THE RECEIVING OF THIS LIFE—A MIRACLE
You may remember that Paul once said, "For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Whatever we work out is according to God’s good pleasure. It is God who causes us to work out everything. God is operating in us to make us holy. We do not have to exert our own effort, because everything is accomplished through God working in us. Such a holy and perfect life does not come about by our own effort; it is absolutely a work of God.
With many people, nothing short of a miracle can deliver them from their wickedness. Some people do not feel their failures; they do not realize how hopeless they are. Others have given up on their temper, pride, or disposition. They realize that they will never overcome unless God performs a miracle. Is there anyone here who can overcome sin? Man’s way is to suppress sin. But God’s way is to perform a miracle by removing the old man and cleansing the heart altogether. If you realize the meaning of God’s victory, you will be overjoyed.
A sister had an exceptionally uncontrollable temper. Her husband, children, servants, and everyone around her were afraid of her. Yet she was a Christian. It was despairing to her to have such a hot temper. A few years after she was saved, she received the Lord Jesus as her victory. Immediately after she had such an experience, she faced a great test. The day after she had received the Lord Jesus as her victory, she woke up and came downstairs to the living room. Her husband and the servants were hanging a chandelier from the ceiling. The chandelier was expensive, but the husband and the servants were not being careful enough. It fell to the floor and shattered at the very moment that she came down the stairs. When her husband saw her coming, he froze and wondered if there would be an explosion of temper. To his amazement, she said calmly, "Just sweep away the broken pieces." Her husband began to wonder. In the past she would have shouted and yelled when even a small cup or saucer broke. He thought that this time she surely would be very mad. When he saw her reaction, he asked, "Did you sleep well last night? Are you sick?" She answered, "I am not sick. God has performed a miracle on me and has taken away my old man." The husband said, "This indeed is a miracle! What a miracle! Thank and praise the Lord! This is a miracle!"
Mr. C. G. Trumbull, the founder of the Sunday School Times Company, is a person experienced in the spiritual life. He realized that the overcoming life is a miracle. He testified once to an elder that after he received the Lord Jesus as his life, not only was his temper gone, but even his desire to lose his temper disappeared. The elder asked, "Do you mean to say that all of our old sins can be removed?" Mr. Trumbull answered, "Yes." The elder then said, "I believe that this is real in you because I believe in your word. But this can never happen to me." Later, Mr. Trumbull invited the elder to pray with him. After a long prayer, the elder also received this fact. Some time thereafter, Mr. Trumbull met the elder again, and he told Mr. Trumball, "I have never experienced in my life what I experienced on that evening. It was a miracle! There is no struggling and no striving. The cravings are gone, and even the desire for sin is gone. This is indeed wonderful. It is a miracle." Not long after, he wrote a letter to Mr. Trumbull and told him of some improper evil influence existing among the board of directors at the place of his work. In the past he would always try to suppress himself. But when he was in the midst of it this time, he was not touched and did not even have an inclination for such sins. What a miracle!
Brothers and sisters, do you have some insurmountable barriers? Do you have some uncontrollable sins? If you do, the Lord Jesus can perform the same miracle on you. You may have been helpless in some areas for years. But the Lord can perform a miracle on you. It does not matter whether your sins are spiritual, carnal, mental, physical, or dispositional. It does not matter whether you can or cannot obey God’s will or whether or not you are consecrated, and it does not matter whether or not you have confessed your sins. The Lord can perform His miracle on you. If you cannot consecrate yourself, the Lord can cause you to consecrate yourself. If you cannot endure, the Lord can enable you to endure. He can overcome all the sins mentioned. God is able. When He performs a miracle, everything becomes possible.
