Himself. Within a tree there are the riches of the life-juice of the tree. The bearing of fruit is simply the spreading of the riches of the life-juice of the tree. By this we can see that in John 15 the love which we should have toward one another is not a kind of behavior. It is the growth of life, the increase, expansion, and spreading of Christ. Even if we could love one another, that is not the real love mentioned here. The real love spoken of here may look like a behavior, but it is not. It is the increase and spreading of the indwelling Christ, the expression of the inner life. Therefore, this is the growth of life, not the mere improvement of behavior.
A brother may have a disposition full of pride, but he realizes that to be a Christian brother in the church among the other brothers, it is not right to be proud; pride is ugly. He may then pray and try his best to improve his behavior in order to be humble. We all may be surprised at this brother’s humility. We may say, “Look, just last week this brother was very proud. Now see what kind of change he has had. He is so humble.” However, we need to ask what kind of change this is. Is this a mere improvement of behavior, or is this an expansion of Christ within? The way to have the expansion of Christ from within is not to adjust ourselves or to improve our behavior, but to open ourselves to the Lord, to let Him come in to fill us, swallow us up, permeate us, saturate us, and spread Himself throughout us. Then in the circumstances in which we need humility, this spreading Christ will be humility to meet the need. This humility is not a kind of behavior but a kind of spreading of Christ and an expression of Christ.
This may be hard to understand, because our understanding, concept, and mentality are focused too much on behavior, morality, and the improvement of conduct. However, now we have seen that the growth of life is the increase of Christ, the spreading of Christ, the permeating of Christ, and the expansion of Christ.
REAL LOVE AND HUMILITY BEING CHRIST
SPREADING AND LIVING OUT THROUGH US
There are two kinds of humility and two kinds of love. One kind is merely something out of ourselves, whereas the other kind is the expanding of Christ. I may love the brothers fervently, but it may be a love out of myself. There is another love, that is, the spreading and expression of Christ. I may have no intention to love someone, but day by day I open myself to the Lord, and He comes in to fill me, swallow me up, and saturate me with Himself. Then when I come to you and there is the need for love, spontaneously something of Christ will come out to meet the need. That is the real love. This kind of love is not something out of me but something of Christ spreading and living out through me.
Again, formerly I may have been a proud person, but now that I am saved, I have learned to love the Lord, and I realize that if I am going to be a proper brother, I should not be so proud. Rather, among the brothers I need to be humble. Therefore, I may all the time try my best to be humble. To some extent I can be successful and have a certain kind of humility. This is one kind of humility, but there is another kind. I may not regard that I have to be humble among the brothers, but I contact the Lord, open myself to Him, and let Him come in again and again so that He fills me and saturates me. Then when the situation among the brothers demands humility, the Lord meets the need by spreading Himself through me. In this way, the humility I manifest is not merely my behavior. This humility is Christ spreading Himself through me and living Himself out of me.
THE NEED FOR A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL SENSE
AND THE DEALING OF THE CROSS
How can we differentiate the love, humility, and patience that are out of ourselves from that which is the spreading of Christ? How can we differentiate the “brass” from the “gold”? The best way to differentiate these two categories of things is by our inner sense. However, in order to sense these things, we must have a proper spiritual “nose.” If we are spiritually healthy, we will have a healthy spiritual nose. Many times we will sense that someone has love, but this love is not so sweet. This love has no sense of Christ. There is not the sweet odor of Christ in that love. Rather, this love is full of the self. Again someone may have humility toward a brother, but this humility has no sense, no sweetness, no sweet odor, of Christ. We can sense the odor of Christ or the odor of pride in humility. We cannot define it, but we can sense it. We all have to learn to do this. Then Christ will grow within us.
Here we can see how much we need to deny the self, how much we need the work of the cross. The work of the cross is not only to deal with the evil things but also to deal with the good things. It is to deal with our behavior. Strictly speaking, we should not have mere behavior. What we should have is simply life, Christ spreading Himself from within us.
OUR NEED TO CONTACT THE LORD TO LET HIM
SATURATE US, PERMEATE US, AND SWALLOW US UP
Sometimes people advise us to behave in a certain way in order to show people that we are humble; otherwise, they say, people may think that we are proud. This is merely an improvement of behavior. This is wrong. As real, normal Christians, we should not do this. If someone advises us to have a change and be more humble, it seems that this is good advice given by love and in love. We may take this advice and go to pray, “Lord, help me,” and soon afterward our attitude may change. However, this is only the improvement of behavior. This is not the teaching of Christ; it is the teaching of ethical philosophy, like the teaching of Confucius.
Someone may ask, “Doesn’t the Bible tell us that we have to be humble?” Yes it does, not in the way of behavior but in the way of Christ. What we need is for someone to help us to contact the Lord. If a brother knows the proper way to contact the Lord, he should help us to contact the Lord by opening ourselves to Him to let Him come in more and more to fill us, saturate us, permeate us, and swallow us up in Himself. Then spontaneously we will have a change by the spreading of Christ as life to meet the need of humility among the brothers. This humility is Christ spreading Himself and expressing Himself from within us. Then we will have the growth of life instead of the mere improvement of behavior.
We talk about the inner life and the church life, but the more I travel and contact the Lord’s children, the more I am concerned and burdened that people simply do not know what the real inner life and church life are. The real inner life is nothing of behavior. The real inner life is altogether something of Christ.
After I was saved, I sat at the feet of certain teachers. From John 13 and 15, sometimes they stressed that we must love one another. They taught that we should wash one another’s feet to show that we love each other, and sometimes they practiced this. At that time I was convinced by their teaching, because apparently this was the word of the Lord Jesus. One day, however, I found out that in the same chapter, John 15, the Lord Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing (v. 5). Therefore, the love for the brothers must not be something out of me; it must be something out of Christ. This caused me to be puzzled. It seemed that I could do something without Christ. Apart from Christ I could still come to a brother and wash his feet. Yes, we can do many things without Christ, but those things are not of life. Anything of life must be of Christ.
Consider the branches of a tree. The branches can bear many things apart from the tree. We may, for example, hang a handkerchief or a hat on a branch. However, these things are not real fruit. Apart from the tree, the branches cannot bear fruit. In order for branches to bear fruit, they must abide in the tree. Without the tree, the branch can do nothing as far as fruit-bearing is concerned. Apart from Christ as life, we can have only the improvement of behavior, but we cannot have the growth of life. The growth of life is the spreading of Christ within us.
(Dealing with Our Inward Parts for the Growth in Life, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)