WORSHIPPING THE LORD FOR HIS MERCY
If we would serve the Lord, we must know the Spirit, the life in the Spirit, and the righteousness of God. Furthermore, we must know God’s mercy in the selection of grace. In the past I dreamed of a flourishing work in north China, even in inner Mongolia and Manchuria. But that dream was never fulfilled and instead by the Lord’s mercy I am in this country today. I look to the Lord that He will deeply impress us with the matter of His mercy in selecting us. Do not put your trust in what you are able to do or in what you plan to do. Rather, bow down before the Lord and worship Him for His mercy. The more you worship the Lord for His mercy, the more you will be uplifted. Instead of striving to bear responsibility, you will find that, in His mercy, the Lord is bearing you. We all need to know the Lord in this way. What a mercy that He has selected us, predestinated us, called us, and placed us in His recovery! For our future we trust not in ourselves, but in Him and in His marvelous mercy. Everything regarding us has been initiated by the Lord. All is of Him; nothing is of us. I can testify that the more we worship God for His mercy, the more we are deeply in His heart and the more we are one with Him.
TRUSTING IN THE LORD’S MERCY
Do not strive to bear responsibility. Instead, worship God for His selection. If you do this, He will bear you in the bearing of responsibility. The more we try in ourselves to be responsible, the more we shall suffer inwardly. Our inward taste will be that of bitterness. But if we worship the Lord for His mercy and experience Him bearing us in bearing the responsibility, our inward taste will be as sweet as honey. One reason I am happy day by day is that I have learned to trust in the Lord’s mercy and to worship Him for it. Years ago I used to ask the Lord to do so many things for me. But now I pray by thanking Him for His mercy. He said that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and compassion on whom He will have compassion. If we enjoy the Lord’s mercy and worship Him for His selection, we shall be in the heavenlies.
Our going on with the Lord is a matter not of our willing or running, but of God’s mercy. Our willing is of no avail, and our running is in vain. God’s mercy, however, works in a wonderful way. We are changeable, constantly fluctuating. It seems that, as far as we are concerned, our spiritual condition is like weather that is unstable. Hence, we need to see that the selection of grace does not depend on us, but depends on God’s selection of us before the world began. What we are experiencing today is related to God’s selection in eternity past. If we see this, we shall turn our eyes away from ourselves and from our circumstances and gaze steadfastly upon Him.
THE GOSPEL OF GRACE
The gospel in which we serve God is a gospel of grace, not a gospel of works. As 11:6 says, “But if by grace, it is no longer out of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” However, the fact that God’s selection is wholly a matter of His grace does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want. If this is our attitude, then we either have not been selected by God or we are backsliders from God’s selection. Oh, let us forget ourselves and our situation and keep our eyes upon the Lord. Again and again, let us say, “Lord, we praise You for Your selection of grace. O Lord, we worship You for Your mercy.” This is the gospel revealed in the book of Romans.
LIFE-STUDY OF ROMANS
THE PRACTICE OF THE BODY LIFE
In this message we shall consider the practice of the Body life as it is presented in the closing chapters of Romans.
SONSHIP FOR THE BODY
We have seen that we are to serve God in the gospel of His Son (1:9). This gospel is a gospel of sonship. Sonship includes designation, resurrection, justification, sanctification, transformation, conformation, glorification, and manifestation. We are presently undergoing the process of designation; that is, we are being designated sons of God by the power of resurrection. Sonship is for the Body. In order to be members of the Body of Christ, we must be sons of God.
We have pointed out that, in a very real sense, chapter twelve is the direct continuation of chapter eight, with chapters nine through eleven as a parenthetical insertion regarding the selection of grace. Chapter eight reveals that we are being conformed to the image of the Son of God (v. 29). This conformation qualifies us for the practice of the Body life.
The Body life is not simply a matter of believers coming together. Many groups have been formed for the purpose of having the Body life. The result, however, has been failure. These groups of believers did not realize that the Body life depends on sonship, which comes out of designation. If we are to have the proper practice of the Body life, we must be transformed according to the power of resurrection.
THE BODY PRESENTED, THE SOUL TRANSFORMED,
AND THE SPIRIT BURNING
In chapter twelve Paul mentions the body, the soul, and the spirit. In verse 1 he says, “I beg you therefore, brothers, through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing to God, which is your most reasonable service.” Our physical bodies must be presented to the Lord for His purpose of having the Body. Someone may have a heart for the Body life, but if he does not present his body, he is not for the Body life in a practical way. You may care for the meetings, but what does this accomplish if your body remains at home? If we fail to present our bodies to the Lord for the church life, we cannot have a practical meeting life. If you say that you have a heart for the church meetings, you need to ask yourself if you have presented your body to the Lord for the meetings. Where is your body at meeting time? The body is the container of our being, for the spirit is within the soul and the soul is within the body. We must present this container to the Lord for the sake of His Body.
Verse 2 speaks of the mind, which is the main part of the soul: “And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” When our mind is renewed, our soul will be transformed. Hence, our body needs to be presented, and our soul needs to be transformed.
In this verse Paul beseeches us not to be conformed to this age. The world, Satan’s system, is a cosmos composed of many ages. The nineteenth century was one age, and the twentieth century is another age. Actually, there have been several distinct ages within the twentieth century itself. The present age is a section of Satan’s world system. This age includes not only the secular world, but also the religious world. If we are conformed to today’s religion, we shall be useless as far as the practice of the Body life is concerned.
