PRAYER

Scripture Reading: John 16:24; James 4:2-3; Luke 11:9-10; Psa. 66:18; Mark 11:24; Luke 18:1-8

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16:24)

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  (James 4:2-3)

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:  (Psalms 66:18)

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.  (Mark 11:24)

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8)

 

I. PRAYER BEING A BASIC CHRISTIAN RIGHT

Christians have a basic right while living on earth today, the right to receive answers to prayers. The moment a person is regenerated, God gives him the basic right to ask of Him and to be heard by Him. John 16 says that God answers when we ask in the name of the Lord so that our joy may be made full. If we pray without ceasing, we will live a Christian life that is full of joy on earth today.

If we unceasingly pray, yet God does not unceasingly answer our prayer, or if we have been a Christian for years and God hardly or never listens to our prayers, there must be something seriously wrong. If we have been a Christian for three to five years without receiving one answer to prayer, we are ineffectual Christians. We are not just a little ineffectual, but very ineffectual. We are children of God, yet our prayers are never answered! This should never be. Every Christian should experience God answering his prayers. Every Christian should have frequent experiences of prayers being answered. This is a basic experience. If God has not answered our prayers for a long time, it means that there is surely something wrong with us. There is no way to deceive ourselves in the matter of answers to prayer. If it is answered, it is answered. If it is not answered, it is not answered. If it is effectual, it is effectual. If it is ineffectual, it is ineffectual.

We would like to ask every Christian: Have you learned to pray? Has God answered your prayer? It is wrong for prayers to be left unanswered, because prayers are not just a speaking into the air. Prayers are meant to be answered. Unanswered prayers are vain prayers. Christians must learn to have answered prayers. Since you have believed in God, your prayers should be answered by God. Your prayers are useless if God does not answer them. You must pray until your prayers are answered. Prayer is not only for spiritual cultivation but even more for receiving answers from God.

Prayer is not that easy a lesson to learn. A person may be a Christian for thirty or even fifty years and yet not learn to pray well. On the one hand, prayer is not a simple thing. On the other hand, prayer is so easy that a person can pray as soon as he believes in the Lord. Prayer can be considered the most profound as well as the simplest subject. It is so profound that some still cannot pray well despite learning about it all their lives. Many children of God feel that they do not know how to pray even up to the time they die. However, prayer is so simple that the moment a person believes in the Lord, he can start praying and have his prayers answered. If you begin your Christian life in a good way, you will always receive answers to your prayers. If you do not have a good start, you may not have an answer to prayer for three or even five years. If you do not have a proper foundation, you will need much effort to correct it later. Therefore, once a person believes in the Lord, he must learn to receive answers from God for his prayers. We hope that every believer will pay attention to this matter.

II. CONDITIONS FOR PRAYERS BEING ANSWERED

In the Bible we can see many conditions for having prayers answered, but only a few of them are basic. We believe that if we meet these few conditions, our prayers will be answered. These few conditions are equally applicable to those who have prayed for many years. These are very basic conditions, and we should pay attention to them.

A. Asking

All prayers should be genuine petitions before God. After a brother was saved, he prayed every day. One day a sister asked him, “Has God ever listened to your prayer?” He was surprised. To him prayer was just prayer; why did anyone have to bother about whether or not they were answered? From that time on, whenever he prayed, he asked God to answer his prayer. He began to consider how many of his prayers were answered. He discovered that his prayers were quite vague and capricious. It did not matter whether God answered them, and it did not matter whether God ignored them. They were like prayers to God for the sun to rise the next day; the sun would rise whether or not he prayed. He had been a Christian for a year, yet none of his prayers were answered. All that time he had been just kneeling and muttering words. He could not pinpoint what he had asked for. This amounted to not having asked for anything at all.

The Lord says, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). If what you are knocking on is just the wall, the Lord will not open the wall to you. But if you indeed are knocking on the door, the Lord will surely open the door to you. If you ask to go in as well, the Lord will surely let you in. The Lord said, “Seek and ye shall find” (v. 7). Suppose that there are many things here. Which one do you want? You must ask for at least one thing. You cannot say that anything will do. God wants to know what you specifically want and what you specifically are asking for. Only then can He give it to you. Hence, to ask means to demand something specific. We have to ask. This is what it means to seek and to knock. Suppose you want something from your father today. You have to ask for the specific thing you want. If you go to a pharmacy for medicine, you must say exactly what medicine you want. If you go to a market to purchase vegetables, you must say what vegetables you want. It is strange that people can come to the Lord without saying what they want. This is why the Lord says that we need to ask and ask specifically. The problem with us is that we do not ask. The hindrance is on our side. In our prayers we need to speak what we need and what we want. Do not pray an all-inclusive prayer in a frivolous way, caring little whether or not it is answered.

A new believer needs to learn to pray. He needs to pray with a specific goal in mind. “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). Many people go through the motion of prayer without asking for anything. It is useless to spend an hour or two hours or even eight or ten days before the Lord without asking for anything. You need to learn to ask for something; you need to knock, really knock hard, at a door. Once you clearly identify the entrance and seek to go in, knock hard at the door. When you seek something specific, you will not be satisfied with just anything; you want that particular thing. Do not be like some brothers and sisters who stand up in the meeting to pray for twenty minutes or half an hour without knowing what they want. It is strange that many people have long prayers that do not ask for anything.

You must learn to be specific with your prayer. You should know when God has answered your prayers and when He has not answered your prayers. If it makes no difference to you whether or not God answers your prayers, it will be hard for you to effectively pray to Him if you come across a difficulty in the future. Empty prayers will not be effectual in times of need. If prayers are empty when needs are specific, one cannot expect any solution for the problem. Only specific prayers can deal with specific problems.

B. Not Asking Amiss

We should ask, but there is a second condition to prayer; we should not ask amiss. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3). We should ask God out of necessity. We should not ask mindlessly, unreasonably, or wildly. We should never ask carelessly or amiss for any unnecessary things according to our lust or our flesh. If we do, our prayers will be in vain. While God often gives us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), asking amiss is a different matter.

Asking amiss means asking beyond one’s capacity or real need. If you have a need, you can ask God. But you should only ask God to take care of your need. Asking beyond what you need is asking amiss. If you have a great need, it is not wrong to ask God to satisfy such a need. But if you do not have a great need, and you ask for it, you are asking amiss. You can only ask according to your capacity and need. You should never ask foolishly for this and that. Asking carelessly is to ask amiss, and such asking will not receive any answer from God. Asking amiss before God is like a four-year-old child asking his father for the moon in the sky. God is not pleased with evil asking. Every Christian should learn to confine his prayers within the proper scope. Do not open your mouth rashly and ask for more than you actually need.

C. Dealing with Sins

Some do not ask amiss, but God does not answer their prayers. This is because there is a basic barrier between them and God—sin. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). If a person has obvious and known sins in his heart, yet is unwilling to drop or part with them, the Lord will not answer his prayer. (Note the words in my heart.) The Lord cannot answer a person’s prayer when there is such a great hindrance.

What does it mean to “regard iniquity in my heart”? It means to keep a sin in one’s heart, being unwilling to part with it. Such a person knows something is a sin, yet he continues to cherish it. It is not only a weakness in conduct or appearance but also a craving in the heart. This is different from the person spoken of in Romans 7. Although the person in Romans 7 has failed, he hates what he is doing. The person here, however, regards iniquity in his heart. This means he keeps the iniquity to himself and is unwilling and reluctant to let go of it. The sin remains not only in his conduct but also in his heart. The Lord will not hear such a one when he prays. So long as there is one sin, it will hinder God from answering our prayer. We should not keep any favorite sin in our heart. We should acknowledge all sins as sins and should put them under the blood. The Lord can sympathize with our weakness, but the Lord will not allow us to regard iniquity in our hearts. Our prayers will not prevail if we have removed all the sins outwardly but still regard them in our heart and are unwilling and reluctant to part with them. The moment we begin our Christian life, we have to ask for the Lord’s grace to keep us from falling and to sanctify us in our conduct. At the same time, we must thoroughly reject all sins in our heart. We should not retain or regard any sin in our heart. Our prayer will be useless if sin remains in our heart. The Lord will not listen to such a prayer.

Proverbs 28:13 says, ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” You must confess your sins. You must tell the Lord, “I have regarded a sin in my heart. I cannot give it up. I ask You to forgive me. I want to forsake this sin. Please deliver me from this sin. Do not let this sin remain in me. I do not want it. I want to reject it.” If you confess to the Lord this way, the Lord will forgive; you will receive forgiveness. Then, your prayer will be heard. You must never be loose in this matter. You will not receive anything if you do not ask. You also will not receive anything if you ask amiss. Even if you do not ask amiss, the Lord will not answer your prayer as long as you keep back a favorite sin and regard it in your heart.

(To help you with confession of sins, I am putting this download link that I call the SIN AND REPENTANCE CONFESSION LIST.)

D. Believing

A condition on the positive side for having prayer answered is faith. Faith is indispensable. Without faith, prayer is ineffectual. The story in Mark 11 speaks loudly of the need for faith in prayer. The Lord Jesus said, ” What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (v. 24). We must believe when we pray. If we believe that we have received what we are praying for, we will have them. We hope that as soon as a person has received the Lord, even a week after his conversion, he will know what faith is. The Lord said, ” believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” He did not say, “Believe that you will receive them” but, “Believe that you have received them.” We should believe that we have received what we asked for, and we will have them. The believing that the Lord speaks of here is followed by its predicate you have received. What is faith? Faith is believing that we have received what we have asked for.

Christians often make the mistake of separating believe from its predicate you have received. They place it before the expression you will have them. They pray to the Lord thinking that it is a matter of great faith to “believe…and you will have them.” They pray to the Lord that the mountain be taken up and cast into the sea, and they believe that it will be so. They think that this kind of faith is great faith. However, this is to move believe away from you have received and to place it before you will have them. The Bible says that we should believe that we have received, not that we will receive. The two are definitely not the same. Not only do new believers need to learn this, but even those who have been believers for many years need to learn this.

What is faith? Faith is the assurance that God has answered our prayer. It is not the conviction that God will answer our prayer. Faith is when we kneel down to pray and say in an instant, “Thank God! He has answered my prayer. Thank God! This matter is settled.” This is to believe that we have received. A person may kneel down and pray and may rise and say, “I believe that God will definitely hear my prayer.” The expression will definitely hear is wrong. No matter how hard he tries to “believe” in this way, he will not see any result. Suppose you pray for a sick person and he says, “Thank God! I am healed.” His temperature may still be high; there may be no change in his symptoms at all. But his problem is over because he is clear within himself that he is healed. However, if he says, “I believe the Lord will surely heal my sickness,” he will probably need to try harder to “believe.” The Lord Jesus said, “Believe that you have received them, and you will have them.” He did not say that you will receive if you believe that you will receive. If you turn this around, it does not work. Brothers and sisters, have you seen the key? Genuine faith lies in the phrase It is finished. Genuine faith is thanking God for having already answered your prayers.

We need to say a few words more about faith. Consider the matter of healing. We can find some solid examples of faith in Mark’s Gospel. There are three sentences in the Gospel of Mark which bear special significance to prayer. The first relates to the Lord’s power, the second to the Lord’s will, and the third to the Lord’s act.

1. The Lord’s Power—God Can

Let us look at Mark 9:21-23, which says, “And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. ” The father said to the Lord Jesus, “If You can do anything…help us.” The Lord Jesus repeated his word and said, “If You can.” The Lord’s “if You can” is a quotation of the father’s “if You can.” The Lord Jesus was repeating what the father said. The father said, “If You can do anything…help us.” The Lord Jesus said, “If You can. All things are possible to him who believes.” It was not a question of “if You can,” but a question of whether or not he could believe.

When man finds himself in difficulty, he is usually full of doubt; he cannot believe in the power of God. This is the first thing we need to deal with. It may seem at times that the power of the obstacle is greater than the power of God. The Lord Jesus rebuked the father for doubting the power of God. In the Bible we seldom find the Lord interrupting a person as He did in this case. It seems that the Lord was angry when He said, “If You can.” The Lord rebuked the father when the father said, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” What the Lord meant was, “How can you say, `If You can’? What is this? All things are possible to him who believes. This is not a matter of `if I can,’ but a matter of whether or not you believe. How dare you ask if I can!” When God’s children pray, they should learn to lift up their eyes and say, “Lord! You can.”

Mark 2 records the incident of the Lord healing a paralytic. The Lord said to the paralytic, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (v. 5). Some scribes reasoned in their hearts, saying, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” (v. 7). In their hearts they thought that only God could forgive sins and that Jesus could not. They regarded forgiveness of sins as a great thing. But the Lord said to them, ” Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” (vv. 8-9). The Lord was showing them that to man it was a question of whether or not one could do it, but to God it was a question of which was easier. For man, it is impossible for anyone to forgive sins or to ask the paralytic to stand up and walk. However, the Lord showed them that He could forgive sins as well as make the paralytic rise up and walk. Both forgiving and making the paralytic rise up and walk were easy for the Lord. The Lord was showing them that “God can.” In our prayer we need to know that “God can” and that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.

2. The Lord’s Will—God is Willing

It is true that God can do everything, but how do I know that He is willing to heal me? I do not know His will. Perhaps the Lord is not willing to heal me. What should I do? Let us look at another story. Mark 1:41 says, “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Whether or not God can do something is not the question here; rather, it is a question of whether or not God is willing. No matter how great His power is, what does it matter if He is unwilling to heal? If God does not want to heal us, the greatness of His power will be of no consequence to us. The first question that has to be settled is whether or not God can, but the second question that also has to be settled is whether or not God will. The Lord said to the leper, “I am willing.” The Old Testament tells us that leprosy is a very filthy disease (Lev. 13—14). Whoever contacted a leper was defiled. However, the Lord’s love was so great that He said, “I am willing.” The Lord Jesus stretched out His hand and touched and cleansed the leper! The leper entreated the Lord, and the Lord was willing to cleanse him. Can it be that the Lord will not heal our illness? Can it be that the Lord will not answer our prayers? We can all say, “God can” and “God is willing.”

3. The Lord’s Act—God Has Done

It is not enough for us to know that God can and God will. We need to know one more thing—God has done. We need to go back to Mark 11:24, which we quoted earlier: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” This tells us that God has done something already.

What is faith? Faith is not just believing that God can and will do something but also believing that God has done something already. God has accomplished it. If you believe that you have received it, you will have it. If you believe and are confident that God can and will do a certain thing because He has given you a word concerning it, you should thank Him, saying, “God has done it!” Many people’s prayers are not answered because they are not clear about this point; they still hope that they will receive something. However, to hope means to expect something in the future, whereas to believe means to consider something as being done. Genuine faith says, “Thank God, He has healed me! Thank God, I have received it! Thank God, I am cleansed! Thank God, I have recovered!” When faith is perfect, it will not only say “God can” and “God wills,” but also “God has done.”

God has listened to our prayers! God has accomplished everything! If we believe that we have received it, we will receive it. Very often, our faith is a faith that believes in what we will receive. As a result, we never receive anything. We should have the faith that we have already received. Faith is always a matter of “having been done” rather than of “will be done.”

Consider a simple illustration. A person has just heard the gospel. If you ask him, “Have you believed in the Lord Jesus?”, he may answer, “I have.” You may then ask, “Are you saved?” If he says, “I will be saved,” you know that he is not saved. Suppose you ask him again, “Do you really believe that you are saved?” If he says, “I will surely be saved,” you know that he is still not saved. You may want to ask him again, “Are you really sure that you will be saved?” If he answers, “I think I will,” his words do not sound like someone who is saved. If one says, “I will be saved,” “I will surely be saved,” or “I think I will surely be saved,” there is no guarantee that he is saved. If the person says, “I am saved,” he has the right tone. Once a man believes, he is saved. Any faith, if it is faith at all, believes in what has been accomplished. For example, once a person possesses faith at the time of his salvation, he immediately says, “Thank God, I have received.” Let us lay hold of these three things—God can, God wills, and God has done.

Faith is not a psychological exercise. Faith is receiving God’s word and believing with much assurance that God can, God wills, and God has done. If you have not received His word, do not take the spiritual risk of trying to tempt God. The exercise of psychology is not faith. Take illness as an example: All who are healed through genuine faith are not afraid of a medical checkup (Mark 1:44). The result of a medical checkup for those who have experienced a genuine divine healing will prove that it was a genuine healing rather than something psychological.

When new believers learn to pray, they should pray in two stages. In the first stage they should pray until they receive a promise. They should pray until they receive God’s word. All prayers begin by asking God for something. Such prayers can continue for a period of time, sometimes lasting for three to five years. One needs to keep asking. Some prayers are answered quickly, while other prayers continue to go unanswered for years. This is the period of time when one needs to continue to ask. The second stage begins from the time one receives a promise and extends to the time the promise is realized. It begins from the time one receives God’s word and extends to the time His word is fulfilled. This stage is not for praying, but for praising. In the first stage one prays, but in the second stage one praises. In the first stage he prays until he receives a word. In the second stage he praises the Lord continuously until the word is fulfilled. This is the secret to prayer.

Some people only know two points about prayer: First, they pray on their knees for what they do not have, and second, they have it; God has given it to them. Suppose I ask for a watch from the Lord, and after a few days the Lord gives me a watch. There are only two events: being without something and having something. Some do not realize that there is another event in between these two—the event of faith. Suppose I pray for a watch and one day say, “Thank God, He has already heard my prayer.” Although my hands are still empty, I am clear within that I already have the watch. Indeed, after a few days the watch arrives. We cannot be concerned with just two events: not having and then having. We must be concerned with a third event—an additional event between not having and having, in which God gives us a promise, and then we believe and rejoice over it. Perhaps we have to wait three days before we actually receive the watch. But in our spirit, we received it three days ago already. A Christian should experience this kind of receiving in the spirit. If a person never experiences this kind of receiving in the spirit, he does not have faith.

We hope that new believers will know what faith is, and we hope that they will learn to pray. Perhaps, you have prayed continually for three or five days, a month, or even a year, and still your hands are empty. But deep in your heart, you have a little assurance that the matter will eventually be accomplished. At that time you should begin to praise God. You should continue praising Him until you have received the thing in your hand. Simply put, the first stage is to pray from nothing to having faith, and the second stage is to praise from having faith to actually receiving.

Why should we divide our prayers into these two stages? Suppose a person prays from having nothing to having faith. If he continues to pray, he may lose his faith. Once a person has acquired faith, he should begin praising. If he continues to pray, he may pray away his faith and not receive anything in the end. “You will have it” is an actual having in the hands, while “you have received it” is a having in the spirit. If the faith is already there, but the things have not materialized, one has to remind God with praise; he should not try to remind Him with prayer. If God has said that He will give us something, what else do we need to say? If we have the inward assurance that “we have received it,” what more do we need to pray for? Many Christians have the experience that as soon as their prayer strikes faith, they can no longer continue to pray. They can only say, “Lord! I praise You.” They have to keep their faith and praise, “Lord! I praise You. You have heard my prayer. I praise You because You answered my prayer a month ago.” If you do this, you will receive. Unfortunately, some people do not have the knowledge. God has already promised them something, yet they still pray. In the end their prayer drives away their faith. This is a great loss.

The word in Mark 11:24 is too precious. In the whole New Testament, we cannot find another passage that explains faith as clearly as this one. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” If a person sees this, he will know what prayer really is, and prayer will be a powerful tool in his hands.

E. Persevering in Asking

Another point about prayer which requires attention is that we must persevere in prayer and never stop praying. Luke 18:1 says, “… men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Some prayers require perseverance. One has to pray to such an extent that the prayer seems to wear out the Lord and force Him to answer. This is another kind of faith. The Lord said, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). This faith is different from the faith spoken of earlier, but they are not contradictory. Mark 11 says that we must pray until we have faith. Luke 18 says that we must ask again and again. We must have the faith to pray to the Lord persistently until one day He is compelled to answer our prayer. We should not care whether or not there is a promise. We should just pray until God is compelled to answer.

Many prayers are inconsistent prayers. A person can pray for one or two days. But after three months, he completely forgets it. Some people can pray about something only once. They cannot even pray a second time for it. Such ones care little whether they receive what they ask for. Please count how many of your prayers have been offered for the second time, the third time, the fifth time, or the tenth time. If you have forgotten your prayers, how can you expect God to remember them? If you do not have a heart to pray, how can you expect God to have a heart to listen? If you have forgotten your prayer, how can you expect God to remember it? Actually, you have never wanted what you asked for. A person will pray persistently only if he has a real need. One prays persistently only when he is pressed in the environment and driven by needs. In such cases he may persist for decades and still not give up praying, “Lord! If You do not answer me, I will not stop asking.”

If you want to ask for something, you should trouble God about it. If you really want it, you must ask persistently until God hears you. You have to ask in such a way that God cannot do anything except answer your prayer. You have to ask until God is forced to answer you.

III. THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER

Every Christian should have a prayer-book, one a year. He should record his prayers as one keeps books in accounting. Each page should be divided into four columns. The first column should record the date he begins to pray for something. The second column should record the prayer item. The third column should record the date the prayer is answered, and the fourth column should record how God answers the prayer. In this way, one will find out how many things he asks God for in a year, how many prayers God answers, and what prayers are still unanswered. New believers should definitely keep such a book. But it is good for those who have been believers for many years to keep a prayer-book also.

