We are saved by grace and grace alone.
3 Christ Is the Bread of Life and the Light of Life.
Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6.35)
Again therefore Jesus spake unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8.12)
We have briefly mentioned how all spiritual things are in Christ. God has given Him to us to be all these things. This is a most essential point of understanding in spiritual life. Is our experience mere experience or is it Christ? Is our righteousness simply righteousness or is it Christ? Is our sanctification only sanctification or is it Christ? Is our redemption merely redemption or is it Christ?
Frequently we talk about the way, but that way may not be Christ himself. In like manner, we can speak of truth and of life without necessarily speaking of Christ. In brief, we have many things outside of Christ. This constitutes a formidable spiritual problem to God's children. We may confess with our mouth that Christ is the centre of all things, nevertheless in our lives we have many matters other than Christ, as if these can help us to be Christians. How we need to have our mind renewed so as to understand that aside from Christ God has no intention for us to have many so-called spiritual things. According to God's arrangement, there are things; only, these things are Christ. For Christ is the sum of all spiritual things. Christ is our righteousness-He has not given us a righteousness. Christ is our sanctification-He has not granted us a thing called power to make us holy. Christ is our redemption-He has not offered us a redemption. Christ is the way-He has not opened to us another way in which to walk. Christ is the truth-He has not presented some truth before us for us to understand. Christ is the life-He has not conferred on us a thing called life.
Brothers and sisters, as we travel along God's course, we will discover more and more that of all God's grace there is only one grace, of all God's gifts there is only one gift. That grace is Christ, that gift is also Christ. Thank God, day after day He is showing us how Christ is all-inclusive. Formerly we thought of the Lord as our Savior; now we can say He is not only our Savior but also our salvation. Is this strange? No, this is tact. For we increasingly find out about Christ being the thing of God.
If we erroneously differentiate between what the Lord Jesus gives and what He is, between the gift and the giver, we shall suffer greatly in spiritual life. For such error will keep us from touching the source of life. In view of this, we wish to see more of Christ as our things. In John 6.35 and 8.12, the Lord tells us that He is the bread of life and also the light of life. Let us consider each of these in turn.
Christ Is the Bread of Life
"I am the bread of life," the Lord declares. He spoke this word to the people who sought Him in Capernaum. These expected Him to feed them with bread, so the Lord told them: "I am the bread of life." He it is who gives the bread of life, and He himself is that bread. The gift and the giver are one, not separate. Thank God, Christ is God's gift as well as He is the Lord who gives the gift.
What is the meaning of bread in the Bible? It means satisfaction, since the Scripture uses hunger to represent the dissatisfaction of man. For human dissatisfaction to be solved there needs to be bread. Whether God's children are able to finish the course before them or whether they have the strength to go on depends largely on their inward satisfaction. If we feel satisfied today, we will have the strength for the day. But if we sense emptiness within, as though like a tire that has blown out, we will not be able to drag ourselves on through the day. We cannot conclude that there is no life, though we certainly do not have strength. It is satisfaction-that inexplicable feeling of satisfaction-which enables us to proceed and finish our course.
Let us now see what bread is for the children of God. "I am the bread of life." The Lord Jesus maintains life as well as gives life. Many Christians think of food only in terms of an hour of prayer or an hour of Bible reading; they do not know that their food is the Lord Jesus himself. We are not saying that prayer or Bible reading is useless. But let us remember that the Lord Jesus says here that He is "the bread of life"-which means that the bread of life is none other than the Lord himself.
Often God's children are not satisfied because they do not know Christ as the bread of life. We al-ways meet hungry people who are discontented in spiritual matters. They are unhappy with everything, and from dawn till dark they are obsessed with dissatisfaction. We have no desire to persuade people to be arrogant or self-content. Yet we would maintain that pride with self-contentment is one thing while being fed and feeling satisfied is quite another thing. Some people, having been dealt with by God, live before Him in weakness and in trembling. They have not the slightest tinge of pride, yet they have touched the Lord, and thus they are fully fed. They are in possession of a satisfaction in the presence of God, and this satisfaction is their strength.
