In Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6 the apostle Paul says that we have been blessed and have been seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Well, it might say that in the Bible, but what does it say in your experience? Day by day, are you in the heavenlies or do you find yourself spending your time in anxiety? Most of us would have to truthfully answer that we spend much more of our time wrestling with anxiety than enjoying a life with Christ at peace in the heavenlies.
The truth is, that after man fell, human life became a composition of anxiety and worry. So how is it then that the apostle Paul also said in Phil. 4, “Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is near. In nothing be anxious…”?
This book (Phil) is a book about living Christ and magnifying Christ. And practically, what does it look like to live Christ and magnify Christ? It looks like living a life full of forbearance and without any anxiety. So Paul brings us to the very practical side of our actual living and our expression. Forbearance is the sum total of the entire Christian life. If you were to add up the christian life, what does it look like….it looks like forbearance. If you add up the human life apart from Christ, what does it look like…one huge sum of anxiety.
So these two go together. So practically for us to magnify Christ and to live Christ…what does it look like? It looks like living a life full of forbearance without any anxiety. Very practical.
Paul..he knew what the human life was…nothing but anxiety. And what was the christian life…nothing but forbearance. To live Christ is to have forbearance without anxiety. This is to live Christ. For me to live is Christ. And this is what…no anxiety but full of forbearance. We cannot understand such a chapter as Phil 4 by merely studying the Bible. We need our experience to tell us what Paul really meant. Forbearance is the totality of the proper christian life. And what is the totality of the human life? That is anxiety.
So Paul picked up these two things to charge us on the positive side…to let our forbearance be known to all men. For years and years I heard and got to read a number of books on Gal. 2:20. Actually, I didn’t see exactly who was living this way. The answer is in Philippians. Because Paul in Philippians has stepped further not only to tell us that Christ lives in us…but even the more to tell us that to him is to live Christ.
You have to realize to have Christ living is us is not so much as to live Christ. This is much further. And to live Christ is to be full of forbearance and no anxiety. If you just have “this much” anxiety, you are void of Christ “this much.” How much Christ is here in your daily life…this will be measured by forbearance and anxiety. If you have forbearance, you have Christ. If you have anxiety, you are void of Christ. If you have forbearance, surely you don’t have anxiety. If you have anxiety, surely you don’t have forbearance. You cannot have both at the same time.
The first prerequisite to have no anxiety is to realize that every circumstance is an assignment from our Father…especially the bad circumstances. Just learn to know whatever comes to us is of our Father. Especially the unprofitable things are His better assignment.
Does God only want to save us from perdition? Or does He also want to save us moment by moment and day by day? Salvation from eternal perdition is wonderful, but after we’re saved eternally, we need a daily practical salvation.
We’re going to have some practical fellowship today to help us in our christian walk every day. We’re going to focus on the pattern Christ setup for us and it’s described in Philippians by the apostle Paul (Phil 2:5-11).
This book of Philippians is a book on the experience of Christ. And in this book there is such a portion that shows us the very Christ as our pattern. If we are going to live Christ. If we are going to experience Christ, surely we must firstly see a pattern. A pattern is setup in this book right in front of us, and we all have to be impressed with this pattern.
Well, have you realized that in all the 66 books (of the Bible) there is not such a page that gives us such a wonderful picture of Christ. In a short way. Who is He? He is God. He is nothing less than God. God is He and He is God. He’s just God. But, listen…He emptied Himself. What does this mean? This simply means He didn’t consider His equality with God as something that He has to grasp.
He didn’t grasp His equality with God. Rather, He put that aside. But this doesn’t mean He became no more God. It doesn’t mean that. It means He put His equality with God aside. In other words, He put His outward expression of God…the form of God…He put that aside. You see. He put the form of God aside to become a man.
When He put away the excellent form of God, at that time He didn’t have the human nature. It was after that He got incarnated and He put on the human nature and He brought the human nature to the cross. To shed His blood for our redemption. And He accomplished that and He was buried and He was raised up and He was uplifted to the third heavens. To be brought back to the form of God in glory.
