THE DISTRACTIONS FROM GOD’S PURPOSE
God gives us many material things because we need them to exist. These things, however, are for the fulfillment of God’s purpose that Christ be wrought into man. We need food, clothing, housing, and many material things in order to live, so that we may exist for the purpose of Christ being wrought into us to make us the very expression, the vessel, to contain Him. However, look at the situation today. The unbelievers are distracted from God’s central purpose by the material things. The enemy of God is very subtle. All the unbelievers, the worldly people, do not care for Christ. They only care for their living—their food, drink, housing, and enjoyment. They have been and are still distracted by and drawn to all these material things from Christ.
In addition to the created material things, God also gave the Old Testament to the Jews. The Old Testament was given to reveal Christ to them, to keep them for Christ, and to bring them to Christ. However, even the Old Testament was utilized by the enemy, Satan, to distract the Jews from Christ. They were and still are distracted from Christ by the Old Testament and are drawn to the Old Testament. They are “addicted” to the Old Testament; they care only for it and not for Christ. The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, lawyers, and even Saul of Tarsus were one hundred percent for the Old Testament and for the Jewish religion, and not for Christ. Just as the Gentiles are the worldly people, the Jews are the religious people. The enemy can utilize everything, even the good things given by God to fulfill His purpose, to distract people from God’s purpose. The enemy utilized the Old Testament and the Jewish religion.
Do you not believe that the enemy can utilize even the New Testament? Christians are distracted from Christ by the letter of the New Testament and drawn to the letter of the New Testament. The history of the last five centuries shows us this. Many people have been distracted from Christ and His Body by taking the teachings of the New Testament apart from Christ. Do not be offended when I speak like this; I have a burden from God to speak these things. All the gifts given by God are for the purpose of working Christ into us, but even the gifts are utilized by the enemy to distract people from Christ. Many people are attracted to the gifts; they are addicted to them, and they forget Christ. With their mouth they say, “Thank You, Jesus; praise Jesus!” but in their living they forget about Him and live only for their gifts. They care for the gifts and not for Christ.
It is pitiful that the material things have been utilized by the enemy to distract the Gentiles from Christ, the religious things have been utilized to distract the Jews from Christ, and even the spiritual things have been utilized to distract Christians from Christ. The material things, the Old Testament, and the New Testament were given by God for the purpose of working Christ into us, but today the enemy of God, Satan, has utilized all these things to distract not only the Gentiles and Jews but also the Christians, even the seeking ones. How subtle this is!
A TURN FROM RELIGION TO CHRIST
In Galatians we have an illustration of one who was seeking God yet was distracted. Paul was zealous for the Jewish religion, and he was ready to sacrifice his life for it. However, one day God revealed Christ in him (1:15-16a). That was a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn for him, a turn from religion to Christ. In some ways many of us may still be religious. One day we should be able to say that in no way are we religious. I am concerned that many are still holding a certain doctrine. If I were to go to Mongolia, I would not have this concern; the Mongolians do not hold to Christian doctrine. If I were to minister Christ to them, they would simply receive Christ. But in America, as in Europe, when I minister Christ in the way of life, some ask, “What about the speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians? And what about the kingdom in Matthew; is it something in this dispensation or for a future dispensation?” Recently, I visited five different Christian meetings, and each one was a different case. They were all strong and even antagonistic.
In a brother’s home we spoke with someone about baptism. He was strong to say that water baptism means nothing, that every mention of baptism in the New Testament refers to a spiritual baptism. He was as strong as a tiger; if he were not a Christian, I am afraid that he might have attacked me. He asked me why we do not care for this spiritual baptism. I told him that I do not care for any doctrine; I only care for the living Christ. On another occasion a woman interrupted my ministering to ask if I believe in water baptism, saying that it is not possible to be saved without being baptized in water. She was strong in this matter, and she began to distribute tracts about water baptism. I laughed within myself and said, “How strange the situation is in America. First I met a brother who was strong to say that we should not have water baptism, and now I meet a person who is strong to say that we need it.” I do not like to say too much on the negative side. I simply want to show you how poor the situation is.
In all the places I visited, I told people that I do not care for anything but Christ. More than thirty-five years ago I was childish, but throughout these years I have dropped the childish things. I do not want the “wrappings.” I do not go to the department store to get wrappings; I go to get the jewels. Sometimes when I travel, a brother or sister may give me a gift. I always take the wrapping off of it. The wrappings are just a burden, and I have to pay extra for the weight when I travel. I like to drop the wrappings and keep the thing itself. Depending on the situation, we may need some wrapping that we do not have, but we always need the content.
In my recent travels I also met a doctor who wrote about me, saying that I neglect the “great commission” concerning faith and baptism. This illustrates that it is so easy for people to be religious. Instead, we need the revelation of Christ. We need to drop the religious things and know Christ and keep Christ in reality. The Galatians were frustrated from Christ. Paul even said, “You have been brought to nought, separated from Christ” (5:4). They were brought to nought concerning Christ because they were paying attention to something other than Christ Himself. The apostle Paul, as an example, was religious, but he eventually became one hundred percent for Christ and not a bit for anything else. In no sense and in no way should we be religious. We must forget about religion and instead know Christ in a living way.
(The Experience of Christ in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)