The advantage of writing things down in a prayer-book is that it shows us whether or not God is answering our prayers. Once God’s answers stop, something must be wrong. It is good for Christians to be zealous in serving the Lord, but such service is useless if their prayers are not answered. If a man’s way to God is blocked, his way to men is also blocked. If a man has no power before God, he will have no power before men. We must first seek to be a man of power before God before we can be useful before men.

A brother once wrote down the names of one hundred forty persons and prayed for their salvation. Some names were recorded in the morning and the persons were saved in the afternoon. After eighteen months, only two on the list remained unsaved. This is a very good pattern for us. May God gain more Christians who will keep a record of their prayers. I hope you will put this into practice. Write down the items you are praying for one by one and the items that God has answered. Any item that has been recorded in the book, but has not received an answer, should be followed up by persistent prayer. You should only stop if God shows you that a certain prayer is not according to His will. If He has not shown you this, pray persistently until you receive an answer. You should not be careless in any way. You should be strictly trained in this matter from the beginning. You should be this serious before God. Once you pray, do not stop until you receive an answer.

In using the prayer-book, note that some items require daily prayer while others require prayer only once a week. The schedule depends on the number of prayer items you have in your prayer book. If you have little to ask, you can pray daily over every item in the book. If there are many items, you can arrange for certain items to be prayed over on Mondays and others to be prayed over on Tuesdays. Just as men schedule their time to do other things, we should set aside a specific time every day for prayer. If our prayers are not specific, we will not need a prayer-book. If our prayers are specific, we will need a prayer-book. We can place this book in the same place we put our Bible and hymn book. They are to be used daily. After a period of time, count how many prayers have been answered and how many prayers have gone unanswered. It is a blessing to pray in a specific way according to a prayer-book.

As for the prayer that the Lord teaches us in Matthew 6, the prayer of 1 Timothy 2, and prayers for light, life, grace, and gifts for the church, these are general subjects for prayer. They should not be classified under ordinary items for prayer. We should pray for these great things every day.

Prayer has two ends—the person who is praying and the one who is being prayed for. Many times, the one being prayed for will not change unless the praying one is first changed. If the situation on their side remains unchanged, we need to seek after God concerning our side. We should say, “O Lord! What changes do I have to make? What sins have I not dealt with yet? What loves should I forsake? Am I really learning the lesson of faith? Is there anything else I should learn?” If there is a need for change on our side, we must change first. We cannot expect those who are being prayed for to change while there is no change at all on our side.

Once a person believes in the Lord, he must learn to pray earnestly. He must learn the lesson of prayer well before he can have a deeper knowledge of God and a fruitful future for himself.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

READING THE BIBLE

Scripture Reading: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Psa. 119:9-11, 15, 105, 140, 148

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.   (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalms 119:9-11)

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.  (Psalms 119:15)

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  (Psalms 119:105)

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.  (Psalms 119:140)

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.  (Psalms 119:140)

 

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING THE BIBLE

Every Christian should read the Bible because it is ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Tim. 3:16). It shows us many things that God has done for us and the way He has led men in the past. If we want to know the riches and vastness of God’s provision for us, we must read the Bible. If we want to see God’s step-by-step guidance for men, we must read the Bible as well.

God’s speaking to man today is based upon what He has already spoken in the past. God rarely speaks things which He has not already spoken in the Bible. (This is why books like the BOOK OF MORMON or the QURAN are considered false teaching.  They don’t match any of the main thought of the Bible.  It is also why the books of the Apocrypha that Catholics use are also rejected by Bible scholars since they also contain thoughts and teachings which are foreign to the whole body of inspired writing in the 66 books that we call the Bible.)  Even though a person may be quite advanced in his spiritual walk, God’s revelation to him will still be confined to the words that He has spoken in the Bible. Hence, God’s speaking today is merely a repetition of His own word. If a person does not know what God has spoken in the past, it is difficult for him to receive His revelation in the present because he lacks the basis for God’s speaking.

Moreover, if God wants to speak something to others through us, He will also do it on the basis of what He has spoken in the past. If we do not know what God has said in the past, He cannot speak through us to others, and we are useless in the eyes of God.

This is why we need to let the word of God dwell in us richly. By letting His word dwell in us richly, we know His past ways and hear His present speaking. Only then can God use us to speak to others.

The Bible is a great book. It is a monumental work. Even if we spent our whole life on the Bible, we could only touch a part of its riches. It is impossible for a person to understand the Bible without spending time to study it. Every young Christian should do his best to labor on God’s Word so that when he grows old, he can nourish himself and supply others with the riches of the Word.

Everyone who wants to know God must study His Word in a serious way, and every believer should realize the importance of reading God’s Word from the very beginning of his Christian life.

II. BASIC PRINCIPLES IN READING THE BIBLE

There are four basic principles in reading the Bible: (1) Discover the facts, (2) memorize and recite the words, (3) analyze, categorize, and make comparisons, and (4) receive God’s enlightening.

We must follow the sequence of these four steps when we read the Bible. We cannot jump from the third to the first step or from the first to the third step. First, discover the facts in the Bible. Second, memorize these facts. We must know and memorize God’s Word accurately and exactly. We cannot afford to leave out or ignore any portion. If we do, our reading will profit little. Third, analyze, categorize, and make comparisons with the facts. After we have analyzed the facts accurately, categorized them properly, and compared them clearly before God, we will have the ground to take on the fourth point—God’s enlightening.

The Bible contains many facts that are spiritual in nature. When a man’s inner eyes are blind, he cannot see these facts. But once he discovers these biblical facts, half of the light contained in the Word will be his. God’s enlightening is just His shining upon the facts that are recorded in His Word. Discovering the facts is half of our job in reading the Bible. When we read the Bible, the first thing we have to do is discover these facts.

For example, gravity is a fact. The law of gravity existed long before Newton, yet for thousands of years no one discovered it. One day, an apple fell on Newton while he was asleep under a tree. Through this he discovered the law of gravity. There is no question about the existence of facts. The question is whether or not these facts have been discovered.

For example, the Bible mentions something in some places and does not mention it in other places. One place mentions one thing while another place skips it. One place says it one way while another place says it a different way. The same word can be in the plural form in one place and in the singular form in another. Sometimes the Bible emphasizes the Lord’s name while at other times it emphasizes a man’s name. Chronology is clearly mentioned in some places, but totally skipped and seemingly neglected in other places. These are all facts.

A person who is good at reading the Bible is surely a careful person before God. He cannot be sloppy or muddled. Every iota or serif of the Bible is unalterable. God’s Word says it, and it is so. The moment God’s Word is opened up, you should know what its emphasis is. Many people are very careless. They listen to men’s words carelessly and read God’s Word carelessly. They do not see what God’s Word emphasizes and are ignorant of the depths in His Word. The first thing a person has to do is discover the facts. Afterwards, he has to memorize these facts and analyze, categorize, and compare them. Only then will he receive light from the Lord. In this way he will get the supply and also supply others. He will receive nourishment and also nourish others.

This is why it is important to use the King James Version of the Bible because all other translations have been taken from the corrupted Westcott & Hort Greek which was purposely altered and changed to alter Biblical teaching and create a complete different meaning than the original Word of God emphasized and intended.  Three examples are the fact that the Holy Trinity is completely removed by leaving out the verse I John 5:7.  Another example of corrupt translating of the Bible is that the word Lucifer is removed from Isaiah 14 and replaced with the word “Morning Star” which refers to Jesus in Scripture.  Also, at least 4 times in the New Testament Jesus is called the occult word “capstone” in place of the original Bible term “foundation stone.”  These are only a few of the thousands of ways the Holy Bible was altered in every translation after the King James and why a serious student or reader of the Bible would never read any other version except the King James Version.  To read a more detailed discussion of this topic, please read Satan, Demons, necromancers, drunks, occult and Bible Translators writing modern Bibles and New Age Versions Replace Jesus with Satan.

Here I will give a simple illustration. If we read the Bible carefully, we will find the New Testament expressions in the Lord, in Christ, in Christ Jesus, etc. It never says in Jesus or in Jesus Christ. It only says in Christ Jesus, not in Jesus Christ. These are facts. We must memorize and jot down these facts one by one. Find where it says in the Lord and what the context is. Find where it says in Christ and what the context is. Find yet another place where it says in Christ Jesus and what the context is. If we know all these portions by heart, we can compare them. Why does it say in Christ in one instance instead of in Jesus? Why does one place say in Christ Jesus and not in Jesus Christ? Why does the Bible never say in Jesus or in Jesus Christ? What is the reason for this? When we analyze and compare the Scriptures in this way, looking to God for enlightenment, we will see something.

Once the light comes, everything will become very clear. Jesus is the name given to the Lord while He was on earth. Christ is the name given to Him after His resurrection when God anointed Him. “God has made Him both Lord and Christ.” Do you remember these words in Acts 2? Christ is the name given to Him in His resurrection. In reading Romans we find the words Christ Jesus, which mean that the Christ today is the very Jesus who was on earth in the past. Christ Jesus is His name today. (This is another place where new translations have altered the Bible by changing these words or leaving something out.)  This means that the Christ today is the very Jesus who was on earth before. His name before resurrection was Jesus Christ. This name implies that Jesus would one day be the Christ. Jesus was His name when He lived on earth as a man. These two expressions—Christ being once Jesus, and Jesus eventually becoming Christ—mean two different things. Moreover, we can only be in Christ, not in Jesus. We can only be in the Lord and in Christ Jesus, not in Jesus Christ. When the Lord was on earth, we could not be in Him. If we had been in Him when He was on earth, we would have taken part in His cross and His redemption. This is contrary to the truth. We have no part in His incarnation at Bethlehem. He was the only begotten Son of God, and we have no part in that.

How then can we be in Christ? First Corinthians 1:30 says, “But of Him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus.” It does not say in Jesus. After the Lord Jesus died and resurrected, we became joined to Him in His resurrection. Through His death and resurrection, God has made Him the Christ, and God has joined us to Him through the Spirit. We received His life at the time of His resurrection. Regeneration does not come through incarnation but through resurrection. Now we should be clear.

This is the way to read the Bible. This is how we study the Bible. First, discover the facts. Then memorize, analyze, categorize, and compare these facts. After this pray to the Lord and wait on Him; He will enlighten you and give you sight. These are the four principles of reading the Bible. We cannot skip any one of them.  And we cannot read from a corrupt translation of the Bible or all these meanings will be altered from their original intent as inspired by God.

Let us give another illustration. Consider the word about the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 15. In reading these passages, we must pay attention to the promise of the Lord Jesus and discover whether there are any special facts related to it.

John 14:16-20 says, ” And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. ” What facts can we discover here? These sentences first use He or Him but later change to I. There is a change in pronoun. Here is a fact: The words He and Him have been changed to I.

According to the four principles of reading the Bible, how should we deal with this passage? First, we should discover the facts. In this case, the pronoun change from He to I is a fact. Second, we must remember this fact. Third, we must analyze this fact. Here are two Comforters. The Lord says, “I will pray the Father, and He [the Father] shall give you another Comforter.” The word another in the expression another Comforter means this is the second one. “And He [the Father] shall give you another Comforter.” This means that the Father will give a second Comforter. If there is a second Comforter, there must be a first Comforter.

The first thing we can ascertain is that the Lord is speaking of two Comforters. The Lord said that the disciples already had one Comforter, but that He was going to give them another. What kind of Comforter is the second? “… that he may abide with you for ever.” Who is the He? The Lord Jesus said, “…world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.“ Why? “…for he dwelleth with you.” He was with them all the time. The world cannot receive Him and has not even seen Him. What about them? The disciples had seen Him; they knew Him. They knew Him because He was abiding with them all the time.

The Lord said, “…for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” After this point the pronoun He is no longer used. In the next sentence the Lord said, ” I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” In studying this, we find that He is I, and I is He. In other words, while the Lord Jesus was living on earth, He was the Comforter. The Holy Spirit was in the Lord, and the Lord was the Comforter. When the Lord was on earth, the Holy Spirit was in Him; He and the Holy Spirit were one. This is why He said that the disciples beheld Him and knew Him and that He was with them.

But then what happened? The Lord went on to tell them that another Comforter would come. Following His death and resurrection, the Lord said that He would come back to them and that God would give them the Holy Spirit. But how was this to be accomplished? The Lord Himself would come to them again in the Holy Spirit. He did not leave them comfortless. After a little while they would see Him no longer, but then they would see Him again, and He would abide in them. Verse 17 says, “.. he dwelleth with you.” Then verse 20 says, “I in you.” Thus, the I in the second section is the He in the first section. Once we see the change in pronouns, we see the difference in the two Comforters. The first section refers to the Holy Spirit in Christ. The second section refers to Christ in the Holy Spirit. He refers to the Holy Spirit in Christ. I refers to Christ in the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the Lord Jesus in another form. The Son is the Father in another form. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is the Son in another form. There is only a change in form. (And yet they are three separate beings at the same time that they are one. I John 5:7)

From this example we see that the first basic principle in reading the Bible is to discover the facts. If we cannot discover any facts, we cannot expect to receive any light from God. It is not a question of how many times we have read the Bible, but a question of the facts we have discovered through our many times of reading.

Paul was a person who knew how to discover facts. Consider what he said in Galatians 3. He saw from Genesis that God would bless the nations through the seed of Abraham. God used the word seed in its singular form, not in its plural form. This refers to Christ. First, Paul discovered this fact. He saw that the nations would be blessed through the seed of Abraham, and he saw that this was a unique seed. From this he realized that this seed referred to Christ. If it had been plural, it would have referred to the many children of Abraham, that is, the Jews, and the meaning would be completely different. Paul read the Scripture thoroughly and discovered the facts.

In the Bible there are many facts. Whether or not a person is rich in God’s Word depends on how many facts he has discovered. The more facts he discovers, the richer he becomes. If he cannot discover any facts and if he reads through the Bible in a hasty and mindless way, he will not understand much.

In reading the Bible, we must learn to discover the facts. After this we should memorize, analyze, and compare these facts. Finally, we should kneel down before God and ask for light.

III. DIFFERENT WAYS TO READ THE BIBLE

We should read our Bible during two different periods of time. We should have two copies of the Bible for these two occasions. One period can be in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Or we can do both early in the morning by reading one way during the first half of our time and another way during the second half of our time. These two periods of time must be separate. In the morning period or the first half of the early morning reading, we should meditate, praise, and pray as we read the Word, mixing our reading with meditation, praise, and prayer. This period of reading is for receiving spiritual food and for strengthening our spirit. Do not read too much during this time; three or four verses is sufficient. The afternoon time, or the second half of the early morning reading, should be longer. During this time, we should read for the purpose of learning more about God’s Word.

If possible, we should have two Bibles. The Bible used in the first period should not have any marks or notes written in it (except dates, which we will mention later). The Bible used in the second period can contain whatever we have been touched with, either by jotting down notes or by circling or underlining words or passages. The Bible used in the first period can contain dates—dates on which we came across a special verse, made a deal with the Lord, or had a special experience. We should write down the date next to such a verse, indicating that we met God through this verse on that date. Do not write down anything other than dates. The Bible used in the second period is for understanding, and we should write down all the spiritual facts we discover and the light we have received. Now let us discuss the way to read the Bible during these two periods of time.

A. Meditating on the Word
during the First Period of Time

Concerning meditating on the Word, I think the best thing is for me to quote George Müller. He said:

It has recently pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now, while preparing the fifth edition for the press, more than fourteen years have since passed away. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to in prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.

 

I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, either very soon after or at a later time, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man…

 

And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. There is thus far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had previously time for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I had had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I had ever had before; and after having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it…

 

How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!— George Müller, Autobiography of George Müller, the Life of Trust, 1861, reprinted 1981, pp. 206-10.

 

B. General Reading
during the Second Period of Time

A new believer who recently has received the Lord should not engage himself in intense research of the Bible for at least six months because he is not familiar with the Bible as a whole yet. He should rather spend a few months to read through the whole Bible and familiarize himself with it in a general way. After this he can begin serious study of the Bible.

In familiarizing himself with the Bible, he should read the whole book chapter by chapter, consecutively over and over again. The best way is to decide the number of chapters in the Old and the New Testament one wants to read each day. The reading should neither be too fast nor too slow. It should be regular, continuous, and general in nature. George Müller read the Old and New Testament a hundred times during his lifetime. Those who have just received the Lord should learn to read the Bible and remember the number of times they have read through it. It is good to write a letter to notify a more elderly brother the first time you have finished reading through the New Testament. It is also good to leave a blank page in your Bible to record the number of times you have read through it. You should write the date and the place you finished reading it the first time, the second time, and so on. Each time you finish reading it, you should mark down the occasion. Identify clearly whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament you have read through. I hope that you, like Mr. Müller, can read through the Bible a hundred times during your lifetime. If a person wants to read through the Bible a hundred times, assuming that he lives for fifty years as a Christian, he will have to go through the whole Bible at least twice a year. You can see why you need to spend much time to read the Bible.

The principle of reading the Bible is to go through it chapter by chapter, over and over again. Those who are more advanced in the Lord should pay attention to the way the newly saved ones read their Bibles. Sometimes it does good to examine the dates recorded in their Bibles, to check how many chapters they read every day, and to find out where they are each week. We should all pay attention to this work and should not slacken. We should remind those who are progressing too slowly, “Half a year has past. How come you have not finished reading the New Testament once yet?”

If a person reads his Bible according to the above way, after some time his knowledge of the Bible will increase. If possible, one should try to memorize one or two verses each day. In the beginning, a person may have to force himself a little to do this. It may come as quite a dull chore. But after some time he will reap the benefit of it.

C. Intense Study
during a Specifically Apportioned Time

The first kind of daily Bible reading—praying and meditating over the Word—is a continuous lifelong practice. The second kind of reading—general reading, involving some kind of Bible study—can begin after at least six months are spent gaining some knowledge of the Bible.

Every Christian should have a definite plan of studying the Bible. If you can set aside half an hour a day, develop a plan to study the Bible for half an hour a day. If you can afford an hour each day, develop a plan that includes an hour of study. Whatever time you can afford, make a plan that will fit your schedule. The worst way to read is by “inspiration,” that is, casual, unplanned reading that begins at whatever page one feels, at times reading voraciously for ten days and at other times not reading anything for ten days. This is the wrong way. We should not adopt this “inspirational” method. Everyone should have a definite plan of reading. In reading the Bible, we need to be restricted and disciplined.

However, do not set too high a standard or too long a time for yourself. If you set too long a time, it will be hard to maintain the schedule. This is worse than having no plan at all. Once you decide to do something, stick to it for five years, ten years, or fifteen years. Do not stop after two, three, five, or six months. This is why you should consider carefully before the Lord the amount of time you should set aside for your study. One hour each day should be quite sufficient. Half an hour may be too short; one may not get much done in half an hour. Of course, if time does not allow you to have an hour, half an hour is still good. One hour, however, is the optimum period of time. If one can afford two hours, it is good. Normally, there is no need to spend more than two hours. We have not seen a brother or sister who studies for three hours a day who can maintain this schedule for long.

There are twenty-eight different ways to study the Bible, which are covered in the book The Ways to Study the Bible. Of the twenty-eight ways, the study of the progression of truth throughout the Bible is the most difficult. For many people, this method should not be attempted until a much later time. The method of word study is a much easier approach. One can also study metals, minerals, numbers, names of persons, geography, etc. These can be supplementary studies; we do not have to devote all our time to these special ways. There are also the chronologies in the Bible. If we have the time, we can take a look at them. Besides these, there are other ways to study the Bible, like studying prophecies, types, parables, miracles, the Lord’s teaching on earth, or doing a book-by-book study, etc. We should go through all these methods one by one.

Let us assume for now that a person has one hour a day to study the Bible. He can allocate his time in the following way:

1. First Twenty Minutes—Studying by Subjects

The experience of some people suggests that an hour of study can be divided into four sessions. The first session of twenty minutes is for studying specific subjects like prophecies, types, parables, dispensations, the Lord’s teachings on earth, or a specific book. One can read all the related passages and find the verses that deal with the subject chosen. If one is trying to study one book at a time, he should select the book he wants to study. He may choose Romans or the Gospel of John. After he finishes one book, he should go on to the next. He should study the whole book and find out the content of each book. If you decide to dedicate twenty minutes of your time each day to this kind of study, do not prolong or shorten it. We must learn to restrict ourselves and never be a careless or loose person.

2. The Second Twenty Minutes—Word Study

The second twenty minutes can be used for word study. There are many special terms like reconciliation, blood, faith, joy, peace, hope, love, obedience, righteousness, redemption, mercy, etc., which are scattered throughout the Bible, and they all are very meaningful. If they are grouped and compiled together, we can get a better grasp of their meaning. For example, we may study the word blood. First, we should jot down all the chapters and verses that mention the blood. Then we should analyze the meaning of each occurrence. What has the blood done for us before God? What type of persons does the blood deal with? What and how much has the blood accomplished for us? In the Old and New Testament, we can find many verses which speak of the blood. We can analyze them all. This cannot be accomplished in one sitting. One cannot hope to see much result on the first day. If he has access to a concordance, he can save much labor.

