THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS
Now we come to the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The sufferings here are different from our common sufferings. Most of our sufferings are not Christ’s sufferings. To know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, we must know the difference between Christ’s sufferings and our common sufferings. Christ’s sufferings were for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Christ did not suffer for any other reason. We, on the contrary, suffer not because we are fulfilling God’s will, but because we have made so many mistakes. Suppose, for example, a certain brother is quite lazy. By oversleeping in the morning, he misses the bus for school. Because he is late for school, he suffers discipline at school upon his arrival. Such suffering is not the suffering of Christ. It is the suffering that comes upon us because of our mistakes.
We need to be clear what the sufferings of Christ are. Suppose a brother who is a student has a genuine, living testimony at school. This testimony causes him to be persecuted for the sake of Christ. This persecution is the suffering of Christ. To remain in this kind of suffering is to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. The suffering that comes from being persecuted for bearing a living testimony to the Lord is in the same category as Christ’s suffering for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. We all must stay in this kind of suffering. This is the fellowship of His sufferings.
Whenever you repudiate your flesh and your self, you will experience Christ and enjoy Him. But due to your enjoyment of Christ, opposition will come to you, and you will suffer persecution. You will be persecuted because the world today is against God’s economy and the testimony of Jesus. When you suffer opposition and persecution, you share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.
BEING CONFORMED TO CHRIST’S DEATH
In this verse Paul also speaks of being conformed to Christ’s death. Christ’s humanity was like a shell, and He as the embodiment of God was concealed and confined within this shell. Outwardly He had no glory, but inwardly He was filled with the glory of God. How could the glory within shine out? The only way was by death. Christ’s death was the breaking of the outer shell of His humanity. Through His death, His human shell was broken, and the divine glory was released. In other words, His death broke His humanity and released His divinity.
As human beings, we also have our humanity as a shell. Our shell, of course, is not pure, as Christ’s was. Because we have been born again, the divine life is in us. However, it is concealed within this shell of our humanity. Therefore, we need to experience the kind of death that breaks the shell of our humanity and releases the glory of the divine life within us. For this to take place, we need to be conformed to Christ’s death. Christ’s death is the death that breaks the human shell and releases the divine glory. We need such a death day by day.
Whenever we repudiate our flesh and all that we are by nature, Christ remains within as our enjoyment. As we enjoy Christ, we must be prepared to experience the death that breaks our natural man. From this kind of death there is no escape. The death of Adam is terrible, but the death of Christ is lovely. Hence, we all must love the death of Christ and be willing to be conformed to it.
Each day as I experience Christ, the experience of Christ brings me into a situation of death. This death situation, however, is lovable and not dreadful. Even God loves the death of Christ. This situation of death may involve our wife or husband or the elders in the church. By experiencing this death, the natural man that we have already repudiated and set aside is killed. At times Christ may seem to say, "Since you have repudiated your flesh, let Me kill it." This killing is the conformity to the death of Christ. Eventually, we shall be fully conformed to Christ’s death. At that time, others will be able to see in us and upon us the working of death that kills our flesh, self, and natural man. This death breaks the outer shell and releases the inward glory.
All of the five points covered in this message are part of the detailed way to experience Christ. If we experience these five items, we shall one day attain to the out-resurrection from among the dead. We shall cover this matter in a later message.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)