THE RESULT OF THIS LIFE—
A LIFE OF EXPRESSION, NOT A LIFE OF SUPPRESSION
The result of an overcoming life is a life of expression rather than a life of suppression. The problem with our "victory" is that most of it comes by suppression. There was an old lady who always suppressed her temper when she was irritated. She would maintain her smile outwardly, but she would struggle to suppress herself inwardly. This kind of suppressed life will only result in internal bleeding when it is allowed to continue for years. All the bitterness remains inside with a suppressed life. But thank and praise the Lord! Our victory is a life of expression, not a life of suppression. A life of expression lives out what one has already obtained. This is what Philippians 2:12 means when it says to "work out your own salvation." In the past, we tried to hide ourselves as much as possible. Now the victory of Christ expresses itself. It is expressible. In the past, the more we suppressed, the better it was. Now the more we express, the better it is. Christ lives within us, and we live Him out before men.
Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis had a young lady friend who was a poet. She was very good at helping children understand the meaning of the overcoming life. One day Mrs. Penn-Lewis visited her and tried to find out from her the way to teach children. On that day her friend invited dozens of children to come together to eat. After the meal and before the table was cleaned, a visitor suddenly came. The lady asked the children, "The table is so messy. What shall we do?" The children proposed covering up the table with a clean piece of tablecloth. She agreed and covered the mess on the table with a clean tablecloth. After the visitor left, she asked the children, "Did the visitor see the mess on the table?" They answered, "No." She then asked, "Although he did not see the mess, was the mess still on the table?" They answered, "Yes." Although the visitor did not see the mess, the mess was still on the table.
Brothers and sisters, many people allow themselves to be unclean within but do not like to be unclean on the outside. The thoughts and feelings in our heart cannot be exposed to men’s eyes. We think that we are victorious. Others may commend us for our humility, and we may call it humility. We may appear to have much patience, but actually everything is merely locked up inside. Brothers and sisters, I must say honestly that there is no victory when we suppress everything within us. Victory is when we go and Christ moves in. Victory is something that is expressed.
There was a sister who easily lost her temper. One day her servant broke a vase. Immediately she went to her bed and covered herself with a blanket in an effort to keep from losing her temper. This is a life of suppression.
A hawker may come to you to sell his fruit. You may tell him that you do not want to buy and ask him to go away. He may come the second time, and you may refuse and send him away again. He may come to you the third time. He comes because he wants to sell his fruit. He can control himself and make sure that he does not lose his temper. But this is not overcoming; this is not victory. This is merely a business practice. Suppressing your temper is not victory. Christ overcame by purging man’s heart. Hence, victory means purity in the heart.
A brother who is over fifty years old had been reading Confucius’s teaching all his life. He had been a Christian for over three years. Although he believed in the cleansing of the Lord’s blood, he did not know the difference between Christianity and Confucianism. The Confucian way of cultivation is the way of self restraint: it is trying to achieve sainthood through suppression and cultivation. After he became a Christian, he still tried to practice suppression, always attempting to look away from problems and even eliminating them altogether. Later, he experienced the way of victory. He testified that victory had nothing to do with him. Christianity is different from all other religions. The difference does not lie merely in the cross but in the fact that we have a living Christ living within us. We can preach a doctrine of redemption and also a living Christ. The aforementioned person was a true disciple of Confucius, and nothing inside was exposed. Yet he now testifies that he can let go of himself; he no longer has to suppress himself, and problems no longer arise.
Brothers and sisters, I have to say hallelujah to this! Victory is a matter of letting go of one’s self and expression. An overcoming life is none other than Christ Himself.
These five points are the characteristics of this life. Finally, allow me to say an honest word. Please remember that victory, like salvation, is definite. There is a definite date when one experiences it. You are saved on a definite date. (Of course, some have forgotten the month and day of their salvation.) You should also write down the date that you overcome. There should also be a definite date. Everyone should have a definite date when they overcome. This is a specific gate which one passes through. You have either passed through it or have not passed through it; there is no "maybe" in this matter. No one in the world is "maybe" saved; if you are saved, you are saved. In the same way, no one in the world is "maybe" victorious; if you have overcome, you have overcome. Those who have "perhaps" overcome have not overcome at all. All of us should pass through this gate. I cannot speak further today. In the future we will see that victory is not just an individual matter; there is a greater issue at stake. This is all the more reason for us to overcome.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)