SPIRITUAL PROGRESS BEING THE ADDITION OF THE ELEMENT OF CHRIST
I hope we can see that our spiritual life is Christ, our spiritual living is Christ, and our spiritual progress is also Christ. Do not think that spiritual progress is merely a change in our outward expression. Genuine spiritual progress is the increase of the element of Christ within us. We all agree that we should take away the handkerchief, but the water inside the cup must also increase. The worst case is that neither the water increases nor is the handkerchief removed. Some had a bad temper a few years ago and still have a bad temper today. Others have changed their bad temper to a good one, have gotten rid of their bad habits, and have become well-behaved; however, the Christ in them has still not increased. A Christian’s progress should not be only outward improvement but should be an inward increase of Christ. A Christian’s progress should not be only an outward deliverance from bad habits and bad behavior but should also be an inward increase of the element of Christ.
Some people improve their outward behavior but do not have more of Christ in them. This is not spiritual progress but religious progress. This is not the growth of Christ but the growth of morality. Today very few Christians are able to discern between morality and Christ. They often regard a certain Christian’s morality to have its source in Christ and are not able to discern whether the change in a Christian is merely an ethical change or a change due to the increase of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 and Galatians 4:19 clearly show us what Christian progress is. When Christ grows and is formed in a Christian so that there is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ within him, this is Christian progress. When Christ is formed in a Christian, and the measure of his stature is increased within him, this is Christian progress.
The revelation in the Bible is very clear concerning Christian progress. Unfortunately, however, it is difficult for us to change our concept. When we notice that someone has an improvement in his behavior, we say that he has made some spiritual progress. For instance, a person used to quarrel with his wife whereas he no longer quarrels with his wife. He becomes diligent whereas he was once slothful, and he no longer has any opinions or things to say but works quietly whereas he used to be talkative and opinionated. We praise him, saying that he has made spiritual progress. This shows that we are still too natural and that we do not know what spirituality and spiritual progress are.
What is real spirituality? Spirituality is Christ Himself. What is spiritual progress? Spiritual progress is the increase of Christ. Whenever Christ increases in the saints, their speaking will be reduced; whenever Christ increases in them, their bad temper will diminish. This is a sure thing. However, if a person’s bad temper is reduced, yet there is no increase of Christ, then his change is merely something ethical. The improvement of his temper and behavior is the result of his own effort, his own cultivation. It is something moral but does not come from the increase of Christ in him. He may have entirely changed his living by his own effort, but he has not touched Christ, contacted Christ, or had any inward increase of Christ. He has changed outwardly but not inwardly because Christ has not increased in him.
If we want to have spiritual progress and spiritual growth, we must turn our mind to God to see the light and the revelation that this is not a matter of morality but of Christ. The point is not that since we used to be unethical, we should now be ethical; rather, though formerly we did many things by our own life, now we should do everything by Christ’s life. God wants us to deny our life and live by Christ’s life. Hence, we have to see clearly that Christ is our life and our living. Once we have seen this clearly, we will spontaneously have a change in our mind to turn from ethics, good deeds, and proper behavior to Christ Himself.
(The Crucified Christ, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)