3. The Third Ten Minutes—Gathering Information

One can choose specific topics and spend the next ten minutes solely gathering information concerning them. There are many topics in the Bible, such as creation, man, sin, salvation, repentance, the Holy Spirit, regeneration, sanctification, justification, forgiveness, freedom, the Body of Christ, the Lord’s coming, judgment, the kingdom, eternity, etc. You can choose certain topics and then gather information about them from the Bible. The most one can handle at one time is five topics; if there are more than five topics, there will be too many clues, and it will be difficult to handle them all at once. Do not gather material for one topic alone; this is too time consuming. One may find material for more than one topic in a chapter. For example, you may be studying about the Holy Spirit. But the particular chapter you are on may not have anything on the Holy Spirit. But you can definitely find other topics in the same chapter. It is not a bad idea to gather information on two, three, four, or five topics at the same time. But do not take more than five at one time.

Each topic may require some time to complete its study. Every day you have to add more material to your study. Write down all the materials (verses) you have gathered, and from these write down the main words and meanings of each passage. It is useless to merely jot down the verses. You must know what the verses are saying. Suppose you are studying the Holy Spirit in Ephesians. In writing down “sealed with the Holy Spirit” in 1:13, you should also write down the meaning of the word seal. First, write down the verse, then the related terms, and finally the meaning of the verse. You should gather all the information this way. One day when you need to deal with such a topic, these materials will be on hand for you to apply.

4. The Fourth Ten Minutes—Paraphrasing

The final ten minutes can be used to paraphrase the Bible. This exercise is very useful. Paraphrasing the Bible gives fresh insight into a passage. By paraphrasing the Bible with simple words, we express a passage in a way that others can understand at a glance.

For example, you may be doing a chapter-by-chapter study of the book of Romans. If a teen-ager comes and says, “I have read Paul’s word in Romans, but I cannot understand it,” you will have to think of some ways to explain this book to him using your own words. A paraphrase is not a commentary; you are merely using your own words to convey what Paul said so that those who do not understand it can understand. In order to do this, you have to learn to paraphrase the Bible with your own words. Take the book of Romans and try to paraphrase it with your own words. Paul wrote the Epistles in his words. Now you should try to write the same thing in your own words. Try your best to do this. Do it properly and intelligently so that you can understand it and so that other brothers and sisters who read it can understand it as well.

Such paraphrasing will show how well we know the Scriptures. Using our own words to reiterate the apostles’ thought is a good way to prepare us for biblical exposition. Paraphrasing is the first step; exposition is the second step. First we should learn to paraphrase the text of the Bible with our own words. Our training before God must be in the proper order. Do not try to expound the Bible before learning to paraphrase it; this is too hasty. Learn to paraphrase the Bible first and then learn to expound it. If we cannot paraphrase the Bible well, it is impossible for us to expound it well. We must paraphrase first and then expound. We must all learn this basic lesson. First, paraphrase Paul’s Epistles, then paraphrase the remainder of the New Testament.

In paraphrasing the Bible, try to avoid using the words of the Bible. Use your own words instead. The main lesson to learn here is to express the meaning of a passage with words that are within your grasp. After you have tried one book, you will know how precious the experience is and how profitable the exercise is. A careless and sloppy person cannot paraphrase the Bible. You must pray much before the Lord and read the Bible properly before you can paraphrase it correctly. After you finish a book, go back and revise your work once or twice, modifying it with appropriate words and polishing your sentences. This will give you a better impression of the book, and you will come to know what the apostles were talking about. You need to paraphrase a passage before you can have a deep impression of it.

In order to paraphrase the Bible, one must first study it thoroughly. He must understand what a passage says and what is implied in the passage. He can then incorporate all his knowledge into his paraphrase. This requires a thorough understanding of a verse. A person can only paraphrase the Bible when he has a clear grasp of what it says. Through practicing a little every day, and through careful reading and meticulous writing, one will eventually be able to paraphrase one of Paul’s Epistles. He will then be able to understand Paul’s word and will be able to use other words to convey the same meaning.

We have mentioned four things already. First, study by topic; second, do a word study; third, gather information; and fourth, paraphrase. We should go through all twenty-eight methods one by one. A definite schedule of Bible study is an exercise for us. We must gird up our loins, be restricted and regulated before the Lord, and not be loose. If we have made up our mind to study for an hour, keep this hour. We should not shorten or lengthen the time, unless we are sick or on vacation. Other than such exceptions, we should always keep our schedule. If we persist in this exercise daily, we will soon reap the harvest.

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(I would like to caution against putting too much emphasis on paraphrasing the Bible because the exact words of the Bible are written the way they are for a reason.  As long as the paraphrase does not take away the original meaning of the scripture, there is no harm.  However, great harm has been done by some who have written paraphrases of the Bible and caused people to read that as a version of the Bible but a careful study of these paraphrases has revealed that too many times the paraphrase has taken away the original intent of the scripture.  Also, a new tool has been created since Watchman Nee wrote these lessons which will greatly help in doing word studies, researching meanings, and much more.  The tool is called e-Sword, The Sword of the Lord with an Electronic Edge.  I have given you the link here to download this great software which is completely free.  In addition, once you have downloaded e-Sword, there are dozens of dictionaries, commentaries, and other books which have been linked with every verse of scripture.  There are even Greek and Hebrew commentaries and dictionaries linked to the English version.  I highly recommend this for the Bible Study part of your Bible reading sessions.  I have used e-Sword for many years in writing of sermons and Bible lessons.  May the Lord Bless you as you use this fantastic tool for His Glory.) 

CONFESSION WITH THE MOUTH

Scripture Reading: Rom. 10:10; Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:32-33

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:10)

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32-33)

 

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFESSING WITH THE MOUTH

Once a person has believed in the Lord, he should not keep the matter a secret; he has to confess the Lord with his mouth. Confessing the Lord with our mouth is a very important matter.

A. Opening the Mouth as Soon as One Believes

As soon as one believes in the Lord, he should confess the Lord before men. Suppose a person gives birth to a child. What would we think if the child could not speak by the age of one or two, or even three? Would we say only that he is slow in speech development? Is it possible for such a person to begin saying, “one, two, three, four,” at the age of thirty and then learn to say “daddy” and “mommy” at fifty years of age? No. If a person is dumb in his infancy, he probably will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot say “daddy” and “mommy” when he is young, he probably will not be able to say it for the rest of his life. Likewise, if a new believer does not confess the Lord immediately after he believes in the Lord, I am afraid he will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot speak when he is young, he probably will not be able to speak when he grows up.

Some have been Christians for ten or even twenty years. Yet they remain dumb. This is because they did not open their mouth during the first and second week of their Christian life. They will continue to be dumb until they die. Confessing the Lord begins at the time a person believes. If you open your mouth the day you believe in the Lord, the way of confession will be opened to you. If a person is dumb in the first weeks, months, or year, he is likely to remain dumb for the rest of his life. Therefore, as soon as a person believes in the Lord, he should endeavor to speak to others about the Lord. Even if he finds it hard to speak and even if he dislikes speaking, he still must speak. He must speak to his relatives and friends. If he does not learn to speak openly, I am afraid he will be a dumb man before God for the rest of his life. We do not wish to see dumb believers. This is why we must learn to open our mouth from the very beginning. If a person fails to do this in the beginning, he will find it more difficult to do it later. Unless God grants special mercy or there is a revival, these ones will never open their mouth. It will take a great effort for them to open their mouth at a later date. Every new believer should seek the opportunity to confess the Lord before men. Such a confession is a great matter and reaps much profit.

B. Confession with the Mouth unto Salvation

Romans 10:10 says, ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is something before God. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This speaks of salvation before man. Whether or not you have believed is something before God; no one can see it. If you have sincerely believed, you are justified before God. However, if you only believe in your heart, but do not speak with your mouth, others will not recognize you as a saved person; they will still consider you an unbeliever. They will not see any difference between you and them. This is why the Bible strongly stresses the need to confess with the mouth in addition to believing in the heart. We must speak with our mouth.

Every new believer must look for opportunities to confess the Lord. Among our classmates, colleagues, friends, relatives, and all those who come into contact with us, as soon as an opportunity arises, we should say to them, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus.” The sooner we open our mouth, the better it is. Once we open our mouth, others will immediately know that we have believed in the Lord Jesus. In this way, we will be delivered from the company of unbelievers.

We have seen some people who hesitated in their acceptance of the Lord, but once they stood up and proclaimed, “I believe in Jesus,” they became sure. The worst thing that can happen to a Christian is for him to keep his mouth shut. Once he speaks, he takes a firm step forward and becomes secure. Many believers hesitate initially, but as soon as they say, “I believe,” they become certain.

C. Confession Saving Much Trouble

There is great profit when one confesses with his mouth after he has believed in his heart. It saves him much trouble in the future.

Suppose you do not open your mouth and say, “I have decided to follow the Lord Jesus; I am His now.” Others will still consider you the same as they. When they sin or indulge in lustful things, they will consider you to be one of them. In your heart you realize that you are a Christian and that it is wrong for you to be among them. But you cannot reject them, because you want to please them. You may come up with an excuse to turn them down. But the next time they will still drag you along, and you will have to think of another excuse to refuse them. You may come up with excuses once or twice, but the pressure will always come back. So why not put the signboard out from the very first day and confess that you are a believer? You only need to confess once or twice, and others will give up trying to persuade you.

If you do not confess with your mouth, that is, if you are a Christian secretly, you will experience much more difficulty than those who are Christians openly. Your temptation will be many times greater than the temptation of those who openly confess the Lord. You will be bound by human affections and past relationships. You cannot excuse yourself from others every time by saying that you have a headache or that you are busy. You cannot use excuses every time. This is why you must declare from the first day, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus. I have accepted Him.” Once you put out this signboard, your colleagues, classmates, relatives, and family will know the kind of person you are. This will save you much trouble. Otherwise, you will have all kinds of frustrations. If a person confesses the Lord with his mouth, he will be saved from much trouble.

D. Not Confessing the Lord
Leading to Accusations in the Conscience

There is another serious problem for a person who does not confess the Lord with his mouth. Many of the Lord’s believers experienced this when the Lord was on the earth.

The Lord Jesus was rejected by the Jews. They vehemently opposed and rejected Him. In John 9 the Jews made a decision: Whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue (v. 22). In chapter twelve the Bible says that many Jewish rulers believed in the Lord Jesus secretly, but they dared not confess Him because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (v. 42). Do you think that these people had peace in their hearts? Perhaps they felt uneasy about confessing the Lord, but they felt even more uneasy about not confessing the Lord. What kind of place was the synagogue? It was a place where people opposed the Lord Jesus. They plotted, conspired, and discussed plans to trap the Lord there. Such were the dark things that went on in the synagogue. What should a genuine believer do among such people? How much strength would he need to keep his mouth shut? Under such circumstances it would be difficult for anyone to confess the Lord with his mouth, but it would be even harder for him to not confess the Lord with his mouth.

The Jewish synagogue is a picture of the world’s opposition to the Lord. The world always criticizes the Lord Jesus. It always considers Jesus of Nazareth a problem. It has all kinds of things to say against our Lord. In a place like this, can you listen to the people and pretend to be like one of them? To pretend is painful; to pretend is also difficult. You have to muster enough strength to control and repress yourself before you can pretend. Under such circumstances, is it not true that something within you will want to cry out, “This man is the Son of God; I believe in Him”? Is there not something within you that wants to proclaim, “This man is my Savior, and I have already believed in Him,” or, “This man can deliver me from my sins. You may not believe in Him, but I do”? Is there not something within you that wants to make such a declaration?

Are you going to force yourself to be quiet just because you want man’s respect and position? It seems to me it would have been easier for the Jewish rulers in John 12 to simply be put out of the synagogue. They would have felt much better if they had confessed the Lord. If you are a false believer, it probably will make no difference whether or not you confess. But as a genuine believer, you will surely offend your conscience if you pretend and sympathize with the Lord’s opposers. When others oppose the Lord, you have no peace in your heart, yet you must force yourself to say, “What you are saying is interesting.” Is this not the most painful thing to do as a human being?

There is nothing more painful than not confessing the Lord. The greatest suffering is to refuse to confess the Lord before men. I would not want to trade places with those rulers. Their suffering was too great! If you are not a believer, there is nothing to say. But if you have believed, the easier and more joyful and happy thing to do is come out of the synagogue. You may feel that there are many obstacles, but past experience indicates that the obstacles will be greater and your heart will suffer more if you do not go this way.

Suppose you hear someone maliciously slander your parents, saying this and that about them. Suppose that you try to sit still and listen to them or, worse still, pretend to sympathize with them. If you do this, I would wonder what kind of a person you were. Our Lord has given His life to save us. If we do not say something for the very Lord whom we worship and serve, how much more timid are we? We must be bold to stand up and proclaim for the Lord, “I belong to Him!”

II. COMMON MISTAKES

A. Replacing Confession with Good Behavior

Some new believers are influenced by traditional teachings. They think that having good behavior is the most important thing for a Christian and that confession with the mouth is not that crucial. They think that a change in what one says is not important, but that a change in what one does is important. We must correct this wrong concept. We are not saying that it is not necessary to change our conduct. If one’s conduct is not changed, it is useless to confess with the mouth. But changing what one does without confessing with one’s mouth is equally futile. A change in conduct can never take the place of confession with the mouth. After one’s conduct is changed, his mouth still has to confess.

Every new believer must seize the earliest opportunity to tell others about his faith in the Lord Jesus. If you do not confess with your mouth, others will make many conjectures about you. They will try to explain your behavior with speculation. They will say all kinds of things about you, but they will not touch the Lord Jesus. Therefore, you must tell them the reason for the change in your conduct. No good conduct can take the place of verbal confession. It is necessary to have good conduct, but it is equally necessary to confess with the mouth. You must tell others, “Jesus is my Lord; I want to serve Him.” No matter how good your conduct is, these words must come out of your mouth.

We have heard people say that if they have good outward conduct, there is no need for them to say anything with their mouth. Please remember that no one will bother to criticize those who say this if they fail slightly in their personal conduct. But if a man stands up to proclaim that he is a Christian, others will immediately criticize and rebuke him when there is any slip in his conduct. Hence, those who say that good conduct is enough and that there is no need to confess with the mouth are in reality giving themselves an excuse to fail in their conduct. They are leaving a back door for themselves to escape from the judgment of others. Never believe that just a change in conduct is sufficient. Confession with the mouth is needed; in fact, it is absolutely indispensable.

B. Being Afraid of Failing to Persevere to the End

Some people think, “If I confess with my mouth and then fail to persevere in my Christian conviction, will this not become a joke to others? Suppose I can no longer make it as a Christian after three or five years, what should I do then? It is better for me not to say anything now. Let me wait for several years, until I find out whether or not I can make it.” We can tell such ones that if they do not confess because they are afraid of stumbling or failing, they will surely fail. They have already opened a back door and are trying to avoid the front door. They have already made preparations to back out of their own confession. They want to wait to have assurance before they confess. We are sure that such ones will fail. It is better to stand up and say, “I am for the Lord.” If you close the back door first, it will become much harder for you to back out or backslide later. Consequently, you will have a much better chance of going forward than of sliding backward. In fact, this is the only possible way for you to go forward.

If you want to wait until you have good behavior before you confess, your mouth will never open up. You will always be dumb. Even after you have good conduct, you will still be dumb. If you do not open your mouth at the beginning, it will be much harder to open your mouth later. If you open your mouth, the chance of having good conduct will be greater. If you want to wait until your behavior is good before you confess, you will lose both your chance of opening your mouth as well as your chance of having good behavior; both will be lost, and you will fail in both.

One assuring thought is that God is not only the God who redeems us but also the God who preserves us. What should we liken redemption to? Redemption is like buying something. What then is preservation? Preservation is like putting the purchased object in one’s own hand. How many people in this world buy things with the view of throwing them away? When we buy a watch, we want to use it for five or ten years; no one buys a watch with the view of throwing it away. God is saving people everywhere. He does not save them and then throw them away. He wants to preserve what He has saved. Since God has saved us, He will preserve us. Since God has redeemed us, He will preserve us until that day. God loves us so much that He was willing to forsake His Son to redeem us. If He had no intention of preserving us, He would not have paid such a great price. It is God’s purpose as well as His plan to preserve us. Do not be afraid to stand up and say, “I believe in the Lord.” You may say, “What happens if I fail in a few days?” Do not worry about this; God will be responsible for it. It is better for you to stand up and say, “I belong to God.” Commit yourself to God. God knows that you need support, comfort, and protection. We have the assurance to say that God preserves man’s salvation. This preservation makes redemption meaningful.

C. Fear of Men

Some people dare not confess because they are afraid of men. Many people can honestly say that they have no other reservation in their heart; they are willing to stand up and confess, but when they see the faces of others, they become afraid. When they look at their parents’ faces or their friends’ faces, they feel too shy to speak up. This is where many people are stumbled; they are afraid of men and do not have any boldness to open their mouth. Some people are naturally timid; they are timid not only in confessing the Lord but also in other things. If you want them to tell others about their faith, you are asking them for their life. They simply dare not open their mouth.

However, this kind of person needs to hear what God has to say. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” If you are afraid when you see someone, you will fall into a “snare.” As soon as you become afraid, you fall into a snare. Your fear becomes your snare. Whenever your heart is afraid of men, you are creating a snare for yourself. Once you are afraid, you fall into a snare. This snare is created by your own fear. Actually, the person you fear may be very willing to listen to you. Even if he is not inclined to listen, he may not be as fearsome as you think.

There is a story about two persons who were colleagues. One was a believer and the other was not. The one who believed was very timid; the one who did not believe was also very timid. The timid believer did not dare tell his colleague that he was saved. The one who did not believe was puzzled by the great changes that were happening to his colleague. His colleague used to have a quick temper but had now changed. He dared not ask his colleague the reason. The two of them shared a table and sat face-to-face every day. One was too timid to speak, and the other was too timid to ask. Every day they just looked at each other. One was afraid to speak, and the other was afraid to ask. One day the believer could not hold back any longer. After praying about it, he went to the other one and shook his hand tightly and said, “I am a very timid person. For at least three months I have been struggling to tell you something. Now I am going to tell you. I have believed in Jesus.” After saying these words, his face turned pale. The other one said, “I too have waited for three months. I wanted to ask why you have become so different, but I was too afraid to ask.” The believer mustered enough courage to open his mouth. From that time on, the opportunity opened up, and he was able to bring his friend to the Lord.

Those who are fearful of men will fall into a snare. Please remember that while you are afraid of others, others may be afraid of you too. We must never have a fear of men. We who follow God should not fear men. If you have a fear of men, you cannot be a good Christian and you cannot serve God. A Christian must be bold to speak to his relatives and friends. He must be bold to confess the Lord both in private and in public. We must take this way from the beginning.

D. Being Shy

Some people are shy. They feel that it is a shameful thing to be a Christian. It is true that this kind of shame may exist when we face unbelievers. If you tell others that you are engaged in technical research, they will congratulate you for having a good future. If you say that you are studying a certain philosophy, others will also say that you are a thoughtful person. You are not ashamed to talk about doing many things. But if you say that you are a Christian, many will say that you are too simple-minded or not intellectual enough. They will not esteem you highly. You are not ashamed to talk about other things, but as soon as you confess your Christian faith, you feel ashamed within. It is unavoidable for a new believer to feel shameful when he opens his mouth to confess his faith. However, we must overcome this feeling. It is true that the world feels shameful about someone becoming a Christian, but we must overcome this feeling.

How can we overcome this feeling of shame? We must deal with it from two aspects:

On the one hand, we have to realize that when the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, He bore our sins as well as our shame. When our Lord bore our sins, He suffered great humiliation. Today, in the eyes of God, it is only proper that we suffer humiliation from men. The humiliation we suffer before man can never be compared with the humiliation our Lord suffered on the cross for us. Therefore, we should not be surprised at humiliation. We should know that we belong to the Lord.

On the other hand, there is a good hymn which says, “Our shyness is like the early morning sky disowning the sun! But the Lord radiates the divine light which illuminates our consciences which are as dark as the night.” Since the Lord has been gracious to us and has redeemed us, being ashamed of confessing Him is like the early morning sky being ashamed of the illumination of the sun. Today the Lord has graced us. He has redeemed us and preserved us. He will even bring us to the heavens. Yet we consider it a shame to confess Him! If that is a shame, then all the grace we have received should also be considered a shame to us, and we should deny it all! The Lord has done so much for us, and yet we feel ashamed of confessing Him! How can this be?

We should feel shameful for such things as carousing, drunkenness, unrestrained dissipation, works of darkness, sinning, and evil works. The Lord has delivered us from all these. We should feel glorious. How can we have a sense of shame? It is not shameful for us to confess the Lord; it is glorious and joyous for us to confess Him! We are those who will never perish, who will never be condemned or judged by God, and who will never have to depart from the glorious face of God. We are those who follow the Lamb and who will always be with Him (Rev. 14:4). It is altogether wrong for others to plant the seed of shame in us. We should stand up boldly and say that we belong to God. We should rejoice and glory in Him.

By nature Peter was a strong-willed person. He wanted to distinguish himself among the disciples and to be ahead of others in everything. But one day he denied the Lord and became like a little mouse. When he was questioned, he was afraid. Humanly speaking, Peter was a “hero” and a born leader among the disciples. Yet he trembled even before others tried to take his life. He trembled and swore when all that was said to him was, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” This was indeed too poor. All those who refuse to confess the Lord are poor. Peter was most shameful; it was a shame for him to deny the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75).

All those who are too shy to open their mouths are full of shame. The really noble ones are the ones who confess their allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth, even at the point of being burned at the stake or thrown into the sea. They may be beaten, burned alive, or thrown into the lions’ den, but they still proclaim, “I belong to Jesus the Nazarene.” This is the most glorious thing in the whole world. The most shameful ones are those who are ashamed to confess the Lord. This kind of people are useless. They will even loathe themselves and be ashamed of themselves! The most shameful thing is for a person to despise himself and be ashamed of what he has.

