Scripture Reading: John 17:17
Tonight we will consider another matter before the Lord, but before doing this, we have to review what we have seen. We have seen that our experience has been a story of constant failures. We have seen also that the life that God has ordained is a life that is far higher than our current Christian experience. Third, we have seen that the overcoming life which God has given to us is Christ and that human ways, such as suppression, struggling, prayers, etc., are useless. Fourth, we have seen that there are five characteristics to the overcoming life, the most important of which is that this life is a matter of exchange and not change. Fifth, we have seen the conditions for experiencing this life. The two most basic conditions are (1) surrendering, which is to let go, and (2) believing. When God says that His grace is sufficient for us, it is sufficient for us. When God says that Christ is our life, He is our life. When God says that Christ is our holiness, He is our holiness. Sixth, we have seen what it means to let go. Seventh, we have seen that faith is the substantiation of what God has done. Eighth, we have seen that even though we have believed, our faith needs to be tested. Tonight, we will go on to consider another matter related to the overcoming life—the pathway to growth. After hearing the above points, you will surely ask, "After we have overcome, is our life on the highest plane, and is there no further progress from that point on?" I am going to speak tonight on what a person should do after he has overcome.
WHAT TO DO DAILY AFTER ONE HAS OVERCOME
Overcoming Besetting Sins
Many Christians have indeed overcome, and Christ is indeed their victory. But they do not know how to maintain this life, and they fail again very soon. The most immediate thing that a Christian should look forward to, expect, or hope for after his victory is God's deliverance from particular sins, that is, the sins which have bothered and hindered him continually. No Christian who has entered the overcoming experience should carry any particular sin with him. The Lord has saved us, and He is already our overcoming life. We can say, "Lord, I thank and praise You because Christ's victory has become my victory! Lord, I thank and praise You because Christ's holiness has become my holiness." It is Christ living for us. If a brother was previously bound by his temper, this temper should now go away. A brother might have been a doubting person, and his doubt may have troubled him much in the past. He might have been a talkative person, and his talkativeness may have been his frustration. A person might have been bound by any one of the eight kinds of sins mentioned before and been very bothered by it. Now he can expect God to drive these sins away. Once a person has overcome, he should say to God, "Lord, I look to You to put these sins behind me."
Many other problems related to sin have to be dealt with. For example, you might have offended others or offended the brothers. Now you have to apologize to them. Formerly, you did not have the strength to apologize; now you have the strength to do it. In the past, you might have been bound by something. Now Christ is living in you, and you are free. Hence, immediately after a brother or a sister enters the overcoming experience, he or she has to look to the Lord to remove his or her particular sin, that is, the recurring sin which has been entangling him or her all the time. If such a sin is allowed to remain, not only will others say that such a one has not yet overcome, but he also will begin to doubt his experience of victory. Before one receives the overcoming life, he has no strength to fight the battle. Now that he has received the overcoming life, he has the strength to fight. He has the faith and the power now, and he can fight the battle.
In Chefoo, a few Western sisters once came to ask me whether one still has to fight the battle after he has overcome. I answered, "The question is whether one fights to overcome or overcomes to fight. You can never fight to overcome, but it is right to overcome to fight. Therefore, the question is whether you go from battle to victory or from victory to battle." Many people struggle and strive to overcome, and the result is always failure. Victory can never be attained by our own striving. Victory comes from Christ and is absolutely something given by God. We have believed that the Lord is our holiness, perfection, and victory. Hence, everything else must now move out. Everything not planted by the Father will be plucked out.
I used an illustration once when I was talking to a brother. I asked: "Suppose you bought a piece of land and the seller made a contract with you. The contract specified the length and breadth of the land. When you went to claim the land, you found a few rascals trying to build a cottage on the land. What should you do? You should drive out the rascals based on the authority of your contract." This should be the same way with us in our battle over sin. We do not have to fight according to our own strength but according to the authority which God has given to us. It is true that the Bible tells us to fight, but it also tells us to fight with faith. It is true that the Bible says we should prevail over the enemy, but it also tells us that we should prevail over him by faith. It is true that the Bible says we should withstand the devil, but it also tells us to withstand him with the shield of faith.
