1/2/2011: Not I, but Christ
I got guard tomorrow so I really don’t want to write this, but I felt I needed it so I can help remind myself to follow God.
I feel bad again today. I realized, with some reading in Watchman Nee’s book The Life that Wins that I cannot fix my life. Victory is not attained but obtained.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I realized that I have been spending almost my entire life trying to follow God and to worship Him. I realized that I cannot achieve victory if I keep trying in my own power. I cannot fix myself; only God can. I need to not change myself, but to let Jesus live in me. It’s like changing from “me inside,” to “Jesus inside.” A few of Watchman Nee’s words:
Every Christian is absolutely able to overcome sins of the mind, body, flesh and spirit, our contrary disposition, unbelief, and even the love of sin. Thank and praise God, this is not an unobtainable, ideal life under consideration here. This is a totally practical way of living which all of us may have in experience.
The Meaning of This Life—Not a Changed Life, but an Exchanged One
First of all, please notice that victory is an exchanged life, not a changed life. Victory is not that I have changed, but rather that I have been exchanged. One verse which is most familiar to us is Galatians 2.20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God.” What is meant by this verse? It has only one meaning: the life spoken of is an exchanged life. Basically, it is no longer I, for it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is not that the bad I has become the good I, or the unclean I has changed to be the clean I. It is simply “not I” Today people make a serious mistake in thinking that victory is progressive and defeat is retrogressive—that if a person is able to control his temper or maintain an intimate fellowship with God, then he is victorious. Not so. Let us ever keep in mind that victory has basically no relation to one’s own self.
One brother confessed with crying that he could not overcome. I frankly told him that he indeed could not overcome. He continued to say he could not overcome. How could I help him? I said to this brother: “God has never demanded that you overcome. He has never asked you to change your bad temper to a good temper, your hardness to gentleness, or your sorrow to joy. The way of God is simply to exchange your life for Another Life, which therefore has absolutely nothing to do with you.”
Once I met a sister whom I considered to be the most difficult among sisters to find victory. It required two hours for her to relate to me her defeats and failures from childhood till fifty years of age. She had no way to overcome her pride and ill-temper. She suffered defeats all the time. I had never met a person who desired victory as much as she, nor had I seen anyone who found victory so elusive as she. She moaned over her failures. She even thought of suicide because of her defeats. She found herself so helpless. As she was relating her story to me, I began to laugh. “Today” I said, “the Lord Jesus has met an ideal patient whom He can heal!”
This sister was so full of the sense of her own sins—pride and ill-temper—that she would surely contaminate you by what she told you if you did not know what victory is. You would probably agree with her that there was no hope. But from God’s word there come glad tidings of great joy—because though you cannot change, you may nevertheless be exchanged! The life that wins is an exchanged life. If it were up to you, you would never make it; but if it is a matter of Christ, there is absolutely no problem. The question is: who overcomes, you or Christ? If it is Christ, then it does not matter how you by nature are, even though you may be ten times worse than others.
I ask you, what is victory? It is not you overcoming, it is Christ who overcomes for you. The Scriptures teach only one kind of victory, and this is what Galatians 2.20 declares: “it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” The Fukienese in South China have a saying, “No change even with death” I told this to the brethren in Peking and observed that we should all say to ourselves, “No change even with death” Praise to the Lord that I have not changed, but I have been exchanged!
One sister asked me what the difference was between changed and exchanged. I used the following illustration. Suppose I held in my hand a copy of an old worn-out Bible. If I wanted to change it, I would add a new cover, apply some glue, and imprint upon the cover in gold the letters spelling “Holy Bible.” Furthermore, if any letter within its pages was missing, I would print it with ink; or if a letter was not clear, I would ink it more plainly with a pen. I did not know how long this process would take me, nor was I certain if it would come out well. If, however, I decided to exchange it for a new Bible, this could be done in a matter of a second. And in that case, I could give my worn-out copy to a bookseller and he would exchange it for a new Bible. It is just the same in our spiritual life. Since God has given His Son to you, you need not spend any strength of yours but simply give Him your worn-out life in exchange for His Son’s life.
