III. THE BASIS OF THE CLEARANCE OF THE PAST
The clearance of the past is not based on the demand of outward regulations, but on the sense of life within. Although we have previously pointed out four matters which must necessarily be ended, yet these only enable us to recognize principles. They are not rules which demand that we put an end to such matters. When we are practicing the clearing of the past, what needs to be ended really depends on the sense of life within. Therefore, the sense of life within is the basis for our clearance of the past.
We know that all the religions of the world are built on their various religious codes. Their followers live and behave according to these rules. But the Lord’s salvation is not like that. The salvation of the Lord, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new life. Since we have such a new life, we can now live and behave in the presence of God through the sense of this new life. This is the principle of all our living as Christians. Our clearance of the past is also based on this principle. When a person is regenerated and obtains God’s life, this life moves within him, causing him to sense that in his past there have been many unrighteous, improper, and perverted matters, and that all these matters and even his entire old way of living are altogether incompatible with his present Christian state. Thus, he proceeds with his clearance of the past in accordance with these inner feelings.
The examples both of Zacchaeus and the Ephesian Christians clearing their past have also shown us that neither the Lord Jesus nor the Apostle Paul clearly taught anything in regard to the clearance of the past; they did not give any rules demanding what one must do to end his past. The ‘ending’ of Zacchaeus and the Ephesian Christians was such that, when the salvation of the Lord came upon them and the life of the Lord entered into them, they had a feeling toward the unrighteous and unclean things of the past and toward their old way of living; therefore, they put it all to an end. Their ‘ending’ proves that this matter is not based on external regulations and teachings, but on the sense of life within.
However, when we are first saved, we do not necessarily sense all the things that need to be terminated. Although there are many matters which need to be cleared up, yet we are only conscious of a portion of them. Even so, we still need to put an end to that portion of which we are conscious. At any rate, whatever we are conscious of, that much we must put to an end. The area of our consciousness should be the extent of our clearance. As for those things of which we are not yet conscious, we need only continue to move on and grow in the life of the Lord; in the future the Lord will naturally cause us to sense them. At that time there will be further dealing and further clearance.
Once there was an elderly sister in whose home were two things: a silk lamp shade embroidered with dragons and a tea set also printed with a dragon design. Long after her salvation she did not sense anything. Then she was enlightened by the Lord and became possessed of a deep inner feeling toward these things. She had no peace whenever she saw these items with dragon designs. She then proceeded to destroy them according to her inner feeling.
In like manner, there was a brother who had an embroidering factory which specialized in making pajamas with dragon designs. In the beginning he lacked any feeling regarding this matter. Then one day he suddenly said to me: “Brother Lee, I feel that I cannot continue to run my factory. I am a Christian. How can I continue to sell clothing with dragon designs?” He proceeded to change his line of business in accordance with this feeling.
These two examples show how these people originally lived in the midst of unclean things without any feeling about them. Then one day, because of their love for the Lord, their following the Lord, and their allowing the life of the Lord to move actively within them, they felt the need of clearing up these matters. Accordingly, they obeyed their inner feeling and put an end to the past. This proves that the basis of clearing the past is the inner feeling of life.
Since the ending of the past is based on the sense of life within, we must continue to lay hold of this principle when we are leading others to end the past. Never establish for them any outward rules, teaching them that they ought to end this or that, but seek to stir the sense of life within and point them to that. We need first to cause others to know that the life of God is within them and lead them to know the sense of this life. Then, secondly, with the help of the ministry of the Word, spiritual literature, and the testimonies of other saints regarding their clearance of the past, cause them also to have some feeling or deeper feeling regarding what needs to be terminated in their own past. Once this feeling has begun and has been deepened within them, we can lead them to clear up their past according to their own feeling. This manner of clearance is in accord with the principle of the Lord’s salvation and can help others to truly grow in life.
IV. THE DEGREE OF ENDING THE PAST
How far should we go in putting an end to the things of the past? To what degree should we proceed? The degree is expressed in Romans 8:6 as “life and peace.”
We have already seen that the ending of the past is based on the sense of life within. This sense of life within is a feeling given to us through the inner anointing of the Holy Spirit. Since the ending of our past is based on the sense of life within us, the procedure is the same as that mentioned in Romans 8:5-6, namely, following the Spirit, or minding the Spirit. The result, therefore, will naturally be the same—“life and peace.” Thus, life and peace are the degree to which we are required to clear up the past. If we follow the demand of our inner feeling to make restitution, to confess our sins, to eliminate improper and unclean things, and to end our old way of living, we will surely feel strengthened, enlightened, satisfied, and enlivened; we will also feel peaceful, secure, and full of the presence of the Lord. If we have made a clearance of the things of the past and we still sense the lack of fullness and manifestation of life and peace, we may be sure that we have not followed the Spirit to the uttermost; we have not sufficiently satisfied the demand of the inner feeling. We must look to the Lord for grace that we may clear up things more thoroughly, until we are full of life and peace.
The witness of life and peace within is not sufficient, of course, to prove that all our past which needs to be cleared up has already been dealt with. It only indicates that we have attended to everything according to the demand of our inner feeling. It is possible that later, when our life has grown and our feeling increased, we will feel there is more which needs to be put to an end. At this time we must again follow the leading of this feeling and deal with these matters until we again sense life and peace. After several thorough clearances and dealings, we will have cleared up to a much better degree things, deeds, relations, and concepts of the past which are not pleasing to the Lord. We can then follow the Lord and go on without dragging.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)