Brothers and sisters, is our peculiar disposition something that comes from the life of Christ? Do our acute suspicion, excessive talkativeness, and tenacious sin come from the life of Christ? We know, of course, that they do not; these things are not from Christ. Since they are not from Christ, we can command them to go away. If we try to withstand them first and then overcome, we will surely be defeated. If we try to fight through to victory with our own strength, we will surely fail. But if we overcome first and then fight, and if we fight from the basis of victory, we will go from victory to victory. Therefore, the crucial issue is whether one fights to victory or fights from victory. Fighting from victory is saying, "Lord, I thank and praise You that You have overcome! Because You have overcome, I can drive all these sins from me." After a Christian has experienced the overcoming life, he should say, "Thank God. Since Christ is my life, these sins should not remain in me anymore. They should go away." Any besetting sin can be removed immediately. This is the real meaning of warfare. The sin that used to continually follow us can now be brushed away at one stroke. This is the meaning of victory.
Acknowledging That One Cannot Make It
and Accepting Christ as Everything
Second, our life should always be the same as it was on the first day we experienced the overcoming life. Every morning when we wake up, we should say to the Lord, "God, I am still weak and powerless before You. I have not changed; I am still the same. Nevertheless, I thank You because You are still my life, and You are still my holiness and my victory. I believe that You will live Your life out of me throughout the day. God, I thank You because everything is according to Your grace, and everything has already been accomplished by Your Son." There are, however, a few things that we should pay attention to.
TWO KINDS OF TEMPTATION
AND THE WAY TO DEAL WITH THEM
I told you before of the brother who rode home after the meeting on a bicycle and was knocked over on the street. Before he realized it, his temper came out. If there had been both the time and the opportunity for him to consider it, he might have had a chance to put his temper away. But the suddenness of the event did not allow him to think, and his temper burst out unexpectedly. Hence, there are two kinds of temptation that we face in our daily life. One kind does not give us a chance to deal with it; it comes suddenly. The other kind comes gradually; it comes in the way of gradual suggestions. One temptation does not give us time to think about it. The other temptation gives us time to think about it. We think gradual temptation is easy to overcome, while sudden temptation is hard to overcome. But brothers and sisters, after we have entered the experience of the overcoming life, we still have to say two prayers every morning when we rise up from our bed. If we neglect these two prayers, we will surely fail again.
The first prayer is to say to the Lord, "Deliver me from temptations. Do not let them come to me without me having a chance to think about them. Do not allow me to sin without having a chance to consider it." The Lord can deliver us from any temptation which we do not have a chance to think about. This is a very precious prayer, and it has saved many people.
Tonight I do not have the time to read the whole chapter of Romans 5. I can only mention it briefly. Romans 5:12-19 teaches us a few things. This passage tells us that our union with Christ is the same as our union with Adam. Just as we sinned through our union with Adam, we have righteousness through our union with Christ. Brothers and sisters, how many of us need to exercise our strength to lose our temper? There is no need to exercise our strength to lose our temper; our temper is aroused as soon as we are stirred up. We spontaneously lose our temper because we are joined to Adam. We sin without any determination on our part because we are joined to Adam; we do not have to exercise any strength to sin. But the life in Christ that God has promised is the same in principle as our union with Adam. We should tell the Lord, "Just as I was joined to Adam and I sinned without any forethought or determination, I am in Christ today. I can be patient without any forethought or determination on my part. I do not have to fight to become patient. Lord, there is no chance for me to think about the many things that will come upon me today. But I thank and praise You because my union with You is as strong as my union with Adam. When temptation comes to me today, You can express Your meekness, holiness, and victory through me even if the situation is too sudden for me to think about or withstand." If we take this stand before the Lord, we will overcome the first kind of temptation. Every day when we wake up, we should believe that God can deliver us from the temptations which we have no time to think about. Every morning we should believe in the life of Christ, and we will live out His victory spontaneously. Just as we lose our temper without thinking about it, we can dispel our temper without thinking about it as well. This all depends on our faith. As long as we have faith, all of God's facts will become our experience.