Therefore, we should not have any fear or shame. All those who learn to follow the Lord should learn to confess Him boldly before man. If light is shameful and darkness glorious, if holiness is shameful and sin glorious, if spirituality is shameful and carnality glorious, and if following the Lord is shameful and following man glorious, then we would rather choose shame. We would rather suffer humiliation with Christ as Moses did, which humiliation is far better than the glories of men (“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”  Heb. 11:26).

E. Love of Man’s Glory

Why did the rulers in John 12 not confess the Lord? They did not confess the Lord because they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God. Many people dare not confess because they want both; they want Christ, and they also want the synagogue. They want Christ; this is why they believe. But they also want the synagogue; this is why they will not confess Him. If a person wants both, he will not be absolute in either.

If you want to serve the Lord, you must make a choice between the Lord and the synagogue. Otherwise, you can never be a good Christian. You must make a choice between the Lord and man. The rulers were afraid of losing men’s favor. They were afraid that if they confessed the Lord they would be put out of the synagogue. But a person who chooses the Lord in an absolute way will not be afraid of being put out of the synagogue.

If people do not persecute you after you have believed in the Lord, you should say, “Lord, I thank You.” If people persecute you after you have confessed the Lord with your mouth, you should also say, “Lord, I thank You.” What is so strange about this? We cannot be like those rulers who, for the sake of their love for the synagogue, refused to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus. If everyone in the church had been like them, there would be no church on earth today. If Peter had returned home and remained silent after he believed in the Lord, if Paul, Luke, Darby, and the rest had remained silent after they believed, and if everyone in the church had remained silent and dared not confess the Lord, their troubles definitely would have been less, but there would be no church on earth today!

One characteristic of the church is that it dares to believe in the Lord. Another characteristic is that it dares to confess its faith in Him. To be saved is not just to believe in the Lord Jesus; it is to believe and to confess that one is a believer. The confession is important. Christianity is not only manifested in one’s conduct but also in one’s mouth. The mouth must confess. One must confess, “I am a Christian.” It is not enough for a Christian to just have good conduct; he must also confess with his mouth. If you take away the mouth, there will be no Christianity. The Scripture is very clear. The heart believes unto righteousness and the mouth confesses unto salvation. Christianity is believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth.

III. CONFESSING THE LORD
AND THE LORD’S CONFESSION

The Lord said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). Thank the Lord that if we confess the Lord today, on that day He will also confess us. The Lord also said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (v. 33). “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9). What a great contrast! All we have to do is confess that this excellent One, this chiefest among ten thousand, is the Son of God. He will then confess us before the heavenly Father and the angels of God. If you think it is difficult to confess such a Lord before men, the Lord will find it difficult to confess such a person as you when He descends in the glory of the Father. Today we must not shrink back from confessing the Lord through fear of men (“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;”

Isa. 51:12). If today we find it difficult to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, then on that day, when our Lord comes back, He will find it difficult to confess us before His Father and all the glorious angels. What a serious thing this is!

In reality, it is not difficult for us to confess the Lord. It is especially easy when we compare our confession with His confession of us. It is difficult for Him to confess us because we are prodigal sons who have come home, and there is nothing good in us. Since He will confess us in the future, let us also confess Him well before men today.

May all the newly-saved brothers and sisters be bold to confess the Lord from the beginning. We should never try to be Christians in secret.

WANT TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY?  CLICK HERE

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

CONSECRATION

Scripture Reading: Exo. 28:1-2, 40-41; 29:1-25; Lev. 8:14-28; Rom. 6:13, 16, 19; 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:14-15

And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. (Exodus 28:1)

And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. (Exodus 28:40-41)

And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest’s office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them. And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams. And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul that is above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and burn them upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering. Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar. And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put them unto his pieces, and unto his head. And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him. Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration: And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD: And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the LORD: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD. (Exodus 29:1-25)

 

And he brought the bullock for the sin offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bullock for the sin offering. And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it. And he took all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and Moses burned it upon the altar. But the bullock, and his hide, his flesh, and his dung, he burnt with fire without the camp; as the LORD commanded Moses. And he brought the ram for the burnt offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he killed it; and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he cut the ram into pieces; and Moses burnt the head, and the pieces, and the fat. And he washed the inwards and the legs in water; and Moses burnt the whole ram upon the altar: it was a burnt sacrifice for a sweet savour, and an offering made by fire unto the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses. And he brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And he brought Aaron’s sons, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet: and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he took the fat, and the rump, and all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and the right shoulder: And out of the basket of unleavened bread, that was before the LORD, he took one unleavened cake, and a cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, and put them on the fat, and upon the right shoulder: And he put all upon Aaron’s hands, and upon his sons’ hands, and waved them for a wave offering before the LORD. And Moses took them from off their hands, and burnt them on the altar upon the burnt offering: they were consecrations for a sweet savour: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD.  (Leviticus 8:14-28)

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  (Romans 6:13)

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  (Romans 6:16)

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.  (Romans 6:19)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  (Romans 12:1)

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

 

Let us now turn to the matter of Christian consecration.

Whether or not a person consecrates himself depends on whether he has a healthy salvation experience. If he views his faith in the Lord Jesus as being a favor to the Lord and his faith in God as a courtesy to Him, it will be impossible to talk to him about consecration. It is equally futile to talk about consecration to a person who feels that he is promoting the cause of Christianity and that his conversion is a great honor to it. Such a one does not have a good start in his Christian faith; he does not have a good beginning. It is impossible to expect him to consecrate himself. We must realize that it is the Lord who has graced us and granted mercy to us. It is the Lord who loves us and has saved us. This is why we consecrate our all to Him.

Teaching concerning consecration can be found in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Many passages in the New Testament, such as Romans 6 and 12, speak of consecration. In the Old Testament consecration is spoken of with special reference to Aaron and his household. Exodus 28 and 29 and Leviticus 8 speak of the consecration of Aaron and his household. Although consecration is the first basic experience of our service to God, we do not find many direct teachings from God’s Word concerning it. In order to understand the meaning of consecration, we need to study the above referenced verses.

I. THE BASIS OF CONSECRATION

Second Corinthians 5:14-15 clearly shows us that the constraining power of the Lord’s love is the basis for God’s children to live unto Him who died for them and has been raised. A man lives unto the Lord because he is constrained by the Lord’s love. According to the original language, the word constrained can be translated “pressed on from all sides,” that is, tightly confined on all sides. It means to be tightly bound and wrapped up. Love has bound us up, and we cannot run away. When a person is in love, he will have a sense of bondage. We are bound by Him; we have no way out. He has died for us, and we should live unto Him today. Hence, love is the basis of consecration. A man consecrates himself to the Lord because of the Lord’s love. No one can consecrate himself unless he first touches the Lord’s love. A man must touch the Lord’s love before he can consecrate himself to Him. When one touches the Lord’s love, consecration spontaneously follows.

Consecration is based on the Lord’s love. But it is also based on the Lord’s right. This is the truth revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “….and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: ….. “Our Lord gave His own life for us; He even became the ransom to purchase us back to Himself. We are those who are purchased by the Lord. Because the Lord has redeemed us, we willingly lose our own freedom for Him. We are no longer our own; we are the Lord’s. We must glorify God in our bodies because we are not our own; we have been bought by the Lord with a price. The blood which the Lord shed on the cross is the price He paid. Therefore, as far as the Lord’s right is concerned, we belong to the Lord.

We must be clear that we are those purchased by the Lord. He has purchased us with the highest price. He bought us, not with silver or gold, but with His own blood. Here we see the Lord’s love as well as His right. We serve the Lord because He loves us, and we follow Him because He has a right over us. The right secured through redemption constrains us to give ourselves to the Lord. The love that results from redemption also constrains us to give ourselves to Him. The basis of consecration is His right as well as His love. It is a legal right, and it is beyond all human sentimental love. These are the two reasons that we have to give ourselves to the Lord.

II. THE MEANING OF CONSECRATION

Merely being constrained by love or acknowledging His legal right does not constitute consecration. After a person has been constrained by the Lord’s love and has acknowledged His right, there is a further step that he should take. This step will bring him on to a new position. Through the Lord’s constraining and based on His purchase, we separate ourselves from every other thing. Henceforth, we live for and unto the Lord. This is consecration. In some instances in the Old Testament, the Chinese Union Version translates the word consecration as “the receiving of the holy service.” To receive the holy service is to receive the ministry of service to God. This is a holy service. This is consecration. Consecration is receiving the ministry of serving God. It is to say to the Lord, “Today I will separate myself from everything to serve You, because You have loved me.”

III. A CONSECRATED PERSON

Let us look at Exodus 28:1-2 and 29:1, 4, 9-10.

After reading these verses, we can see that consecration is a very special matter. The nation of Israel was a nation chosen by God (Exo. 19:5-6), but it did not become a consecrated nation. There were twelve tribes among the Israelites, but not all the twelve tribes received the holy service. The tribe of Levi was one of the twelve tribes. They were a tribe chosen by God (Num. 3:11-13), but they were not a consecrated tribe. Among the many Levites, only the household of Aaron received the holy service. Not all of the Israelites received the holy service, not even all of the Levites. Only the household of Aaron received the holy service. In order to be consecrated, one had to belong to this household. If one were not a member of this household, he could not consecrate himself. Only the members of this household—the household of Aaron—were qualified to be priests, and only they could consecrate themselves.

Thank God, today we are the members of this household. Those who believe in the Lord are the members of this household. All who have been saved by grace are priests (And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. [Revelation 1:5-6]). God has chosen us to be the priests. Initially, only the members of Aaron’s household could consecrate themselves; if anyone else came near, he would have been put to death (Num. 18:7). We must remember that only those chosen by God to be priests can consecrate themselves. Thus, only the members of this household could consecrate themselves. Today God has chosen us to be the priests; therefore, we are the members of this household. Hence, we are qualified to consecrate ourselves.

Here we see that man does not consecrate himself because he has chosen God. Rather, God is the One who chooses and calls, and then man consecrates himself to Him. Those who consider that they are doing God a favor by forsaking all are but outsiders; they are not consecrated at all. We must realize that our service to God is not a favor or courtesy to God. It is not a matter of offering ourselves to God’s work, but a matter of God being gracious to us and giving us a portion of His work. It is God who has given us the glory and the beauty. The Bible tells us that the holy garment of the priest is for glory and beauty (Exo. 28:2). Consecration is God giving us glory and beauty; it is God calling us into His service. If we boast in anything at all, we must boast in our marvelous Lord. There is nothing marvelous for the Lord to have servants like us. The marvelous thing is for us to have such a Lord! We must see that consecration is the result of being chosen. Serving God is an honor to us. We are not uplifting God, as if we were sacrificing anything for Him or as if we had any glory in ourselves. Consecration is God giving us the glory. We should prostrate ourselves before Him and say, “Thank You that I can have a part in Your service. There are so many people in this world, yet I am chosen to have a part in it!” Consecration is our honor, not our sacrifice. It is true that we need to have the greatest sacrifice, but there is no sense of sacrifice in consecration. There is only the full sense of God’s glory.

IV. THE WAY OF CONSECRATION

Leviticus 8:14-28 speaks of a bull, two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread. The bull was for the sin offering; the first ram was for the burnt offering; and the second ram and the basket of unleavened bread were for the consecration offering.

A. The Sin Offering

In order to receive the holy service before God, that is, in order to consecrate oneself to God, the first thing that has to be taken care of is the propitiation for sin. Only a saved person, one who belongs to the Lord, can consecrate himself. The sin offering is the basis of consecration.

B. The Burnt Offering

Following this, we see two rams. We need to study Leviticus 8:18-28 carefully. One ram was for the burnt offering; it was to be burned. The other was for the offering of consecration; it enabled Aaron to serve God.

What is a burnt offering? A burnt offering is an offering which is burned completely. The priest could not eat the flesh of the burnt offering. All the flesh of the burnt offering was burned completely. The problem of our sin is settled by the sin offering, but the burnt offering makes us acceptable to God. The Lord Jesus bore our sins on the cross. This refers to His work as the sin offering. At the same time, while the Lord Jesus was on the cross, the veil was rent from top to bottom, bringing us into the Holy of Holies. This is His work as the burnt offering. The sin offering and the burnt offering start at the same place, but they arrive at different destinations. They start where the sinner is. The sin offering stops at the propitiation of sin, but the burnt offering brings the sinner further by making him acceptable to God. The burnt offering is the offering which makes a sinner acceptable in the Beloved. It goes further than the sin offering. The burnt offering is the sweet savor of the Lord Jesus before God that secures God’s acceptance of Him. Today when we offer Him to God, we are accepted by God as well. We are not only forgiven through the sin offering but also accepted through the Lord Jesus.

C. The Offering of Consecration

1. The Sprinkling of the Blood

After the first ram was slain, the second ram followed. What was done with the second ram after it was slain? The first thing that was done was the putting of blood upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and his sons, upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the big toe of their right foot. This means that since God has accepted us in Christ, we should acknowledge the blood’s separation of our ears, hands, and feet fully unto God. We should declare that our ears, hands, and feet are fully God’s. Because of redemption, our ears, which were made for hearing, should now hear for God; our hands, which were made for working, should now work for God. Our legs, which were made for walking, should now walk for God. We apply the blood upon the tip of our right ear, the thumb of our right hand, and the big toe of our right foot. This means that our ears, hands, and feet have all been purchased by the Lord. We should say to the Lord, “Because of Your redemption, Lord, from this day forward, I will no longer consider my two ears to be my own, or my two hands and my two feet to be my own. Because You have redeemed me, Lord, my entire being will henceforth belong to You; it is no longer mine.”

Blood is the mark of possession. It is also the symbol of love. Both the “price” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 6 and the “love” spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5 refer to this blood. Because there is blood, love, and possession, our entire being is not our own. The Lord has shed His blood, and we must acknowledge the rightful claim of this blood upon us. Because the Lord loves us, we will confess that our entire being belongs to Him alone.

2. The Wave Offering

After the sprinkling of the blood, there was the wave offering. We must remember that when the second ram was slain, its blood was put on the ear, the thumb, and the toe. This is still not consecration. It is just the basis of consecration. The sprinkling of the blood is merely a confession of love and of right. It qualifies us for consecration, but the actual consecration comes after this.

After the second ram was slain and its blood was sprinkled, the fat and the right shoulder (right thigh) were taken, and out of the basket, an unleavened cake, a cake of oiled bread, and one wafer were also taken. All these things signify the two aspects of the Lord Jesus. The shoulder is the strong part, showing us the divine aspect of the Lord Jesus. Fat is rich, signifying the aspect of God’s glory. Bread is of the vegetable life, showing us His highest humanity. He is the perfect man, who is unleavened and unblemished. He is full of the anointing oil, being filled with the Holy Spirit. Like a wafer, His nature, the sentiments in His heart, and His spiritual insight are fine, tender, and fragile, being full of feeling and compassion. All of these things were placed in the hands of Aaron, who took them and waved them before the Lord. After this they were burned with the burning of the burnt offering. This is consecration.

Here we need some explanation. The Hebrew word consecration means “to have one’s hands filled.” Both Darby’s translation and Young’s concordance refer to this meaning. Initially the hands were empty, now they are filled. When Aaron’s hands were filled with so many things, he was filled with the Lord and there was consecration. When Aaron’s hands were empty, there was no consecration. When Aaron’s hands were filled and his hands could no longer hold anything except the Lord, there was consecration.

What then is consecration? God demanded that the household of Aaron serve Him as priests. But Aaron could not come presumptuously. First, his sins had to be taken care of, and then he had to be accepted in Christ. His hands (denoting work) had to be full of Christ. He had to have nothing but Christ. Only then was there consecration. What is consecration? Simply put, consecration is, as Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. ” (Rom. 12:1).

Before the Lord, we need to see that in this life there is only one way for us to take, that is, serving God. We have no other way. Serving God is our only way. In order to serve God, we have to present our entire bodies to Him. From this day forward, our ears will listen for the Lord, our hands will work for the Lord, and our feet will run for the Lord. Our two ears will only listen to the Lord’s word, our two hands will only do the Lord’s work, and our two feet will only walk the way of the Lord. We are here only to serve God. We have consecrated ourselves as an offering, a sacrifice; we have consecrated our all to Him. Furthermore, our two hands will be filled with Christ; they will uplift Him and express Him. This is what consecration is all about. Only when we have done this, will God say, “This is consecration.” This saturation of Christ is what God calls consecration.

Consecration means that we have touched the Lord’s love and have recognized His right. For these reasons, we can come before God and beg for the privilege to serve. It is not just a matter of God’s calling us but of our offering ourselves to serve. We should say, “O God! I am Yours. I have been bought by You. In the past I was under Your table, hoping to eat a little of the fallen bread crumbs, but from this day forward, I want to serve You. Today I choose to serve You. I have been accepted in the Lord. May I also be granted a little portion in the great task of serving You? Be merciful to me so that I can have a part in Your service. In granting salvation to many, You did not pass me by or reject me; You saved me. Now give me a part among the many who serve You; do not reject me.”

This is how you present yourself to the Lord. Everything is for Christ and for Him alone. When you present yourself to Him in this way, you have consecration. This is what Romans 12 calls the presenting of our body. Romans 6 speaks of the consecration of the members. This is like the sprinkling of the blood on the ears, the hands, and the feet. Romans 12 speaks of the consecration of the whole body. It is the filling up of both hands with Christ. This links the Old Testament and the New Testament in a perfect way.

V. THE GOAL OF CONSECRATION

The goal of consecration is not to become a preacher for God or to work for Him. The goal of consecration is to serve Him. The result of consecration is service. In the original language the word service means “to wait upon.” This means that a person is prepared to serve. We must remember that the goal of consecration is to wait upon God. Waiting upon someone may not be strenuous work. To wait upon God means that you stand when He wants you to stand. If He wants to shuffle you aside, you allow Him to shuffle you aside, and if He wants you to run, you run. This is what it means to wait on Him.

God requires that all Christians offer up their bodies to wait on Him. This does not necessarily mean that He wants you to stand at the pulpit or evangelize some remote land. It means to wait on God. If God sends someone to the pulpit, that person has no choice but to speak. If God sends someone to remote lands, he has no choice but to go. All our time is for God, but the work that we do is flexible. Everyone should wait on God, but the specific work that one should engage in is flexible. We must learn to wait on God. The presenting of one’s body is for serving God.

As long as we are Christians, we have to serve God all our lives. As soon as a person consecrates himself, he must realize that from that point on, the Lord’s requirement comes first. Service to God becomes one’s lifelong mission. May God be gracious to us and show us that our service to Him is our rightful duty. We should show every believer that henceforth we are those who serve the Lord. We must realize that as Christians, we can no longer be loose in anything. I am not saying that we should not be faithful and committed to our career or that we can be idle. This is not what I mean. We still need to be faithful and serious in our vocation. But before God we must see that our entire life is directed towards our service to God. We do everything for the purpose of obeying God’s will and pleasing Him. This is the reality of consecration.

Consecration is not how much we can give to God. It is being accepted by God and being granted the honor of serving Him. Consecration is reserved for Christians alone; it is not for everyone. Only the saved ones, those who belong to the Lord, can consecrate themselves. Consecration means that we say, “Lord, You have given me the opportunity and the right to come before You and to serve You.” It is saying, “Lord, I am Yours. My ears were purchased by the blood; they belong to You. My hands were purchased by the blood; they belong to You. My feet were purchased by the blood; they belong to You. From now on I can no longer use them for myself.”

We do not beg others to consecrate themselves. Instead, we tell them that a way is now available for them to consecrate themselves. There is a way to serve our God, the Lord of hosts. We must be clear that we are here to serve the Lord of hosts. It is grossly wrong to think that consecration is a matter of granting God a favor.

The revelation in the Old Testament is very clear. A man can only consecrate himself to God under His approval. The New Testament also exhorts us to consecrate ourselves through the compassions of God. God loves us so much; therefore, we have to consecrate ourselves. This is the most reasonable service. This is not a request for favor; this is the most reasonable thing, the most natural thing, to do. Consecration does not depend upon our willingness. It is because of God’s abounding grace that we can consecrate ourselves. We must see that having the right to be God’s servant is the greatest honor of our life. It is a joyful thing for a man to be saved. It is a far more joyful thing for a man to have a part in God’s service! Who do we think our God is? We have to see His greatness and His glory. Only then will we see the tremendous significance and honor of this service! What a tremendous thing it is for us to receive His grace and be counted worthy of serving Him!

When we learn about consecration, it means that we won’t listen to “Why Should the Devil have All the Good Music” or any other type of entertainment that is not honoring to the Lord.  It means that our hands will not participate in any business, or other activity like drugs or alcohol or anything else that is not honoring to the Lord.  It means that our feet will not take us to places (use your imagination) that are not honoring to the Lord.  Our hands, our feet, our eyes, and every other part of our bodies no longer belong to us to to the Lord.  We are bound by the Love of Christ to this blessed position of being consecrated to serve only him and not any form of self gratification.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

IF ANYONE SINS

Scripture Reading: John 5:14; 8:11; Rom. 6:1-2; Num. 19:1-10, 12-13, 17-19; 1 John 1:7-10;2:1-2

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.  (John 5:14)

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.  (John 8:11)

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2)

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever. (Numbers 19:1-10)

He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. (Numbers 19:12-13)

And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. (Numbers 19:17-19)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

(1 John 1:7-10)  My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

After we are saved, we should sin no more. John 5 records the incident of the Lord Jesus healing one who had been sick for thirty-eight years near the pool in Bethesda. After the man was healed the Lord met him in the temple and said to him, ” Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (v. 14). John 8 speaks of the Lord Jesus forgiving a woman who had committed adultery. He said to her then and there, ” Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more ” (v. 11). Once we are saved, we are charged by the Lord to sin no more! As saved ones, we surely should not continue in sin.