How, then, can we be fully fed and satisfied? We ought to know that all satisfactions are related to Christ. All satisfactions are to be found in life. Christ is the bread of life. Whenever we really touch life, we immediately obtain satisfaction. On the other hand, when we sin against life we instantly sense a blow-out. Let us illustrate this matter of obtaining satisfaction with some concrete instances.
Someone may say, "I have worked for over a year now. During this period I have kept myself most busy. I have run here and there. I have been so busy that I now feel quite empty within. I am very hungry and do long to find a place for spiritual revival." In reading John Chapter 4, though, we find a discrepancy with what this person has said. The Lord Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sit-ting by Jacob's well. His disciples had gone to the city to buy food, indicating that the Lord must indeed be hungry. There He meets a Samaritan woman. It was the will of God that He should speak to her and save her. He does what God has willed Him to do. His disciples subsequently return with the food and request Him to eat. But He says to them, "I have food to eat which you do not know about." They then think that someone else must have brought Him food. Consequently, He plainly tells them, "The food which I have is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work."
From this incident in the life of our Lord we may conclude that work should make us full instead of empty and hungry. In spiritual work, each time we labour we feel full. If hunger follows each work, something must be wrong. Each time after labouring, if we sense weakness similar to a flat tire, we know some-thing is wrong with that labour. For if we walk according to God's will and not by ourselves, we should not feel flattened out but should feel strengthened instead. How frequently we undertake a work not because we are ready before the Lord but because the external need is very great and out-side persuasion is so strong. In so working, we experience an inward shattering which will leave us strengthless after work. This is because something is wrong between us and the Lord. All labours outside God's will cause us to become more hungry. We must therefore do God's will in order to be satisfied.
We ought to realise that neither a spiritual retreat nor a Biblical teaching is our food; Christ alone is. Since Christ is our food, how can work to the point of emptiness followed by rest at some re-treat to receive nourishment be the answer? How can we speak until exhausted, then try to obtain some new teaching to replenish the supply? Whether we are busy or not, it should be that each time we stand up to speak for Christ we are so full of words and strength within that not only those who hear are fed but we who speak are sustained too. For it is the Lord who works in us. Having touched the Lord, we will not feel empty but instead feel full upon finishing our work. How mistaken we are if we regard rest or the hearing of a sermon or participation in a spiritual retreat as the means of being filled. To obtain food and spiritual nourishment is to allow the Lord to work out in us whatever He wishes to do. The Lord who dwells in us allows us to touch His life, and this alone causes us to feel full within.
In spiritual experience, it is not the leisurely who can eat; on the contrary, we eat more when we are busily occupied. We eat as we are busily engaged. If we are walking in the will of God, the more we are busy the more we eat. And hence, we will not be exhausted or feel empty through much toil.
We believe many brothers and sisters can bear witness to this truth. Suppose, for example, that you go out today to talk to another person. You may speak with great passion but the Lord makes no move in you. After you have spoken for five or ten minutes, to your great surprise you begin to sense that something is wrong. You soon wish to change the direction of your conversation for you realise you are not able to go on as before. With the result that you feel empty when you eventually must walk away. Nothing was wrong with your word or your attitude. You tried your best to help that person. Yet strangely you became emptier as you rambled on. When you finally had to walk away, you felt as though you had committed an enormous sin. At times you may perhaps have seen a little outward success, you may even have had the feeling that you had done all right; nevertheless, when these external feelings pass away, you sense great emptiness and hunger inside. How true, that whenever you move on your own, and in spite of some degree of outward success, you eventually feel like a punctured balloon.
