The Kingdom, by Witness Lee

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Now we come to the third point of following the Lord Jesus during the time of His rejection. While we are following Him in the kingdom life, we have to realize the kingdom as a reality. The kingdom does not have an outward, formal appearance. Religion, on the contrary, has altogether a false appearance. Religion cares for the outward appearance. If you visit the so-called Christian churches at the eleven o’clock service on Sunday morning, you will find that everything appears nice outwardly. Everyone is neat and clean, kind and good. But that is a formal, outward falsehood. Do you think that the people attending the service are really that clean, kind, humble, and nice? Look at the choirs and at every aspect of the service—do they have reality? In the words of Matthew 15:2, they wash their hands outwardly, but their heart is defiled. They may cleanse their hands, but their heart is corrupt and dirty. The so-called church services are outwardly very quiet, and they would condemn us for shouting and praising in our meetings. Outwardly, religiously, and formally, the people are quiet and everything is in order, but inwardly, they are full of confusion and corruption.

Here is the main point: in the kingdom we must not be concerned about the outward washing of hands. If the outward situation is a mess, don’t try to change it. Leave it the way it is. If you have long hair, don’t cut it short just to appear nice outwardly. You may have short hair and appear outwardly to be a very nice person, but inwardly you may be corrupt. Do not be concerned with the outward appearance; the reality of the kingdom is not in the outward appearance. The reality of the kingdom is something inward. What about your heart? What about your motive? What you really are is decided not by your outward conduct, but by what is in your heart. Outwardly, you may be neat, clean, pure, kind, and orderly, but inwardly you may be completely different. Thus, you are not full of reality, but full of hypocrisy and falsehood.

Here the Lord Jesus revealed His wisdom to the Pharisees and hypocrites. He dealt with the actual situation of their inward being. The Pharisees needed to realize that there was nothing good within their heart. We are the same. What comes out of our heart? Does love or purity or honesty or sincerity come out of our heart? In Matthew 15:18-19 the Lord did not mention one good thing that issues out of our heart. This is a revelation showing us what we really are. By nature and by birth we are ruined and corrupted. Never think that you are good. Although you may outwardly seem to be good, inwardly you are defiled. If you would say to me that I appear nice outwardly, but that inwardly I am not good, I would say that you are absolutely right. Sisters, you are lovely and nice outwardly, but not inwardly. By birth and by nature, we are all totally corrupted. The Lord’s word shows us what proceeds out of our heart. So in the kingdom it is not a matter of outward conduct. Forget about the outward behavior. The kingdom is not a pretense; the kingdom is a reality. Don’t worship God by the outward washing of your hands. The Lord does not care for that and even considers that as vain worship (Matt. 15:8-9).

I myself was more than religious. I was taught, trained, instructed, and even built up in a religious way. I was trained to come to the meeting in a proper order and with a proper appearance. Gradually, the Lord showed me that all of this was simply the outward washing of hands. However, if we purposely and intentionally attempt to have a wild religion, that also is entirely outward. It will be an outward, unpolished religion. The kingdom is a reality, and there is nothing false in it. What does it mean to be real? It means that everything comes out of our inner being. Don’t pretend. Let everything proceed out of what you are. In the kingdom life, every point and every aspect must be real and genuine. Don’t be concerned about the outward appearance. We all must take care of our inward being. Yet we need to realize that our natural being is ruined and corrupted. We should not attempt to change or correct it. What, then, should we do? The answer is found in the case of the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28).

(The Kingdom, Chapter 25, by Witness Lee)