The second kind of temptation does not come suddenly; rather, it comes gradually. It lingers and repeatedly entices us. What should we do about this kind of temptation? We should not pay attention to it or fight it. Everything depends on the Lord Jesus. I am still the same as before; I am still weak, and I am still incapable of withstanding temptation. "Lord I cannot make it. Not only can I not make it, but I also will not try to make it. Lord, I cannot be patient, and I will not try to be patient. I could not make it in the past, and I cannot make it now. I thank and praise You that I cannot make it. Hallelujah! I cannot make it! Hallelujah! I have no way to deal with it!" At the same time we should lift up our heads, look to the Lord, and say to Him, "Lord, You can make it! You are not weak in me. You are strong in me. Lord, I thank and praise You because You are able! Hallelujah! You are able!" Brothers and sisters, if we take this stand, the temptations will go away. When we struggle and fight with temptations, it seems that they refuse to go away. But when we declare that we cannot make it and that God can make it, and when we boast in our weaknesses and glory in God's power, the temptations go away.
THE JUST LIVING BY FAITH
Some brothers have asked whether this means that we will no longer sin after we have experienced victory. My answer is that eventually we will realize everything in our practice. But in the mean time, there is still the possibility of sinning. According to the Bible, what kind of life should we live? The Bible shows us that the life of a Christian is a life of faith. "The righteous shall have life and live by faith." The righteous receive life by faith; this is the initial experience. The righteous also live by faith; this is the ongoing experience.
There are two worlds before us. One is the physical world, and the other is the spiritual world. When we exercise our physical organs, we are living in the physical world. But when we exercise our faith, we are living in the spiritual world. When we exercise our eyes to look at ourselves, we are still sinners; we are still unclean, proud, and no better than any other person in the world. But when we exercise faith to look at ourselves in Christ, we see that our temper and stubbornness are gone. Everything is gone. There are two worlds today, and every day we have to make a choice between them. Man has a mind, an emotion, and a will. Our will is free; therefore, we live in the world that we choose. If we live according to the senses of our physical organs in the physical world, we will substantiate the physical world. If we live by faith in the spiritual world, we will substantiate the spiritual world. In other words, when we exercise our senses, we live in Adam, but when we exercise our faith, we immediately live in Christ. We are always between these two things. When we live by our senses, we live in Adam, and when we live by faith, we live in Christ. When we live in Christ, everything in Christ will be our experience.
The Bible never teaches that sin can be eradicated. But once a believer has entered the overcoming life, according to the principle of God's work and according to His provision and His commandments, such a person should no longer sin. It is possible for us to express Christ every day, and it is possible for us to more than conquer every day. But the minute we live in our feelings and by our feelings, we will immediately fail. Brothers and sisters, we have to live by faith daily; only then can we substantiate everything in Christ.
BEING RECOVERED BY THE BLOOD
IMMEDIATELY AFTER FAILURE
What should we do if we fail accidentally? We should come immediately to God and put our sins under His blood. The very next moment, we can look to the Lord and say, "God, I thank and praise You because Your Son is still my life and my holiness. He will live out His overcoming life from within me." We can be recovered within a second. There is no need to wait for five minutes or an hour. God forgives and cleanses us, but we think that we should feel sorry for ourselves a little longer and suffer a little more punishment before we are thoroughly cleansed. This is just asking for trouble. We are living by our feelings and merely prolonging our ties to Adam for another hour or two.
Some may ask, "If a man still fails and needs the cleansing of the blood after he has entered the overcoming experience, is he not the same as those who never have the overcoming experience?" Brothers and sisters, there is a big difference. Before one overcomes, his life is a total failure. Occasionally he may overcome, but he fails habitually and repeatedly. However, after he has overcome, his life becomes a victorious life. If he fails, it is an occasional failure; on the whole, he overcomes continuously. There is a big difference between the two! Hallelujah! The difference is too great! Formerly, it was mostly failure and occasional victory. Now it is mostly victory and occasional failure. Before one overcomes, the failures are repetitious. Those who lose their temper always lose their temper. Those whose thoughts are unclean always have unclean thoughts. Those who are stubborn are always stubborn, those who are narrow-minded are always narrow-minded, and those who are jealous are always jealous. Every time one fails, he fails in the same things, and victory is rare. A person is habitually bound by his temper, pride, jealousy, or lying. After he goes through the overcoming experience, he will only fail occasionally, and when he fails, he will not commit the same sin over and over again. When he sins, it will be different than before.