Brothers and sisters, have you ever felt as though you had run out of air? If you walk according to your own thought instead of following the Lord with fear and trembling, however good your intention may be you will always end up as one out of air- having no spiritual punch. The more you work the less meaningful it is to you. The more you continue the emptier you feel. In such a situation you will feel the worse if you are at all praised. You just hate yourself. This demonstrates that such work is not food, since it does not satisfy you.
Those who know food find satisfaction in the Lord. For Christ is the bread of life; He alone can satisfy. If your work cannot touch Christ, you will feel hungry. But if you touch Him, you touch life and spiritual reality. Busy or not, you are able to say, "Thank and praise God, I have food to eat, for the Lord is my bread!" Beloved, do you see that the answer to the whole problem lies not in outward things such as where you go or what you do or which message you deliver or even how much time you spend in spiritual retreats; but that the solution lies in your touching the Lord inwardly. Whoever touches Him obtains satisfaction.
Some believers may say, "Since the Lord has not called me to preach or to work somewhere, how can I be satisfied? The preachers and the workers have the opportunities of being fed, but most people like me go hungry." Praise God, such as these will not go hungry either. For should such believers perform even a little labour such as talk with others for ten or twenty minutes or converse with them in ten or twenty sentences, they will have unloaded a burden and have felt satisfied within if what they undertake is of the Lord and by His power within them. It is the Lord who gives burden, and now the burden is discharged. So believers will sense satisfaction and fullness afterwards. Whenever we touch God we get satisfaction, and thus we obtain food. For this reason, not only the workers have special opportunity to eat but everyone else as well has a chance to eat. Daily do we have occasion to eat, and so daily do we have opportunity to be filled full. Christ is our food. If we touch Him, we have food.
Let us mention another, though deeper, in-stance. Oftentimes we do what we think is good and spiritual without knowing the Lord's mind, consequently we feel empty afterwards. It is only when we follow the Lord that we achieve satisfaction. Once a brother noticed another brother going astray. Time and again he felt he should point out to him in all plainness that this was not a way of edification but one of corruption. However, wishing to be a gentle Christian, he decided merely to exhort the wayward brother with smiling face and a few nice words. Surprisingly, when he discharged his burden in this manner he felt as if the bottom had dropped out of a barrel. From the human standpoint he seemed to have done well and quite successfully. His attitude had been gentle and harmless. But instead of being fed, he felt hungry.
Such a condition continued for two or three months. He knew something was wrong, therefore he asked the Lord to enlighten him and show him the cause. One day he prayed, "Lord, whatever You want me to do, I will do it accordingly." The Lord heard his prayer and showed him what he should do. For shortly thereafter that wayward brother came to see him, and this time he strongly reprimanded him. So far as his natural temperament was concerned, he always suffered for days whenever he uttered any strong words. On this occasion, however, the stronger he spoke the more he touched the Lord. So that after he had uttered this strong re-proof, he had no need, as was the case before, to confess his sin; instead he could praise the Lord. He feit as though he had had a full meal. Now we do not mean to imply here that we may reprove people casually or carelessly; such would undoubtedly be wrong to do. The instance at hand only goes to show that if we do a thing according to the mind of the Lord, we will inwardly be fed and thus be strengthened.
From the above incident, we discover an important fact: that the good which one can do is not food. You may think it will be well if you are more gentle, yet experience tells us that even if you act gently, it is but the action of your outward man- and this cannot be your food. Only when the Lord moves within you, and you move in accordance with His will, will you have food. As you touch life, you get food; as you touch the Lord, you are satisfied.
Christ Is the Light of Life
The Lord not only says that He is "the bread of life"; He also declares: "I am the light of life." Bread is for satisfaction, light is for seeing. Satisfaction gives strength while seeing affects walking. We have already seen how Christ is the bread of life. We shall now see how He is also the light of life.
