THE CHRISTIAN GOAL BEING GOD HIMSELF
The problem today is that material enjoyment indeed brings in the lusts of the world. Moreover, man has fallen into the world of material things. A shortage of food and lack of clothing, however, are real personal problems. Under these circumstances, how should Christians live on earth? Some describe the heart of the Chinese people as a heart focused on money. They say that the Chinese and the Jews are the only two peoples on this earth who really love money and that the Chinese, in particular, worship gods in order to get rich. Now I am afraid that some have believed in Jesus in order to acquire wealth; the testimonies of these ones are not edifying at all. For example, someone said, “Yesterday morning I purchased a load of textiles, but by the afternoon the price went up. Thank the Lord that I have made a lot of money.” Take another example: An elderly woman prays for her son who is out of town for business, “O God, may You keep him safe, prevent him from any accidents, and bless his business. You know our family of ten all depend upon him for our living.” Actually, this kind of testimony and prayer is not according to God’s desire. If God is merciful to you, He will not make you rich, because wealth is Satan in disguise. To put it bluntly, that is the world and that is sin; that is not really a blessing. Because our hearts are not pure, we always expect God to bless us and give us peace. Those who worship Buddha chant and beg, hoping that the gods who bestow blessings and peace will respond to all their pleas. Christians, however, must not pray like that because that kind of prayer is not pleasing to God. The Bible says, “For what shall a man be profited if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul-life?” (Matt. 16:26). If a person wants to follow the Lord, he must sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and then he will have treasure in the heavens (19:21).
Christians today are so pitiful that they actually esteem that which the early saints cast away. In Ecclesiastes chapter one Solomon declared that all things under the sun are a vanity of vanities (v. 2). If God were to give the material things to us, He would be giving us vanity. In the New Testament, Paul, a man who knew God, said that material things are refuse, dung, and stinky, worthless things (Phil. 3:7-8). Many Christians today, however, consider these stinky things treasures. This is because man, having fallen into the enjoyment of material things, cannot discern the true nature of these things. Therefore, some are even bewildered and ask, “Do you really mean to say that we should not care about our food and about our living? Why should we embrace a religion if it cannot take care of our living?” Many people have asked the same questions. This only indicates the pitiful situation of men who have fallen into the snare of material things. God’s salvation is to deliver us from the fallen condition of the material world, just as He has delivered us from our lusts. Therefore, Christians should take nothing else but God Himself as their goal.
THE CHRISTIAN MODEL
Such model Christians appeared in the first two to three centuries. They did not care for anything other than Christ; they gave up their wealth and fame and were willing to suffer hunger and martyrdom. By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there was still this kind of Christian. One example is Francis of Assisi. He was from a wealthy family and had received a great inheritance from his father. One day in his meditation a revelation came to him. He saw that a person will lose God if he gains wealth and will have no room for wealth if he gains God. Francis had found the goal of human life, which is just God Himself. He realized that if he wanted anything outside of God, he would lose God. That day the Lord told him, “Sell all your possessions.” In a determined manner he responded, “Lord, I will sell all my possessions to follow You.”
Another time, when Francis was meditating before God, someone teased him, saying that he was thinking about getting married. He answered, “You are right! I was thinking about being engaged to a girl whose name is Poverty. In fact, I have just been engaged to Poverty.” After saying this, he got up and on that very day gave all his possessions away to the poor. Many Christians were touched by him and responded in the same way. This is the Christian model and goal. If God’s children want to gain God, they must forsake their material wealth and willingly become poor. Air cannot get into a cup which is filled with water; the water must be poured out before air can get into the cup. May God have mercy upon us so that we can see this reality.
Since we are children of God, our goal is neither enjoyment nor peace but God Himself. Perhaps some will say that they cannot believe in this kind of Christianity. And yet still so many have believed in Christ. In the last two thousand years tens of thousands of Christians have willingly become poor to follow the Lord. Today if we desire to take the way of recovery, we must also have this kind of vision and burden and be able to testify, saying, “All things are refuse! What my heart pursues is neither peace nor blessings but God Himself.” John Bunyan was a well-known figure in English literary history and the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is believed that on one occasion he cried out loudly, “O Heaven, come! O Earth, come! I will praise the Lord whom I serve if He leads me to heaven; I will still praise Him even if He puts me in hell.” He cared neither for heaven nor for hell; he cared only for God. He wanted neither the enjoyment in the present age nor the blessings in the coming age but only God Himself. This is the model of the Christians, and this is also the pursuit of the Christians.
(The Pursuit of a Christian, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)