THE SECRET OF EXPERIENCING CHRIST
Scripture Reading: Phil. 1:19-21a; 2:5, 13; 3:3, 7-14; 4:12-13
Philippians 1:19 through 21a says, “I know that for me this will turn out to salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I will be put to shame, but with all boldness, as always, even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death. For to me, to live is Christ.” Verse 19 refers to the supply. In Greek this is a particular word, indicating a bountiful, all-inclusive supply. This supply is not of the Spirit of God, strictly speaking, but of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
In chapter 2, verse 5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” and verse 13 says, “It is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure.”
Verse 3 of chapter 3 says, “We are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” Verses 7 through 14 continue, “What things were gains to me, these I have counted as loss on account of Christ. But moreover I also count all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is out of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is out of God and based on faith, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if perhaps I may attain to the out-resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not account of myself to have laid hold; but one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before, I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has called me upward.”
In chapter 4, verses 12 and 13 say, “I know also how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to lack. I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me.”
In the previous two chapters we saw that Christ is everything. Colossians shows us that He is God, and He is man; He is the Creator, and He is also the first item of creation. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. Moreover, He is the reality of all positive things. All physical, material things are simply shadows; the reality of all these things is Christ Himself. Now Christ is life to us. According to 1 Corinthians 15:45b, Christ is the life-giving Spirit; He is in our spirit as our life today and also as our hope, aim, and goal for the future.
Now such a Christ, whom we have seen, must be wrought into us. This is the message of the book of Galatians. According to this book, Christ must be the indwelling One. He is subjective to us because He is revealed in us, He lives in us as our life, we have been put into Him, and He is being formed in us; that is, He is being mingled with us, wrought into us, and woven into every inward part of our being. Christ has come into our spirit, and now He is in our spirit in order to saturate us, to permeate all our inward parts by coming into our mind, emotion, and will. In this way He will saturate our entire being and mingle with us to be the indwelling Christ as our life. These are the main points from Colossians and Galatians.
CHRIST AS OUR LIFE AND EXPRESSION
Philippians gives us the secret to experiencing Christ. The first chapter speaks of Christ as our life and expression. For Christ to be magnified in our body (v. 20) is for Christ to be expressed in us in a glorious way. In order for Christ to be magnified, to be expressed, through us and from within us, He must be life in us. That is why Paul says, “To me, to live is Christ” (v. 21a). This means that Christ lives in us and lives Himself out of us. He is our life; He is living within us. Now He wants to live Himself out of us so that He can be magnified in us. Therefore, Philippians 1 speaks of Christ as our life and our expression.
CHRIST AS OUR PATTERN
In Philippians 2 the apostle sets up Christ as our pattern, our example. Here, the most important factor is our mind. Verse 5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” In Greek the first phrase literally means “think this in you.” We have to think things as Christ did. The real human life is bound to the mind. Whatever we think, we will do. The kind of life we live depends on what we have in our mind. According to the New Testament, the mind has an important position in our being. It is the leading part of the soul. After we are regenerated in our spirit, the next step is that we are transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2). This means that our mind has to be changed. Even to repent means to turn, to change, the mind. We need to repent by turning our mind to the Lord, but that is only the beginning. After we have repented and been regenerated, from that time onward we need to have our mind constantly renewed. How is our mind renewed? On the one hand, it is to take Christ as the pattern, the example, and on the other hand, it is to have Christ spread Himself within us, permeating and saturating all our inward parts. Then we will truly have the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
The example of Christ set up in Philippians 2 actually refers to the record of the four Gospels. This is why we have to read the Gospels many times. We have to take Christ as our example. However, this is not merely to follow Him by imitating Him. Just as a donkey or a monkey cannot truly imitate a man, we cannot imitate Christ. In such an effort we would be as stupid as a donkey and as naughty as a monkey. If we could get into a monkey, however, the monkey could live our life. In the same way, how can we imitate Christ unless we have Him living within us? Christ has to live in us; then we can follow Him. Among the Catholic writings there is the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. It may be a good book, but strictly speaking, I do not like the title. Without Christ living in us, we can never imitate Him. In Philippians, however, we have Christ set up as a pattern based on the fact that Christ is now living within us.
(The Experience of Christ in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)