I. SINNING AFTER BEING SAVED

Since a Christian should not sin and should not continue in sins, is it then possible for a Christian not to sin? The answer is yes! It is possible for Christians not to sin because we have God’s life within us. This life does not sin. It cannot tolerate any trace of sin. This life is as holy as God is holy. The life within us makes us very sensitive to sin. If we walk according to the sense of this life and if we live by this life, we will not sin.

However, it is possible for Christians to sin. We are still in the flesh. If we do not walk according to the Spirit and live in life of the flesh, we can sin at any time. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” First John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” It is possible for Christians to be overtaken by sins. There is still the possibility of sinning. First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Verse 10 says, ” If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar…” Hence, our experience shows us that it is possible for Christians to fall accidentally into sin.

 

Will a saved person who has fallen accidentally into sin still perish? No! The Lord said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28). In other words, once a person is saved, he is saved forever. “They shall by no means perish forever.” Nothing can be surer than this! First Corinthians 5 speaks of a brother who had committed fornication. Paul said, “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (v. 5). Even though the flesh of a believer who sins may be destroyed, his spirit will still be saved.

Does this therefore mean that after a person is saved, it does not matter whether he sins? No! If a person sins after he is saved, there will be two terrible consequences. First, he will suffer in this life. If you sin after you are saved, you will suffer the consequence of your sin. The person in 1 Corinthians 5 was delivered to Satan. This is a great suffering. After a person has repented and confessed to the Lord, God will forgive him and the blood will cleanse him. With some sins, however, there are further consequences that one must face. Although Jehovah removed David’s sin of taking Uriah’s wife, the sword never departed from his house forever (2 Sam. 12:9-13). Brothers and sisters, sin is like a venomous serpent; it is not an amusing plaything. If you are bitten by it, you will suffer.

Second, if a man sins he will be punished in the coming age. If a Christian sins and does not deal with it properly in this age, he will have to deal with it in the coming age. When the Lord comes again, ” For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matt. 16:27). Paul said, ” For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). (Note – this is only speaking about receiving rewards or not receiving rewards.  There is no teaching in the Bible about any kind of punishment for any Christian for any reason other than loss of rewards.)

Besides these two terrible consequences, there is another immediate result of sin—the breaking down of fellowship with God. To a Christian, fellowship with God is a most glorious privilege. Such fellowship is the greatest blessing he can have. However, if he sins, he will immediately lose his fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit within him will grieve for him, and the life in him will feel uncomfortable about his sin. He will lose his joy as well as his fellowship with God. Formerly, when he saw God’s children, he was warmly attracted to them, but now he no longer feels that warmth; there seems to be a barrier between him and them. Formerly, prayer and Bible reading were sweet. But now they have lost their sweetness; he can no longer touch God. Formerly, he treasured the church meetings very much; when he missed one meeting, he felt that he had suffered a great loss. But now the meetings are tasteless to him; it no longer makes a difference whether or not he goes. When he sees God’s children, he wants to run away instead of meeting. them. Everything has changed.

It is a serious thing for a person to sin after he is saved! We must never be loose in our conduct. We must never tolerate sin and must never give ground to it.

But what do we do “if anyone sins”? If a Christian becomes careless and sins by mistake, if he is overtaken by sins, what should he do? How can he come back to the Lord? How can he recover his fellowship with God? This is a very important subject, and we have to study it carefully.

II. THE LORD HAVING BORNE ALL OUR SINS

To take care of this matter, we must first realize that the Lord Jesus has borne all our sins on the cross. All the sins which we have committed, as well as those we are committing and will commit during our whole life, were borne by the Lord on the cross.

However, on the day we believed in the Lord, under God’s light we only saw the sins that we had committed before we had believed. A man can only be conscious of the sins which God shines His light upon; he cannot feel the sins which he has not yet committed. Therefore, the actual sins the Lord Jesus bore on the cross are more than the sins that we see. The Lord Jesus bore all of our sins on the cross, but we see only the sins which we have committed.

You may have been saved at the age of sixteen, or you may have been saved at the age of thirty-two. All the sins you committed before your salvation are absolutely and totally forgiven by the Lord. However, at the time of your forgiveness, the number of sins that you were conscious of was actually much less than the actual number of sins which the Lord bore for you. Your experience of the Lord’s grace went only so far as your personal experience of your sin. But the Lord’s work on our behalf was based on His knowledge of our sins. We must realize that even the sins that we are not conscious of are included in the Lord Jesus’ redemption.

Perhaps you were saved at the age of sixteen. Suppose you had committed a thousand sins during the first sixteen years of your life. You might have said at the time you believed in the Lord, “I thank You. My sins have been forgiven because You have taken away all my sins.” In saying that the Lord had taken your sins away, you meant that the Lord had dealt with your one thousand sins. What would have happened if you had been saved at the age of thirty-two instead? Proportionally, you probably would have committed two thousand sins by the age of thirty-two. You might have said the same thing: “O Lord, You have borne all my sins.” If you were saved at sixty-four years of age, you would have said the same thing: “O Lord, You have borne all my sins.” It is quite clear then that the Lord has dealt with the sins that were committed during the first sixteen years of your life as well as the sins that were committed from age sixteen to age sixty-four. The Lord dealt with all of your sins on the cross. The criminal on the cross did not believe in the Lord until just before he died, but the Lord took away all his sins (Luke 23:39-43). In other words, the Lord took away the sins of our whole life on the cross. Although, when we first believed in the Lord, we only felt the forgiveness of our past sins, in actuality, the Lord took away all our sins, even those we commit after we are saved. We must understand this fact before we can understand how to recover our fellowship with God.

III. THE TYPE OF THE ASHES OF THE RED HEIFER

We have a picture of the Lord’s vicarious death for our sins in the type of the ashes of the red heifer.

Numbers 19 is a very special chapter in the Old Testament. A heifer was used, which speaks of something special. This heifer was used not to meet a need at that moment but to meet a need in the future. This, too, is very significant.

In verse 2 God told Moses and Aaron, ” Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:” A heifer, not a bull, was offered here. In the Bible gender is very meaningful. Male signifies everything related to the testimony of the truth, while female signifies everything related to the experience of life. This is a principle we should be familiar with in reading our Bible. Abraham speaks of justification by faith, while Sarah speaks of obedience. Justification by faith is objective; it has to do with truth and testimony. Obedience is subjective; it has to do with life and experience. Throughout the Bible the church is symbolized by females, because the church is subjective, being related to the Lord’s work in man. A heifer is used here instead of a bull because it represents another aspect of the Lord’s work—His work toward man. The red heifer signifies a work that is subjective rather than objective.

What happened to the heifer? It was slaughtered, and its blood was taken and sprinkled seven times directly in front of the tent of meeting. In other words, the blood was offered to God because the work of the blood is always for God. The heifer’s blood was sprinkled seven times in front of the tent of meeting, signifying that it was for God and for the redemption of sin.

After the red heifer was killed, it was burned. The skin, the flesh, the blood, and the dung were all burned. The whole red heifer was burned. As it was being burned, the priest cast cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet into the midst of the fire. What do cedar wood and hyssop signify? First Kings 4:33 said that Solomon discoursed about trees, from the cedar to the hyssop. Cedar wood and hyssop therefore signify all the trees. In other words, they signify the whole world. What does scarlet signify? This word is also translated scarlet in Isaiah 1:18, which says, “… though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” Scarlet, therefore, signifies our sins. For the cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet to be burned together means that the sins of the whole world were gathered together with the red heifer when it was offered up to God; they were all burned together. Here, we see a picture of the cross. The Lord Jesus offered Himself up to God. He embraced all our sins. The gross sins were there as well as the lesser sins. The sins of the past, the present, and the future were also there. The sins for which man feels the need of forgiveness, as well as the sins for which man does not feel the need of forgiveness, were there. All sins were upon the heifer, and they were all burned with it.

After they were burned, what was done next? Numbers 19:9 says, ” And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.” What does this mean? This is what makes the red heifer so distinct. After the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the scarlet were burned with the heifer, the ashes were gathered up and kept in a clean place. Thereafter, if any of the Israelites touched something unclean and became unclean before God, another clean person could mix the water for impurity with the ashes and sprinkle it on the unclean person. This would remove the person’s uncleanness. In other words, the ashes were used to remove uncleanness. They were prepared for the future. They would be used when uncleanness was detected at a later time.

In the Old Testament, sinners needed to offer up sacrifices to the Lord. If a person had offered up a sacrifice and then touched something unclean, he would become unclean again before God and could no longer fellowship with Him. What did he have to do? Another person would take some ashes of the red heifer on this person’s behalf, put them in a vessel, pour in living water, mix it into the water for impurity, and sprinkle it on his body. The man’s uncleanness would then be removed and his sin forgiven. When an Israelite brought a bull or a lamb to the Lord and offered it up as a sin offering, he did it because of some known sin. But the red heifer was related to another matter. The burning of the red heifer was not for known sins which had been committed in the past, but for future uncleanness. The burning of the red heifer was not for past sins but for future transgressions.

This shows us another aspect of the Lord Jesus’ work. One aspect of the Lord’s work is like that of the ashes of the red heifer. The efficacy of redemption is signified by the ashes. The sins of the whole world are in it, and the blood is also in it. Whenever a man becomes unclean or has touched some unclean things, he does not need to kill another red heifer and offer it to God. He only needs to take the ashes of the red heifer that was offered once and mix them with water and sprinkle them on the body. In other words, there is no need for the Lord to do anything a second time. His redemption accomplished everything. He made provision for all of our future uncleanness and future sins. Everything has been fully accomplished by His redemption.

What do the ashes signify? In the Bible, ashes signify something in its final form. Whether a bull or a lamb, its final form after being burned is ashes. Ashes are very stable; they do not corrupt into something else. We cannot corrupt or destroy ashes. Ashes signify something in its final form.

The ashes of the red heifer signify the eternal and unchanging efficacy of the Lord’s redemption. The redemption which our Lord accomplished for us is most stable. Do not think that rocks on mountains are stable. Even rocks can be burned into ashes. Ashes are more stable than rocks. The ashes of the red heifer signify the Lord’s redemption which He has prepared for us. It is forever unchanging and incorruptible. We may apply it any time. If a Christian touches something unclean by accident and there is uncleanness in him, he does not have to ask the Lord to die for him again. He only needs to trust in the eternal and incorruptible efficacy of the ashes and to sprinkle his body with the water of life, and he will be clean. In other words, the ashes of the red heifer tell us that the past work of the cross is applicable for our use today. We also can say that the effectiveness of the cross covers all the needs we will ever have in the future. These ashes are specifically for the future. Only one red heifer needs to be burned, and it only needs to be burned once. Its ashes are enough to cover one’s whole life. Thank the Lord that His redemption is sufficient for our whole life. His death has taken away all our sins.

IV. THE NEED FOR CONFESSION

We have covered the side of the Lord’s work, which is redemption and the removal of our sins. What should we do on our side?

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In this verse the word we refers to believers, not to sinners. When a believer sins, he must confess his sins. Only after he has confessed his sins will he be forgiven. When a believer sins, he should not ignore it or cover it up. Proverbs 28:13 says, ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” When a believer sins, he must confess his sin. Do not give sin a nice name. Do not excuse yourself. Lying is a sin. When you lie, you should confess that you have sinned. You should not say, “I have said a little more (or less) than I should have.” You should say, “I have sinned.” You should not explain it away or cover it up. You should confess that you have committed the sin of lying. You must condemn lying as sin.

 

Confession means to stand on God’s side and judge sin as sin. There are three things here: God, ourselves, and sins. God and sins are at the two ends, and we are in the middle. What does it mean to commit a sin? It means that we stand on the side of sin and that we are away from God. Once we sin, we are away from God. Once we join ourselves to sins, we cannot be together with God. As soon as Adam sinned, he hid from God and dared not meet Him (Gen. 3:8, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”). Colossians 1:21 says, ” And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” Sin alienates us from God. What does it mean to confess our sins? It means to come back to God’s side and to acknowledge that what we have done is sin. We have come back to God. We are no longer with sin. We are standing opposite of sin and calling sin a sin. This is confession. Only those who walk in the light and who have deep feelings and a repulsion for sin can have genuine confession. Those who are callous to sin, who consider it natural to sin, are not making any confession when they merely acknowledge something with their lips in a heartless way.

Believers are the children of light (Eph. 5:8, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”) and the children of God (1 John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:”). They are no longer outsiders but members of God’s family. In a family one should behave in a way that is worthy of the family. You are a child of God, and you should know about sin. You should have the same attitude towards sin as your Father. The way the Father considers sin should be the way you consider sin. Confession in God’s house comes when His children take the same attitude as their Father towards sin. They condemn sin in the same way that their Father condemns sin. They take the same attitude as their Father with regard to sin. When a child of God sins, he should condemn sin as sin just as the Father does.

If we confess our sins this way, God ” ….. he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)  When we sin and when we know our sin and acknowledge it as sin, God will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is “faithful,” which means that He must honor and fulfill His own words and promises. He is also “righteous,” which means He must be satisfied with His Son’s redemptive work on the cross and must recognize it. Based on His promise and based on His redemption, He has to forgive us. He is faithful, and He is righteous. He must forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We have to pay attention to the words “every” and “all” in 1 John 1:7 and 9. “Every sin” and “all unrighteousness” are fully forgiven and cleansed. The Lord has done this. When the Lord says “all,” He means all. We should never change it to something else. When He says every sin, He means every sin, not just every sin committed before we believed or every sin committed in the past. He has forgiven us of all sins.  In order to help you confess sins, please click on this link to download the list I have used for 30 years:

Repentance Confession List

V. AN ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER

First John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” These things refer to the forgiveness and cleansing from our sins through God’s promise and work. John wrote these things to us so that we may not sin. It shows us that the Lord has forgiven our many sins and that, as a result, we do not sin. When we find out that we are forgiven, we do not become free to sin; rather, we will not sin.

Following this it says, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: ” “With the Father”—this is a family affair; it is something that happens after we are saved. We have already believed and have become one of God’s many children. Now we have an Advocate with the Father, who is Jesus Christ the Righteous; “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” Through the Lord Jesus’ death and by His becoming the propitiation for our sins, He has become our Advocate with the Father. These words are spoken to Christians.

The propitiation spoken of here is the reality of the type of the ashes of the red heifer in Numbers 19. It speaks of God’s forgiveness of our future sins according to the accomplished work of the cross. There is no need to have a new cross. We only need the work of the cross once and it is sufficient. With the eternal redemption of the cross, our sins are forgiven. That sacrifice was not an ordinary sacrifice. It was a sacrifice whose efficacy could be applied at all times. It was ashes; therefore, it was applicable all the time. Based on His blood, the Lord Jesus Christ has become our Advocate. He has accomplished redemption on the cross. Based on His accomplished work, we can be cleansed. If we sin by accident, we should not be disheartened by our sin; we should not wallow in it or remain in it. When we sin, the first thing we should do is confess our sin to the Lord. God says that it is a sin, and we should acknowledge it as a sin. God says that this is wrong, and we also should say that it is wrong. When we ask God to forgive our sin, He forgives our sin, and our fellowship with Him is restored immediately.

In the eyes of God, no brother or sister should sin. However, if anyone sins by accident, the first thing to do is deal with it immediately before God. He or she should take care of the problem of sin immediately. Never delay. Deal with it as soon as possible. You must confess immediately. Tell God, “I have sinned!” Our confession is our judgment of ourselves. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When a child of God sins and does not confess his sin but instead remains in his sin, he loses his fellowship with God. There will be no further fellowship between him and God. There is a leak in his conscience, and he will not be able to stand up before God. He may still have a little fellowship with God, but that fellowship will not be pleasant. Indeed, he will suffer. When a child who has done something wrong comes home, he will feel that something is not right because his father will not speak to him. He cannot have an intimate fellowship with his father. He knows that there is a barrier between him and his father. This is the pain that results from a loss of fellowship.

There is only one way to recovery—it is to go to God and confess our sins. We have to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has become our Advocate and has borne all our sins. We have to confess our failures and shortcomings before God in a humble way. We have to look to Him so that we will no longer be proud or loose when we set out on our journey again. We have to realize that we are no better than anyone else, and that it is possible for us to fall at any time. We have to ask God for mercy and strength to go on step by step. Once we confess this way, we will immediately recover our fellowship with God, and the joy and peace that were lost will come back.

Finally, we should point out once more that Christians should not sin. Sin results in suffering and loss. May God have mercy upon us, keep us, preserve us, and lead us on in the way of unceasing fellowship with Him!

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

LEADING MEN TO CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Rom. 1:16; 10:14; 1 Tim. 2:1, 4; Mark 16:15

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  (Romans 1:16)

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  (Romans 10:14)

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  (Mark 16:15)

In the previous chapter we said that once a person believes in the Lord, he has to witness for the Lord. In this chapter we want to talk about the ways to lead men to Christ. If we do not know how to lead people to Christ, I am afraid that much of our witnessing will be in vain. There are several things which we must do and learn if we want to lead men to Christ. We can group them into two categories: First, going to God on man’s behalf, and second, going to man on God’s behalf. In addition, we would also like to say something about passing out tracts.

I. GOING TO GOD ON MAN’S BEHALF

A. Prayer Being the Foundation
of Leading Men to Christ

There is a foundational work in leading men to Christ. Before one opens his mouth before man, he first must open his mouth before God. We need to first ask God and then talk to men. We always need to talk to God first, not man. Some brothers and sisters are very zealous to lead men to Christ, but they do not pray for them. A man may have great interest in people, but if he has no burden to pray before the Lord, his work of saving souls will be ineffectual. A person must have a burden before the Lord before he can witness to men.

The Lord Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  (John 6:37) According to Acts 2:47, the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. The first thing that we must do is ask God for people, asking Him to give men to the Lord Jesus and to add them to the church. In order for men to be saved, we need to ask God and implore Him. It is very difficult to deal with man’s heart. It is not easy for us to turn a heart toward the Lord. We must first go to God and pray for these people, asking God to bind the strong man “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”  (Luke 11:21-22).  Afterwards, we can talk to them at length. We have to present these people one by one to the Lord and pray for them fervently before we can effectively lead them to Christ.

Those who are good at leading men to Christ are good at prayer. If you have trouble getting answers to prayer, you will have trouble witnessing for the Lord. If you have no confidence in prayer, you will have no confidence in leading men to Christ. Hence, you must learn to pray in a practical way and not let this matter slip by.

B. Preparing a Record Book

In order to pray for people in a proper way, you should keep a record book. Allow God to put the names of those whom He wishes to save in your heart. When you were first saved, how did you know to whom you should go to make restitution? How did you know whom you should repay? It was the Lord who put the person’s name in your heart and who reminded you of particular things. This reminder compelled you to make restitution with others. One day you suddenly thought of something. Another day something else came to your mind. As a result of this enlightening, you dealt with these things one by one. The same principle holds true in leading men to Christ. Allow the Lord to put some names in your heart. When these names are in your heart, spontaneously you will be burdened to pray for them. The Lord may put a few people or a few dozen people in your heart. In writing these names down, the most important thing to remember is to take the names that the Lord has put in your heart. Do not sit down and simply make out a list at random. You will be wasting your time if you mindlessly write down something. Your success will be dependent upon how good your start is. You have to ask God specifically for a few names. Out of all your family members, friends, colleagues, schoolmates, and those whom you know, a few names will spontaneously come to your mind. You will have a feeling for them, and you will want them to be saved first.

A record book should have the following columns: The first column should be a number; the second column, the date; and the third column, the name. This will remind us of the number we have assigned to a person and the date we began to pray for him. The fourth column should also be a date—the date when the person is saved. If the person unfortunately dies, we can put the date of death in this column. One should persist and not give up once a name is in the book. The prayer for a person should follow him until he dies. If the person is alive and not saved, you should keep on praying for him until he is saved. One brother prayed for his friend for eighteen years before his friend was saved. It is not certain when a person will be saved. Some are saved in a year, and some in two to three months. Perhaps one or two of them may prove to be very difficult, but in the end they will still be saved. You should not relax but relentlessly pursue in prayer for their salvation.

C. The Greatest Obstacle to Prayer Being Sin

Prayer is a test; it exposes your spiritual condition before the Lord. If your spiritual condition is proper and normal, others will be saved one by one. As you intercede continuously before the Lord, you may find one or two persons saved after a few days or half a month. After a while, another three or five may be saved. People should be saved regularly. If your prayers are not answered for a long time, it must mean that you are sick before the Lord. You should go to the Lord for light and find out where your problem lies.

The greatest obstacle to prayer is sin. We must learn to live a holy life before the Lord. We must reject all known sins. The moment we take sin lightly or tolerate it, our prayers will be hindered.  “Sin has both an objective aspect and a subjective aspect. The objective aspect has to do with God, while the subjective aspect has to do with us. On the objective side, sin obstructs God’s grace and promises. Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2) “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”  (Psalms 66:18) If a person does not take care of the problem of sin properly, he will find hindrance to his prayer. Unconfessed sins, sins which are never dealt with by the blood, are a big obstacle before God; they are the cause of unanswered prayer. This is on the objective side.