Let me use another illustration. Several years ago I bought a watch with a guarantee on it of two years. But as it turned out this watch was in my house for far less time than it was at the company’s premises; for it began to run inaccurately after a while. As a result, it had to be taken to the company many times for repair—once, twice, even ten times. I was tired of running it over there, and moreover, the watch remained inaccurate. Hence I requested the company to exchange it for another watch. They replied, however, that they could not do so because there was no such company regulation that allowed for this. But since they guaranteed the watch for two years, they told me they would continue to repair it within the guarantee period. This went on for eight months, yet the company still refused to exchange it for a good watch. Finally, I grew so tired of this that I left my watch at the company permanently. This illustration can serve to show that man’s way is always one of repairing. Repair, repair, and repair again within the guarantee period of life. Man has no way for exchange.
Even in the Old Testament time of Bible history we find that God’s way was never to repair, nor to change, but to exchange. Note this passage, for example: “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified” (Is. 61.3). To substitute is God’s way….
All these years I have not been able to change myself, yet God has exchanged me. This is holiness, this is perfection, this is victory, and this is the life of God’s Son! Hallelujah!…
Recently I met a sister who told me that having spent twenty years in trying to overcome her pride and ill-temper she had not only failed but also felt quite hopeless. This was what I said to her in response: “If you expect to overcome your pride and ill-temper by your own effort, you will not succeed even after twenty more years. But you can be freed from sins today if you simply accept the gift of God. This gift is freely given by Him, and it is yours by accepting it. The Lord Jesus is the victory. And by accepting Him as your victory, you obtain the victory” Whereupon she accepted this gift that God had given her. Do realize today the vanity of your works and the failure of your life. Accept the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall overcome.
There is one verse with which we are all familiar: “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6.14). How is it that sin shall not have dominion over you? Because you are not under law but under grace. What is meant by being under law? I have mentioned many times before that being under law signifies God requiring man to work for Him. What, then, is being under grace? It denotes God working for man. If we work for God, sin shall reign over us. The wages of our works is having sin rule over us. But if God works for us, sin shall not have dominion over us. Under law, we work. Under grace, God works. When God works, sin shall not rule over us. For it is He who works, and this is victory. Whatever requires effort on our part is not victory. Victory comes freely to us.
Suppose there is a person who has sinned so much until sinning becomes wearisome and meaningless and un-Christian like. Let me tell you that if you accept this gift of God now, you may immediately become a victorious person. For the principle of victory is the principle of gift, not of reward. And all shall be well by accepting this gift.
The life that wins is to be obtained, never to be attained. Obtained simply means gaining possession of a thing. Attained, on the other hand, implies you have a long way to go and that you will proceed slowly without the assurance of arriving at the goal someday. Yet the victory of a Christian is not attained through a slow process. Once I was climbing Mount Kuling. Brother Sing-Liang Yu invited me to go with him. As we gradually climbed, I felt increasingly tired. After we had covered some distance, I asked brother Yu how much farther we had to go. He replied that it was not very far to the top. So we continued to trod on slowly. Still we had not arrived. Whenever I asked brother Yu, I always got the answer that we were almost there. Finally we did arrive. But suppose I were to go up the mountain by being carried in a sedan chair; in that case I would have obtained Kuling, not attained it. All things pertaining to the Holy Spirit are obtained. So that all which is related to victory must be received.
May I at least reread the selected passages if ever I need reminder that I cannot change myself to God’s standards.
Every time I write “I will try to follow God,” I felt something is wrong. Now I know why. I cannot try anymore. I need to be. If I try to be better in my own power or try to improve myself even with God, I will not make it. We are all too corrupted to be fixed or changed. We must exchange our corrupt, sinful self with God’s perfect self. Then I can find victory, then I can stop playing computer games, then I can win. I need to stop trying to follow God but instead to accept Jesus as my Savior and have Him do the work.
