We are saved by grace and grace alone.
5 Nothing but Christ.
Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he. (John 8.28)
For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory. (Col. 3.3-4)
For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens. (Col. 1.16-20)
Man's Concept and Request
The gift which we receive from God's hand is His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet quite varied is the under-standing of many concerning the Lord Jesus. If you would allow me to say it, among God's children some consider the Lord Jesus as one of God's many gifts while others appreciate Him as God's only gift. Some receive the Lord Jesus as their first gift, for they believe there are many gifts besides Him-gifts which may run into the thousands or ten thousands in number; whereas others confess the Lord Jesus to be the gift of God, that is, He is God's sole gift.
Many are saved when they first receive the Lord Jesus. Later, they learn they still have many deficiencies and needs. Some may discover that their quick temper persists even after they are saved; others notice that their pride follows them; while still others may find that their cowardice remains with them.
In the experience of God's children it is often observed that after being saved many are asking, expecting, believing, and praying before God concerning many, many gifts which they duly receive. And they number Christ among the ranks of these many gifts, viewing Him as but one, though admittedly the first and foremost, of God's gifts.
It is quite surprising that we notice our needs when we commence to follow the Lord. Yet are we not already Christians? Why then should we be in need? Yet this is how we in fact feel. We are new Christians but with deficiencies. Whatever our deficiencies may really be, they are not proper; we therefore strive to deal with them.
We pray and hope, believe and desire, and furthermore, we get what we need. And it certainly feels good when we have overcome our special deficiency. Our heart rejoices over the fact that we have obtained a gift.
Now in this kind of situation many of God's children view God's gift and grace as that which replenishes our want. Indeed, a number of people will probably say, what else is God's grace for if it is not to fill up our lack? I have here a Bible with one thousand pages. I am missing the page which asks God to replenish me with His grace (if there in fact be such a page). In other words, what I lack is only bits and pieces, but I will be complete when that piece is filled in. Some people need five pieces for they lack five pieces; others need ten pieces because that is what they lack. My personal love is probably almost perfect, though it will be even better if a little humility and a little patience are added. I may still need these bits but I shall be perfected after these are supplemented. Man's concept is always a matter of lack or want; consequently, he usually asks God for that particular supply.
Hence the situation is as follows. What we lack and ask for are all things, objects which can be counted in number. We declare we are wanting in this or that, and if only God will replenish it, we then will be all right.
Suppose we lack patience. Just exactly what kind of patience are we expecting to have? Our eyes rarely look up to heaven for our standard; on the contrary, we usually look around us: "What a pity I am not as good as Mr. So-and-So! He is so patient, while I am so ill-tempered. He is so gentle, whereas I am so proud. Would that I could be as patient and as gentle as hè." Some time ago, it being the first in-stance that I prayed after my salvation, I asked God to give me a Bible like the one a certain brother had. We so often can only pray for what we have seen concerning others. We are unable to ask for something from heaven which we have never seen. We therefore pray for patience or humility such as a certain someone else has. We have already pictured in our mind what humility or patience is.
May I ask you a hypothetical question? Would you be happy if soon after believing on the Lord God would take the patience of a certain person and deposit it within you? You would most likely consider yourself perfect and fully satisfied by such an addition.
You view patience as a thing, that which another possesses. Since there is such a trait called patience among brothers and sisters, you too desire to have that trait. Frequently you descend into hating yourself because you were ill-conceived with such a bad temper. How nice it would be were you only to have that thing which the other person has. For this reason, many of God's children admire patience as a thing; that is to say, they long for something such as a controlled temper. To them patience is a thing which God has, which some people on earth have, but which they do not possess. Their pressing need is to have patience added to them, thus making them patient people too.
Quite candidly speaking, here lies the basic difference between real and faulty Christianity. Many of God's people are seeking something which seems to be everywhere else except in their own lives. They notice that so-and-so here, and so-and-so there, and so-and-so somewhere else have it, but they do not. Hence they look for a thing, for something existing on the earth. Such is the common notion in Christianity. People pursue and then possess some item. They rejoice and are thankful for the thing they get.