 

On the subjective side, sin damages man’s conscience. When a person sins, no matter what he says to himself, how much he reads the Bible, how many promises there are in the Word, how much grace God has, and how much He accepts him, his conscience will be weakened and bound. First Timothy 1:19 says, “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” A ship may be old or small, but it cannot leak. Similarly, our conscience must not have a leak. As soon as the conscience is not at peace, many prayers cannot be uttered. Thus, there are obstacles not only before God but even within man himself. The relationship between faith and conscience is just like that between a ship and its cargo. Faith is like the cargo, and the conscience is like a ship. When the ship has a leak, the cargo will be damaged. When the conscience is strong, faith will be strong. But when there is a leak in the conscience, faith will be gone. If our heart blames us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”  (1 John 3:20)

If you want to be a man of prayer, you must deal with sin thoroughly. You lived in sin for a long time in the past. If you are not careful with it now, you will not be totally free from it. You have to deal with sin seriously; you have to come before God to confess every sin, putting every sin under the blood, refusing it, and coming out from it. Then your conscience will be recovered. As soon as the blood cleanses, the conscience is recovered. There will be no condemnation, and spontaneously you will see God’s face. Never give in to sin. This will weaken you before the Lord. If you are weak before the Lord, you will not be able to intercede for others. As long as sin remains, you will not be able to utter anything in your prayer. Sin is the number one problem. You should pay attention to it all the time, even daily. If one deals with sin properly before the Lord, he will be able to offer proper prayers, and others will be brought to the Lord through him.

D. Praying with Faith

Another important thing is to have faith in our prayers. If the conscience is blameless, it is easy for faith to be strong, and if faith is strong, spontaneously our prayers will be answered.

What is faith? Faith is freedom from doubt. It is to accept God’s promises in our prayers. It is God who asks us to pray and who wants us to pray. God said, “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.”  (Isaiah 45:11)  If we pray, God has to answer us. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”  (Matthew 7:7)  It is impossible for Him not to open after we have knocked. Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find.” It is impossible for us not to find after we have sought. Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given to you.” It is impossible for us to ask and yet not receive. If we do not believe this, what kind of God do we think our God is? We must see that God’s promises are faithful and dependable. Faith is based on our knowledge of God. The more we know God, the stronger our faith will be. We are saved already; we know God already. Therefore, we can believe; there should not be any difficulty at all for us to believe. When we believe, God will answer our prayers. Learn to be a person full of faith from the very beginning. We should not trust in our feelings or our mind. Instead, we should believe in God’s word. God’s promises are like cash; they work. In fact, God’s promises are God’s work. The promises tell us of God’s work, while His work is the manifestation of His promises. We have to accept God’s promises in the same way we accept His work. When we believe God’s word, abiding in faith rather than in doubt, we will see how real God’s words are and we will find answers to our prayers.

E. Aspiring to Be a Praying Person

We need to have the ambition to be a praying person, a person with power before God. Some people are powerful before God, while others are not. When some people speak, God listens. When others speak, He does not listen. What does it mean to be powerful before God? It simply means that God listens to the person when he speaks. It is as if God is happy to be influenced by such a one. Some people can influence God. Being powerless before God means that God does not listen to the person when he speaks. Such a one may spend much time before God, but God ignores him. We must have the desire and the aspiration to see that God often answers our prayers. No blessing can be greater than God answering our prayers all the time. We have to pray to Him, “May every request of ours be pleasing to Your ears.” It is a most glorious thing for God to incline His ear to us. It is a tremendous thing for God to trust us to the extent that He can give us whatever we ask.

You have to present to the Lord the names that you are burdened with and pray for them one by one. See how long it takes for God to save them. If your prayers are unanswered after a long period, you have to deal with yourself and with God. In order for your prayers to be answered, it is often necessary to go through specific dealings. Unanswered prayer means that there is sickness somewhere. If you do not mean business in this matter, you will always fail.

This is why you need a record book. The record book will show you whether or not your prayers are answered. Many people do not know whether their prayers are answered because they do not have a record of anything. Newly saved brothers and sisters should learn to have such a record book. Then they will know whether or not their prayers are answered. They will know whether there is a problem between them and the Lord. They will know also when they have to deal with themselves and when they have to deal with God.  I have kept such a record book for years, even before I attended and graduated from Hyles-Anderson College because of this teaching.  I have seen many wonderful answers which are recorded in such a record book.  Recently we have begun to send out a voice broadcast that asks people for their prayer request.  Now I have begun to put those prayer requests on my list and some have even been answered before I had even contacted those for whom I was praying.

If you have prayed for a long time and there is still no answer, you should realize that there must be some hindrance. The hindrances always occur because there is sin in your conscience or there is a problem with your faith. New believers need not worry about the deeper aspects of prayer. They need only to pay attention to their conscience and their faith. Before the Lord, we have to confess, deal with, and refuse our sins. At the same time we have to genuinely and fully trust in God’s promises. If we do this, we will see people being saved one by one, and our lives will be full of answers to prayer.

F. Praying Daily

You have to pray for those around you. Is there no one who needs your prayers? How many colleagues do you have? How many neighbors do you have? How many relatives and friends do you have? Always ask the Lord to place one or two special persons in your heart. When the Lord places a person in your heart, He intends to save this person through you. You should write down his name in your record book and continually bring him to the Lord through prayer.

You need to set aside a fixed time daily for this work of intercession. Whether it be an hour, half an hour, or a quarter of an hour, it must be a fixed time. If there is no fixed time for prayer, there will not be definite prayer. As a result, there will not be any prayer at all. Hence, always fix a time for prayers, whether it is a quarter of an hour or half an hour. Do not be too ambitious; do not plan for two hours and end up not being able to carry it out. It is more practical to set aside one hour, half an hour, or a quarter of an hour. Always fix a time to pray for those who need your prayer. Do not relax. Do this every day. After a while, you will see sinners saved one by one.

G. A Few Examples of Intercession

We will mention a few stories here to show you how others have done this work.

1. A Boiler Worker

Once a boiler worker in a ship was saved. He asked the brother who led him to Christ, “Please tell me the first thing that I must do for the Lord?” The brother replied, “The Lord will choose a few of your companions and put them in your heart. You will have to pray for them.” There were more than ten persons working together at his place. He remembered one person in particular and prayed for him daily. That person found out about this, and he became angry. Later, an evangelist came by and preached the gospel to the men there. After the meeting he stood up and said, “I want to believe in Jesus.” The evangelist asked, “Why do you want to believe in Jesus?” He said, “A person has been praying for me for some time. I have to believe in Jesus.” The boiler worker had been praying for this man. Although he did not like this in the beginning, the power of prayer overcame him, and in the end he accepted the Lord.

2. A Sixteen-year-old Youth

A sixteen-year-old youth was working as a copy writer in a construction firm. The chief engineer of the company had a very bad temper and almost everyone was afraid of him. After the youth was saved, he started to pray for the chief engineer. He was afraid of the engineer and dared not open his mouth, yet he prayed earnestly for him daily. After a short while, the engineer asked him, “I have over two hundred people in the company, but I feel that you are different. Can you please tell me why you and I are so different?” The engineer was about forty to fifty years old, and the youth was only sixteen. The young man answered, “I have believed in the Lord, and you have not.” The engineer immediately said, “I also want to believe in Him.” The youth brought him to the church, and the engineer was saved.

3. Two Sisters

In Europe there are guest houses which are open to strangers. They are not hotels, but they receive travelers. Once there were two Christian sisters whose house was open to travelers. Sometimes, as many as twenty or thirty would stay at their place. They noticed the luxury of the travelers’ attire and the vanity of their conversation. The sisters were bothered and wanted to win them over to Christ. However, there were many guests and only two of them. How could they win them over? They decided to sit at the two ends of the room during the conversation and pray for the guests from each end.

On the first day during the after-dinner conversation, each sister sat at one end, praying for the guests one by one. One prayed from one end, and the other prayed from the other end. They prayed for each and every one of them. This stopped the guests’ jesting and chatting on that first day. They asked themselves what had happened. On that day, one person was saved. The next day, another lady was saved. One by one they were gradually all brought to the Lord.

Prayer is indispensable. The first condition in bringing people to the Lord is intercessory prayer. We must pray systematically, orderly, daily, and relentlessly, until our friends are saved.

II. GOING TO MAN ON GOD’S BEHALF

Merely going to God on man’s behalf is not enough. We also have to go to man on God’s behalf. We have to tell men about God. Many people have the courage to speak to God, but they have no courage to speak to man. We have to exercise boldness to speak to men. We have to tell them the kind of Lord our Lord is. When we speak, we need to pay attention to a few things.

A. Never Engaging in Useless Arguments

First, never engage in useless arguments. This does not mean that there should never be any arguments. Acts tells us of a few arguments. Even Paul argued (cf. Acts 17:2, 17-18; 18:4, 19). However, useless arguments do not save people. Sometimes it is all right to engage in arguments. But this is mainly for the benefit of other listeners. Try to avoid arguing with the ones you are trying to save because arguments often drive people away instead of bringing them in. If you argue with them, they will run away.

Many people think that arguments can touch men’s hearts. Actually, this never happens. At the most, arguments can convince men’s minds. Their mouths may be shut, but their hearts will not be won over. Arguments produce little result. Try to say less in the way of argument and more in the way of testimony. You have only to tell others that you felt happy and peaceful after you believed in the Lord Jesus, that you sleep well now, and that even meals are becoming tastier. No one can argue with you about these things. They can only wonder. You have to show them that they do not have your kind of peace and joy and that they should therefore believe in the Lord.

B. Keeping to the Facts

The key to leading men to the Lord is to emphasize the facts, not the doctrines. Just recall what it was like when you were saved. You did not believe because you understood the doctrines. Many people understand the doctrines, but they do not believe. It is impossible for any brother to try to lead others to Christ through arguments and doctrines. The key to leading men to Christ is to keep to the facts. This is why simple ones often are more effective in leading others to the Lord; those who are good at doctrines may not lead others to the Lord. Some people can give wonderful messages. But what use is there in winning the minds of others, if one cannot help them be saved?

Once there was an old man who considered going to church a good habit. He was not saved, yet he would go to church every Sunday and also make his whole family go. But when he returned home, he would lose his temper, and all kinds of bad words would come out of his mouth. The whole family was afraid of him. One day his daughter, who was a believer, came to visit him. She brought her little daughter with her. The old man brought the little granddaughter to the church. When they came out of the church, the little granddaughter looked at her grandfather and felt that he did not look like a believer. She asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus?” The grandfather said, “Children should keep their mouths shut.” After walking a few steps, she said to her grandfather again, “You do not look as if you have believed in Jesus.” Again the old man said, “Children should keep their mouths shut.” After a while she asked her grandfather, “Why do you not believe in Jesus?” This little child saw a fact—the way her grandfather attended church was different from the way other believers attended church. The old man, who was otherwise wild and hard to deal with, became soft after his little granddaughter’s probing questions. On that day he accepted the Lord.

The preaching of the gospel requires skill. One must know the way God works before he can preach the gospel. A person may preach the right doctrines, and crowds of people may come for his messages, but the same crowds may walk away unsaved. You will not get any fish with a straight hook. The fishing hook must be curved before one can catch fish. Those who lead others to the Lord need to know how to use a hook. Use only the words that can catch people. If your words cannot catch people, try to change the way you speak. Facts are words that catch; they are words that can touch others.

C. Being Sincere in Attitude

Do not delve into many teachings. Try to speak more facts. At the same time, be sincere in attitude. Saving a man’s soul is not a light matter. I once saw a person who wanted to lead others to the Lord. He was willing to pray, but his attitude was wrong. He joked around as he spoke about the Lord. Whatever spiritual power he might have had was lost through his jokes. As a result, he could not lead anyone to the Lord. One has to be very sincere in his attitude. He must not be flippant or funny in his attitude. He has to let others see that this is the most serious matter in the whole world.

D. Praying for the Opportunity to Speak

You also need to pray unceasingly for God to provide you with the right opportunity to speak. When you pray, God will give you the opportunity.

One sister gathered a group of women together once a week and led them in a Bible study. The women all worked in the same company, and none of them believed in the Lord. One of them was very particular about her dress. She was very proud and would not listen to anything the sister said. The sister took notice of her and prayed for her. She asked God to give her the opportunity to speak to the woman. One day she felt a desire to invite the woman over for tea. Since this woman loved to socialize, she accepted the invitation. When she came, the sister encouraged her to believe in the Lord. She replied, “I cannot believe. I like to gamble, and I love pleasure. I do not want to lose these things. I cannot believe in Jesus.” The sister said, “If a person wants to believe in the Lord Jesus, she has to stop gambling. Anyone who wants to believe in the Lord Jesus must give up vainglory. You have to give up these things if you want to believe in the Lord Jesus.” The woman said, “The price is too high. I cannot afford it.” The sister said, “I hope you will go back and consider it.” After she said this, she continued to pray for her. The woman returned home and knelt down to pray. After she prayed, she suddenly said, “I have decided to follow the Lord Jesus today.” She changed suddenly. She could not explain it, but her heart just turned. She changed her attire; she no longer dressed the same as before. Wonderful things followed one after another. Within a year many of her colleagues were brought to the Lord one by one.

You may think that it is difficult to talk to someone, but if you pray for him, the Lord will give you the opportunity to speak to him, and he will change. The sister who was having Bible studies had been afraid to speak to the woman because the woman behaved as though she knew everything and could do everything. She appeared to be very arrogant, but the Lord gave this sister the burden to pray for her. One day the Lord told the sister to speak to her. She put aside her considerations and spoke to her. You have to pray on the one hand and learn to open your mouth on the other. After you have prayed for a person for some time, the Lord will impress you to speak to him. You will have to tell him about the Lord’s grace and the things that He has done for you. He will not be able to resist you because he cannot oppose the things that the Lord has done for you. The newly saved brothers and sisters must pray daily for the Lord to provide opportunities to speak to others. What a pity that some people have been saved for several years already, yet they dare not open their mouths to speak to their relatives and friends! Perhaps your fear has caused you to miss many opportunities that were waiting for you.

E. Speaking in Season and out of Season

We mentioned earlier that you must pray before you speak to a person. This, however, does not mean that you cannot speak if you have not prayed. You have to speak to men even if you are seeing them for the first time. Always grasp the opportunity to speak, whether in season or out of season. You never know who you are missing. Speak whenever there is the chance. Always be prepared to open your mouth. Of course, first and foremost, you have to pray for those whose names appear in your record book. But you have to pray for those whom you do not know. You should pray, “Lord, please save the sinners. Whoever they may be, please save them.” Whenever you meet someone and have an urge in your heart to speak, you should speak to him.

If we do not heed this urging, we may let a soul slip away from us. We should not let so many souls slip through our hands. We hope that all the brothers and sisters will testify faithfully for the Lord and bring many to Christ.

F. Studying Carefully

Each time you lead someone to the Lord, you have to do a detailed analysis, just like a doctor who studies each patient’s case in detail. The doctor cannot prescribe the same medicine to everyone. Certain sicknesses require certain drugs. He administers a particular drug to a particular patient. The same is true in leading men to Christ. No one can be a doctor without studying medicine. In the same way, no one can lead men to the Lord without studying. Some brothers and sisters are good at bringing people to the Lord because they have studied the ones whom they brought to the Lord. At the beginning of the work of leading men to Christ, a new believer has to work hard to study each case. You should always study why a particular person accepted the Lord. Why did a particular word open him up? Why did another person not believe after hearing a particular word? Why did a person shy away after listening attentively for a while? Why did a person accept when he earlier had opposed? Why are there no fish after waiting for a long time? We always have to find the reason that the Spirit is working, and we also have to find the reason that the Spirit is not working.

If you fail to lead men to Christ, do not put all the blame on others. Those who are good at leading people to the Lord always look for problems within themselves. We cannot wait by the seaside and hope that the fish will jump to the shore. Leading people to the Lord is not so simple. We have to spend time to study and learn where the problems lie. Leading people to the Lord is a skill, and this skill is acquired through working with people. There is always something we can learn, whether through failure or success. Through failure, we learn the reason for our failure. Through success, we learn the reason for our success. In every situation, we need to study the reasons behind the results.

If you do this conscientiously, you will learn many lessons. Eventually, you will discover an interesting thing—as far as believing in the Lord is concerned, there are only a few types of people in the world. If you meet a certain type of person, you will need only to speak certain words to him, and he will receive the Lord. If you speak something else to him, he will oppose you and not believe. If you know how to handle these few types of people, you can handle most people. You can handle those whose names are in your record book, and you can handle those whom you come across by accident. As soon as you come across someone, you will take the opportunity to witness to him, and you will be able to tell immediately the type of person he is. You will know in your heart what to do with this type of person and how to speak to him. He will most likely be saved. If you study your cases one by one, you will become a very skillful soul-winner after one or two years. You will realize that soul winning takes wisdom. By God’s mercy, you may lead some to the Lord, maybe a few dozen, or even a few hundred. If you study all these cases carefully, you will become a very powerful soul-winner.

APPENDIX:
PASSING OUT TRACTS

A. No Time Limit

During the past two to three hundred years, the Lord has used tracts in a particular way to save many people. One thing special about winning people with tracts is that tracts are not limited by time. If you try to testify with your mouth, you are restricted by time and personnel. You cannot speak twenty-four hours a day, and your audience may not be available all the time. You may be preaching a wonderful message, but the audience may not be there. However, tracts are not limited by time. You can pass out tracts any time of the day, and men can receive and read your tracts any time of the day. Today many people do not have the time to come to our meeting. But tracts are not limited by time. We can give them out to people who are walking on the streets, who are cooking in their kitchens, or who are working in their offices. This is the first convenience that tracts afford.

B. Tracts Can Convey the Gospel in Full

Many people are very zealous in testifying for the Lord and leading men to Christ. However, their knowledge is limited and their words are lacking. They cannot convey the gospel message adequately and fully. In addition to leading men to Christ through other means, a new believer has to do his best to select some good tracts in his spare time and pass them out to others. This will enable him to do what he himself could not do otherwise.

C. Tracts Not Being Affected by Human Factors

There is another advantage to using tracts. In preaching the gospel, sometimes we feel too shy to use strong words in front of people. Tracts do not have this inconvenience. They can go to anyone and say anything they want. A living preacher is often restricted by circumstances. But the preaching of the tracts is not affected by any human factors. New believers should learn to sow seeds with the tracts.

D. Passing Out Tracts Being a Way of Sowing

Another advantage of passing out tracts is that one can sow anywhere. The Old Testament says that we should sow our seed in many waters (Num. 24:7). It takes a considerable effort to speak to three, five, or ten persons together. But there is no difficulty in passing out a thousand, two thousand, or three thousand tracts a day. If one person can be saved out of the thousand tracts we pass out, this is wonderful enough. New believers should learn to pass out tracts in large quantities.

E. God Saving Men through Tracts

God has indeed used tracts to save people. I know of some people who slip tracts under doors. Others drop them into mailboxes. I remember an incident in which a person received a tract and then threw it away on the street. Another person, who had a nail stuck in his shoe, was looking for something to cushion his foot. He picked up the tract and stuffed it in his shoe. He returned home and began to mend his shoe. Then he saw the tract and was saved. There are numerous similar cases of people being saved by tracts. Some of these cases are actually quite marvelous.

F. Much Prayer and Dedication of Heart

A newly saved brother always should have tracts ready in his pockets, and he should pass them out when he is free. Like the work of leading men to Christ, we should do this with much prayer and dedication of heart. While we are passing out tracts, we can speak a word or two to others or we can remain silent. Either way is good. If a new believer practices this, he will receive great benefit from it.

I have used these thoughts and words for many years before I went to Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point Indiana.  There we learned many other ways to witness besides passing out tracts.  Dr. Hyles’ book “Let’s Go Soul Winning” is probably one of the greatest tools to teach a young convert a very simple way to lead anyone to the Lord with the Romans Road.  You can see me using this same plan if you watch the video on the main page of this site where I am giving the plan of salvation and then leading anyone who is watching the video to pray to receive Christ.  To read Dr. Hyles simple training on soul-winning please click on this link:

LET’S GO SOUL WINNING

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

WITNESSING

Scripture Reading: Acts 9:19-21; 22:15; 1 John 4:14; John 1:40-45; 4:29; Mark 5:19

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (Acts 9:19-21)

 

For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.  (Acts 22:15)

 

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.  (1 John 4:14)

 

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (John 1:40-45)

Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?  (John 4:29)

 

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  (Mark 5:19)

I. THE MEANING OF WITNESSING

How long will the light of a candle last? Of course, the light will go out when the candle burns out. But if we light another candle with this one, the light will double in intensity. Will the light of the first candle diminish because it has lit the second? No. If we use the second to light a third, will the light of the second diminish? No. The light of each candle will last until the candle burns out. But when the first light goes out, the second will still be burning. When the second light goes out, the third will still go on shining. If we keep on lighting more candles—ten, a hundred, or a thousand candles—the light will never go out. This explains the testimony of the church. When the Son of God was on earth, He lit the first candle. After that, more candles were lit one after another. For the past nineteen centuries, the church has been like candles; when one candle burns out, it is continued by another one. This goes on and on even today. The church has never ceased shining on this earth, just as salvation has never stopped. Some have lit ten candles; some have lit a hundred. Candle after candle has been lit, and the light continues on.