Before a person overcomes, he will be at a loss as to what to do once he fails. He will not know how to recover his fellowship with God and how to receive God's light once again. He will feel that he is at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and will not know how to climb back up. After he has overcome, he may still fail occasionally, but within a few seconds, he will be recovered. He will immediately confess his sins and be cleansed. He can thank and praise the Lord at once, and Christ will live out His victory from within him once again. This is the great difference between overcoming and not overcoming.
THE PROPER DAILY RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
I would like to bring to your attention 1 John 5:11-12, which says, "And this is the testimony, that God gave to us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life." Have you seen this? How is the overcoming life given to us? It is given to us in the Son. There is no way for us to receive the overcoming life except through the Son. He who has the Son of God has life, and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. When God gives us His Son, He is not giving us just the prescription but the very Doctor Himself. God does not merely give us life; He is giving us this life in His Son. Having the overcoming life is not just a matter of receiving life; it is a matter of receiving the Son of God. Therefore, when our relationship with Christ is improper, problems develop. Once we doubt Christ's faithfulness and His promises, we will have problems within. God does not give us patience, meekness, or humility independently of Christ. He gives us patience, meekness, and humility in His Son. The minute we are not right with His Son, we lose our victory. This is why we need a proper relationship with Christ every day.
Every day we should say, "Lord, You are my Head, and I am Your member. Lord You are still my life, and You are still my holiness." If we turn our eyes to ourselves, we will find none of these things. But if our eyes are turned to Christ, we will have everything. This is faith. We cannot hold on to holiness, victory, patience, or humility apart from Christ. Once we have Christ, we have holiness, victory, patience, and humility. The Chinese have an expression: "As long as the green mountain remains, there is no fear of the shortage of firewood." God is not giving us "firewood"; He is giving us the "mountain." As long as the "mountain" is there, the "firewood" will be there. We believe that God's Son is living within us. The biggest reason for failure in many Christians is that they live by feelings and not by faith.
When we fail, it does not mean that everything we have experienced up to that point is void and invalid. It merely means that something has gone wrong in our believing. We should never think that a person needs to fail after he has overcome. Before we overcome we have to fail; God wants us to fail and fail miserably. But after we overcome, there is no need to fail! Even when we fail, such failures should only be occasional ones. When we are in Adam and we feel cold, callous, and unclean, it means that we are indeed cold, callous, and unclean. But when we are in Christ, we should tell ourselves that we have holiness and victory. Whatever we say we have, we will have.
GROWTH THROUGH SEEING THE TRUTH
AND RECEIVING GRACE
Finally, let us consider what growth means. We agree that we should still grow after we overcome. Some are too proud; they think that after they have overcome and are sanctified there is no need to go further. It may be true that we have overcome and have been sanctified, but we have to realize that entering into an experience is the same as passing through a gate. Without passing through a gate, we cannot walk on the way. We can only grow after we have overcome. We should realize that man has a free will; he is rational and he has feelings. When we overcome, we overcome only the sins that we know of; we cannot overcome the sins that we do not know. This is why there is the need of growth.
What is the one sin that you are aware of? Suppose you have a bad temper. If you have truly overcome in Christ, you will have the patience to overcome your temper, and you cannot grow any further as far as patience is concerned. Your patience is the ultimate patience because this patience is from Christ. This patience is the same patience that Christ had when He was living on earth during His thirty-three and a half years. If your patience is not a false patience and if this patience is the patience of Christ, you cannot be any more patient, because you have the patience of Christ.
We can only overcome the sins that we are aware of. There are, however, sins that we are not aware of, and these are not included in our experience of the victory of Christ. Consequently, we need John 17:17, which says, "Sanctify them in the truth." On the one hand, we have 1 Corinthians 1:30, which says, "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption." On the other hand, we have John 17:17 which says, "Sanctify them in the truth." Christ sanctifies us, and truth increases the measure of sanctification. Is there a brother that knows the whole Bible from the first day? No, we know it gradually. Truth tells us what is right and what is wrong. For example, two years ago, we might not have known that a certain thing is sin. Now we realize that it is sin. We might not have known two weeks ago that something is a sin, but today we realize that it is sin. Many things which we considered to be good and which we approved of before become sin to us later.