What most people fail to recognise is that in the spiritual realm there is nothing but Christ. There is no patience nor humility nor light in the spiritual world; these things do not exist. It is Christ and Him alone.
In view of this we need to have a further work of God done in our lives. When we were first saved we were shown that what we needed was Christ, not works. We were saved through Christ and not by our efforts. Just as similar a drastic and thorough revelation should we have in our present concern; namely, that what we need is Christ, not things. Just as there were many matters eliminated when we first believed, so many more matters must be totally wrecked today. The only difference being, that what was first destroyed were sins, while what is later to be demolished are spiritual things. It was at the first that our pride, jealousy, vainglory, ill-temper, or some other sin(s) were destroyed; today our patience, humility, and self-styled holiness must also be destroyed in order that we may understand that Christ is our life and our all. How vastly opposite is this Christianity from the Christianity which people usually conceive of.
A number of brothers and sisters often come to talk with me and to ask me many questions. You may be among that number who may consider yourself to be better than many other people, but I am fearful lest you remain the same throughout your life, because what you have in yourself are but things. As regards patience, you are truly very patient; as regards humility, you are surely quite humble; you are very bright in performing tasks and quite good in your conduct. You have love and are always willing to help and to forgive. According to the standard of man, where else can one ever find such a good Christian? Even so, I must tell you straightforwardly that what you have in yourself are mere things. You ought to realise before God that that which is spiritual is not a thing but is the Lord Jesus Christ: not what you have, nor what you can do, nor yet what you can get, but only what Christ is. Except He becomes that thing in your life, nothing else is of any spiritual worth. In the spiritual world, there is nothing but Christ since He is God's everything.
Whoever Touches Christ Touches Life
It may be of help here if we touch upon some practical experience. Permit me to relate a little out of my personal experience. Several days ago some-thing happened in a brother's home. According to duty, I naturally should visit him; for unless one decides against being a Christian, he naturally should desire to be a compassionate person. If I were to go see him, I might be able to help on the one hand by sharing with him something of my personal feeling, and on the other hand by saving him countless troubles in the future. So I started on my way to visit that brother. However, the farther I walked the chillier I became within until there was no more spirit left in me. Immediately I realised it was again I who wished to do something compassionate. I was trying to perform an act of loving the brethren, yet I had already touched death. The act was both commendable and right, but it was not Christ because I was doing it. What would be the consequence if I undertook the task? The answer: inward death, in-ward freeze. I may have initiated a commendable act, but I did not meet life. It was no doubt an act of compassion, yet I could not find the Lord in it. All that could be said was that I had been compassion-ate. Allow me to reiterate that each time you touch Christ, and not conduct, you touch life. Were you only to touch conduct you would surely die, since it is you who are doing it.
We should understand that Christianity is Christ, and the life of a Christian is also Christ. Do not pile up a thousand good items and view that heap as Christian life. Were you able to gather up all the humilities on earth as well as assemble tens of thousands of other good traits, you still could not create a Christian. All that can be seen is a chain of things; one cannot see Christ.
Some years ago my fellow-workers frequently teased me about my attempt to save face. I wished to save the face of others as well as my own. I did not like to exposé another's affairs; I would not have individuals leave my home feeling hurt; and I was most reluctant to embarrass anyone. If anybody should feel uneasy, I was that way long before. I wanted to be a gentle person. Nevertheless, oftentimes in my contact with this or that brother I sensed death-instant death, without any touch of life-when I tried to be a good and tender person to-wards him. There could be only one explanation for it: this tenderness was a thing, the product of my own effort. It was not Christ, hence I died instantly. I had touched a dead body; I was weakened within. There was left no strength in me, and so I was finished inwardly.
