THE DANGER OF GIFTS, KNOWLEDGE, AND SPIRITUALITY
Brothers and sisters, we need to realize that not only are the gifts something other than Christ and not Christ Himself, but even the knowledge and the teaching of Christ are not Christ Himself. We have to know Christ in a living way, and we have to minister Christ in a real and living way, not merely in the way of knowledge nor in the way of teaching. When you are speaking about Christ, people must be able to sense the presence of Christ. Something from Christ, something out of Christ, even something as Christ must be ministered through you to others. This is the ministry of Christ that is adequate to build up the Body of Christ.
All the gifts are for the building of the church. We have to realize, however, that any gift that is separated from Christ and remains merely a gift is dangerous. It is a damage to the building of the church. I say again, a gift must be for the building of the church, and this gift must be related to Christ. Once a gift is separated from Christ, you may do many things, but this gift will be a damage to the building up of the Body. I do look to the Lord that He would open our eyes to see the difference between the gifts and Christ and between the knowledge of Christ and Christ Himself. Christ Himself is the only factor, the only element, for us to build up the church.
In the past we have seen many things that caused us great sorrow because we have seen a number of gifted people do a great deal of damage to the building up of the Body. The more they work, the more they do, the more they preach, and the more they teach, the more they damage the building of the church. Even the teaching and doctrine concerning Christ can be a dividing factor in the church if you are not in Christ, if you are not exercising your gift by being joined to Christ. By this we can see that there is a real danger with the gifted ones.
From the past to the present time I have noticed that there are some believers who claim to be spiritual. However, I have discovered that the more they claim to be spiritual, the more they cannot be built up with others, and all they can do is simply criticize others all the time. They often say, “I am spiritual, but you are not. I have seen the heavenly vision, but you have not.” I am not imagining this; from the Far East to Europe and America, I have met this kind of person everywhere. They have a so-called spirituality which is not Christ Himself; they do not have the real spirituality which is Christ Himself. Hence, wherever I have met them, the impression I have had is that they are always criticizing others. Wherever they go, they consider themselves to be the best. This is a real damage to the Body. This is why recently when I was in a certain locality, I spoke with the dear brothers there, saying, “Let us be general and not special. Do not think you are spiritual. If you think you are spiritual, it simply means you are not spiritual. If you claim that you have seen the heavenly vision, it simply means that what you have seen is an earthly vision. When you claim that you are spiritual, you have to know that you are fleshy and carnal. When the heavenly light was on the face of Moses, Moses did not see it. It was others who saw it. To be truly spiritual is to be humble and general toward others.”
Brothers and sisters, gifts are not Christ. Knowledge and teachings are not Christ. Even so-called spirituality is not Christ. Only Christ Himself is Christ. You must forget about the gifts you have, the knowledge and teachings you have obtained, and the so-called spirituality to which you have attained. You have to forget about all these things. Simply keep yourself in a living communion with the living Lord. Contact Him in a humble way, saying, “Lord, I am nothing. I am not better than anyone. Nothing with me is special. I am very general. I am just a sinner saved by You, and that is all.” Let others discern whether or not we are spiritual.
We need to realize who Christ is. Christ is the One who is simply experienced by us in a living way. I do not mean that we do not need certain kinds of gifts. I do not mean that we do not need knowledge and teachings. We need these things, but we have to realize that they must not be something other than Christ. Only Christ Himself avails for the building up of the church. Therefore, let us be humble to experience Christ. Let us be humble all the time in teaching the real experience of Christ. He is the living Lord. Now He is the living Spirit, and He is embodied in the living Word. We need to humbly contact the Word in the spirit to experience the living Lord Himself. If you will do this, I am sure you will have a desire for the church life, and you will experience Christ in a real and living way. You will long to have the church life, you will be desirous to be built up together with others, and you will love others. Furthermore, you will never consider yourself special. Rather, you will be very general.
If any one among us still considers himself or herself as someone special, this is a damage to the building up of the Body. If you still consider yourself as someone special, you will have nothing but criticism in your heart. You will be criticizing all the time. You may say in your heart, “This brother’s message this morning is good” or “The meetings in these days are not bad,” but you will have something further critical to say. You will always criticize something. This simply proves that you consider yourself as someone superior to others, someone better than others, someone special. I beg you, if you do have the desire to build up the Lord’s Body in a practical way in your locality, give up this kind of thought. Simply be very general and simple.
All the so-called spiritual persons are too complicated. Forgive me to say this; I hope that I am saying this in love. In recent years I have considered giving up my pursuit to be “spiritual.” I do not want to be “spiritual,” because to be “spiritual” simply means to be complicated. The most complicated people are the spiritual ones. When I am not spiritual, I am very simple and I love the brothers, but when I become spiritual, immediately I become complicated and begin to ask, “Is this brother spiritual? Has he seen the heavenly vision?” This is why I say that in recent years I have been afraid to be “spiritual.” I have been nearly quenched by “spiritual” people. Most of the problems and difficulties that come into the church are from those who claim to be spiritual, not from those who are not spiritual. The more someone claims to be spiritual, the more problems and difficulties he brings into the church. In the Far East we did not have any problem before we had certain “spiritual” persons. Only a few years ago, when a small number of people became “spiritual,” the trouble came. I say again, I am afraid to be “spiritual,” and I am afraid to see you being “spiritual.”
What I mean is that there is nothing besides Christ that is good for the building up of the church. Do not pay much attention to the so-called gifts, to mere teachings and knowledge, or to so-called spirituality. Forget about all these things. Be humble to contact the living Lord day by day and to be general and simple. Do not try to analyze people. The “spiritual” people are the best, expert analyzers. They are analyzing all the time. Brothers and sisters, try to be simple and not to be clever. If we are simple, we will love the brothers, and we will not like to analyze them. It is love in Christ that builds. Knowledge does not build but puffs up.
Gifts, knowledge, teachings, spirituality, and even spiritual experiences are not Christ. Only Christ Himself is Christ. You have to experience Christ day by day and even moment by moment. Contact Him. If you have a living contact with Christ today, you will not be proud and you will not criticize others. I do desire to see that in these days and in this country a good number of believers would love the Lord, contact Him, and live by Him in a real and living way. We may never talk about gifts, yet we may have many gifts. We may never talk about knowledge, yet we may have profound spiritual knowledge. Likewise, we may not talk about our “spiritual” experiences, but we simply contact the living Lord day by day and live by Him. We will simply speak about Christ in love and in humility. We will love all the saints and all kinds of saints. This is the life that can build up the church, and this is the life that can cover all the shortcomings. Moreover, this life is love and light. May the Lord deliver us not only from sins, from fleshly things, and from worldly things but also from gifts, knowledge, and “spiritual” experiences.
(The Central Thought of God, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)