CONFORMING TO AN OUTWARD STANDARD
Yes, you have changed since you came into the church life. You used to be coarse and vulgar. Your wife had a fiery temper. But as you observed the more refined ways of the rest of those in the church, you gradually changed. I am sorry to say that you were conformed to the image of the church, not to the image of His Son. Your change was not the result of partaking of the tree of life. You may seem less rough now and look neater in your appearance. Your wife has her temper under control. Your in-laws tell others how much you both have changed since you came into the church life. Others may be impressed with your milder ways, but both your coarseness and your gentleness are from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They are not Christ.
When I look at your faces, I can see that you do not look like the unbelievers. Before you came into the church life, you may have painted your face like the women in the world. But when you noticed that the sisters did not wear makeup, you stopped wearing it too. Now your appearance conforms to what the others look like.
I used to be pleased when I saw how new ones changed after they came into the church. The long hair would be cut, the beard shaved off. I thought it was the result of life. But I came to see that it was only the outward appearance which changed; the disposition remained the same. If these new ones had truly been transformed, their whole disposition would have been different. They were not transformed; only their customs changed. They were being conformed to the local church. The length of their hair was still being determined by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God is not interested in your changing outwardly. He does not ask you to wear your hair long, or short. He is not trying to make you loving instead of hateful, or humble instead of proud. God’s eternal purpose is to have Christ in you. The only thing that pleases Him is that you live Christ.
There is only one tree of life. All the things we do that do not come from life are from that other tree. To the tree of the knowledge of good and evil belong religion, doctrine, evil, and goodness. Whatever is not of life is of that other tree. According to man’s thinking, you should be honest, moral, and humble. God’s concern, however, is not with your behavior. It is His intention that moment by moment you live out the Christ within. Do not live according to the thoughts in your mind, your knowledge, your doctrine, or your outward circumstances. Live in your spirit, in fellowship with Christ, and according to the Spirit. This is what satisfies God.
THE NEED OF THE CHURCH
The church today lacks this living by Christ. Our way is right. The ground of the church is correct. On this proper ground, however, we must have the content of the Spirit. We must be filled with God. We must not be satisfied to be on the right track and to have the proper ground. There must be a practical, real testimony of living out the Spirit. We must be constantly in fellowship with Him, praying all the time, so that we have the boldness to say, “To me to live is Christ.”
You have learned that you must live by Christ. However, are you in this reality? Are you living Christ every day?
For this to be your experience, you must pray. Moreover, your prayers must not be for things or for people. If you pray only for things, you cannot pray unceasingly; you will run out of things to pray for! Your prayer must be a contacting of the Lord. To fellowship with Him in unceasing prayer is our spiritual breath, the means by which we breathe Him in.
It is not enough to love the Lord. To love the Lord is one thing; to live out Christ is another. I believe most of you love the Lord; otherwise, you would not be here. However, the question is whether you live Christ. God is not satisfied with your merely loving Him. Because you love Him, you must not live by yourself.
Over the years, young people have often come to me for help with their problems. I used to be full of answers for them. When someone wanted advice, I would give him point-by-point instructions. If a brother asked how he should handle his wife, I would give him some commandments to follow. Whatever the problem, I would have an answer. This kind of advice, I came to realize, is of no real help.
Now, if you come to me with a problem, I have no suggestions. I have no solutions to propose. All I can tell you is that moment by moment you must fellowship with Christ. How you should talk with your wife I cannot say. All I know is that you must be constantly breathing Christ in. While you are with your wife, you must keep communing with the Lord. “Lord, You are my life. I am one spirit with You. You are in my spirit.” Breathe Him in in this way.
You do not need a method. Simply fellowship with the Lord. Keep telling Him that you are one with Him, that He is within you as your life, and that He is one with you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pray unceasingly to contact Him within. When this becomes your way of living, you will be out of the realm of religion and doctrine. You will be in spirit living Christ. This is what God wants.
(Life Messages, Vol. 2 (#42-75), Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)