Now this is our savior, and this is the pattern of our christian life. What kind of pattern? This pattern of our christian life is a god-man savior. Self-empty, self-humbled and God exalted and God glorified. This is our Savior. And this is the pattern of our Christian life.
At the beginning of verse 13 (Phil 2) you have the word “for”. “For it is God…” And this little word “for” connects the two verses together. And it gives the reason why and how we can work out our salvation. Why? Because God is operating in you. Salvation is just the pattern; now God is the operator of the salvation. And I have to say this…salvation is the pattern and God is the operating salvation.
This salvation is just God Himself operating in you. The operating God in you is your real salvation. Nearly this is the only place in the New Testament that tells us God is working within us. But in all the other portions, always it says either Christ or the Spirit. It is only here that says it is God who operates in you.
For years, I was not clear why Paul used this type of God…not the Spirit. Now I understand. Paul rendered this way with a purpose to show us that the very Christ who is the pattern of our salvation is the very God who is operating in us. When Christ setup something there as our pattern…He is our pattern. When He comes into us…operating within…He is the operating God.
Here He is God. On the cross He is Christ. On the cross He was Christ. Within us He is God. He was Christ on the cross setting up an example…a pattern…for us. And He is God within us to carry out that pattern. How does God operate in you…how doe God work in you? God works in you by His word. God operates in you by being the Word of life. What is the Word of life? That is the operating God. And where is God? God is embodied in the Word of life. The Word of life is just the embodiment of the operating God. You can never separate God from His word. God is embodied in His word.
And the Bible is just the embodiment of God. Where is God? It’s hard for us to apprehend. God is too mysterious. But thank God He has embodied Himself in the Bible. The Bible is the embodiment the condensation of the invisible mysterious God. I can testify from my experience that whenever I open myself and come to this Word…to the Bible…I touch God. When I come to the Bible, God works within me. What is this? This is the practical salvation.
The Lord Jesus declared in John chapter 8, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” What is it to walk in darkness? We all likely have our own set of mental images that are initiated by such a question. But the darkness that may be blinding us today may not be so obviously evil or sinister as you might think.
Colossians reveals that anything…even any GOOD thing…that occupies us that is not Christ Himself is likely an instrument of the authority of darkness. I think what’s interesting about the authority of darkness mentioned in Colossians are the kind of things that Paul specifically referred to as being components of this darkness. Because they are things that are not that obvious in terms of being related to darkness.
We need a renewed understanding of this expression, “the authority of darkness”…as employed by Paul in Colossians. Of course the authority of darkness is the realm where Satan rules, and all manner of evil things are involved in the satanic realm. So there is no question that the authority of darkness has to do with the rule of Satan and is related to the kingdom of Satan.
Our problem is that we may assume that in Colossians the expression “the authority of darkness” refers only to obviously evil things…demonic, satanic, devilish things that would subjugate and imprison us. But this is too narrow an understanding. And actually, if we bring in this narrow understanding to Colossians, we will miss the point. And I mean really miss the whole point that is being made here.
Colossians is a book that reveals in the highest way the all-inclusiveness of Christ. The centrality and universality of Christ in God’s economy. This is the foundational thought. More particularly, Colossians reveals that in God’s economy, Christ is the reality of every positive thing. Christ is all things. The authority of darkness then…in its particular application in this epistle…refers to anything that is not Christ and that controls our being…instead of God’s direct rule in Christ.
Authority has to do with control, and to be under the authority or darkness is to be controlled by darkness. According to the context of the book of Colossians, what are some of the aspects of this authority of darkness? Philosophy is one. Asceticism is another one. A certain kind of self-imposed humility is yet another. There’s a form of religious mysticism that was advocated here.