This, then, is the gist of the whole matter. As we live before God, we experience death when we only see a thing. If what we have is merely a thing we immediately touch death, because Christ is not in it. Had we touched Christ, we would at once have touched life, since He himself is life.
The Tree of Life Is Living
We are frequently reproved in our work. I suppose we all know that those of us who serve God al-ways wish to do more for Him. Now to serve God is basically an excellent and correct undertaking. Very often it requires us to suffer, to sacrifice, to spend and be spent. Nonetheless, many a time in our service we cannot touch life, we instead feel we have touched death. Our inside begins to be weakened, and we are inwardly censured as being wrong. At what point in time did we go wrong? It is at the moment when we conceive the idea that we will so work for God that we are weakened and inwardly reprimanded. Oh, it is altogether possible to receive severer reproof in our "doing good" than in our "doing evil"!
How many people believe the Lord will rebuke us only when we sin! May I suggest that He who dwells in us will often chide us when we do good. For the principle before God is not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it is the tree of life. The knowledge of good and evil is inadequate, since the
issue is a matter of life. On the day that one eats the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he must die. The tree of life alone is living.
Two Kinds of Christian Life
There exist two kinds of life among the children of God: one kind is full of things while the other kind is Christ. In appearance they look almost alike. Hence it is extremely difficult to locate their differences. Both may speak of humility, gentleness, love, or forgiveness. They are hardly distinguishable outwardly. Even so, the one is but a chain of things, whereas the other is Christ himself. How completely distinct they are inwardly.
The Cross for Christ
Let me state it quite bluntly: if yours be things, you do not need the cross; but if yours be Christ, you learn to have the cross. The cross not only interdicts our sin, it also inhibits our activity. It curbs our action as well as checks our sin. Many difficulties arise just at this point-that God's children consider it well if they do good, yet they fail to realise that their good is merely a thing. In the presence of God the whole issue is Christ. Christ is that good thing, Christ is the life. If He remains quiet, how can we move? We can easily utter many comforting words, but if He does not speak we ourselves dare not speak. For if we do we will touch death, and thus are we inwardly weakened and shattered. We may without effort help people in many concerns and earn the praise of men as being tender-hearted; yet when we set about to perform these helps we immediately feel deflated within.
Herein do we see the cross: that whatever matters we may accomplish by our doing good does not require the cross; it is only when we allow the Lord to live in our lives so that He may be our things and our all do we need the cross. If He makes no move, how can we move? Oh how we need to ask God to deliver us from our good works just as we ask Him for deliverance from our sins. How often it is relatively easier to be delivered from sin (since sin is condemned) than to be delivered from the natural life (since to many the latter is neither condemned nor rejected).
Christ Is Healing
What does it really mean to us when we say that Christ is our things? What does such a statement really convey to us? I think we may learn a good lesson from our physical body. Many people, physically feeble, pray concerning healing. Here we may distinguish three different concepts of faith. Some believe God is their physician; others believe God can give them healing and health; while still others believe God is their healing.
When people contract some physical ailment or trouble, what do they seek after? They expect God to be their physician. Since God is the living God, He can touch the body with His power and heal it. If such be the case, let me tell you that their God is as distant from them as is their own physician. I wonder whether you have really taken in what I have just said? Many anticipate God to be their physician, yet they seem to forget that just as far as an earthly physician is distant from his patients, so far is God distant from them too.
Others may perhaps show better understanding, for they look to God for healing and health. One day God gives healing, and so they get well. Many are praying and looking for healing. Nevertheless, there are still many feeble bodies lying around. Why is this? Because in expecting God to be a physician or to heal, believers are still seeking for something external.
Sometimes God in fact does heal, for this is His way in treating little children. To a person who newly believes, God may be willing to be his physician or to grant healing. But after he has trusted the Lord for a time this believer will be in God's hand for education and training. God will neither be his physician nor give him healing, because He reserves the very best for His excellent ones. God wants to be his healing: not to bestow healing, but to be the healing: not merely as the God who heals, but more so as God the healing. God is my healing. For the lack of adequate expression, I can only reverently say, before God, that Christ is our healing.
