Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the foregoing message we considered from God’s side how to take possession of the land. In this message we shall consider the matter from our side.
In order to take possession of the promised land, God’s people must cooperate with Him in destroying the pagan tribes (23:31-33). Exodus 23:33 says, “They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me.” It is a fact of history that the pagan tribes were the source of Israel’s sin in the good land. When Israel lived in the promised land, their sins came from the source of the pagan tribes that were still in the land. This indicates that the natural life is the source of sin. Our sins come from our natural life. Whether our sins are gross or somewhat refined and cultured, they have their source in the natural life. Some people are refined and polite even in the way they lose their temper. Sometimes a husband may be very cultured and refined in the way he offends his wife. Such culture and refinement are actually a mask. Wearing this kind of mask, people often lie by speaking the truth. Even sins that appear to be rather refined come from the natural life. In the sight of God, all those who live according to the natural life are sinning continually, even when they give alms or donate to charity.
As the source of sin among God’s people, the natural life frustrates them from possessing Christ as the good land. Because the natural life keeps us from possessing Christ and enjoying Him, we must hate it and, as we grow, be willing to drive it out. As we have pointed out, without growth in Christ it is not possible for us to drive out the natural life.
The children of Israel were forbidden to make any covenant with the pagan tribes (v. 32). Today we should not make any covenants with the natural life. To make a covenant with the natural life is to compromise with it. Because it is not easy to eliminate the natural life, we may be tempted to compromise with it. To compromise in this way is to tolerate some aspect of the natural life. But we should not tolerate the natural life in any way. Whether or not we are able to drive out the natural life, we still must hate it. Instead of agreeing with any aspect of your natural life, hate it and do what you can to drive it out. Of course, without growth, your attempts to drive out the natural life will be in vain. The more you grow, the more you will be able to drive it out. If we take the initiative to drive out the natural life, God will come in to honor us and strengthen us in this matter.
This principle is found in Romans 8. Yes, Romans 8:11 indicates that God will give life to our mortal bodies. But this depends on whether or not we take the initiative to put to death the practices of our body (Rom. 8:13). If we take the initiative to do this, God will honor this by giving life to our mortal bodies. God is ready to give us life, but we must be willing to kill the practices of the body. If we are not willing to do this, not willing to cooperate with God, God has no way to impart life to our mortal bodies.
According to Romans 8, we should also take the initiative to walk according to spirit (v. 4), to mind the things of the spirit (vv. 5-6), and to be led by the Spirit. Verse 14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” This verse does not speak of the leading of the Spirit, but of our being led by the Spirit. The Spirit is willing to lead us, but we must be willing to be led by Him. If we are not willing to be led, there is no way for the Spirit to lead us. Therefore, it is first our responsibility to be led; then it is the responsibility of the Spirit to lead us. Even in this matter, we must take the initiative.
According to Romans 8:15, we should also take the initiative in crying “Abba, Father.” This verse says that we have received “a spirit of sonship in which we cry, Abba, Father.” A verse parallel to this, Galatians 4:6, says that it is the Spirit who cries “Abba, Father.” Who is it, then, who cries out, we or the Spirit? The answer is that both we and the Spirit cry together. Although the Spirit is ready to cry, we must take the initiative. He cries when we cry. But if we do not cry, He will not cry either.
Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God.” This verse indicates that we must be the first to witness, then the Spirit will witness. We are not told that our spirit witnesses with the Spirit, but that the Spirit witnesses with our spirit. When our spirit testifies, the Spirit honors our testifying and testifies with our spirit.
Romans 8:23 speaks of our groaning, and verse 26, of the Spirit interceding for us “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When we groan, the Spirit intercedes. Actually, He intercedes in our groaning. If we do not groan, the interceding Spirit has no way to work. Therefore, we need to groan, the more the better. By taking the initiative to groan, we give the Spirit an opportunity to intercede on our behalf.
