GOD WANTING MAN TO DENY HIMSELF AND LIVE BY CHRIST
We all must know this principle to the extent that we abhor ourselves and all of our living that comes out of ourselves. In the past we abhorred only our negative aspects, such as our pride, jealousy, and vainglory. We thought that if we were humble, meek, not making a show, and not boasting, we would be right and good. However, this is not so. Many times, even though a person may be meek, humble, and hidden, he is still himself. His meekness and humility, his being hidden, and his not boasting are all of himself and by himself. Never forget that in the self, there are good things as well as bad things. A Christian may live out love, meekness, and goodness, but if these things are without Christ, they are still of himself. Thus, these things may win the praise of man but they are not pleasing to God. God’s purpose is that, in Christ, we would deny ourselves and live by Christ.
Therefore, God asks us one thing: Are we living by our own life or by Christ’s life? God’s concern is different from our concern. We are concerned about good and evil, but God’s concern is beyond this and deeper than this. He cares about whether we do something by ourselves or by Christ. We are concerned about what we do, but God is concerned about who is doing it. Even if we do something good and right, it will not necessarily be counted, accepted, and treasured by God. God will still ask us if we did it by ourselves or by Christ. If we do something by ourselves, even though it may be good, meek, and humble, it will not win God’s praise and acceptance. We may be able to gain the praises of men, but we deviate from the way of God.
God’s way is in Christ whereas our way is in ourselves. Although sometimes we pray that we would truly be willing to rely on Him and to look to Him, the fact is that we are still living by ourselves. We have never denied our goodness, our meekness, or our merits. We have never denied, depreciated, and trampled under our feet the things in us that are appreciated by others. On the contrary, we treasure all these things. We confess the name of the Lord, we serve the Lord, and we come near to the Lord, yet we still have the basic problem of not denying ourselves. We still think that what we do for Christ by ourselves and in ourselves is well pleasing to God.
THE SUBJECTIVE PROBLEM OF MAN BEING MAN HIMSELF
The subjective problem that God encounters in us is our self. It seems that although both sins and the world may no longer have much ground in us, Christ does not have much ground in us either. We may forsake sins and the world, but it seems that we also forsake Christ. We may think that we are for Christ and live by Christ, but in fact, we still live in ourselves and by ourselves. We may have had a change in name but still may not have changed much in reality.
We do good by ourselves, yet we claim that our goodness comes out of Christ. In man’s eyes this seems to be very spiritual, but in God’s eyes this does not mean anything. Humanly speaking, many saints have improved and changed, but spiritually speaking, they are still the same. In the past they had a bad temper, but now they have improved and have a milder temper. Humanly speaking, they really have improved, but spiritually, there is no change or advancement in their knowledge of Christ.
Let me illustrate this. Suppose we have a cup that contains some water and that this cup is covered with a handkerchief. Some may say that the cup is for containing water and should not be covered with a handkerchief because it does not look nice. However, if the handkerchief is taken away, does the water in the cup increase? The removing of the handkerchief may be a change or an improvement to the look of the cup, but the water inside the cup does not increase when the handkerchief is taken away. The change in many Christians is similar to this. It is the change of “taking away the handkerchief.” There is a brother who used to be very rude to his wife, but now that he has begun serving as an usher in the church, he feels that he should not lose his temper with his wife anymore. Although this kind of change is good, it is something outward. Spiritually speaking, before God he is actually still the same because the amount of Christ that was within him when he had a bad temper is the same as the amount of Christ that is within him now that he has a good temper.
(The Crucified Christ, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)