EXPRESSING GOD BY USING OUR SPIRIT
In order to express God we must exercise our spirit. As humans, we have a spirit. In the beginning God created man in a particular way. God first used the dust of the ground to make a body as a frame, and then He breathed His breath into man (Gen. 2:7). The Hebrew word for breath here is also translated as spirit in Proverbs 20:27. There it says, “The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah.” The same Hebrew word is translated as spirit in one place and as breath in another place. This proves that the breath that God breathed into man is related to the spirit of man. Man has been constructed in a special way. He has a spirit within him.
To illustrate this matter, let us consider a radio. A radio consists of a box on the outside and a device on the inside that is able to receive radio waves. If the device were removed, there would be no way for the radio to receive the radio waves that are in the air. The inward device is a special kind of construction. Similarly, each one of us has an invisible, intangible spirit within our visible, tangible body. We may already know this, but we may not know it in a thorough way. For many years I did not see that the spirit of man is as important as the heavens and the earth. Zechariah 12:1 says that Jehovah stretched forth the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and also formed a spirit within man. The heavens, the earth, and man are mentioned together. The heavens are for the earth, the earth is for man, and man is for God. Since God is Spirit, man must have a spirit within him. As Spirit, God is like the radio waves in the air—hard to describe or ascertain, yet very real. Man is for God. Therefore, man must have a spirit in order to contact God as Spirit. This is why Zechariah says that God created the heavens, the earth, and a spirit within man. What was the purpose of this? The purpose was for God to obtain a vessel in this universe that could contain Him and be His expression. The spirit of man is not only an organ to contact God but also a vessel to contain God. We may use the stomach as an illustration. The stomach is a vessel to contain food. Furthermore, it can digest the food we eat and absorb and transport its nutrients to every part of our body. Just as we have a physical stomach, we also have a spiritual stomach in us—our spirit. Not only can our spirit contact God, but it can also store and contain God within. Furthermore, this spirit can assimilate and convey God to every part of our being.
NOT BEING RELIGIOUS BUT LIVING IN THE SPIRIT
Regrettably, many Christians simply do not understand the matter of the spirit. Most of the time we do not live in the spirit in our family life. Even in our meeting life, we still may not know how to use the spirit. In our meetings we may know how to use different methods, but we may not know how to use the spirit. Many of us may think that shouting in the meetings is the release of the spirit, yet we may not realize that shouting can become an ordinance, a method. If we shout and cry loudly but do not know our spirit, then whatever we do is still a method. Formerly we may have had meetings in an old way. This way was not of the spirit. Now we may have a new way. This way, however, is also not of the spirit. Actually, it is not difficult to have a proper meeting. The difficulty is that we do not have the right understanding, and we do not practice using our spirit. When we come to a meeting, we may have a set of routines—praying, singing, reading the Scriptures, giving a message, testifying, sharing, and fellowshipping. However, we may not prepare our spirit before coming to the meeting. We may even act like we do not have a spirit. We know how to use our eyes to look at things around us and also how to use our minds to think about certain matters; however, we may not know how to exercise our spirit. Formerly we may have been silent in the meetings, and currently we may shout in the meetings. However, if we do not exercise our spirit, there is no difference between the two. If you shout without using your spirit, then I cannot say amen to your shouting, and if you do not exercise your spirit while you remain silent, I cannot say amen to your silence. The problem is that in our meetings we often shout and cry without using our spirit. Outwardly we may shout and cry, yet inwardly our spirit may not be touched. Therefore, God is not expressed in our meetings.
Our normal practice should be to prepare and exercise our spirit before we come to the meeting. Once we exercise our spirit, we will forget about our thoughts. Once we exercise our spirit, we will forget about our feelings. In fact, once we exercise our spirit, we will forget about everything, even about who we are. If we forget about everything to this extent, we will be almost completely in the spirit. Our spirit will be stirred up, and once we come to the meeting and sit down, the spirit of all those who are present will also be stirred up without our having to shout or cry.
We need to pray for the Lord’s mercy. Almost everything we are practicing today has become a religious practice. Christianity has turned the truths that are in the Scriptures into something of religion. For example, the Bible tells us to bear the cross. The bearing of the cross as seen in the Bible, however, can be carried out only in the spirit. When we are truly living in the spirit, we are bearing the cross. If we try to bear the cross without living in the spirit, we will be practicing a form of asceticism, which in principle is almost the same as Hinduism. A husband might say, “I know my wife is a cross given to me by the Lord, so I have to bear this cross.” A wife might say, “My husband was given to me by the Lord, and I cannot ask for a divorce. This must be a cross from the Lord, so I will bear it. The Lord also gave me several children, so I have a big cross plus several little crosses.” This is not what the Bible says regarding bearing the cross. Rather, the Bible says that we need to live in the spirit. If we have children, we need to live in the spirit, and if we do not have children, we also need to live in the spirit. If our children are obedient, we need to live in the spirit, and if they are disobedient, we still need to live in the spirit. As long as we live in the spirit, we will spontaneously bear the cross. To bear the cross is to deny our self and to give up our own choice. How can we deny our self? How can we allow the Lord to make choices for us? The only way is to live in the spirit.
If we would read the New Testament again, we would realize that in essence the New Testament teaches us simply to live in the spirit and to walk according to the spirit. The Bible never requires us to bear the cross while gnashing our teeth. We may even misunderstand the matter spoken of in Romans 6:11 of reckoning ourselves dead to sin. According to this verse, it is proper for us to reckon ourselves dead to sin. However, in our experience, the more we reckon ourselves dead, the harder it is for us to die. This is because we may be trying to experience Romans 6 without having Romans 8. Romans 8 tells us to walk according to the spirit, to live in the spirit (v. 4). If we do not live in the spirit, although we may practice to pray more, we will still be practicing a kind of self-mortification or asceticism, which we can do for only so long. The Christian living is a living in the spirit. Only when we live in the spirit, can we pray without ceasing. The secret of the Christian life is to live in the spirit.
THE REALITY OF THE CHURCH BEING PRESENT WHEN WE LIVE IN THE SPIRIT
To live in the spirit is not to engage in religious worship, religious service, or religious work. To live in the spirit is to let Christ fill and saturate us until He permeates our whole being and is thereby expressed through us. It is not a matter of husbands being able to love their wives or of wives being able to love their husbands. Rather, it is a matter of living in the spirit and allowing Christ as the life-giving Spirit to permeate our entire being and to express God through us. This is the overcoming life of a Christian, the family life of a Christian, and the church life of a Christian. This is the reality of the church. The reality of the church is to live in the spirit. The spirit that we are referring to is not merely the Holy Spirit but is our created and regenerated spirit. Today we need to forget about our thoughts, feelings, and everything else. We need to turn to our spirit and pay attention to being in our spirit. Most people pay attention to their minds and their feelings, but very few people pay attention to being in the spirit. We all need to be absorbed with being in spirit. We may not know what it is to bear the cross, but we should know what it is to follow the spirit. We may not know what it means to pray and to fast, or we may not know what it means to be humble and to be patient. However, we should know how to follow the spirit. When we follow the spirit, we have humility and patience, and we spontaneously bear the cross. Once we follow the spirit, all things are ours.
May the Lord open our eyes that we may see the consistent truth in the Bible and that the way to live in this truth is to live in the spirit. It was in our spirit that we were regenerated, and it is in our spirit that the Spirit of God is with us. It is in our spirit that the all-inclusive Christ dwells, and it is in our spirit that we enjoy His grace. It is in our spirit that we have His presence, and it is in our spirit that we have light, life, and truth. Everything is in our spirit.
(Living in the Spirit, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)