ABIDING IN CHRIST IN ORDER TO BEAR FRUIT
In order to have a prevailing outreach of the gospel, we must learn how to abide in Christ. To abide in Christ means to keep ourselves in fellowship with Christ. All the time we must let Christ abide in us. There must be an inner flow between us and Christ. We have to abide in Him and let Him abide in us. Then whatever He wishes, whatever He speaks, His Word, His intention, will abide within us. There is the need of such a living fellowship between us and the Lord.
Again, this does not mean that we should not open our mouth to preach the gospel. It means that our preaching with our mouth depends on the real inner flow of Christ. We must have the inner flowing in Christ and with Christ. Then, whenever we open our mouth, there will be the prevailing power, not merely an outward power but the power of the inner life.
ASKING WHATEVER WE WILL FOR FRUIT-BEARING
We also have to learn how to pray for this outreach. John 15:7 and 8 say, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. In this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so you will become My disciples.” This portion deals with prayer. Whatever we ask, the Father will answer. This means that we ask for certain persons to be brought to the Lord to be a part of the increase of Christ. In the past some young ones came to me and said, “In John 15:7 the Lord promised that whatever we ask, He will give to us. For several years I asked the Lord to give me the best college so that I may get a Ph.D., but He has not fulfilled His promise.” If we read the context of this chapter, however, we will realize that the prayer mentioned here by the Lord is that certain persons may be brought into the increase of Christ. It is a prayer for people to become fruit as the outflow of the inner life.
If we add all the foregoing items together, we can see where our shortage is and why our preaching is not prevailing. Many in today’s Christianity think that gospel preaching is a matter of activities, evangelistic campaigns, and crusades. It is not so. The real gospel preaching is the outflow of Christ through you and through me. That is the increase of Christ.
BEING BUILT UP IN LOVE AS A TESTIMONY TO THE WORLD
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.” To love one another here means to be built up. Then chapter 17 continues in the same way. Verses 21 through 23 say, “That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, even as We are one; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” When we come to chapter 17, we all have to humble ourselves. We are all short in this matter. We have not been built up.
Many Christians today at best have a meeting, but they do not have the building. They have a piling up of stones, not a building up. Today I may feel to “pile up” with one dear brother, but after another two months I may find that he is not so good, so I shift over to another pile. Do not think that someone has come to me and told me about your condition. If anyone has come to me, that must be the Holy Spirit. He has come to me many times with a rebuke, saying, “Look at the situation among you.” I do not know the details of your story, but in my spirit I know the principle. Among us there has been too much “shifting of the piles.” Once we are built up, however, we can never shift. A piece of wood in a building cannot be shifted; it is simply built up.
Give up the expectation to be shifted. I am built up with a certain brother, so I love him. I do not love him because he is loveable. I simply love without a reason. I have to. There is the imperative that we love one another. When we love one another, that means that we are truly built up. By this oneness and building up, the world will be convinced.
How can we expect our friends, family, and classmates to be brought to Christ? Many times our family hears us criticizing the brothers. When we criticize the church and the dear brothers and sisters, our children and wife listen to us. After that, how can we expect them to be brought to the Lord? Rather, they will just shake their heads at the gospel. On the contrary, we must love one another. Even if a wife complains and asks, “How can you love that kind of people?” her husband can say, “I just love them.” That wife’s mouth will complain and criticize, but she will be convinced in her heart.
The best test is the test of the building. How much we have been dealt with by the Lord and how much we have learned the lessons must be tested by the building. This is why in John 15 as the Lord was dealing with fruit-bearing, He commanded us to love one another. Loving one another has very much to do with the bearing of fruit. If we do not love our brothers and sisters, I do not believe that we can be prevailing in our gospel preaching. If today we criticize a sister, and tomorrow we are unhappy with a brother, and then we preach the gospel, do you think our preaching can be prevailing? The spiritual world is watching. The evil spirits may even speak within us, “Are you preaching the gospel?” There is no convincing power in this kind of preaching. Suppose, however, that we simply love a brother or a sister regardless of what kind of person he or she is. We simply love that person without a reason or an explanation. If this is the case, we can be assured that whenever we open our mouth to preach the gospel, there will be the convincing power. The power is not in our voice or loud proclamation. The power is in our convincing life.
If we are going to have a prevailing preaching, we must be pruned by the Father, abide in the Son, pray for people to be brought into the reality of the increase of Christ, love one another, be built up together, and have the oneness. Do not think that in the Gospel of John there is no commission for gospel preaching. This book does have the commission for gospel preaching, but it has it in another way, not in the way of activity, movement, work, or crusade, but in the way of a life always under the pruning of the heavenly Husbandman, always abiding in the Son of God, always praying for certain persons to be brought into the reality of the increase of Christ, and always loving the brothers regardless of their condition or situation. We simply love the brothers because of the Lord Christ. We have learned the lessons and are being built up together with them. This is the prevailing power, the convincing life, of gospel preaching. The gospel preaching is the increase of Christ, and this increase can be possible only by our being put to death. We must learn the lessons from John 15 and 17. How much we need to be built up!
PREACHING THE GOSPEL IN THE WAY OF LIFE
FOR THE INCREASE OF CHRIST
We are now in the process of the Lord’s recovery. I would ask you, honestly and humbly, to be patient with the building up. We have been tested by our gospel preaching as to where we are, and now we have to be built up. Do not take any concept from your background of Christianity. I say this humbly and honestly. We have been too influenced by that, and we are still under that influence. The proper outreach of the gospel is not a kind of movement, and it is not a kind of crusade. It is a life that is crucified, pruned, abiding in Christ, and being built up. This requires more time. Then we will see the prevailing preaching.
Do not expect, according to your old concept, that we are preparing to have a work of gospel preaching and that suddenly in one night the results will come. That is just a dream. For many years we have seen reports concerning the gospel with numbers in black and white, but where is the real result? Where are the people today? Where is the real fruit? Do we want to follow that way? In the Gospel of life the way to produce fruit, the way to have Christ increased, is the way of life.
I do not want to say too much about the churches in the Far East. We have seen, though, that they have no need for a crusade or gospel-preaching movement. The saints in Taipei simply have a life for the gospel, and monthly and yearly a number of people are brought into the increase of Christ. This is because they have the building up. We need the patience to be built up, and this building up is revealed in all of the steps we have fellowshipped about. No doubt, we already have the divine birth, but what about the growth? What about drinking the Lord and feeding upon Him? And what about maturity and the building up? We have to humble ourselves and see the proper way.
Many things which we have seen in our background of Christianity are not accurate. They are more or less distracting. I beg you to learn the lesson to drop those things and come back to the Lord and to the way of life. Read the Gospel of John once again. In the first three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—there is the commission for gospel preaching, seemingly in a way of activity. In the last Gospel, however, the Gospel of life, this commission is not mentioned in the way of activity but in the way of life. Without the way of life, we can bring people to Christ only in an outward way; we cannot see Christ increased. In order to have Christ increased with persons, we must live a crucified life, imparting Christ all the time, not merely bringing people to Christ, but imparting Christ to people, transforming people into the parts of the bride of Christ.
I look to the Lord that in these days we all may be helped by the Holy Spirit to see that the proper outreach of the gospel is the imparting of Christ to others. This requires our abiding in Him and our being pruned, purged, and broken, that is, our being crucified. Then something of Christ will grow out of and through all of us. Christ will be imparted into others. We will have the real increase, and this increase will be the bride of Christ. This is the proper preaching of the gospel. This is the outreach of the gospel in the way of life.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)