There is a difference between the past and the present because the more truth we know, the more sin we discover, and the more sin we discover, the more we need Christ to be our life. The greater the capacity we have, the more we need Christ. Daily we have to study God's Word carefully so that we will see what is sinful. The more we see our sins, the more we have to tell the Lord, "God, show me in these matters that Christ is my victory and my supply." Brothers and sisters, if we want to grow, the light of the truth is indispensable. The light of the truth will reveal our mistakes and show us our own vulnerability. Once the light of the truth exposes our condition, our capacity will be increased, and the more our capacity is increased, the more we can assimilate.
I like 2 Peter 3:18 very much. It says, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." This is one of the few places in the Bible that speaks of growth. We grow in grace. What does growing in grace mean? No one grows into grace; we all grow in grace. We cannot grow into grace; we can only grow in grace.
What is grace? Grace is God doing something for us. For us to grow in grace means that we need God to do more things for us. Suppose God has done five things for me already. But there are still three things which God has to do for me. My need has increased; therefore, I need God to do more for me. Here lies the relationship between truth and grace: Truth exposes our need, while grace supplies our need. Truth shows us where our lack is, while grace fills up that lack. Hallelujah! God has not only truth but also grace! In the Old Testament, men failed repeatedly because they only had the truth; they did not have grace. They had the law, but they did not have the strength to keep the law. We thank and praise the Lord. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Thank the Lord that He has shown us the truth and supplied us with grace! Hallelujah!
I can say before God, "I am forever a beggar. I am forever a pauper. I have to come to You today, and I will come to You tomorrow and the day after." Thank God that I can ask of Him every day. I can ask of Him on Monday, and I can ask of Him on Tuesday. If we bother God this way and ask of Him in this way, He will say that we have grown in grace. The more we see our failures, the more we will ask of God. We will ask all the more for Him to take responsibility of our case. We will say, "Lord, I am still helpless. I still need You to bear my responsibility." Once we see that we have done something wrong, the first thing to do is say to God, "I confess my sins. (At such times, you must call sin by its proper name. You must call sin a sin.) God, I will not change myself anymore. I have learned one more lesson. I can never change, and I do not intend to change. God, I thank You because this is another chance to boast in my weakness! God, I thank You because You can make it! I thank You because You can remove my weakness." Brothers and sisters, every time we boast in our weakness, the power of Christ will tabernacle over us. Every time we say that we cannot make it, God will show us that He can make it. If we do this time after time, we will grow.
Tonight I will mention a few examples to show you the meaning of growth. There are many sins which we do not realize are sins. But once we know, we should say, "God, I have sinned! I need Christ to live out His life!" I can testify that once a man mistreated me and I said a few rash words to him. I knew that it was wrong to say rash words to others, but I argued that he was more wrong than I and that he had not apologized to me. I was only wrong a little. Should I have apologized to him instead? Yet God wanted me to do this. The person had offended me, but I had forgiven him and was no longer angry with him. Yet I still had to apologize. I thought I was doing quite good already, but I was still short of the standard of Matthew 5, which says that we have to love our enemies. If I could love that person, I would be able to love even a cat or a dog. I had written a letter acknowledging my rash words, but since I could not love him, I decided I would not send the letter. I decided that I would write another one when I could love him. I did not hate him, and I had forgiven him, but I could not love him. Only God could love him. God says that loving is the truth and not loving is sin. I wanted to overcome, and I wanted to fight with faith. I said to the Lord, "If You do not cause me to love him, I cannot love him." When I said that I could not love and that God is the only One who can love, I found myself loving him. On the one hand, the truth tells us that we should love. On the other hand, grace supplies us with the strength to love. Such dealings sometimes take a few seconds and sometimes take a few days.