For Paul in his day to be conformed to the present age was primarily a matter of being conformed to Judaism. Judaism was a serious hindrance to the practice of the Body life in the first century. Just as Judaism was part of the age in Paul’s time, so Christianity as an organized religion is part of today’s age. If you are conformed to organized Christianity, you will be conformed to this age. Instead of being conformed to this age, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
In 12:11 Paul speaks of the spirit; he tells us to be “burning in spirit.” Our spirit must be fervent; that is, it must be burned and burning. If we have a body presented, a soul in the process of being transformed, and a spirit burning, we shall be able to practice the Body life in a proper way.
TALK AND PRACTICE
Many talk about the Body life in Romans 12 without the actual practice of the Body life. For example, some have seen that in the Body of Christ we are “members one of another” (12:5). However, they cannot name any members to whom they are specifically related. Thus, their word about being members one of another is mere talk. We are not here for talk about the Body life; we are for the practice of the Body life.
The teaching in Romans concerning the Body life is in chapter twelve, but the practice is in chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. These chapters deal with practical problems that occur in the church life. As we consider Paul’s approach to these problems, we can learn something related to the daily practice of the Body life.
RECEIVING THE BELIEVERS
Chapter twelve is important concerning the doctrine of the Body life, whereas chapter fourteen is important concerning the practice of the Body life. In chapter fourteen Paul addresses the problem of receiving believers whose opinions and practices differ from ours. In 14:1 Paul says, “Now him who is weak in faith receive, not with a view to passing judgment on reasonings.” Then Paul proceeds to give two examples of matters about which believers may have different views. The first example concerns eating: “One believes that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables” (v. 2). The second concerns observing days: “One judges one day above another, another judges every day alike” (v. 5). These two matters are illustrations of the many things which have divided Christians. Take the example of baptism. Some insist on immersion, whereas others insist on sprinkling. If we have the proper practice of the Body life, we shall receive all true believers in Christ, whether they practice immersion or sprinkling.
Some say that we in the Lord’s recovery are narrow. However, we are willing to receive all kinds of Christians. We receive those who practice immersion and those who practice sprinkling. Who then are the narrow ones—those in the Lord’s recovery or those who accept into their fellowship only those who meet special requirements related to doctrine or practice?
The divisions among Christians come from differences over doctrine or practice. For example, believers have been divided over such things as head covering, foot-washing, and the observance of the Lord’s day or the Sabbath day. This fact should turn us afresh to Romans 14, where Paul instructs us to receive those who have the faith in Christ and not to judge them concerning secondary matters. If someone comes to us with a different opinion regarding a particular matter, we must still receive him as a brother in the Lord. As Paul says in 15:7, “Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”
The importance of receiving the believers is illustrated by an experience we had during the early days of the church life in Los Angeles. Three other Christian groups desired to come together with us for the church life. One group had a background of Pentecostalism, and another group had a background of fundamental Bible teaching. When I learned of their desire and excitement over the prospect of meeting together, I reminded them that throughout the centuries Christians have been divided by their opinions about doctrines and practices. Furthermore, I told them that if they would come together for the church life according to Romans 14, they would have to drop their opinions and receive all genuine believers in Christ, no matter how different they were in either doctrine or practice. They agreed to set aside their differences and meet together in oneness for the church life. In the meeting place we hung some banners. One read, “Variety versus Uniformity”; another, “Unity in Variety”; and another, “All One in Christ.” After a very short period of time, however, those from a Pentecostal background began to insist on the practices of speaking in tongues and of playing tambourines in the meetings. Those from a Bible-teaching background could not tolerate this and refused to go along with it. I asked those who opposed speaking in tongues and playing tambourines to bear with those who favored these things. However, they declined to do so. Then I asked those who advocated these practices to care for the feeling of the others. They also refused, insisting that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Eventually, due to the inability on both sides to accept believers with different doctrines and practices, these groups were not able to meet together in oneness for the practice of the church life.
A GENERAL ATTITUDE
The Lord can testify on our behalf that in our practice of the church life we have been general, receiving all different kinds of believers. For instance, we do not stop the saints from speaking in tongues, but neither do we insist on tongues-speaking. Nevertheless, we have been accused of narrowness. Actually it is those in the denominations who are narrow, for they do not receive all different kinds of Christians. Throughout the years we have been in Los Angeles, we have never rejected any genuine believer in Christ. Furthermore, we have not adjusted others. On the contrary, we have been learning simply to minister life to all who come.
In Romans 14 Paul’s attitude was very general. Doctrinally speaking, Paul knew that the believers were free to eat meat as well as vegetables. But he did not approach the question of eating in a doctrinal way. Instead, he expressed a general attitude toward all believers; he despised neither those who ate only vegetables nor those who ate everything. His attitude was the same with respect to observing days.
In order to have the proper practice of the Body life, we must have such a general attitude. We should neither impose a particular practice on others nor should we oppose a certain practice. Take the example of praising the Lord by shouting. Some may oppose this and condemn it as being disorderly, whereas those who favor it may seek to impose it on others. Both attitudes are wrong. If we prefer silence in the meetings, we should not impose our view on others. Likewise, if we prefer shouting, we should not impose this on anyone. The same is true regarding pray-reading. If some want to practice pray-reading, they should be free to do so. But if others do not care for this practice, it should not be forced upon them.
In the church life we must be general, able to receive all genuine believers. However, it is not easy to learn this lesson, because we all want others to be the same as we are. Let us not make demands of others or require that they change their way for our sake. Rather, let us have unity in variety and variety without conformity. Even though there may be such variety, we still are one in Christ.
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