LIFE—THE PRIMARY THING IN THE PRACTICALITY OF THE CHURCH LIFE
Now we come to the last matter, the practicality of the church life. This is also something that we have learned from history. Although we were not able to be in so many things during the past twenty centuries, we have been able to study history, including biographies and autobiographies of many. By reading these books, we have come to know about the different practices among Christians during the last nineteen hundred years. As a result, we realize that today the best thing, the primary thing, the first thing, that we have to take care of in the practicality of the church life is the matter of life.
The history of the Lord’s recovery shows that in the past four or five hundred years almost all the teachings have been recovered. Also, the gifts have been recovered to the uttermost and even to the extreme. However, the matter of life has never been adequately recovered.
THE INNER-LIFE LINE
In the history of the Lord’s recovery, there is an aspect which has been called the inner-life line. It began with the mystics about three hundred years ago. The epistle to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3 refers prophetically to the church during the time of the Reformation. To the church in Sardis the Lord said, “You have a name that you are living, and you are dead. Become watchful and establish the things which remain” (vv. 1-2). This means that what still remains has to be made alive. In the eyes of the Lord the Reformed church has a name that it is living, but it is dead.
The Lord reacted to this deadness by raising up a group of believers who were still within Catholicism. They started the so-called mysticism and never left the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the persons were Madam Guyon, Father Fenelon, and Brother Lawrence. Even though this group of seeking ones was within the Catholic Church, they were very much for the inner life. Many who care for the inner life have received help from these mystics. Later, William Law, a British brother, adopted mysticism and improved it. Then Andrew Murray received help from William Law and became a giant in the inner-life line.
However, most Christians do not pay adequate attention to this matter. Teachings are apparent, and gifts are visible; however, the inner life is something mysterious. It is easy for us to talk about our clothing, including our shoes, socks, pants, and shirt. It is also easy for us to talk about our physical body—our hands, feet, nose, eyes, and ears. But it is hard to talk about our physical life, because life is mysterious. We need clothing and we need our body, but without the physical life we simply become a well-dressed person with a beautified body lying in the mortuary. If we do not have physical life, we are a corpse. Today the situation of Christianity is almost like this: dressing people up and beautifying them, yet being short of life.
Some Christians even speak about life, but most of them do not know what they are talking about. These don’t know what is life; they don’t know who is life; and they don’t know how to grow in life. They only have the term “life.” Nearly all preachers, ministers, and speakers know how to quote John 14:6 and John 10:10, which say, “I am the way, and the reality, and the life,” and “I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly.” But if you check with them, asking what is life, and how can we grow in life, most would answer that they do not know.
In the practice of the church life, the primary thing to be emphasized is life. Sometimes we are asked by others to tell them what is wrong in their place, but we should never do it. If a person is dead, what is the profit to tell him he is wrong in this matter or that matter? Even if he could realize, he could not change. But still some try to help the dead ones to have a change. Thirty years ago I did this in my ministry, but not today. At that time I told some people that they were wrong in this and wrong in that and also that they had to have a change. After telling them I even helped them to have a change, but not today. I have learned that it is of no profit. Our need is to be made alive. When we have life, it takes care of everything. Life will cause people to realize that they need a turn. Then in life they turn by themselves.
In the Lord’s recovery of the church life in a certain place there may be a genuine local church. But without the practicality of life, it will be dead. It may be right in every aspect, but it is dead. The dead body in the mortuary was a real person, but it is now a dead person. Thus, the primary thing in the practicality of the church life is life. We can never be too much for the matter of life. Other things can be over-emphasized, but the matter of life can never be over-emphasized.
(The Speciality, Generality, and Practicality of the Church Life, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)