II. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE
Philippians 1:21 says, "For to me, to live is Christ." Does it say here that we should live like Christ? No. Does it say that we should imitate Christ? No. Does it say that we should take Christ as our pattern and follow Christ? No. It says, "To live is Christ." Imitating is absolutely useless. Doing good is also absolutely useless. Even if we can study the Bible, pray, conduct a good life, and have a proper pursuit, when our life is a wrong life, we will have a wrong living. We may aspire, weep, repent, and say to God, "O God, I truly desire to obey You." This is surely good. But there is one thing wrong: our life is wrong.
God ordained not only that Christ should die for us on Golgotha, but that He should become our life. Brothers and sisters, please be clear about one thing. God has not asked us to be Christians in such a painful way. God has never asked us to be Christians in the way that a monkey is taught to wear clothes, eat food, or exercise like a man. It would be a great pain for a monkey to try to be a man. It would be much more comfortable for the monkey to be a monkey than for the monkey to try to be a man. God has not dealt with us in this way.
When we read the Bible for five minutes, we may not find any taste to it; we may be more interested in reading other books. When we pray, we may receive nothing. Yet if we do not pray, our conscience condemns us. It is difficult for us to not love the world; yet we have no peace to love the world. In this way, we find it difficult to be a Christian and impossible to live the life of God. What wretched men we are! It is better that we feel wretched because this means that we are still on the way. If we do not feel any wretchedness at all, I feel sorry because this means that we have left the proper path.
Many times though we see that the temptation of the world is fierce, we cannot say anything against it because, within us, we feel somewhat swayed ourselves and cannot quite condemn those in the world for being swayed. Many times we see men giving themselves to God, turning their face to God and their back to the world, and submitting to God, and we think, "How wonderful it would be if I could be like them!" But when we try to practice it, we discover what a suffering it is to us. Brothers and sisters, it would indeed be a great suffering if God were to require us to be such a Christian. If the standard is so high, how can we make it? It is a cruel thing to ask a five-year-old child to bear a four-hundred-pound weight. It would be even crueler to ask this child to bear a thirteen-thousand-pound weight. It is a greater suffering to ask a Christian to try to live the life of God than it is to ask the five-year-old child to lift a four-hundred or fifteen-thousand-pound weight.
Many times we think we can try; we try to endure some sufferings and cravings. But the result is one sin after another. We have hardly finished regretting before the thing which we regret comes back to us again. Our tears have hardly dried before the thing that brought us to tears comes back again. Brothers and sisters, it would be wonderful if we would believe that we cannot do what we try. God does not want us to try. The Bible tells us that the life that we have received from God is not one that fails and asks for repentance, only to fail again and repent again. It is a life in which "to live is Christ." It is also a life in which the Lord Jesus lives Himself out of us.
Mary gave the Lord a body, and the Lord was able to express the life of God out of it. In the same way, we should give ourselves to the Lord and should receive this Christ into us so that He can live His life out of us and we can live as He lives.
Brothers and sisters, please be clear: being holy, denying the self, and loving the Lord single-heartedly are not things that a Christian should try to do, or are they things that a Christian can imitate. God has prepared Christ for us. This is the full salvation. God ordained Christ in two ways. On the one hand, Christ kept the law for us. On the other hand, He is within us causing us to keep the law of God. On the one hand, He has died for us. On the other hand, He is living within us. He accomplished salvation on Golgotha, and He is now accomplishing in us what Golgotha has accomplished. On Golgotha, He justified us. Now He is living within us to make us justified. Not only has He obeyed God, but He is also causing us to obey God within us. Not only has He done something for us, but He is doing something within us.
Here we can see the importance of resurrection. Paul said, "And if Christ has not been raised...you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). He did not say that the record of sin still remained because the record of sin was removed when Christ died. But if Christ has not resurrected, we are still in our sins; what we have is only a half-salvation. When we preach the gospel, we often use the illustration that our transgressions are like debts which have been incurred. Christ is like a rich friend. When He died, He paid the debt for us. This is right, and this is the gospel. Unfortunately, this is only half of the salvation. It is true that the Lord Jesus has paid our debt. But we have to ask if paying the debt was the only thing that He did. Does it mean that we will never incur more debt? Christ has paid the debt, but does that mean that I may still owe money in the future? It is true that my friend has paid my past debts. But if I borrow again and my friend has to help me again, does this not mean that I have received only a half-salvation? Although my friend has paid for me, I still continue to owe. Although Christ has died for me, I still continue in sin. Is this God’s salvation?