The Consequence—an Expressed Life, Not a Suppressed One
The consequence of having this life that wins is seen in an expressed, not a suppressed, life. Our so-called victories are always done through suppression. One old lady held in her temper whenever she met unpleasant things. Outwardly she wore a smiling face, but inwardly she was controlling her feelings with great difficulty. After living such a suppressed life for some time, she found the pressure within her had so built up that she began to spit blood. And why? Simply because the problem had remained with her. Yet true victory in the Christian’s walk is an expressed life, not a suppressed one. An expressed life signifies a showing forth that which has already been obtained. It is what Philippians 2.12 intimates to us, when it declares for us to “work out [our] own salvation.” Previously we tried hard to cover ourselves; now we dare to express the victory of Christ in us. Formerly, the more suppressed the better; today, the more expressed the better. Since Christ lives in me, I want to express Him before the world.
Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis had a young girl friend who knew how to compose poems and who was skillful in leading children into this victorious life. One day Mrs. Penn-Lewis paid her a special visit in order to see how she helped the children. On that particular day, this young friend invited more than ten children to a meal. When they had just finished eating and before the table was cleaned, a guest suddenly arrived. She asked these children what should be done to the dirty table. They suggested covering it up with a clean table cloth. She complied by doing just that. After the guest was gone, she asked the children whether or not the guest had seen the spills and stains on the table. They answered no. Then she challenged the children by asking: “Although the guest did not see these spills and stains, would you say that the table is clean?” Their reply was this: “Even though the guest did not see anything, the dirty table is still dirty.”
Let me say right here that many people are ready to be clean outside but not to be clean inside. Who dares to reveal the thoughts and feelings of his or her heart? And yet we consider ourselves to be victorious. When people praise us, we try to look humble. We may appear to be patient, but we hide our impatience under cover. Allow me to speak frankly, that whatever is suppressed within is not victory. Only when you and I go out and Christ comes in do we have victory. And in that case, whatever is expressible is victory.
A sister I know easily lost her temper. One day her maid broke a vase. The sister quickly covered herself with a blanket, pretending to sleep. She was fearful lest she would see the scene and explode. This is a suppressed life.
Suppose a fruit peddler came by and asked you to purchase some fruit from him, but you sent him away without buying any fruit. And suppose he came the second and the third time, but you still did not buy from him. In order to sell his fruits, he had to suppress his resentment each time you failed to buy any of his produce. This is not victory, it is but a business policy. The victory of Christ, though, purifies even the heart. In short, victory means a pure heart.
A brother recently crossed the threshold of victory. He was already over fifty, and he had studied the classics of Confucius all his life. Though he had believed in the Lord for three years, he trusted only in the shed blood of the Lord and its atoning value. During that time he did not see any major difference between Christianity and Confucianism. A follower of Confucius attempts to improve himself by works of endurance and self-control. If he is successful in such works, he becomes a sage. So that after his becoming a Christian, this brother still exercised himself in such attempts. He continued to assume the Confucian attitude of reducing a big problem to being a small matter, and of reducing a small matter to being no matter at all. But at the end of those three years he testified that he knew Christ’s victory had had no touch upon his life whatsoever. How vastly different is Christianity from other religions. It is not only the difference as witnessed by the cross, it is also the difference of our having a living Christ within us. We preach the gospel of redemption, especially a Christ who lives within. Previously this brother had been a genuine disciple of Confucius by keeping a tight control over himself. Now, though, he had let go of himself and had allowed Christ to live through him—without suppression and without defeat.
I need to live my life without fear. I need to express myself, if Jesus is running my life. And this is where it comes. I am afraid to completely let Jesus take over. If I express myself to everyone: military and on Facebook, what if I mess up? What if I let God be my life one day and then lose it the next? The expression would be an embarrassment and a shame to me. I’m afraid, but I must not be. I must wholeheartedly, give God everything including the consequences of what might happen. I must step out of my comfort zone and let God rule my life. I am not ready to do this, but I will go closer day by day until I delegate my life to God. Then, I will no longer want to play computer games because it’s not me who lives in me anymore, it will be Jesus. I will express the life Jesus wants me to live. I will no longer have to try to win, it will come naturally. I think that is the secret to victory: Not suppression, but expression. Not changed but exchanged.