LIVING BY THE BIBLE
All of you who are saved, and especially who are in the Lord’s recovery, must live according to the spirit. You must not live according to anything else. You may wonder about living according to the Bible. Usually your efforts to follow the Bible come from the mind. If you want to know what your relationship to your wife should be, you read the Bible passages that deal with that subject. You find out that you must love your wife. Ephesians 5:25 says so. Then you purpose in yourself to love her. You have understood the Bible according to your mind and you now attempt to fulfill it by your will. What kind of living is this? It is the living of the soul. It is not evil living, but nonetheless it is not according to the spirit. Your intention is good. Before you were saved, you had little love for your wife. She had too much to say, was always criticizing how you did things, and kept checking up on your whereabouts. Or, your wife may have been overbearing in her love for you. She may have closely supervised everything you wore, carefully watched that you took your vitamin pills, and seen to it that you did not stay up too late. During your honeymoon you could stand it, but afterwards it became unbearable. You came to hate her and her nagging ways.
Your dislike of her was a matter of the soul. Now that you are saved, you read your Bible regularly and try hard to obey what it says. Thus, you are trying to love your wife. This love is in your soul, just as your hatred was in your soul. Dear brother, you must live according to the spirit. If you love your wife, it must be because you are living according to the spirit. Your wife may keep on nagging you, but you continue to live according to spirit.
By living in the spirit you will find that you are living in the heavens, because your spirit is linked to heaven. The spirit is the Holy of Holies. In this place nothing can disturb you. This realm is unchanging, whatever the outward circumstances are.
If you live in the soul, you will change with your circumstances. When the weather is sunny, you will be cheerful. When the sky is overcast, you will be sad.
LIVING BY THE SPIRIT
How can we be those who live according to the spirit?
For one thing, we must not act or react in haste. Even if we are about to lose our temper, we must slow down. The first time our wife provokes us, we may be able to exercise patience. By the third time, however, all our patience is gone, and we are ready to explode. This is the point when we must tell Satan to hold off for a minute or two; we need that little extra time before we give vent to our anger. In other areas of our living also, we must not act hastily. This applies to our talking, to the look we give others, and to the opinion we express.
Why is it important for us to slow down? We are used to living in the soul. It is natural for us to be there. Our parents and our education have encouraged us to live according to the soul. Now that we are saved, the Lord wants us to be a people living according to the spirit. We have little hope of changing, however, unless we slow down these spontaneous reactions and ways of looking at things. If we are fast, the likelihood is that we are in the soul. If we are slow, we give ourselves the opportunity to turn to the spirit.
Use this little time you give yourself by slowing down, to pray. By praying, you enter into the spirit. There you will have a different view of the situation. If your wife aggravates you, your soul is filled with dislike for her. When you are viewing her from the spirit, however, you may praise the Lord for giving you such a desirable wife. In all these human relationships, the view from the soul is one thing and the view from the spirit another. When you are in the soul, you are in trouble and will offend the Lord. If you turn to your spirit, however, you will immediately be preserved and will enjoy the Lord’s presence.
When you go shopping, something may catch your eye and you may feel free to buy it. But if you will restrain your impulse and turn to your spirit, you may find after praying a little that the article has lost its appeal and that your intention to buy it is gone. It looked one way to the soul, but another way to the spirit.
A brother may come to talk to you about a certain matter. As you are listening, you may feel negative about what he is saying. Inwardly, however, you remind yourself to turn to the spirit. As you remain in your spirit praying, your view of what he is saying may completely change.
Many times when you are in your soul, you want to do something or go somewhere. Once you turn to your spirit, however, the urge is gone.
Do you want to live according to the soul or according to the spirit?
It is difficult to stay all the time in spirit. Before we realize it, we have slipped out. Suppose a brother comes to fellowship with me. At first I am watchful to remain in my spirit. I listen in spirit, and what I say in reply comes from the spirit. We both are greatly enjoying the fellowship together. Then in a moment of joy I fall back into my soul; unconsciously I have slipped out of my spirit.
We easily slip into our soul because it is right next to the spirit. The soul is where our person is. God has saved us and moved us to our spirit. Though we recognize this, we still like to live in the soul. We are like a girl who is newly married. She loves her husband, but she still likes to go back to her old home. While she is at work, she secretly slips over to her mother’s for a visit.
The Lord wants a people who live according to the spirit. This is not to say that He wants us to do the right thing and refrain from doing what is wrong. If we live by the soul, no matter what good thing we do, it counts for nothing. God has set us in our spirit and is causing us more and more to live there. We can do this first of all by not being in a hurry.
(Life Messages, Vol. 2 (#42-75), Chapter 32, by Witness Lee)