Countless people take healing as an object, as something outside of Christ. As long as He heals, all is fine. Recall the woman who had a haemorrhage (see Luke 8.43fï). She indeed touched Christ, but what then does the Bible say? Christ was aware that power had gone out of Him. It was Christ himself who had gone out. Not that He was doing the work of healing, but that He went out as the healing. When He goes forth as healing, people get healed.
How often are we able to look up, in spite of continued weakness and physical pains, and say: "Lord, I do not expect You to be my physician and walk off after the sickness is healed; neither do I look to You for healing as a thing granted me for my temporal enjoyment but with Yourself walking away. Lord, I want You to be my healing. If physician, the Physician who dwells in me; if healing the healing with a Personality." My healing does have a Personality; it is one Person who becomes my health. God is my health, Christ is my health. Do you see the difference? How very distinct they are. One day as we learn this lesson we shall get more than healing as a thing, because we have a Person who becomes the life of our body. Instantly all the other problems are solved. For it is now a relation between our body and the Lord. If anything happens between us and the Lord, our body will suffer the consequence of it. Our everything is up to the Lord. We can do nothing but wait on Him. This is quite opposite from healing as a thing.
Thank God, I have received healing numerous times. I am able to tell you how on a certain date I was sick and how on another definite date I was healed by God. I can relate many incidents about healing. The more I reckon up these incidents, the greater their number grows. Yet all these instances are only small healings, being case histories which can be enumerated. However, I can present you with another incident, that on a particular day in a particular month of a particular year God opened my eyes to see that Christ is my healing. This cannot be repeated, nor can it be numbered. It is once and for all. It is not a case but a Person or a personified healing. My healing now has Personality. Christ is my healing forever. Praise the Lord, this is a fact. To have the Lord heal me and to have Him as my healing are two totally diverse roads. The one is a thing while the other is a Person.
May I remind you that though Paul did not obtain the healing he nonetheless was healed. Can you notice the difference here? In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us that he did not obtain healing as a thing, yet in his life he has One who continues to be his healing. Though his weakness persists, his healing likewise persists. His weakness is prolonged, but his healing is prolonged too. What is our concept of healing after all? Healing to most of us is a matter of elimination. This is not so. Healing is not elimination at all, healing is having Someone there. It is not the absence of weakness but the presence of Power.
I recall when I first saw this how slowly the light dawned on me. It was because what my mind could grasp were only things and that what I saw around me were also things. I did not know that the Lord would be all things to me, nor did I understand that healing was not a thing. I only knew the Lord had given me a promise. I knew not how He was my healing. One day I was reading Paul's story in 2 Corinthians. I mused how easy it was for the Lord to give healing. For Him to take away that thorn from Paul was the simplest of matters. How strange that God did not do it. I therefore turned to prayer.
As I was praying I visualised a scene from some years back. In 1923 I was invited to preach in a certain city. I took a small boat that was sailing up the Ming River. I noticed that the boat was frequently dragging itself against the river bed, for the water was shallow and the bottom of the river was rugged. Sometimes the boatmen had to pull the boat by ropes up the river. In my prayer I suddenly recalled this incident. I said, "God, it is easy for You to remove these rocks. How nice it would be for the boat to sail with adequate water underneath it if You simply remove these rocks."
I read again 2 Corinthians 12, where I found this to be precisely Paul's prayer. The water was shallow and the rocks protruded sharply up from the river bed. Hence Paul was praying, "O God, would that You might remove these rocks that my boat may sail in the water." To which God answered, "I will not remove these rocks, but I will cause the water to rise. As the water rises, the boat can easily sail through." This is God's doing. What we ask for is healing as an object to obtain, but God wishes to be himself our healing. He will carry us through. That particular weakness of Paul still remained with him; yet he was not trying to break through his weakness by his own strength. If he were to do so, he would be overshadowing himself with his own power. But it was the power of Christ that overshadowed him; it was God himself who was working. Here again is the basic distinction, that on the one side is God giving a thing, on the other side is God himself being that thing.