First of all, let us point out that the light of life is not a knowledge of the Bible. Everybody knows Christians should read their Bible diligently. But if we read it as a book of knowledge or as a textbook of theology, we will get nothing but knowledge. We may be able to acquaint ourselves with some Bible doctrines which are accurate, yet these are only letters. At the time that our Lord was born in Bethlehem, many priests and scribes were extremely familiar with the books of the prophets; nonetheless, they did not recognise the Christ. Today the New Testament is added to the Old Testament. It is still possible for people to remember the letters of the Bible and yet not know Christ. Not for a moment do we suggest that we need not read the Scriptures; we simply stress that in reading the Word we may obtain knowledge without ever knowing Christ.
Many priests and scribes in the day of Christ had only a kind of dead knowledge; they did not know the living Lord. Many people mistake knowledge, doctrine, theology and teaching as the light of life. Some will even say they get light, though theirs is not necessarily the light of life. What they consider light is only some interpretation regarding a certain passage of Scripture or a kind of teaching about the Bible. The real light is not mere knowledge. It is none other than the Lord himself. The Lord emphatically declares that He is the light of life.
Brothers and sisters, the experience of many confirms that what we see in the light of life is often something we are unable to utter. It sounds strange that we are able to see and yet are not able to explain. Once a person questioned a sister to ascertain whether or not she was saved. She replied: "Yes I am newly saved, yet I do not know how to explain it. But I do know I am saved. If you believe I am saved, I am saved; even if you do not believe I am saved, still I am saved." Her words rang true. She was saved, yet she could not explain. She knew but she could not tell how. Hence, when one first sees the light he may not have many doctrines to tell; he may perhaps have to wait two or three years before he has some doctrines and teachings. This light is the Lord himself. Whoever sees Him sees light.
What, then, is the difference between seeing the light and not seeing the light? What kind of transformation will come over us if we see? The difference here is tremendous. If we have really seen light, we will fall to the ground. For light not only enlightens but also slays. Before Paul was enlightened, it would have been fairly difficult to cause him to fall down; as soon as he was stricken by the light, though, he was immediately flung to the ground. Some people force themselves to be humble: their words are humble, their manners are humble. Except that their kind of humility is very exhausting- both to themselves and to the onlookers. It is like a small child holding a big dictionary: though the book is not very heavy, it nonetheless drains the child's strength. How hard it is for the proud to be humble! How difficult for us to fall down from the throne of pride! But when the light of the Lord shines, we instantly fall flat. We do not understand how; we only know light levels us.
Doctrine does not cause any to fall. One may listen to eight or ten messages and even memorise them; still, he remains the same. He can treat a message which ought to induce weeping or treat a word which ought to shatter man's natural life as a subject for painstaking research. Alas, in this case doctrine has become a thing, teaching has become a thing, word also has become a thing. These are all dead; there is no light.
Once a brother exulted over a message on Romans 6. He thinks he has now seen Romans 6. A few days later, though, he has a big quarrel with his wife. Such is the sorry story of man. His Romans 6 was only a thing-letters in a book. Therefore it was not light. Had he seen light, he would not have been able to act like his old self, for he would have been prostrated by that light.
Light is rigorous. It can do what man cannot himself do. What doctrine cannot do, what the help of brothers and sisters cannot do, and what our own effort cannot do, light can immediately accomplish. We may consider ourselves rather hard-but when light shines, we are softened. When John saw the light he became as one dead; so too with Daniel. No one is able to see the face of the Lord and not fall down. None can behold the Lord without becoming as one dead. It is difficult for us to die, it is hard for us to be humble, but as soon as light shines, these are done. The light which comes from the Lord has slaying power. It fells people as it shines.
The Lord Jesus himself is light. Consequently, whoever encounters Him sees and is fallen and weakened as though dead. Many possess a rough and tough character. They have never been broken by the Lord; neither themselves nor anybody else can deal with them. Then the light of the Lord shines on them. As soon as they see the light, they become broken vessels. A person who sees the Lord is definitely weakened and broken. No one is able to live after beholding the Lord. This is light.