Miss Fischbacher had a co-worker who always gave her a hard time. The co-worker would always come up with some ideas which made her suffer. If Miss Fischbacher said that there was such-and-such a thing, the co-worker would deny that there was such a thing. If Miss Fischbacher said that there was no such thing, the co-worker would argue that there was such a thing. It seemed as if she was always trying to show others that Miss Fischbacher was dishonest. Miss Fischbacher tried to endure this but could do nothing about her behavior. Every time Miss Fischbacher saw this person, she would either pat her shoulder or shake her hand as an outward sign of love. Outwardly everything seemed to be well, but inwardly it was not well. One day Miss Fischbacher read 1 Peter 1:22, which says, "Love one another from a pure heart fervently." She pondered and thought that it was impossible for her to love this person, much less to love her fervently. She told the Lord, "I cannot overcome in this matter. Lord, I have found that this is sin. You have said that we should love the brothers fervently, but I cannot do it. This certainly is sin." She asked God to remove this sin from her. She did not hate that person, and she had spent time with her, but it was difficult for her to love this person. Every time she saw this person, she tried her best to love her, but it never worked. One day she locked herself in her room and prayed to God, saying, "I should love her, but I cannot love her. This is a sin. I will not let You go today until I can love this person." She prayed for three hours. In the end, the Lord's love filled her up, and she felt that she could even die for this person. She not only loved her but also loved her fervently. Because she loved her fervently, she prayed for her the whole night. The next day after her routine work, she prayed for the person again. She not only had the experience of victory but also the experience of power. This is the meaning of the truth sanctifying us. This is the meaning of growing in grace. The truth enables us to see what sin is, and grace supplies us with the strength to overcome the sin. Once we find out what sin is, we will not let go until we overcome. This is the way we grow in grace day by day.
There were once three British sisters. One was engaged, while the other two had decided to remain single. All three were working for the Lord in inland China. The sister who was engaged was the most unhappy one. Although her fiancé wrote often to comfort her, she was continually depressed. One day while she was feeling lonely in her room, she wept. The other two sisters asked, "Why are you feeling lonely? You have a fiancé who always writes to you! It should be the two of us who feel lonely." After the two said this, they went back to their rooms and suddenly felt lonely as well. They thought about their work in the inland regions and their strange food and uncomfortable dwelling. How lonely this was! Indeed, sin is infectious. While they were feeling sorry for themselves, they recalled the Lord's Word, "And behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age" (Matt. 28:20). They also recalled Psalm 16:11 which says, "In Your presence is fullness of joy;/At Your right hand there are pleasures forever." They told the Lord, "Loneliness is a sin. You have said that You will be with us until the consummation of the age; therefore, we say that loneliness is a sin. You have said that in Your presence there is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand there are pleasures forever; therefore, we say that loneliness is a sin." They both knelt down and prayed, "Lord, we acknowledge that loneliness is a sin." From the time that they dealt with their loneliness in such a specific way, their loneliness never came back to them. Hallelujah! Loneliness never came back to them.
Brothers and sisters, we can discover new sins every day, and we can find new failures every day. Yet at the same time, there is the fresh supply of grace. "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace" (John 1:16). We have received it once, and we are receiving it again and again.
A sister worked in India, and she had many anxieties. One day she read Philippians 4:6, which says, "In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." She saw that anxiety was a sin and that failing to give thanks was also a sin. Brothers and sisters, once we see a sin, we have to confess it before the Lord and also acknowledge that the Lord is living within us. This is the meaning of growth.
Our victory in Christ is absolute in nature; there is no room for improvement. However, the sphere of our overcoming is ever expanding. Each person receives a different degree of light from the Lord. The more light that a man receives, the more he advances, and the less light that a man receives, the less he advances. The more a person knows about sin, the more he receives the supply from God, and the less a person receives light from God, the less he receives the supply from God. Brothers and sisters, we have to know the relationship that truth and grace have with us. I hope that we would all say to God daily, "Lord, I cannot make it, and I do not intend to make it. Lord, I thank and praise You that I cannot make it." Every day we have to pray to God to give us light and grace. We may fail accidentally, but we can be recovered within a second. If we do this day by day, our growth will be beyond anyone's expectation because it will be the work of Christ alone. Hallelujah, this is full salvation! Hallelujah, He is leading us on! Hallelujah, Satan can do nothing about us! Hallelujah, Christ has overcome!