Countable Things Do Not Last
What do many people earnestly seek after? They are in pursuit of a thing. A large number of sisters came to talk with me. How they longed for patience! Yet I often mused how very thin must their patience actually run! Their thought is: If I could only be patient, if God would only give me a dose of patience to swallow, then I should be well. They seek for patience as though it were a dose of medicine. They may be able to be patient for three or five days, but this patience has a time limit. After being patient for a while, this "patience" shrivels up until one day it completely disappears. If it is but a thing it will be used up. And though it be obtained through prayer, it nevertheless will be exhausted. For the sake of the temporary need of His children and in order to accommodate their foolishness, God sometimes does hear their prayers and grant them their requests. He nonetheless will not hearken to them on all occasions, for such a condition ought never to be over-extended.
Due to the fact that in His word there is no thing but Christ-Christ being all and in all-God will not permit patience or humility or even love as a thing to be prolonged indefinitely on the earth. Eventually God will show us that Christ is patience, that Christ is humility, or that Christ is love. It is Christ, not an item, that He bestows. On the day when our relationship with the Lord is truly normalised, we will naturally see how all our problems are solved. It is really not a question of patience or whatever; it is a matter of Christ. As soon as our relationship with Christ is fully restored to that which God has de-signed, our thousand and one problems will all be duly resolved. For the entire question is Christ, not a thing or things.
Must Know Christ
Before God all issues revolve around the one proposition of knowing Christ. What is meant by knowing Christ? Some people know Him as their love; other people know Him as their humility. Some know more of Christ while others know less of Him. In the measure of our knowing Christ as our many things is the measure of our knowing Him, for this alone is reckoned as our proper knowledge. Knowing Christ is not an abstract term applied only to objective truth; knowing Christ is both active and substantial. It is perceiving Him as our things: He is our this thing and He is our that thing.
Someone may be able to rise and testify how he knew nothing about cleanness-for his heart, head, thought and all else were unclean; but now, thank God, Christ has become his cleanness because God has made Him so. Immediately you realise that that is not a thing you possess, rather is it Christ. Since Christ dwells in you, He brings that thing to you. Not what belongs to you yourself but what He brings in with Him-this is Christianity.
In view of all that we have said, allow me to frankly state that unless the eyes of a child of God are opened by Him to see that Christ is his things, that person is of very little use to God. Because what he has are simply his works, that which he himself does. Even though he prays and receives from God, what is his is temporary, having little if any spiritual value before God.
Alas, how much grace which many people receive from God is but things. Some, though, receive grace with a Personality: their grace is the Son of God. Wait till one day you are able to say to God:
"I thank and praise You, because the grace I have received is Christ. My grace is a Person, having a Personality." Oh, let me tell you that as soon as you see such difference you can immediately distinguish life from death. Many of the brethren can only distinguish between good and evil; they cannot differentiate life and death. The reason for this is simply that they fail to see that everything is in Christ. He is both the thing and the affair. In the spiritual realm there is neither thing nor affair but only Christ.
If God has truly opened your eyes, you instantly begin to recognise things when you meet them. This way sounds strange, yet it is factual. A person may seem to be patient, gentle, humble, faithful, loving, warm, forgiving and merciful, but to you whose eyes have been opened he is merely full of things. Just as everybody can distinguish a ring from a finger, a hat from a head, spectacles from eyes, and a dress from a body, so a person can differentiate things from Christ. To the uninitiated this may appear spectacular, but to those who perceive, it is quite simple. Whatever belongs to things is dead within and produces death without. If anyone has spiritual sensitivity he will sense death while doing it. The result of such external work can only be death and not life.
