Living in the Spirit, by Witness Lee


Finally, there is a warning: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). This means that anything that is not of the true God, not of the eternal life, and not in the regenerated spirit is an idol. Our reading of the Bible may be an idol, our prayer may be an idol, and even our bread-breaking may be an idol, because we may be reading the Word, praying, worshipping, serving, and even breaking bread outside of our regenerated spirit! We may be lying in the evil one because we are not in the spirit.

In His seventh epistle in Revelation 3 the Lord seemed to be saying to the church in Laodicea, “O Laodicea! I am ready to spew you out of My mouth. You are neither cold nor hot, so I will spew you out. Do you know that I am standing at the door and knocking? I am not inside of you but outside of you, and you are not in Me.” Under such circumstances, the church in Laodicea was lying in the evil one. Practically speaking, the Laodiceans were not in the Lord, and the Lord was not in them. I am concerned that many times the churches are not in the Lord even while they are breaking the bread and that the Lord is not in the churches in the breaking of bread. The result is Laodicea. They have the teachings, the knowledge, and the rituals of worship, but they are not in the spirit, and the Lord is not in them. This is a serious matter!

First John 5:21 says, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” You may say that there are no idols in your meeting hall. However, you may not realize that your idols are yourselves, your scheming, and your domineering. You may not realize that your desire to win others over so that they will agree with you is an idol. You may not realize that your idol is your insistence on teaching others the spiritual experience you had three years ago. You may love your Bible and insist that others read it the same way you do. This is also an idol. Whatever is not in the spirit is an idol. Whatever is not of the spirit is an idol. If the elders and co-workers in a local church have opinions, they have idols. If we are in the spirit, we will not have any opinions. The Lord Jesus is one, and He is also one in our spirit, so there cannot be any opinion if we are in our spirit. Any church in which there is dissension between the elders and the deacons, among the elders themselves, or between the elders and the co-workers, has idols.

What are idols? Whatever is not the true God is an idol. Today the true God is in our regenerated spirit. We abide in Him, and He also abides in us. This is the true God and the eternal life. When some responsible brothers are not in one accord and are at a stalemate, that is an idol. When a few brothers who serve together protect themselves from each other, that is an idol. It is terrible to advertise the name of the Lord Jesus yet sell our flesh.

For many years I did not understand why this word suddenly appeared at the end of 1 John: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” One day, however, the Lord showed me this mystery, and then I realized that anything we do that is not in the regenerated spirit and that does not live out the Lord Spirit is an idol. Today there is only one true God, and this true God is in only one place, that is, our spirit. Everything outside of this spirit is an idol. If our bread-breaking and our praising are not in the spirit, they are false. Our bearing of responsibilities and our work may also be false if they are not in the spirit. Our insistence with one another in our service is also an idol.


Hebrews 4 says that the word of God is living and able to pierce through us, dividing our spirit, as the Holy of Holies, from the soul that surrounds it (v. 12). Hebrews 6 says that we are all fleeing (v. 18). From what are we fleeing? We are fleeing from our idols, our flesh, our ideas, our views, our dissenting thoughts, and our old experiences. In the Greek text the word for fled is used only twice in the New Testament. It is used once in Acts 14:6, where the apostle Paul fled from Iconium to Lystra and Derbe, and it is also used in Hebrews 6:18. The Greek word translated fled implies “to flee intensively, seriously, and speedily,” just as Lot and his wife fled from Sodom. This is what the writer of the book of Hebrews meant. He seemed to be saying, “O Hebrew brothers, you need to flee! Flee from Judaism and your old doctrines.”

Then where should we flee to? We should flee to the Holy of Holies. We should flee from our disposition, our views among the co-workers, and our dissenting thoughts. If we do not flee, we will be under the hand of the devil. Our Forerunner has already entered into the spirit, into the Holy of Holies. Today we should not remain in the outer court or in the Holy Place. We all need to flee to the Holy of Holies, to the presence of God. We must flee until we have nothing else to flee from, until we are directly touching God and are face to face with God. In this way we will be with God in the Holy of Holies. There will be no need for us to flee anymore. However, today we all must flee.

The word Hebrew means “river crosser.” Abraham crossed a river. Hence, he was a river crosser. We all need to cross a river, to cross over from one side of the river to the other side. We need to cross the river of the flesh, the river of knowledge, the river of old religion, and the river of the old ways. May the Lord be merciful to us that we may be river crossers. We need to cross over to the land of Canaan, to enter into the rest where God’s temple, God’s sanctuary is. The churches in the recovery have had a long history. Today they have come to the edge of the river. We must say, “O Lord, have mercy on us that we would flee into the Holy of Holies.”

(Living in the Spirit, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)