God’s salvation caused the Lord Jesus to die for me on Golgotha, and it also causes Him to live within me. He has paid all the debts for us, and He is living within us so that we do not need to borrow anymore. God does not stop at saving us from hell and into heaven. He is saving us to the extent that Christ becomes our life. If we have only received a half-salvation, we will still suffer and not have the joy of salvation. Jesus Christ is our life. God has never said that a Christian should do this and that. Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ." Paul was able not only to suffer others’ beatings and persecutions, but also to pass through many dangers and be imprisoned in Jerusalem and sent to Rome, because Christ was living in him. He was not like Christ or imitating Christ; rather, Christ lived in him. Without this he could not have gone through these things. A monkey cannot become a man. In the same way a Christian cannot become Christ by imitation.
Philippians 2:12-13 says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure." In Philippians 1:21 we see Paul’s personal experience. In these two verses, we are told that every Christian can have the same experience.
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." When many people read this verse, they think that salvation is something that they should work out. For this reason they make up their mind to rise up early, to study the Bible, and to become zealous to testify to others. Yet they find that they cannot succeed. They have forgotten the words in verse 13: "For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure." Since the word "for" is in verse 13, it means that verse 13 is the "cause," while the working out of salvation in verse 12 is only the "effect."
Our activities in our daily life consist of only two things: (1) the willing, which is an inward resolving, and (2) the working, which is the outward conduct. The totality of our living is of these two things, the inward resolving and the outward working. Both the willing and the working are the result of God’s operating within us. Here it does not say that we ought to will and work. Rather, it says that it is God who operates within us to the extent that we can will and work. To operate is to work. It is God who works within us to the point that we can will and work. The reason we can work out something is because God has worked within. Without the working within, there can never be the working out.
Many times we say to God, "O God, I want to obey You fully. Yet it is so hard! I want to not love the world. Yet it is so hard! I want to not go along with myself. Yet it is so hard!" Here is a way of salvation. God can work within you to the extent that you can fully obey God; He can work within you to the extent that you do not love the world and do not go along with yourself. Although you cannot do it within, God can work to the extent that you can.
What is perfect salvation? It is not for a Christian to remove a sin today and an evil tomorrow. Perfect salvation is to receive the perfect Christ. When we have Christ, we have the perfect salvation. The most difficult Christian to help is one who does not turn his eyes to Christ! What he sees is only his own goodness or his own evil! He pays attention to his certain sins, certain bondages from certain people, and certain attractions from certain things. He condemns himself, feels sorry for himself, and attempts to overcome all his problems. Yet he commits a great mistake. God has not intended for him to overcome these things one by one or perform good works item by item. God wants him to receive a perfect Christ.
Suppose a child loves fruit. When he wants pears, he goes to the orchard to buy some pears. If he wants oranges or bananas the next day, he will go and buy oranges or bananas. Later he finds out that his father owns the orchard and that his father has given the orchard to him. From that time on, his eating will be different. All the fruit belongs to him. As Christians, we want to perform this thing today and accomplish that thing tomorrow. We want patience today and love tomorrow; we are like the child who wants pears today and oranges tomorrow. But God wants us to receive a perfect Christ. The whole orchard is ours. If we buy separately, there will be times of lack and there will be a need to buy again and again.
I am not saying that you do not have to be patient or to love. You should be patient, and you should love. But if you are practicing these things item by item, you will find that you cannot practice them. If you do this, you will find out that day after day, you will love the world more, you will become more proud, and you will go along with yourself more. You have to realize that the whole orchard is yours. God wants us to have one common goal, which is to gain the one perfect Christ. He can operate within us to the extent that we can will and work for the accomplishment of His good pleasure.
We may have heard of the truth concerning Christ living His life within us. But let me ask today, "Do you have this experience?" Many times, we know something. Yet we only want to try it out. The result is failure.
First Corinthians 1:30 says, "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption." If we read this verse slowly, we will see that when we were saved, God made Christ our righteousness and our sanctification. Therefore, if anyone were to ask what sanctification is, our answer should be that Christ is sanctification. What is victory? It is just Christ. What is patience? It is just Christ. What is humility? It is just Christ. If we can answer this way, we will be victorious. Our whole being is fleshly and nothing but corruption. But Christ is sanctification; He is our sanctification. No one has sanctification or victory in himself. There is only one way; we must say to God, "O God! I receive Your Son!"
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 31, by Watchman Nee)