The Experience and Growth in Lifeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the spring of 1934 Brother Nee gave a series of messages concerning the centrality and universality of Christ. Within that same period of time he also spoke concerning the overcomers, using Abraham as an illustration. At that time, the words centrality and universality were very new to me, and I was very impressed as Brother Nee shared concerning this matter. In those messages, which were printed in his magazine The Present Testimony, Brother Nee spoke concerning Christ being the Firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15). He shared that Christ is not only the Creator, but as the Firstborn of all creation, He is also a creature. As the Creator, He is God, and as our Savior, in His humanity with the human nature, He is a creature. He left the position of God to come to take the position of a man.
Brother Nee spoke this message in 1934, and it was recently translated into English. In the English translation, however, the word position was changed to place. It says that Christ as God left the place of God and came to the place of man. While the words position and place are close in meaning, there is an important difference. Let me illustrate. To say that the Queen of England left her position in England to take the position of a civilian in Hong Kong means that the Queen of England became a civilian. But to say that the Queen of England left the place of the queen to come to the place of a civilian in Hong Kong only means that her place, her location, not her position of being a queen, has changed. In other words, the Queen of England left her place in England to visit the civilian place of Hong Kong, but she did not become a civilian. But in incarnation Christ not only came to the place of man but also came to the position of man (Phil. 2:5-7). This indicates that a big change occurred. In other words, Christ, who is God the Creator, became a creature.
Those messages given by Brother Nee impressed me so much that my mind was occupied with them day and night for a long time. After that conference I remained in Shanghai for several months, and then I returned to Chefoo. In Chefoo I immediately called a conference and shared what Brother Nee had spoken in the conference in Shanghai nearly word for word. Since you are trainees in this training, I hope and expect that you also will eventually be able to do the same, especially with the recent messages of the Thanksgiving conference given in Anaheim. These messages tell us what the church is intrinsically (see The Organic Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ to Be the Organism of the Processed and Dispensing Triune God).
The church has four intrinsic matters on the positive side: its intrinsic essence, its intrinsic growth, its intrinsic building up, and its intrinsic fellowship. The one intrinsic matter on the negative side related to the church is the intrinsic factor of the winds of teaching.
The church’s intrinsic essence, intrinsic growth, intrinsic building up, and intrinsic fellowship are organic. The church is built up intrinsically, organically. To be built up organically is to grow in life intrinsically, that is, to grow in the Triune God who has been processed and who is now dispensing Himself into us as our life and life supply. As we are growing, we are built up. The church, which is the Body of Christ and the house of God, is the organism of the processed and dispensing Triune God, seen as the universal vine tree in John 15.
Many Christians do not understand or consider the church as something intrinsic. Rather, they consider the church in terms of outward and even physical things. This outward understanding regarding the church is the factor of the turmoil among the churches. If we do not know the intrinsic essence, intrinsic growth, intrinsic building up, and intrinsic fellowship of the church, we can be sifted. Without the proper view of the church according to these four intrinsic matters, we all can be tossed and carried about by the winds of teaching. But if we know these four intrinsic matters, we will never be carried away or shaken. This is the reason that I felt compelled to give the messages in the recent Thanksgiving conference in Anaheim.
Positively, the essence, growth, building up, and fellowship of the church are all intrinsic. Negatively, the winds of teaching also have an intrinsic factor—the sleight of men (Eph. 4:14). By looking at the church outwardly, you cannot know what the church is. In order to know what the church is, you must get into the intrinsic element of the church. It is the same regarding the turmoil and opposition. On the surface it is not so easy to discern the winds of teaching, but underneath the surface the intrinsic factor of the winds of teaching is the sleight of men in craftiness with a view to a system of error. The sleight, the craftiness, is of men, but the system is of Satan. Satan has systematized some of the teachings, which seem to be good and scriptural, but these teachings have a view to spoil and destroy the faith of the saints, to devastate and pull down the building of the church, and to scatter the saints. In the present turmoil, to ask who is right or wrong is not the real issue. You must ask whether or not the messages given by certain opposing ones have strengthened the saints’ faith and their growth in life. Have these messages really built up the Body of Christ?
The winds of teaching cause your faith to be weakened and raise doubts about the church life and the Lord’s recovery. Although many saints remain positive, these doubts and suspicions within them have become a factor that weakens and even shakes their faith. Some have been so influenced by the winds of teaching that they have withdrawn from the meeting life and have fallen into worldly, sinful activities. The winds of teaching in the sleight of men are very subtle and issue in devastation and damage to the church.
The problems in the church life and among the churches come from something which is not intrinsic or organic, that is, from something that is not the processed and dispensing Triune God. When I trace our history in mainland China from 1922 to 1949, I have a very deep impression concerning the church in Shanghai. Among a group of five saints (three brothers and two sisters) who formed the crucial center of the church, there was never any kind of dissension, opinion, or ambition. Of course, in those years turmoil came in on some occasions, but it was always outside of these five. The principle we kept was to have nothing for ourselves. We did not labor for anything for ourselves; we just labored for the Lord’s recovery. At the same time we lived in the way of the intrinsic essence of the church. There was a strong coordination among us five brothers and sisters, and each of the brothers and sisters knew and remained within his or her limit or sphere. We also had full and complete trust in one another.
Brother Nee went to Hong Kong in 1950 and brought in a great revival to the church there. He then asked me to go there to arrange all the services of the co-workers, the elders, and the deacons. He also asked a small group of saints who were responsible for purchasing the land for the church meeting hall to do whatever I said concerning the purchase of the land. Again, this is the way that we practiced the church life; everyone stayed within his own limit, and everyone knew where he was. I hope that we all would learn to serve the Lord in such an intrinsic way.
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