Brothers and sisters, do you want your light to continue, or do you want to see it end when your candle is extinguished? You have been lit by someone. He does not expect the light to end with you. Every Christian must try his best to bring salvation to others. He must do his best to testify to others and lead others to the Lord so that the testimony may continue on this earth from generation to generation. It is unfortunate that with some people their light ends and their testimony ceases. This is most pitiful! The church has been propagating itself for generations. Some people find their testimony continuing, while others have unfortunately gone without posterity. The light of a candle can only shine while it is still burning. Likewise, a man’s testimony continues only while he is still alive. In order for the light of a candle to go on, other candles must be lit before the first one burns out. In this way the second, the third, the hundredth, the thousandth, and even the ten thousandth candle will carry on the light. This light will continue forever and spread to all parts of the world. Such spreading will not diminish the light of each candle. We suffer no loss when we witness. But by witnessing, the testimony goes on.

What is witnessing? In Acts 22:15 the Lord sent Ananias to speak to Paul: “For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” From this we see that the basis of witnessing is what we have seen and heard. You cannot be a witness to what you have not seen with your own eyes or heard with your own ears. Paul saw something with his own eyes and heard something with his own ears. God charged him to be a witness of what he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. First John 4:14 tells us what witnessing is: “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” A person is a witness to what he has seen. Thank God, you have believed in the Lord. You have met Him, believed in Him, received Him, and gained Him. You are saved. You have been delivered from sins, received forgiveness, and obtained peace. Now that you have believed in the Lord, what joy you possess. This joy is something which you did not have before. Formerly, how heavy was the load of sin upon you! But now, thank God, this load of sin is gone. You have seen and heard something. What should you do today? You should testify of your experience. This does not mean that you have to leave your job to be a preacher. It means that you should witness to your friends, relatives, and acquaintances of what you have seen and heard, and bring them to the Lord.

The gospel will stop with you if your testimony does not continue. It is true that you are saved; you have the life of the Lord and you are lit. But if you do not light others, you will be finished when your candle burns out. You should not meet the Lord empty-handed. You should bring many with you when you meet the Lord. New believers must learn from the very beginning to witness to people and bring them to the Lord. Never be lazy in this matter. If a believer does not open his mouth from the very beginning, after a few days he will form a habit of keeping his mouth closed, and then it will take much effort to turn the matter around. You have believed in the Lord. For the first time you have tasted so great a love, received so great a Savior, obtained so great a salvation, and experienced so great an emancipation. Yet you do not testify for the Lord or light others with your light! You really owe the Lord something!

II. EXAMPLES OF WITNESSING

Let us consider four portions of the Word. They are good examples of witnessing.

A. Going into the City to Tell Others

In John 4 the Lord told the Samaritan woman about the living water. By this she realized that no one on earth can find satisfaction without the living water. Everyone who drinks of the water from the well will thirst again. No matter how many times man drinks of that water, he will thirst again; he is never satisfied. Only by drinking the Lord’s water will we not thirst again, because there is a spring that will flow out of us and satisfy us continuously. Only this inner satisfaction can give us true satisfaction. The Samaritan woman had been married five times. She married one man after another; she had changed her husband five times, yet she was still not satisfied. She was a person who drank again and again but was never satisfied. Even the man who was with her at that time was not her husband. She, undoubtedly, was not a satisfied person. But the Lord had the living water that could satisfy her. When the Lord showed her who He was, and when she had Him, she left her waterpot and went away into the city, saying, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (v. 29). Her first reaction was to testify to others. What did she testify? She testified Christ. Perhaps the people in the city knew something about her, but there were probably many things which they did not know. Yet the Lord told her everything. She testified to others, saying, “Is this not the Christ?” The moment she saw the Lord, she opened her mouth to invite others to find out whether He was the Christ. As a result of the woman’s word, many believed in the Lord.

Every Christian has an obligation to be a witness and to introduce the Lord to others. The Lord has saved a great sinner such as me. If He is not the Christ, who else can He be? If He is not the Son of God, who else can He be? I have no choice but to open my mouth. I have to open my mouth to testify. Although I may not know how to give a message, at least I know that He is Christ. I know He is the Son of God, the God-appointed Savior. I have seen that I am a sinner, and I know that the Lord has saved me. I cannot explain what has happened to me, but I can ask others to come and see what a great change has occurred in me. I do not know how it came about. Formerly, I considered myself a good man. Now I see myself as a sinner. The Lord has shown me my sins, things which I did not realize were sins. Now I know the kind of person I am. I committed many sins in the past which others did not know about and which even I myself may not have known about. I committed many sins, yet I did not realize that they were sins. Here is a man who told me everything I have done. He told me what I already knew, and He also told me what I did not know. I can only confess that I have touched Christ and have met the Savior. Here is a man who told me that the “husband” I had was not my husband. He told me that if I drank of this water, I would thirst again and come back for more. How true were those words! Come and see. Is He not the Savior? Is He not the Christ? Is He not the only One who can save us?

All those who have seen that they are sinners surely have a testimony to give. Those who have seen the Savior also have a testimony to give. This woman gave her testimony within a few hours after she had met the Lord. It was something that happened on the same day, not something that happened a few years later when she returned from a revival meeting. She witnessed to others immediately after she returned to the city. Once a person is saved, he should tell others what he has seen and understood immediately. Do not speak what you do not know, and do not give a long discourse. Just tell them what you know. This is all you need to testify; you only have to tell others how you feel. Some can say, “I was so depressed before I believed in the Lord. But now that I have believed in the Lord, I have become so happy. In the past I pursued many things but was never satisfied. Now there is an unspeakable sweetness within. Before I believed in the Lord I could not sleep at night. But now I can sleep well. I used to be full of anxiety and bitterness. But now I feel peace and joy wherever I go.” You can tell others what you have experienced. You do not need to tell them what you cannot say. You do not need to tell them what you do not know. Do not speak anything beyond what you know or beyond your present situation. That may stir up arguments. Present yourself to others as a living witness. They will have nothing to say.

B. Going Home to Tell Others

In Mark 5:1-20 we see a person who was demon possessed. It is the most severe case of demon possession recorded in the Bible. A legion of demons was within this man. He dwelt among the tombs, and no one was able to bind him, not even with a chain. Night and day, he would cry out among the tombs and in the mountains and gash himself with stones. When the Lord commanded the demons to come out from him, they did and entered into about two thousand hogs. They all rushed down the steep slope into the sea and drowned. After the demon possessed man was saved, the Lord said to him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (v. 19).

After you are saved, the Lord wants you to tell your family, neighbors, relatives, friends, and colleagues that you are now a saved person. You should tell them not only that you have believed in Jesus but also what great things the Lord has done for you. The Lord wants you to tell others what He has done for you. He wants you to confess and witness to others what has happened to you. Others will be lit when you do this, and salvation will continue on; it will not stop with you.

What a pity that many souls in Christian families are on the way to eternal perdition. Some of our parents, children, relatives, and friends have not heard the gospel of Christ from our own mouths. They have only the blessing and happiness of the present age, without the hope of the coming age. Why should we withhold from telling them what the Lord has done for us? These are the ones who are right next to us. If they cannot hear the gospel from us, who else can?

In order to witness to our family, we must show them the great change in our conduct. We must show our family what a wonderful change has been wrought in our lives since we believed in the Lord. Only then will they listen to us. They will not have confidence in anything less than this. We must be more righteous, more self-sacrificing, more loving, more diligent, and more joyful than before. They will not believe us if there is no change in our conduct. At the same time, we need to witness to them the reason for this change.

C. Proclaiming in the Synagogue

Acts 9:19-21 says, “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” (Acts 9:19-21)

Saul was on his way to Damascus to bind the believers of the Lord. But he met the Lord on the way and the Lord spoke to him. The moment light came, he fell on his face and became blind. The men who journeyed with him led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. He was there three days without seeing, eating, or drinking. The Lord sent Ananias to lay his hands upon him, and he received sight, rose up, and was baptized. After he had taken food, he was strengthened. After a few days he immediately went into the synagogues to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and to witness to others. It was obviously difficult for him to do this because he had been persecuting the Lord’s disciples all along. He could have been a member of the Sanhedrin. The Jewish Sanhedrin was comprised of seventy-one persons, and he could have been one among the seventy-one. He had secured a letter from the high priest and was on his way to bind the believers of the Lord and to bring them before the high priest. What should he do now that he had believed in the Lord? Originally, he was going to bind those who believed in the Lord. Now he himself was in danger of being bound. Humanly speaking, he should have escaped or hidden. Instead, he went into the synagogues, not just one but many, to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. This shows us that the first thing a person should do upon receiving the Lord is testify for Him. After Paul received his sight, he went at the first opportunity to testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Every believer of the Lord should do the same thing.

Everyone in this world knows that there is a Jesus. But they only know Jesus as one among millions of men in this world. In other words, Jesus is considered merely as one man among many. Although they regard Him as being a little more special than others, He is still an ordinary man to them. But one day light and revelation came to you; the eyes of your heart were enlightened, and you discovered something. You discovered that this Jesus is the Son of God. You discovered that God has a Son! Jesus is the Son of God! What a great discovery! You discovered that there is one man among all men who is the Son of God. This is truly tremendous! When a person receives the Lord Jesus as his Savior and confesses Him as the Son of God, he is doing a great thing, a tremendous thing. He cannot let the occasion pass by lightly, because it is a momentous event. Of the millions of men in this world, he has discovered One who is the Son of God. What a great and tremendous discovery this is! Among the billions of men throughout history, he has suddenly found out that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is indeed a great matter. We would marvel if someone were to discover an angel among us. How much more marvelous is it when someone discovers the Son of God? We do not know how many million times more superior the Lord is than the angels. There is no comparison between the two. The angels are far, far inferior to our Lord.

Here was a man on his way to bind all those who believed in the Lord’s name. But after he fell and rose up, he went into the synagogues and proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God. He either was mad or had received a revelation. He was not mad. Indeed, he had received a revelation. He actually had met the One among millions of men who is the Son of God. Like Paul, you also have met this Man among men, the One who is the Son of God. If you realize how great the discovery you have made is and how important and wonderful your discovery is, you surely will tell others immediately, “I have met the Son of God.” You surely will proclaim aloud, “Jesus is the Son of God!” How can a person sit still and act as if nothing has happened when he has believed in the Lord Jesus and is saved? If a person has believed in the Lord Jesus and yet does not feel anything, if he considers this to be nothing marvelous or special, we doubt whether he has believed at all. Here is something great, marvelous, extra- ordinary, special, beyond all imagination—Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is too crucial a matter! It is not too much for a man who has seen such an important matter to knock on the door of his friends’ house after midnight to tell them of his discovery. A marvelous thing has happened in the universe—Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!

Here was a man who had just recovered from his illness; he had just had his sight restored. We see him running immediately into the synagogues and proclaiming, “Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!” Every believer who has seen the same should go to the synagogues and shout, “Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God!” Every time we consider how Jesus of Nazareth can be the Son of God, we feel that this is the greatest discovery in the whole world. No discovery can be more amazing and more crucial than this. What a tremendous thing for us to discover that this man is the Son of God! When Peter told the Lord, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the Lord Jesus told him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:16-17). While He was among us in disguise, no one knew Him except those who had the Father’s revelation.

Brothers and sisters, never consider your faith to be a small thing. You need to realize that your faith is a wonderful thing. Saul had to go into the synagogues to speak because he knew that his discovery was too wonderful. You will do the same if you realize how wonderful the things you have seen are. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This is a most wonderful and glorious fact.

D. One on One

A person needs not only to go to the city, to his home, and to the synagogues to witness to others about his faith in the Lord, but also to bear a special testimony—to lead others to the Lord one on one. Such is the testimony in John 1:40-45. The moment Andrew believed in the Lord, he led his brother Peter to the Lord. Although Peter later became more gifted than Andrew, Andrew was the one who led Peter to the Lord. Philip and Nathanael were friends; Philip first believed in the Lord and later led his friend to receive the Lord. Andrew led his brother to the Lord, and Philip sought out his friend. Both are examples of leading men to the Lord one on one.

About a hundred years ago, there was a believer named Harvey Page. Although he did not have any special gift and did not know how to lead many people to the Lord, the Lord was gracious to him and opened his eyes to realize that he could lead at least one person to the Lord. He could not do many great works, but he could concentrate on one person. He could only say, “I am saved. You also need to be saved.” Once he laid hold of one, he would not let go. He would pray and talk to his friend until he was saved. Through this practice he solidly gained more than one hundred persons for the Lord by the time he died.

In a certain country there was a believer named Todd, who was very good at leading people to salvation. He was sixteen when he was saved. It was a holiday and he was in a village. An older couple from a church took him in for hospitality. They were experienced workers, and they led him to the Lord. The young man had lived a wanton life, but on that day he knelt down to pray and was saved. In the course of their conversation, the young man found out that the gospel could not prevail in that place because a certain Mr. Dickens would not repent. When Todd heard this, he asked, “Who is this Mr. Dickens?” They told him that he was a retired soldier over sixty years old. He kept a gun at home and vowed to shoot whoever came to preach the gospel to him. He regarded every Christian in the world as a hypocrite, and he called them all by such a name. Whenever he came across a Christian, he would behave in a violent way. No Christian dared to preach the gospel to him or even walk past the street where he lived. If he knew that a Christian was walking past his street, he would curse vehemently and fiercely. When Todd heard this, he prayed, “O Lord! I have received Your grace today. You have saved me. I must go and testify to Mr. Dickens.” Even before he finished his tea, he said, “I am going.” He had been saved less than two hours earlier, yet he wanted to witness to Mr. Dickens. The older couple advised him, saying, “Do not go. Many of us have failed. He has chased some away with a rod. Others fled when he threatened them at gunpoint. Even though he has beaten up so many people, we do not want to take him to court because we want to maintain a proper gospel testimony. This has given him the excuse to become more fierce.” Todd said, “I feel that I should go.”

He arrived at Mr. Dickens’s door. As soon as he knocked, the man came to the door. He had a stick in his hands, and he asked, “Young man, what do you want?” Todd said, “Is it all right for me to speak a few words to you?” The man nodded, and both of them went into the house. The moment they were in the house, Todd said, “I would like you to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior.” Mr. Dickens lifted up his rod and said, “I suppose you are new here. I will let you go and not beat you up. But have you not heard that no one is allowed to speak the name of Jesus here? Get out! Get out right away!” Todd said again, “I would like you to believe in Jesus.” Mr. Dickens became furious. He ran upstairs and returned with a gun in his hand. He shouted at him, saying, “Get out or I will shoot!” Todd responded, “I am asking you to believe in Jesus. If you want to shoot, you can shoot. But just let me pray before you shoot.” He immediately knelt down in front of Mr. Dickens and prayed, “O God! This man does not know you. Please save him.” Then he prayed again, “O God! This man does not know you. Please have mercy on him. Have mercy on Mr. Dickens.” Todd knelt there and would not rise up. He continued praying, “O God! Please have mercy on Mr. Dickens! Please have mercy on Mr. Dickens!” After praying five or six times, he heard a groaning near him. A little while later, he heard Mr. Dickens lay down his gun. Soon Mr. Dickens was on his knees next to Todd, praying, “O God! Please have mercy on me.” Within a few minutes, that man had accepted the Lord. He took the young man by the hand and said, “In the past I have only heard the gospel. Today I have seen the gospel.” Later, the young man told others, “The first time I saw his face, it was truly a face of sin. Every wrinkle spoke of sin and evil. Later, light shone through the wrinkles, and every wrinkle seemed to be saying, `God is merciful to me.'” The next Lord’s Day, Mr. Dickens went to church, and later he led dozens of people to salvation.

In the first two hours after his salvation, Todd led a notoriously difficult person to the Lord. The sooner a new believer opens his mouth, the better it is. We should not waste any time in leading others to Christ.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF WITNESSING

A. Being a Great Joy

The two happiest days in every believer’s life are the day he believes in the Lord and the day when, for the first time, he leads another person to Christ. The first one, of course, is a particularly happy day. However, the joy of leading another person to the Lord for the first time may be greater than the joy experienced on the day of his own salvation. Many Christians do not have much joy because they have never spoken anything for the Lord; they have never led a person to the Lord.

B. Learning to Be Wise

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” From the very beginning of our Christian life, we should learn to win souls by various means. We should learn to be wise. This will make us useful persons in the church. I am not talking about delivering a gospel message on the platform. Platform preaching can never replace the personal work of leading people to the Lord. A person who knows only to preach from the platform may not know how to lead people to the Lord. We are not exhorting you to give a message on the platform. We are asking you to save men. Many people are good at preaching, but not at saving men. They do not know what to do when a person is brought to them. They are of little use. The really useful ones are the ones who can lead men to Christ one by one.

C. Begetting Life

No tree will sprout without further growth. Likewise, no one can have God’s life without begetting more life. Those who never witness to sinners are probably in need of others witnessing to them. Those who have no desire or interest in leading others to repentance unto the Lord are probably in need of repentance themselves. Those who are silent for the Lord in front of others probably need to listen again to the voice of God’s gospel. No one can be so advanced that he no longer needs to save others. No one can advance to the degree that he no longer needs to witness to others. New believers need to learn to witness to others from the very beginning. This is something we have to do for the rest of our lives.

When you become a little more advanced in the spiritual life, others may tell you, “You have to be a channel of living water. You should be one with the Holy Spirit so that the living water—the Holy Spirit—can flow into you.” However, a channel has two ends. This channel of the Holy Spirit, this channel of life, also has two ends. One end is toward the Holy Spirit, toward life, and toward the Lord, while the other end is toward man. The living water will never flow if the end toward man is closed. No one can be so wrong as to assume that just opening to the Lord is enough. The living water does not flow through those who are opened just to the Lord. One end must be opened to the Lord, and the other end must be opened to man. The living water will flow out only when both ends are opened. Many people are powerless before God because the end toward the Lord is not open. But many more people are powerless because the end for witnessing and leading others to Christ is closed.

D. Experiencing the Misery of Eternal Separation

Many people have not heard the gospel because you have not yet testified to them. The consequence of this is eternal separation; it is not merely temporal parting. This is too crucial. A brother was once invited to another person’s home for dinner. As he was very learned and eloquent, he spoke quite much on intellectual subjects. Another elderly friend who lived nearby was also present at the dinner. Since both were very intellectual, they talked for a long time. It was getting late, and the host invited them to stay overnight. The elderly friend’s room was directly opposite to this brother’s room. Not long after they retired to their rooms, the brother heard the sound of something falling to the floor. When he went to the other room, he saw the friend lying on the floor, dead. Other people started rushing into the room. The brother said sadly, “If I had known that this was going to happen, I would not have spoken what I spoke two hours ago! I would have pointed out eternal matters. I did not spend even five minutes speaking to him about salvation. I did not give him an opportunity. If I knew what I now know, I would have tried my best to tell him about the Lord’s crucifixion for him. But it is too late! If I had told him these words at dinner time, you would have laughed at me for speaking at an inopportune time. But it is too late for him. I hope that you will listen now. Every person needs to believe in the Lord Jesus and in His cross!” There is an eternal separation; this separation is not just temporary. What a tragedy! Once the opportunity is gone, a man will be eternally barred from heaven! We must seek out every opportunity to testify to others.

D. L. Moody was very good at leading men to salvation. He once made up his mind to preach the gospel to at least one person a day, whether or not he was giving a message on that day. One day he went to bed, and then he remembered that he had not preached the gospel to anyone yet. What should he do? He changed his clothes and went out again to look for someone he could speak to. It was already midnight when he looked at his watch; the streets were empty. Where could he find anyone at such an hour? The only person he could speak to was a policeman who was on duty: “You must believe in the Lord.” The policeman was in a bad mood over something at that moment, and he scolded Moody angrily, saying, “Do you not have something better to do than persuade me to believe in Jesus in the middle of the night?” Moody went home after sharing a brief word with him. But the policeman was touched by Moody’s word. A few days later he visited Moody and was saved.

As soon as a person believes in the Lord, he should make a resolution before the Lord to lead men to the Lord. Everyone should have a record of how many souls he will save in a year. He may resolve to save ten or twenty a year. He should then begin to pray for them. General prayers are useless prayers. If you go to the Lord and say, “O Lord! Please save sinners,” it is too general a prayer. You must have a specific goal in mind. If you want ten, aim for ten. If you want twenty, aim for twenty. You can prepare a book in which you write down the names of the ones you have gained for the Lord. As you gain one, write his name down. At the end of the year, you can count the number of those who were saved and the number who remain unsaved. Continue to pray for those who are not yet saved. Every brother and sister should practice this. It is not too much to gain thirty or fifty souls a year; ten or twenty is common. We must ask the Lord for a specific number in our prayer. The Lord wants to hear our specific prayers. We should pray to the Lord every day and should testify whenever there is opportunity. If all of us preach the gospel and lead people to the Lord this way, our spiritual life will advance quickly in a few years.

We must uphold the torchlight of the gospel and must light everyone around us. Let every Christian go forth to light others. The testimony of the gospel needs to go out from us until the Lord’s return. We should not be lit ourselves without lighting others. We should light more and more candles. So many souls before our eyes are in need of salvation. We must try our best to testify to them and lead them to Christ.