Someone may be very nice, yet his influence is limited to the realm of good and evil, having no spiritual effect. A brother who is good-natured, patient, enduring, sacrificial and loving may perhaps please you, but if these characteristics are only traits they will arouse in you a sense of death. You will not be able to embrace them; on the contrary, a resistance will well up within you. No one can calculate the power of this resistance of life. Sometimes people may say a word which sounds quite well but is nonetheless inappropriate, and it draws out from you a tremendous resistance. Say for instance in a prayer meeting. Why do you at times respond with an amen? Because you are touched by life. A brother as he is praying has touched your life, you therefore spontaneously say amen. But some other person's prayer, though it may sound earnest and appealing, produces a chilling effect within you. You long that he will cease praying, for his prayer is no different from his personality. He has something, only that something has the touch of death. A thing produces death not only in the person himself but in others as well. There is absolutely no spiritual worth in it, for it is done by man.
Since this is the situation, we can do nothing be-fore God but to wait on Him. More and more we shall see the evil of our own works. For if we are re-ally led forward by God, we will surely discover that He hates our works as much as our sins. To those who sin, they must perish; to those who depend on their own works, they cannot be saved. God rejects our works just as He repudiates our sins. He accepts one thing only, and that is His Son Jesus Christ. It is Christ who becomes all things to us. Thank God, it is the Lord and not I. Not I trying to be humble, but He humbles himself. Not I struggling to love, but He loves instead. He does not give me power be-cause He himself is my power.
Oh brothers and sisters, I do not know how best I should say this; I especially wish the newly saved to notice it. When you are delivered from spiritual things, you will touch the Lord. It is far better for you to perceive this as early as possible, otherwise it will become increasingly more difficult as time goes on. The larger the heap of things the harder you are able to see through. How must God beat you and toss you about before He is able to take away these items from you so that you may receive Christ. This I say God will surely do.
I am waiting for the day when all things-both things in the heavens and those upon the earth- shall be summed up in Christ. On that day the word of God will be fulfilled in that Christ is all. Let me challenge you. How can you expect Christ to be all if today you do not know Him as your all? Even now Christ will become all our things. God has given His own Son to us; God has given himself to us. So that Christ must be all to us today. There should not be any division between Christ and things. Nothing is spiritual, only Christ is. He is all and in all. The reality of this must begin to evidence itself now in the church and with us. May we declare today that Christ is all and that He is in all. He is in my patience, He is in my gentleness, He is in my love. For He is all. How we look forward to that day when the Son of God is manifested to be all and in all. He indeed has the pre-eminence over all things, and then shall we know that the lessons we learn today are for use in that day. May God bless us.
Our Lord, we are before You asking for grace. Lord, we confess that our eyes are so blind that we cannot see clearly. Things we know, Christ we do not know. You, Lord, seem to be rather distant from us. Things look so real to us, while Christ himself is not that real. Lord, we truly ask You to cause us to see. May Christ become real to us. Let things pass away, let life fill us. Lord, we sincerely ask You to deliver us from the objects which can be counted that we may know the Lord who is a person. May the personal Lord be all our countable things. May everything in us be living and full of life so that people may see Christ when they see these things. Lord, cause us to understand how totally diverse are these two ways. How different is the way of the righteous from the way of the sinner; in like manner, how very much different is the way of a true Christian from that of a false one. There is need for much crushing. Crush us, Lord. Do not allow us to deceive ourselves: considering ourselves as having seen though we see nothing, as having touched the way when we are far from it, as being full of life whereas we are full of things. Lord, touch us. Establish Yourself firmly in us that from our inside to our outside it may be Christ and Christ himself.
Lord, bless these words that they may bear fruit in bringing people back to You abundantly. What man fails to speak, may You speak. May You cover human weakness and forgive man's folly. May You get something for Yourself in our midst. We need to be laid bare. May this be the day of exposure to many people, that we may see ourselves as You see us. May a ray of light strike us which will uncover all falsehood and distinguish Yourself from all substitutes. Bless Your own word and glorify Your name. In the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.