THE CHANNEL OF LIFE
We have said that our work is to dispense life to others. However, we ourselves do not have the life to give to others, to enliven others, and to nourish others. We are not the source but the channel. The life of God flows through us and flows out from within us. We are the channels. The channels should not be silted or else water cannot flow through. The word of the cross is doing the dredging work, removing all that belongs to Adam and the natural man, so that we can receive the life of the Holy Spirit and be saturated with the Holy Spirit. In this way, our spirit will constantly bear the cross of the Lord to the extent that our life becomes the life of the cross. We will cover this point shortly. Since we are saturated with the Holy Spirit and have the life of the cross, the Holy Spirit will use us to pour out the life of the cross from within to those who are surrounding us. If we truly allow the cross to do a deep work in us, to the extent that we become filled with the Holy Spirit, we will spontaneously flow out life to nourish those whom we touch whenever we speak or preach in public or to individuals. This is something that requires no intentional effort or pretension; it will be something very spontaneous. Spontaneously we will bear fruit. This is what the Lord Jesus means in John 7:38: "He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." There are several meanings here. The innermost being of the believer must first be emptied and must first receive the full work of the cross. His innermost being must be filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit. The life in him is not only sufficient for his own need, but is overabundant and sufficient to the extent that out of him flow rivers of living water to supply others with the same living water. We should heed the word "flow" here. It is not by maneuvering, by voice, by psychology, by eloquence, by doctrine, or by knowledge. Although these methods may help us sometimes, they are not the living water. Neither is the employment of these methods the flowing out of the living water. To flow is something very natural; it does not require any human labor. Rather, everything glides along. We do not need any eloquence or theory. We only need to preach the word of the cross of the Lord faithfully, and others will receive the life which they lack. The life and power of the Holy Spirit will somehow spontaneously flow through our spirit. Otherwise, even if we teach diligently, the audience will listen indifferently! Sometimes one’s audience may listen attentively and may understand and be touched by what they hear. Yet they will only respond with the word, "Wonderful." They will still not have the power and life to carry out what they hear. Oh, may we be the channels of God’s life today!
In order to be the channels, we must have the experience. We have covered this in the above discussion. Unless we have this, the Holy Spirit will not work with us. After we have received the power of the Holy Spirit, all our works will be in the nature of a witness (Luke 24:48-49). Actually, all our work is a witness to the Lord. A witness cannot witness what he has not seen. One cannot even witness what he has heard from others. One cannot witness what he has not experienced. Seriously speaking, one bears false witness if he has no experience in what he preaches! If we do this, the Holy Spirit will not work with us. Another thing we should know is that whether it is the Holy Spirit who is working or the evil spirit who is working, there must be men as the outlets of power. If we have no experience in what we preach, the Holy Spirit will definitely not be able to use us as His channel through which He pours His life into people’s hearts.
Hence, may the cross we preach crucify us on it! May we bear the cross we preach! May we first gain the life which we want to dispense to others! May the cross we preach be the cross which we daily experience in our life! If the message we preach is to have a lasting effect, it must first become the food of our spirit. It must be deeply engraved on our heart and be burned and seared into our life through the sufferings in our daily living. By this, our every move will bear the brand of the cross. Only those who bear in their bodies the brands of Jesus (Gal. 6:17) can preach the Lord Jesus. Brothers, let me tell you, although the thoughts that suddenly come across your mind or the knowledge that you gain from books earn you your audience’s smile, they will not have a lasting effect. If our work is just to make people smile, we may think that we are doing a great work with our sermons by merely collecting some material from the mind and the emotion. This, however, is not the goal of our work!
THE SUCCESS OF THE APOSTLE
The message of the cross deeply touched Paul. His life was a manifestation of the life of the cross. He was not only one who preached the cross but one who lived the cross. The cross he preached was the cross he lived. Therefore, when he spoke of the cross, he could add to it his own experience and testimony. He not only knew the Lord Jesus’ substitutional death, but he took the Lord Jesus’ cross as his own cross in experience. He was able to say, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal 2:20) and, "The world has been crucified to me and I to the world" (6:14). His meekness, endurance, infirmities, weepings, sufferings, and chains were all the manifestation of the life of the cross. Because he was one who lived the cross, he could preach the cross. Men sometimes criticize others as being those who do not practice what they preach. Yet, in reality, no one can ever preach what he does not practice! Because Paul was able to live out his gospel, he was able to beget many spiritual sons and daughters through the gospel. He himself possessed the life of the cross. As a result he was able to "reproduce" this cross in others’ hearts.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)