Then speaking more broadly…any element of culture that infiltrates the church and replaces Christ is an aspect of the authority of darkness. If we go even deeper, we may say according to the revelation in the Word that any control that has its source in the self is the authority of darkness controlling us. The self replaces Christ. That’s why the Lord said if we would follow Him we have to deny the self.
Yes the authority of darkness refers to the satanic realm of darkness. In Colossians, the authority of darkness refers particularly to those things of religion, culture, and philosophy that have invaded our christian life and church life that replace Christ and that exercise control over our being instead of Christ.
Therefore, to be delivered by God in His full salvation out of the authority of darkness is to be delivered not only from sin and evil and hateful things…immoral things. It is to be delivered also from anything…no matter how good it may appear that replaces Christ and rules over us instead of Christ. This is a real light. Strangely, to see what darkness is here involves a real light. And we desire very much on the Lord’s behalf that all of God’s children would be delivered as we look to the Lord to be delivered from anything and everything of philosophy, religion and culture that replaces Christ and that rules us and controls us instead of Christ.
According to the revelation in Colossians, we should be ruled, controlled, governed, and directed by the one whom Paul calls “the Son of God’s love.” In a realm of light. And in this realm we enjoy not only the grace of God but also the all inclusiveness of Christ. A Christ who is everything and a Christ who is our life. And it is with this in view that we need to consider as our dear brother has helped us to see that the authority of darkness includes philosophy, religion, culture, and at the deepest level anything that has its source in the self.
In short…anything that replaces Christ. Any part of our being that is occupied by something other than Christ is under the authority of darkness. So we need the Christ who is everything in Himself and in God’s economy to become everything not only to us…but in us. And only when that has happened will we have been fully delivered experientially from the authority of darkness.
But we believe such a time is coming, and we look to the Lord that He will bless this faithful word concerning the authority of darkness verses the all-inclusive Christ. And that God’s people…especially the seeking ones among God’s people will really be enlightened and delivered and begin to explore the Christ who is the centrality and universality of God’s economy…that is the Christ of Colossians.
Some may read Colossians and have little interest in some of the marvelous utterances that Paul uses to unveil Christ, but when they get to the chapters about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands loving their wives…slaves obeying their masters…parents taking care of their children…they appreciate this. That appreciation is an appreciation in darkness. That kind of thought is already in the minds of the readers.And so that’s what they respond to in the text.
The Bible is light, but we may not be in light when we read the Bible. We ourselves may be in darkness. We may be veiled. We may be blind. In fact that is the general condition. And so the more we read, the more blind we become. Because we read in darkness and we read and try to understand in our pitiful blindness instead of repenting before the Lord…turning our heart to the Lord…emptying out our spirit…being poor in spirit…and contacting the Spirit of the Word and seeing Christ in the Word.
We want to speak faithfully, honestly and even frankly about this matter. But we don’t care to argue…to dispute. What’s the benefit? If one is in darkness and someone else is in light what is the point of dispute. What is needed is for the light to shine upon the one in darkness.
When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers…destroying the churches…who could reason with him? Who could argue with him? What would be the point? God did not take that approach. The Lord shined on him and shattered his reasoning and showed him he really was blind and he became physically blind for a period of time. But then he really saw Christ.
This is where we are today. And if we receive mercy from the Lord, if we would not go around saying “how clear we are”…”how much we see.” Rather, if we would be like blind Bartimaeus saying “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then we’ll begin to appreciate not ethical expressions (or what we would take as ethical expressions in Colossians)…rather we would appreciate Christ.
To what extent do christians today really care for Christ? What do christians care about? What do they talk about? What do they argue about? What do they promote? All manner of things. Where is the Christ unveiled in Colossians? Where is this Christ proclaimed? Where is He experienced? Where is He expressed?
So this Christ is in Colossians, but the authority of darkness must be smashed in our being. Then the Christ in Colossians will become the Christ in our experience. There is no word to describe how precious…even how life changing this is.
