Second, instead of serving traditionally and religiously, Paul now served spiritually. In Romans 1:9 he says, “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son.”
Can you discern what is traditional and religious from what is spiritual? Anything in the service of God that is not in the spirit but is according to the past is traditional and religious. We need to learn to serve not according to the past but in our spirit. This means that we should not imitate others and not even imitate our own past. If we imitate, our service will become religious and traditional. We need to have fresh contact with the Lord in spirit. However, if we serve merely according to what we know or according to what we remember, our serving will be traditional and religious. We need to exercise our spirit to contact the Lord to have something new and fresh. Then we will serve with our spirit, not with anything old.
Serving in Spirit
In contrast to serving according to the knowledge of the Bible in letters, after he got saved, Paul served in spirit. In Romans 2:29 Paul says, “He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, in spirit, not in letter.” This indicates that we must serve not in letter but in spirit. Concerning this, 2 Corinthians 3:6 says that the ministers of the new covenant are ministers “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Serving with Christ
What is the opposite of serving with self-righteousness? The opposite of serving with self-righteousness is serving with Christ. When we do not have the heavenly vision, we have self-righteousness. When we have the heavenly vision, we no longer have self-righteousness—we have Christ. Then we serve with Christ, not with self-righteousness.
Serving in Faith
The opposite of serving with confidence is serving in faith or with faith. A person who serves God without having the vision is a person who serves in a natural way with much confidence. Those who are naturally strong in themselves do not need faith. Actually, a natural person cannot have faith; he has confidence instead of faith. But when we have the vision, we serve God not with confidence but with faith and in faith.
The opposite of serving enthusiastically is serving fervently. One who serves God fervently is not enthusiastic in himself but is fervent, inwardly burning in spirit.
Serving by the Lord’s Guidance
Now we need to ask, What is the opposite of serving God with a purpose? Instead of serving with a purpose, we should serve by the Lord’s guidance. Whenever we do something with a purpose, we are behaving like a politician. Politicians always do things with a definite purpose. The more we act with a purpose, the more political we are. If we do not have the Lord’s guidance to go to a particular place, yet we go to that place with a definite purpose, we are serving naturally and religiously.
Suppose you are going to the Far East. If you are going there with a definite purpose, you are going there as a politician. If you are asked why you are going to the Far East, you should be able to say, “My going to the Far East is of the Lord’s guidance. I am not going there to accomplish a certain purpose. Rather, I am going to the Far East according to the Lord’s guidance.”
It is hard to discern guidance from purpose. You may say that when you have the guidance you have the purpose. Even if this is the situation, you need to act not according to the purpose but according to the guidance. In the book of Acts the apostles, the sent ones, went out, but it is difficult for us to see what their purpose was in going out. They went out by the Lord’s guidance. They had no purpose, but they did have the Lord’s guidance. Consider the example of Philip in Acts 8:26-39. The Holy Spirit guided him to contact the Ethiopian eunuch (v. 29). Philip did not have a purpose; he simply had the Lord’s guidance. Before Philip contacted the eunuch, Philip had no idea concerning what would happen. His contacting the eunuch was not with a purpose; it was by the Lord’s guidance.
OUR NEED FOR THE VISION
We need the vision, and we should pray much that we may have the vision. It is not adequate merely to learn how to serve. If we only learn certain things, what we learn will become something traditional and religious. It is good to learn something, but we need the vision to change what we have learned into something else.
I would ask you to pray that the Lord would grant you certain visions. First, we need the vision of Christ. We all need to see Christ, not merely have the knowledge about Christ. We also need the vision of the church, the vision of the Body, the vision of the self, and the vision of the world. Regarding the self, we need a vision of the self so that the self may be exposed to us.
We may have much knowledge about Christ, the church, the Body, the self, and the world, but mere knowledge about these matters does not mean anything. For example, a sinful person may have a lot of knowledge about the gospel, yet he is still not saved. Only when what this sinner knows becomes a vision will he be saved. It is the vision, not the knowledge, that saves. A person may be told how sinful he is and how evil his heart is, and others may point out his shortcomings to him. But even then he is not convinced. He knows about these things, but he is not saved because as yet there is no vision. One day the vision comes to him, and under that vision he is saved.
The principle is the same with hearing about Christ, the church, the Body, the self, and the world. Only when we have the vision of Christ, the church, the Body, the self, and the world will we have the reality of what we have heard. Once we have reality, we will have deliverance.
(The Heavenly Vision, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)