CONTINUING TO LIVE BY OUR OLD BEING
In our actual daily living we may not be a newborn person. We may still be an old person, even perhaps a good, moral, ethical, religious, God-fearing Nicodemus. I say this because we may not live, walk, behave, and have our being in the Spirit. Instead of living by the Spirit, we may live by ethics or religion.
Before you were saved, you may have done things that were sinful, perhaps even immoral. Now that you are saved, you would never do those things. You have become a person who is religious, ethical, and moral. Furthermore, you fear the Lord and you seek Him. Nevertheless, all this may be something of yourself. It may not be the living of a reborn person. This does not mean, however, that you have not been reborn. You have been reborn, and you have received another life, the divine life. But the problem is that you do not live by this life.
Let me give you an illustration to point out how a newborn person can live by the old life. Many years ago in my hometown, most of the houses did not have electric lights. In our home we used kerosene lamps. From the time I was a child, I learned to take care of these lamps. I learned to clean the chimney, trim the wick, and supply oil. I was accustomed to doing this every day. Then in 1939 we had electric lights installed in our home. All we had to do from that time onward was switch on the lights. However, I was still in the habit of using an oil lamp. Often, out of habit, I would come home late in the evening, go to the oil lamp, and pick up a match to light it. Then my children would laugh at me. Realizing what I was doing, I would throw the match away and go to the light switch. Even though electricity had been installed in our home, I was still in the habit of using an oil lamp. Likewise, even though we have been reborn and have the divine life, we are not in the habit of living by it.
According to our natural birth, all of us automatically live by our serpentine being. This is to live according to good and evil. With the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden there was not only the knowledge of evil, but also the knowledge of good. But with the tree of life there is nothing but life. We should not think that morality is a matter of life. Morality is good, but it is not life. Confucius taught many things concerning morality and ethics, but he had nothing to say about the divine life. When I turned to Christ, I turned to Him for life. I realized that I had learned things that were good, but I did not have life. After I was saved, the main subject in my preaching of the gospel to the Chinese people was the matter of eternal life. I told the people, “Confucius may teach you to be good, but he cannot give you life. Christ is life, and you must come to Him in order to receive life. Whether you are good or bad, you still need life.”
No matter what kind of person we may be, in our natural life we all are serpentine. One person may be very refined and another quite crude, but both are serpentine. Certain snakes may be colorful, and others may be ugly. But regardless of their color, they all are snakes. In the same principle, whether we are good or bad by nature, we are still serpentine. Before we were saved, we lived by our serpentine life. Then after we were saved and became genuine Christians, we became religious, and we tried to live a religious, ethical, moral, and good life. This may be your situation right up until the present.
When I consider the situation among Christians today, I often weep inwardly. I may mourn before the Lord and say to Him, “Lord, I have been ministering to Your saints for years concerning Christ as life. But, Lord, I cannot see many that daily live and have their being in You.”
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)