A life fully according to and for God’s new testament economy. This matter of God’s new testament economy is somewhat unknown to many Christians. And then to look at the life that the Lord Jesus lived on this earth in the light of God’s economy is another kind of new consideration to most people…to most believers.
This matter of God’s economy is a very crucial matter. God’s economy is a very profound matter. According to the revelation of the Bible, God has an economy. He has a purpose…a plan…an administration in the universe to carry out something. And that something is to dispense Himself into all His chosen people. All those who believed into the Lord Jesus Christ.
God wants to dispense Himself into them. And even to constitute Himself into them the way our food is constituted into us and becomes a very part of our being…our physical being. God wants to dispense Himself into His people and to work Himself into them to become their very inward constitution.
God has only one desire and that is to dispense Himself into man so that He and man would become one in an organic way. The result of this dispensing is that all those who receive God’s dispensing become the members of the church. And the church is the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ is the corporate expression of Christ.
So eventually, God’s economy is to produce an expression of Christ through the dispensing of Himself into His chosen people.
We need some sight…spiritual sight…to see what is here in Mark. Otherwise, what we can understand is that Mark is just a story book for the children before bed. We couldn’t see it is a book that gives us a biography of a life. A life that lives fully according to God’s new testament economy.
Actually, the life that is presented in Mark is the very substance…the pattern…of God’s new testament economy. The Lord has shown us that this very Jesus…He lived a life that is just the expression of God. In this book…Mark…you couldn’t see a person was keeping the law there. Neither Mark tells us that Jesus was doing good. No. What Jesus lived? He lived God! He expressed God. Whatever He did, that was God’s doing. That was God doing through Him. That was God doing from within Him.
Jesus didn’t keep the law; neither He broke the law. Jesus didn’t do anything good; nor He did something bad. He’s not in the kingdom of doing good or doing bad. Neither He is in the kingdom of keeping the law or breaking the law. He is in another kingdom. He is in the kingdom of God!
Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This simple expression is full of meaning. If we expect to get our heart on heaven and on the heavenly things, we need to get our treasure there first.
Matthew chapters 5,6 and 7 is a section of the Bible we are calling the constitution of the kingdom of the heavens. This section has been called the sermon on the mount…,but in our Life-study, Witness Lee is using this term the constitution of the kingdom of the heavens. Why is seeing this section as a constitution helpful for us in understanding the real meaning and importance of this section of scripture?
It’s very important for us to realize that these three chapters (Matt. 5,6,7) are the constitution of the kingdom of the heavens. We call it the constitution because (we can say it this way) every nation has a constitution. In 1 Pet. 2:9, Peter refers to the believers in Christ as a holy nation. So in Matthew 5,6 and 7, what we see are God’s divine principles concerning the way we should live…the way we conduct ourselves. And actually He reveals to us, if we actually live Christ in our daily life…if we live by Christ…if Christ has a way to live through us, Matthew 5,6 and 7 will be the expression of that very Christ that we live.
So this is why we call this the constitution of the kingdom of the heavens. This is the way we should live in our christian life described in these chapters.
This constitution is altogether composed…constituted…with the Father’s life…the Father’s nature. The constitution always is based upon certain kind of life. Suppose you are going to make a constitution for the dog. You have to make it based upon the dog life. You cannot say “Dog every day in the morning you have to keep your morning watch by flying in the air.” He cannot FLY! But if you say “Dog, you are to keep your morning watch by barking,” they all would say “BARK!” This is a good constitution.
The Lord Jesus on the mount was not giving a constitution based upon the dog life. This constitution was made upon the Son of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.” “You therefore shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This section of the word was given based upon the divine life and the divine nature.
Many many thought these 3 chapters were given just to the human beings. NO! The human life cannot make it. The human life is just like the dog life. If you ask the human life to fly, the human life cannot fly. For the dog to bark…that’s OK, but for the dog to fly in the air that’s impossible.