According to Romans 8, God gives life and the Spirit leads, witnesses, and intercedes. However, these four activities depend on our taking the initiative. When we put to death the practices of the body, God gives life. When we are willing to be led, the Spirit leads. When we cry Abba, Father, the Spirit cries. When we witness, the Spirit witnesses. Furthermore, when we groan, the Spirit intercedes. In the same principle, when we drive out the pagan tribes, the natural life, God also drives out these tribes. Hence, we and God together drive out the natural life. Nevertheless, we must again emphasize the fact that we must take the initiative. It is easy for God to drive out the tribes. He is always ready to do this, but we usually are not ready. Instead, we may make a covenant with them. In such a situation, God has no way to drive them out. Therefore, it is crucial for us to take the initiative to drive out the natural life.
Catholicism teaches that we must work for salvation. At the time of the Reformation, Luther fought against this teaching and declared that salvation is by grace, not by works. We are justified through faith, not through works. After the Reformation two schools of theology came into being: the Calvinist school, which emphasizes God’s sovereign mercy and grace, and the Arminian school, which claims that a person can lose his salvation and that good works are necessary to keep one from losing his salvation. Although the Calvinist teaching is far more accurate than the Arminian, it is not complete. According to the Bible, everything is by God’s grace. Nevertheless, man must cooperate with God.
This cooperation can be illustrated by a mother feeding her child. No matter how much the mother loves the child and how carefully she prepares nourishing food for him, she cannot eat for him. The child must take the initiative to eat the food prepared by his mother. In the same principle, we must take the initiative to cooperate with God’s working.
This was the reason on the day of Pentecost Peter commanded the people to repent and be saved (Acts 2:37-40). God cannot repent for us or believe for us. We ourselves must repent and believe. To be sure, we cannot save ourselves. God has done everything necessary to save us, but we must still repent and believe. We cannot save ourselves, but we can, in Peter’s words, “be saved.” The Savior is at hand, ready to save us. But we must be willing to be saved. In this matter we take the initiative. This is a basic principle in the Bible.
This principle is also illustrated in Philippians 2:12 and 13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure.” Our working out of our own salvation is related to God’s operating in us. We take the initiative to receive God’s operation. When we receive it, we work out our salvation. Then the more we work out our salvation, the more God operates in us. In this way we have a practical salvation for our enjoyment.
Taking the initiative to drive out the pagan tribes, the natural life, depends on our growth in Christ. God promised the children of Israel that He would drive out the pagan tribes from before them. But the children of Israel had to take the initiative to drive them out. However, this was dependent on their growth, their increase. The more they grew, the more they could take the initiative to drive out the tribes. Likewise, the more we grow in life, the more we shall take the initiative to drive out the natural life.
We need to grow and be replaced by Christ. As we are growing, we shall take the initiative to deal with our natural life. God will honor this by coming in also to deal with the natural life. This is the proper way to drive out the frustraters that we may take possession of Christ, enjoy Him, and gain Him in an experiential way.
Do not think that driving out the natural life and possessing Christ depend on a sudden inspiration. In this matter, we should not wait for the Lord, because the Lord is actually waiting for us. In particular, He is waiting for our cooperation. Are you ready to cooperate with Him to drive out the natural life? If so, take the initiative and God will honor you.
Our Christ is with us not as a doctrine, but as a living Person. Furthermore, God has promised to work on our behalf. However, we must grow and be replaced by Christ. We must have the increase of Christ within us so that we can be replaced by Him. For this, we need to cooperate with God. We have already pointed out how Philippians 2:12 and 13 illustrate this cooperation. On the one hand, God is operating in us; on the other hand, we must work out our own salvation. In this matter we and God are partners. Prayer and mere waiting on the Lord are not the way for this to be accomplished. That is the religious way, not the biblical way. According to the biblical way, Christ is with us and God has promised to work for us. But we must grow to have the increase of Christ and be replaced by Him so that we may take the initiative to drive out the natural life. We know from our experience that when we take the initiative in this way, God comes in to honor us and to join us in driving out the natural life. Thus, the teaching of the New Testament and our spiritual experience agree with the type portrayed in Exodus 23.
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