THE TREE OF LIFE AND THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
Brothers and sisters, please consider, how much do you live Christ in a day? After the creation of man, God placed man before the tree of life that man might eat of the tree of life. However, man foolishly ate of another tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We all know that the tree of life signifies God, whereas the tree of the knowledge of good and evil signifies anything that does not belong to God. For example, your ethics, logic, humility, and pride all belong to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil includes not only things that are evil but also things that are good. We invariably think that our goodness does not belong to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are wrong. Both our goodness and our badness belong to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whether you are moral or immoral, whether you are honest or dishonest, whether you steal or do not steal, whether you are a robber or a gentleman, whether you are quarrelsome or peaceable, whether you are a shrewd woman or a virtuous woman, all belong to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Anything that is not of God belongs to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this you can see that only a small percentage of your living is of the tree of life; ninety-five percent is of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Most of us have become well-adjusted after being in the church life for a long time. Let us use a husband and wife as an example. Before they were saved, the husband was rude, and the wife was ill-tempered. Then they were saved and came into the church. One day they had a discussion. One said, “We have now come into the church. Look at the church people. In general, they are better than we. So from now on we should not be rude or ill-tempered.” Indeed, after a few years under the influence of the church they gradually changed and were no longer rude or wild. The more they lived the church life, the more they were conformed to the image of the church. Is this Christ? No. Is this the tree of life? No. When this brother was rude, his rudeness was not of the tree of life but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now he has improved; instead of being rude, he looks very much like one who is in a local church. Even so, his behavior is still of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The same is true with the wife. Many of her relatives and friends praise her, saying that she has changed. Both of them have changed. However, whether changed or unchanged, their behavior is of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Brothers and sisters, forgive me for being frank with you. When I see your faces today, I have a few words that I must say to you. Have you noticed that among the unbelievers, the ladies paint their lips red, powder their cheeks white, and color their eyebrows black? The red, white, and black colors are not real; these are all masks. We thank and praise the Lord that when you come to the local churches, you do not see these masks. The sisters here neither paint themselves red nor powder themselves white; they do not apply any color at all to themselves.
In America I saw many young men with long hair and beards. When they walked into the meeting hall, I, a Chinese, had to examine them closely to determine whether they were humans or demons. They were actually humans, but from the back they looked like demons, and from the front they looked like cats full of whiskers. After they had been in the church life for a period of time, they cut their hair short and shaved off their beards. I was very happy to see their new look. At first, I thought that this was the transformation of the life within them. I had also boasted to others, saying, “You see, the local church is very powerful; it can cause a long-haired man to cut his hair short and a bearded man to shave his face clean. This is the transformation of life.” However, after a while, I realized that this was not the transformation of life but a conformity to what they saw in the local church. Why do I say this? Because even though a person’s hair has been shortened and his beard has been shaved away, his nature remains untouched. Do you believe that this one has truly been transformed? No, he has not been transformed but has merely changed his attire. If he were truly transformed, not only would his hair be shortened and his beard shaved off, but his nature would also be dealt with. Hence, the length of the hair and having a beard or no beard are of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are not of life. Life is Christ Himself.
Dear brothers and sisters, God wants neither our long hair nor our short hair, neither our pride nor our humility, and neither our love nor our hatred. What God wants is Christ. God’s intention is to work Christ Himself into us. Your living out Christ is the greatest pleasure to God. Sadly, today there are too many substitutes for Christ. The tree of life involves only one item, that is, life, whereas the tree of the knowledge of good and evil involves hundreds of items, such as religion, ethics, doctrines, knowledge, good and evil, honesty and hypocrisy, and pride and humility. Anything that is not of God is of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is where the distinction lies. For example, you may be an evil man who is prone to lie and steal. From the human standpoint, you should not behave like this; rather, you should be humble, ethical, and honest. However, from the point of view of the spiritual life, merely being humble, ethical, and honest are not necessarily a spiritual living. What God wants is not that we live a moral life, but that we live Christ. You should not live in your mind but in your spirit, nor live in your knowledge but in fellowship with the Lord. Neither should you live according to outward regulations but according to Christ. Furthermore, you should not live according to doctrines but according to the Spirit. Always remain in your spirit to have fellowship with Christ and thus live out Christ from within you. This is what God desires. This is what we lack today.
The way of the church is right, and the ground of the church is proper. There is not the slightest problem along these lines. However, on this right way and on this proper ground, we need the Spirit as the content. We need the tree of life to be our content. We have to be full of God and full of Christ. This is not only a matter of the way and of the ground of oneness but also of a practical testimony. We have to live out the Spirit and live out Christ. When we live in constant fellowship with Him by praying unceasingly, we will ultimately have the boldness to say, “To me, to live is Christ.” I hope that the brothers and sisters will not feel it is enough to love the Lord. You must see that it is one thing to love the Lord and another thing to live the Lord. There are many who love the Lord, and I believe that most of you love the Lord. If you did not love the Lord, you would not be here. I am afraid, though, that very few brothers and sisters live Christ. Loving the Lord is one thing; living Christ is another thing.
PRAYING UNCEASINGLY, BREATHING CHRIST, AND LIVING CHRIST
God desires not only that we love Him, but much more that we live Him and live Him out. If we love Him, we will live by Him instead of living by ourselves. To live Christ requires that we pray unceasingly. This kind of prayer is not for our daily affairs but for our contact and fellowship with Christ. If we pray only for our daily affairs, we will not be able to pray unceasingly. It is not possible to pray continuously twenty-four hours a day for our daily affairs. Besides, we do not have that many daily affairs to pray about. Praying unceasingly is a spiritual breathing. This is not a matter of praying for daily needs but of breathing in Christ. If you pray to the Lord, “Lord, You are my life; I am one spirit with you; Lord, You are in my spirit,” you will live in your spirit and will be in constant fellowship and contact with the Lord. At all times and in all places, the Lord is in you to be your life and to be one with you. In this way you will be delivered from religion, ethics, and logic, and you will truly live out Christ in your spirit. This is what God desires.
(Living Christ, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)