What we are covering here is momentous. In the Far East the ethical teachings of Confucius have controlled people for centuries. His teachings prevailed not only in China but in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam as well. In India the people are under the evil influence of Hinduism. Then there is also the widespread influence of Islam. In the western world the influence of the Hebrew religion is dominant. This latter is better than the others. It teaches not only ethics and morality but about God as well.
The effect of these teachings is that in the Far East the people have been encouraged to develop their will to practice ethics and conquer lust. Many to some extent were successful and are strong-willed and proud. In the western world people try to live morally and virtuously. In addition, many pray to ask for God’s help. To some extent, because of their fear of God and worship of Him, He has granted some blessing to them. Even the unbelievers in the western world are under the moral teachings of the Bible. Without Confucius’ ethics the oriental peoples might be wild; without the Hebrew religion the westerners might be barbaric. For the most part, both easterners and westerners give an outward impression of culture and refinement, even though within they are sinful. We may liken them to the scribes and Pharisees in the Lord’s time. The Lord Jesus saw through their appearance of refinement and religious performance and knew that the poison of the snake was in them. Whatever influence fallen man is under, this is his real inward condition.
Many influences play upon us. They differ according to the background we have come from, but their effect is to hinder us from seeing clearly. These influences become layers, blocking our view. Suppose we are wearing green-tinted glasses. We may look at something white, but it will seem green to us. We can still see the object, but not its genuine color. This is the problem when we read the Bible. We may read it day after day, but we are wearing tinted glasses. This is why Paul prayed that we might have a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17).
Generally speaking, all peoples are controlled by ethical influences. The religious ones add to this the matter of their relationship to God. They want to please Him by their worship and service. They want to change others so that they will be better behaved. Missionaries want to spread the kingdom of God. There are organizations to win young people and campaigns to win countries for Christ.
Is this effort to bring others into the kingdom of God to be condemned? Is it not good to win others to Christ? It is good, but by itself it is not in the central lane of God’s revelation. Paul had a stewardship to complete the Word of God (Col. 1:25). Without his ministry the Bible would still be God’s wonderful revelation, but it would be incomplete. It was left to Paul, and Paul alone, to tell us that the church is the Body of Christ; that Christ is the mystery of God (Col. 2:2); that the church is the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4-6); and that Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20).
Do you treasure Paul’s writings? Peter does not tell us that Christ lives in us. The highest word from him is that we are partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Many New Testaments are printed which include the Psalms. In the Far East the Chinese have printed a New Testament including Proverbs. The westerners like Psalms; the orientals, Proverbs. What about the central lane of God’s revelation?
You young people do not realize the influences you are under. Have you ever resolved that you will be the number one Christian? that you will never again lose your temper? that you will pray and read the Word every day? that you will be kind and pleasant to others? that you will do your duties in an exemplary way? Such resolves are ethical, moral, religious, virtuous, pious, devotional, even “spiritual.”
God wants you to realize that He is the tree of life. He wants you to receive Him. He wants to plant Himself into you, to grow together with you, so that you may grow Him, express Him, and live Him. Your virtues, such as love and kindness, were created by God in the form of His virtues. Your human virtues are gloves to contain God’s virtues. It is not God’s intention for you to have empty gloves!
God’s desire was to enter into you. His enemy, however, had a counterplot. Before God entered into man, Satan did. The other tree was planted in mankind. All the descendants of Adam, whoever they may be, have this second tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, growing in them. This is what accounts for the ruined, evil condition of the world today. When this tree entered into man, it became a law, the law of sin. All worldly people are living according to this law.
Four thousand years after this law began operating in fallen man, Christ came! God Himself was thus planted in man. Christ went to the cross. Then through His resurrection He brought us into Himself. Now another tree, the tree of life, has been planted in us. Another law is now operating in us, the law of the Spirit of life.
(God's Eternal Intention and Satan's Counterplot, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)