This is not the constitution of the dog kingdom. This is the constitution of the bird kingdom. This is the constitution given based upon the divine life…based upon the divine nature.
Leviticus…like several books in the Bible…mentions the ancient disease of leprosy. Why was leprosy given such a tension in God’s revelation to mankind? Well, leprosy is associated with one of the basic factors of man’s sinful condition…and that is rebellion. Who among us is free from rebellion? Maybe not in dramatic outward demonstrations, but within…even in its most subtle manifestations…rebellion lurks perpetually beneath the surface of almost every person.
Rebellion is the topic of today’s life-study of the Bible from Leviticus.
There are two (2) basic ministries that characterize both the Old and New Testament. The ministry of the priesthood and the ministry of the kingship. It’s interesting that in Matthew chapter 3, we see two representatives of these two basic ministries together as the age is changing.
Well, we’re coming to the first part of Matthew chapter 3 today and the appearance of the ministry of John the Baptist. This chapter is very interesting, because in a very real sense the whole age is changing…some would say the dispensation is changing. This is a pivot point in God’s economy…in His divine revelation. And we see these two ministries…John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ…together in this chapter for the first time. It’s very interesting…John the Baptist’s heritage is one out of the tribe of Levi which was the tribe of the priesthood. And John the Baptist was somebody who ended the Old Testament economy which was of the law.
The law was lifeless…helpless…could cause no one to really experience the King…but only be exposed by the King. But this marvelous ministry of John the Baptist also introduced the King of kings and ushered people to the King and allowed the King to be brought to the people.
John the Baptist ministry therefore is something that terminated the Old Testament economy and ushered in the New Testament economy…which is an economy of grace. And grace is just God in Christ coming to us to be our life and our everything…even coming into us to be our “Inside King.”
So John the Baptist terminated that Old Testament priesthood and brought us into the New Testament priesthood which is a priesthood full of the experience of Christ. Full of the King of the kingdom of the heavens who wants to come into us as life and everything and be the “Inside King” within us.
We need to repent for the kingdom.
In the whole Bible, there are only two basic ministries that constitute the kingdom of God. And these two ministries are firstly the priesthood…then the kingship. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was with the tribe of Levi. John the Baptist was just a descendant of Levi. He is the consummation of the priesthood of the Old Testament. Then Jesus is the consummation of the Old Testament kingship. The kingship in the Old Testament was in the tribe of Judah, and Jesus came to be a descendant of Judah as the consummation of the kingship.
So you can see these two persons…John the Baptist and Jesus Christ…They, on the one hand, terminated the old priesthood and kingship. They also germinated the New Testament priesthood and kingship. When the priesthood brings people to God, the kingship brings God to man. Then there is the heavenly reigning…the heavenly ruling. That is the kingdom.
And this kingdom is just today’s proper church life. And this church life will continue till the millennium comes. Then in the millennial kingdom, there will be the priesthood and the kingship. The overcomers will be there…on the one hand the priests…and on the other hand the kings. So in the millennial kingdom, the priesthood and the kingship will be even stronger to maintain God’s kingdom on this earth. That the king may have the people and all the people may gain the king. This is the millennium.
Then after the millennium there will be no more need of the priesthood. What will be left for eternity will be only the kingship, because in the new heaven and new earth with the New Jerusalem, everyone is in the presence of God. So there’s no need any longer for the priesthood to bring people to God, because by that time God will be with man. God’s presence eliminates the priesthood by that time. But the kingship will be still there reigning over the surrounding nations.
Well, this is just a summary of the whole Bible in the light of the priesthood and the kingship.
Saints, the Bible reveals to us three (3) big enemies to our Christian life…sin, Satan and death. And all of these 3 take advantage of our fallen flesh to frustrate us, but God’s approach to our flesh may surprise you. Check out today’s podcast on the book of Romans for insight into our experience of dealing with the flesh and the secret of how to reign in life over these 3 enemies.