Dear friends, never confuse light with many other things. What we usually call light is not necessarily light. Many are but doctrines or so-called "truths". These have no spiritual effectiveness in us. There once was a brother who loved the Lord very much. One day a certain person met him and said to him: "I am so glad I have found the doctrine of sin in the book of Romans." In reply he said, "My friend, how is it that only today have you discovered the doctrine of sin in Romans? I would think you should have found the fact of sin long ago in your own self." Many are attempting to discover doctrine, but they have not found fact. It therefore remains as words and a dead matter. It is neither light nor life nor Christ.
The first effect of light is to slay. Do not think light comes only to cause us to see. Not so. When light dawns, it blinds our eyes. It does indeed cause us to see, but this is the latter effect. Light first blinds us and prostrates us before it ever enables us to perceive. That which cannot flatten us is not light; neither is that light which does not humble us. When Paul saw the light, he was smitten to the ground and for three days could see nothing with his eyes. Hence during the initial encounter with light, we shall instead be dazed. The moment one who dwells in darkness beholds the light, he will not be able to see at all.
May God have mercy upon those who are so self-righteous and self-conceited. For such people have never known light; all they possess are but doctrines and knowledge. Had they seen the true light, they would have confessed, "Oh Lord, what do I know! I know absolutely nothing!" The greater the revelation, the deeper the blindness; the stronger the light, the severer the stroke. Light will humble and fell us before it ever enables us to see. If we have not been smitten, humbled, dazed and reduced to nothing, we are by this fact proven to still be in darkness, possessing no light. May the Lord be merciful to us that by His light He may take away our self-reliance, so that we no longer dare to trust in our own knowledge and judgement. Oh that we may come to Him saying, "Lord, You are the light. In seeing You, I now realise that what I have seen in the past have been but things."
Light is not something abstract, it is something very substantial. The Lord Jesus is that light. With Him in our midst, we have light among us. How pitiful that many matters in the life of believers are too theoretical. They have heard countless abstractions which offer little practical help.
Once there was a brother who studied in a mission school while he was young. He often attended Christian services and heard about the doctrine of salvation, but he never met any saved person, nor was he saved. One day he met someone preaching the gospel. The preacher was a true Christian, and through his preaching that brother was saved. Formerly, all that he had heard had only been a few abstract teachings, and he therefore was not able to get saved. On this day, though, he met a truly born-again believer, and in that person he encountered something concrete. Hence he was saved.
One brother related the story of his studying the Bible. Said he: "After I had heard a good number of brothers and sisters talking about holiness, I decided to study the doctrine of holiness. I found in the New Testament over two hundred verses on the subject. I memorised them and arranged them in order. But I still did not know what holiness is; I felt so empty. This situation continued until one day I met an elderly sister who was truly a holy woman. That day my eyes were opened to see what holiness is: for I had met a person who was holy. How terrible was that light. It caused me much pain. It did not afford me any way of escape. It showed me what holiness is."
From these experiences we may come to understand that light is concrete, living, and effective. If doctrine is what we preach, doctrine will be received by people; but this is a dead object, not the light of life. If the light of life is what we dispense, it will not only enlighten people's life, it will also be shone through them. We must realise that since light was concrete and practical in the life of our Lord Jesus, it ought to be the same in our lives. Being a living Person the light of life quickens us when it is revealed.
Friends, why is it that after many days the truth of God seems to lose its power, becoming so weak that it cannot touch us? For no other reason than that it has become too much doctrine, too much theological knowledge! We need to recognise that only the living Lord can beget living people. We look to God to be truly merciful to us, enabling us more and more to see that things are all dead but that the Lord alone is living. The most attractive and spiritual things in Christianity-if they are outside of Christ- are but dead. We should let the Lord himself be this thing or that thing to us. Then it is living. It is living both in us and in those who receive from us. May the Lord be gracious to us that we may be cast to the ground before the Lord and know Him far differently.