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD

Scripture Reading: Exo. 10:8-11, 21-26; 12:6-11, 37-42; 2 Cor. 6:17

And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go? And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD. And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. (Exodus 10:8-11)

 

And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither. (Exodus 10:21-26)

 

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover. (Exodus 12:6-11)

 

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual. Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. (Exodus 12:37-40)

 

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (2 Corinthians 6:17)

There are many commandments in the Bible concerning separation from the world. The Old Testament contains many examples and teachings concerning this. For example, Egypt, Ur of the Chaldees, Babylon, and Sodom are all types of the world. They show different aspects of the world. Egypt represents the joy of the world, Ur of the Chaldees represents the religions of the world, the tower of Babel represents the confusion of the world, and Sodom represents the sins of the world. A man should come out of Egypt and also out of Ur of the Chaldees, just as Abraham did. Lot went to Sodom, and the people of Israel fell into captivity in Babylon. All should come out from these places. The Bible uses four different places to represent the world and shows how God’s people come out from these different aspects of the world.

I. THE TYPE OF ISRAEL’S EXODUS FROM EGYPT

A. The Result of Redemption Being to Go Out

God saved the Israelites through the Passover lamb. When the messenger of God went forth to kill the firstborn in the land of Egypt, the angel of death passed over the doors which had the blood upon them. If there was no blood on the door, the firstborn of that house was killed. It had nothing to do with whether the door was good or bad, whether there was anything special about the lintel or the side posts, whether there was anything good about that family, or whether the firstborn child honored his parents. The issue was whether there was any blood. Whether or not you will perish does not depend on your family’s status or your behavior; it depends on whether you have the blood. The basic factor for salvation is the blood; this has nothing to do with us.

We who are saved by grace are redeemed by the blood. But please remember that immediately after being redeemed by the blood, we must move and go out. Do not think that we can buy a house and dwell in Egypt after we are redeemed by the blood. Those who are redeemed by the blood must set out that very night. The lamb was slaughtered before midnight, and the blood was sprinkled with hyssop. They ate their meal quickly, with their loins girded and their staff in their hands, because they had to leave immediately.

The first result of redemption is separation, that is, departure, a going out. God never redeems a person and leaves him in the old position to continue living in the world. There is absolutely no such thing. Once a person is born again, saved, he must take up his staff and set out. Once the angel of destruction has done his work of separating the saved from the perishing, the saved ones must leave. Once you have been separated by the smiting angel, you have to pack up and move out of Egypt.

A staff is for walking. No one holds a staff to lie down in bed. The staff is not a pillow; it is for walking. All those who are redeemed, old or young, must take their staff and leave the same night. As soon as you are redeemed by the blood, you become a sojourner and a pilgrim on the earth; you have to go out of Egypt and be separated from the world immediately. You must not continue to live there.

There was a sister who taught a class in a children’s meeting. Once she was telling the story of Lazarus and the rich man. She asked the children, “Do you want to be Lazarus or the rich man? The rich man enjoys himself in this age and suffers in the next. Lazarus suffers today and enjoys himself later. Which would you choose to be?” An eight-year-old girl stood up and said, “While I am alive, I want to be the rich man, but when I die, I want to be Lazarus.” Many people are like this. When they need salvation, they trust in the blood of the Lamb; but after they are saved by the blood, they settle down firmly in Egypt. They think that they can have the best of both sides.

Please remember that the blood’s redemption saves you from the world. Once you are redeemed by the blood, you immediately become a sojourner, a pilgrim in this world. This does not mean that you no longer live on the earth. It means that you are immediately separated from the world. Wherever redemption is applied, this is the result. As soon as a man is redeemed, his course is changed, and he has to leave the world. The separation of the blood separates the living from the dead; it also separates the children of God from the people of the world. Once we are redeemed, we can no longer remain in the world.

B. The Many Frustrations from Pharaoh

The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt shows us how difficult it was for them to leave Egypt! Egypt tried to hold them back again and again. When the Israelites first wanted to leave Egypt, Pharaoh only allowed the strong men to go; the young and the old had to stay back. Pharaoh knew that if he could hold back the young and the old the strong men would not go far. After a while they would come back. Satan’s strategy is to prevent us from having a thorough separation from Egypt. From the very beginning, Moses rejected Pharaoh’s delays. If we leave one thing or one person behind, we cannot go too far; eventually we will turn back.

You may recall what Pharaoh told Moses the first time: “Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.” (Exo. 8:25). Later, he told him not to go too far. The third time he told him that only the strong ones could go. The fourth time, he told him that all the people could go but the cattle and the sheep had to remain. Pharaoh’s way was to persuade them to serve God there in Egypt. This was his basic premise. He was willing to allow a person to be God’s child as long as such a one remained in Egypt. He knew that if a person served God in Egypt, he would not have a testimony and he would have to serve Pharaoh in the end. Even though one wanted to be God’s servant, he would eventually end up being Satan’s servant.

If you try to serve God in the world, you will surely end up being Satan’s slave. You will have to make bricks for him, and he will not let you go. Even if he does, he will not let you go too far. If he lets you go, he may only allow the strong men to go; the rest will have to stay. Satan is quite familiar with the words in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The treasure and the person go together. He knew that if Pharaoh held back the cattle and the sheep, the people would not go too far. The people eventually would follow the cattle and the sheep. But God wanted the cattle and the sheep to follow the people. He wanted the people to be saved from the treasure.

After a person is saved, he must go out to the wilderness. Moreover, he has to bring all the people and all his treasures with him. Otherwise, he will eventually go back to Egypt, and there will be no separation from Egypt. God’s commandment is that those who serve Him must separate themselves from the world.

C. Our Way Being in the Wilderness

Just to confess the Lord with our mouth and say, “I have believed in the Lord today,” is not enough for a testimony. We must come out from the world and be separated. This takes us one step further than confessing Jesus as Lord with our mouth. We cannot be dumb Christians. However, opening up our mouth alone is not enough; we must be separated from the world. We cannot continue our previous friendships, social ties, or other previous relationships. Even our family relationships must be considered.  We must treasure our present position in the Lord and turn far away from our previous position. The person has to go out, and the possessions have to go out as well. Others may say that we are foolish, but we should not listen to them. Today we have to come out from Egypt. From the time we become a Christian, our way is that of the wilderness, not of Egypt.

In New Testament terms, both Egypt and the wilderness represent the world. Egypt refers to the world in its moral sense. The wilderness refers to the world in its physical sense. Christians are in the physical world but not in the moral world. We must see that there are two aspects of the world: the first as a place and the second as a system. There are many things related to the physical world which are attractive, which arouse the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the vainglory of life. This is Egypt. But there is another meaning to the world—the physical world as a place where one’s body resides.

D. Leaving the Moral World

Today we Christians must come out of the system and the organization of the world. Leaving the world refers to our deliverance from the moral world, not the physical world. We need to leave the moral world behind, not the physical world. In other words, we are still living in the world, but this world has become a wilderness to us.

What is the world to us? Mr. D. M. Panton put it well when he said, “While I am living, it is a journey to me; when I die, it is a tomb to me.” While a believer is living on this earth, the world is a journey to him; when he dies, the world is only a tomb in which he is buried. We must be separated from the people of the world. Every believer must be separated from the world. In the eyes of the world, we are in the wilderness; we are pilgrims. They are the ones who are in the world.

E. Sojourners and Pilgrims in this World

We must realize that we are sojourners and pilgrims in this world. As far as the moral world is concerned, we have come out of it. It wants to keep us, but if we stay, we will not be able to serve God. The world wants to be closer to us, but if we allow it to come too close to us, it will be impossible for us to serve God. The world wants to keep our people and our treasure, but if these things are kept in the world, we will not be able to serve our God.

We have been separated from Egypt, and our faces are toward the promised land. The basis of that separation is the blood, the blood that has bought us back. The Egyptians have not been bought by the blood; the worldly ones have not been redeemed. As redeemed ones, we have been transferred to another world. Therefore, we must leave this world.

Suppose you go to a watch shop to buy a watch. What do you do after you have bought it? Once the purchase has been made, you take the watch away. I should not buy the watch and leave it behind. I should not tell the proprietor, “Here, you use it!” This is not reasonable. Buying means taking away. Whenever there is a purchase, there is a taking away. If I buy a sack of rice, the rice is taken away from the shop. After one buys something, the purchased item is taken away. Please remember that since the blood has bought us, we must be taken away from the world. Once a person is bought by the Lord’s blood, he should leave for the promised land. As soon as one is bought, he should leave. Those who are not bought can stay behind. But as soon as a person is bought, he should leave. Once a person is bought, he has no choice but to go with the Lord. If I have been bought by the Lord, I must leave the world and go with Him.

II. AREAS THAT REQUIRE SEPARATION
FROM THE WORLD

You may ask what we should separate ourselves from. What things are considered the world? What areas should we be separated from? Before we touch any specific item, we should realize that our heart and spirit are the first things that need separation from the world. If a person’s heart is set towards the world, it becomes futile to speak to him about anything else. It is useless to try to be delivered from a hundred things if the person himself still remains in the world. First, there must be a deliverance of the person, a deliverance of the spirit, and a deliverance of the heart. Deliverance from matters comes later.

A man must be separated completely from Egypt; he must be separated from the world. He should not be afraid that others will criticize him as being peculiar. Then there is the need to take care of some principles. In some areas we should be separated from the world, while in other areas we should maintain peace with it. We have no intention to be contentious. In the family, in the office, and everywhere, we do not want to arouse controversy. Let us consider five specific things that need to be dealt with:

A. Things Which the World Considers
Improper for Christians to Do

We should refrain from anything that the world considers improper for Christians to do. Our Christian life at the minimum should meet the standard of the worldly people. Everyone in the world has set up a yardstick and a standard for Christians. If you do not meet this standard, you have failed them. When you do something, you should not give the Gentiles any ground to ask, “Do Christians do this?” If others say this, you are finished. As soon as you are rebuked, you are finished. Suppose you are caught visiting certain places. The Gentiles may say, “Do Christians come to places such as this?” There are many places Gentiles like to visit. If you tell them that it is wrong to visit those places, they may insist and argue with you. But if you visit those places yourself, they will ask, “How can you also go to these places?” Some matters are sinful. When the Gentiles do them, they keep quiet about it. But if you do the same things, they will speak up. Therefore, we must refrain from things that the Gentiles consider improper. This is a minimum requirement. When a Gentile says, “Christians should not do such a thing,” we should turn away from it immediately.

Some young people are saved, but their parents are still unsaved. Sometimes these children ask for something from the parents. The parents may say, “Do you Christians want these things as well?” It is most shameful for a Christian to find himself adjusted by the Gentiles. Abraham lied and was rebuked by Abimelech. This is a most shameful thing in the Bible. We must refrain from things that are considered improper by the Gentiles. We must stay away from things that the worldly people, the Egyptians, consider inappropriate for Christians to do. We must be separated from them.

B. Things Incompatible with the Lord

Anything that is incompatible with the Lord must also be removed. Since the Lord suffered humiliation on the earth, we should not seek glory here. Since the Lord was crucified like a robber, we should not seek to be welcomed everywhere. When our Lord was walking on the earth, He was accused of demon possession. We cannot allow people to say that we have the best mind, that we are smart, or that we are very intellectual. We have to pass through what the Lord passed through. Everything that is incompatible with the Lord must go.

The Lord said that a slave is not greater than his master and a disciple is not greater than his teacher. If the world treated our Master one way, we should not expect it to treat us another way. If it treated our Teacher one way, we should not expect it to treat us another way. If we are not treated the same as our Master, something is wrong with us, and something is definitely wrong in our relationship with the Lord. Whatever our Lord experienced on the earth should be our experience today.

To follow Jesus of Nazareth, one must be ready to suffer humiliation; this is not a thing of glory. To follow Jesus of Nazareth means to bear the cross. When others first came to the Lord, the Lord told them that they had to bear the cross in order to follow Him. According to the Lord, this is the main entrance. He does not wait until a person is in the room before He tells him this condition. Before we go in, the Lord makes it clear that we must bear the cross in order to follow Him. The Lord has called us to bear the cross. This is the way we are taking, and we can only follow the Lord according to this way. The Lord’s relationship with the world should be our relationship with the world. Our relationship with the world must be compatible with our Lord’s relationship with the world; we cannot take a different way.

Galatians 6:14 shows us that the cross stands between the world and the Lord. The Lord is on one side, and the world is on the other side. The cross stands in between. We and the world stand on opposite sides of the cross. The world crucified our Lord on the cross; therefore, the world is on the other side of the cross. Since I am on the Lord’s side, I would have to go through the cross before I could reach the world. There is no way to go around the cross because the cross is a fact; it is also history. I cannot annul this fact, and I cannot annul history. The world has crucified our Lord. I cannot take another way. If the cross is a fact, the crucifixion of the world to me is also an eternal fact. If I cannot annul the cross, I also cannot annul the fact that the world has been crucified to me. Today there is no way for me to go to the world’s side, unless I remove the cross. The cross is here, and I have no way to avoid it because the crucifixion of my Lord is a fact. Today, I am a person on the other side of the cross.

Suppose a person’s parents or brothers are killed. Others may offer a reasonable excuse for the murderer, but the person may say, “My folks are already dead. An excuse cannot change this fact. If my folks were not yet dead, there would be something to talk about. But now that they are dead, there is nothing more to say.” In the same principle, we can say that the cross is already here; what more is there to say? The world has already crucified our Lord on the cross. Today, we are on the Lord’s side, and we can only say, “World, from your point of view, I am crucified. From my point of view, you are also crucified.” Today, it is impossible for these two sides to communicate. It is impossible for the world to come over. It is also impossible for us to go over. The cross is a fact. If I have no way to annul the cross, I have no way to win the world over to my side. My Lord has died, and there is no longer any possibility of reconciliation.

Once we see the cross we can say, “I boast in the cross.” As far as we are concerned, the world is crucified on the cross. As far as the world is concerned, we are crucified on the cross (Gal. 6:14). The cross will be forever history and a fact. As Christians, we are on one side, while the world is on the other side. The cross is in between. As soon as we open our eyes, we will see nothing but the cross. If we want to see the world, we have to see the cross first.

A new believer must be led by the Lord to see that his condition should match the Lord’s condition. Some people ask many questions. They ask, “Will we touch the world if we do this?” And they ask, “Can we do that?” We cannot tell people what to do item by item. We only need to give them the general principle. The world is against the cross; it is against our Lord. If our heart is open and soft before God and if we go to Him, the difference between the world and the cross spontaneously will become clear to us.

As soon as we go to the Lord, we will find out what the world is and what the world is not. We only need to ask, “What is my relationship with this matter, and what was the Lord Jesus’ relationship with it while He was on the earth?” As long as our relationship with the world is the same as the Lord’s, we are all right. If our position is different from the Lord’s position, we have erred. The Lamb was slain, and we are the followers of the Lamb. We are those who follow the Lamb wherever He may go (Rev. 14:4). We take the same stand as that of the Lord. Anything that is not on the same ground as the Lord or that stands against the Lord is the world, and we must depart from it.

C. Anything That Quenches
Our Spiritual Life

It is difficult for us to point out the world item by item; the list is endless. But we should grasp one basic principle: everything that quenches one’s spiritual life in the Lord is the world. The world is anything that kills one’s zeal for prayer to God. The world is anything that takes away one’s interest in God’s Word. The world is anything that frustrates one from testifying before men. The world is anything that hinders one from coming to the Lord, anything that results in confession. The world is an atmosphere that chokes and dries a person up. It is anything that discourages a man’s heart from loving and yearning for the Lord. Here we see a broad principle—anything that quenches our spiritual condition before the Lord is the world. We must reject all of it.  This is one reason why we must consider the style of music that we like and decide to change our taste.  Larry Norman is wrong when he says, “Why should the Devil have all the good music.”  Carmen and other CCM musicians are wrong when they say that we can sing rock, jazz, rap, blues, disco, and all other worldly styles of music for the Lord.  Worldly music must go.

Some people say, “This thing is not sinful at all. Can you say that it is worldly?” Many things appear to be very good to our eyes, but they quench the fire within us after we touch them once or twice. Our conscience becomes weak before God. After we become involved with these things, our Bible reading becomes tasteless. We may have the time, but we no longer have the heart for reading. After we participate in such things, we feel empty inside and have nothing to testify before men. Such things may not be a matter of sin. Our question is whether or not these things are quenching our spiritual life. Everything that quenches our spiritual life is the world and must be rejected totally before the Lord.

D. Everything That Fails to Give Others
the Impression That We Are Christians

We need to mention one more thing—our relationship with other people. Any kind of social function, communication, or activity that causes us to hide our lamp under the bushel is the world. Many social friendships, functions, and contacts with worldly people force us to put our lamp under the bushel; there is no way under those circumstances for us to stand up to declare that we are Christians. When others engage in such conversation, you have to pretend to be courteous. You have to listen to them and laugh with them. You feel quenched within, but you have to put on a smiling face. Inwardly you feel that this is the world, yet outwardly you have to go along with it. Inwardly you know this is sin, yet outwardly you cannot say that it is wrong. You should not remain in this kind of social environment even if it involves relationships with family members. Many of God’s children are gradually sucked into the world through indiscriminate social activities and contacts.

All new believers must know where they stand from the very beginning, and they must make a choice. We are not trying purposely to be antisocial. We are not John the Baptist who did not eat or drink. We follow our Lord who ate and drank. But when we contact people, we must maintain our stand. No one should be able to insult our Christian stand. They should respect our stand. When I take a stand as a Christian, I must maintain my stand even if others criticize me.

If we really want to take the way of separation from the world, we must pay attention to our speaking. We must also show our Christian stand every time we are in the company of others. If we cannot maintain our stand as Christians, it is better to turn away from where we are. Psalm 1:1 says that we should not “stand on the way of sinners,/Nor sit in the seat of the scornful.” If we stand on the path of sinners, we will end up in their place sooner or later. If we sit in the company of scorners, we will become scorners sooner or later. Sin and scorning are contagious. We must learn to flee these things as if we are fleeing from germs.

E. Things Disapproved of by Weak Believers

Things which stumble a weak conscience are another class of things that constitute the world. God’s children must learn to turn away from them. The previous discussion concerns things which the world considers improper. Here we are talking about things which a young Christian considers improper. If a Gentile thinks that we should not do a certain thing, we will lose our testimony if we do it. Similarly, we should avoid anything that a Christian disapproves of, even if the one who disapproves is the youngest and weakest of all Christians. This is the biblical commandment. It is not the words of the strong Christian but the words of the weak Christian that should determine what we should or should not do. What they say may not be correct; what they consider forbidden may not be wrong. But we should not stumble them because their conscience is weak. They may think that we are on the wrong way. If we take such a way, we will stumble them. Paul said, “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are not expedient” (1 Cor. 6:12). All things are lawful, but others may consider these things to be a form of the world. Therefore, we should not do them for their sake.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

Paul spoke of the example of eating meat. He said that if eating meat would stumble a brother, he would never eat meat. This is not easy. Who can abstain from meat forever? Paul’s word does not suggest that one should not eat meat. In 1 Timothy he clearly said that it is wrong to abstain from meat. However, he showed us that he was willing to carry such caution to the extreme. It did not matter to him whether or not he ate meat. He might have been clear about what he was doing, but others who followed him may not have known what he was doing. We may know at which point we should stop, but those who follow may not know this. What would happen if they take a few steps further? There is nothing wrong if we eat meat, but after awhile those who follow us may go to the temple to eat the sacrifices or perhaps worship the idols as well. Many things may not be directly related to the world, but we should still exercise care in touching them because others may consider them a form of the world.

III. COMING OUT FROM THEIR MIDST
TO BE WELCOMED BY THE ALL-SUFFICIENT LORD

Second Corinthians 6:17-18 says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

In the New Testament the words Lord Almighty are used for the first time in 2 Corinthians 6. Lord Almighty is Elshadai in Hebrew. El is God, sha is a mother’s breast or milk, and shadai means something that is with milk. In Hebrew shadai means “all-sufficient.” The words Almighty God in the Old Testament are also Elshadai, which should be translated as “the All-sufficient God.” The mother’s milk is all that a child needs. The mother’s breasts contain the milk; all the supply is in the breasts. The root of the word shadai is “the mother’s breast.” This means that with God we have everything.

Second Corinthians 6:17 tells us that if we come out from their midst and do not touch their unclean things, God will welcome us and be a Father to us. We shall be sons and daughters to Him, says the All-sufficient Lord. We can see that these words have not been spoken lightly. The Lord is saying, “Because of Me you have left many things. You have come out from their midst and are separated from them. You have terminated your relationships with them and are no longer touching their unclean things. Your two hands are empty, and there is nothing left in you. Now that you have done all this, I will welcome you.”

Please remember that everyone who feels welcomed by the Lord is separated from the world. Many people do not feel the excellency of the Lord when they come to Him because they have not counted all things as refuse. Those who have not counted all things as refuse surely consider earthly things precious. Such people do not know what it means for God to welcome them; they do not know what it means for God to be their Father and for them to be God’s children. They do not know that the One who spoke these words is the all-sufficient Lord. Can you see the special significance of the word shadai? The words Lord Almighty are used here because when a person has cast away everything, he needs God as the Shadai; he needs a Father who is all-sufficient.

Psalm 27:10 tells us that if our father and mother forsake us, Jehovah will take us up. In other words, He becomes our father. Psalm 73:26 says that when our flesh and our heart fail, God is the rock of our heart and our portion forever. Herein lies the sweetness of our experience. There must be loss on one side before there can be gain on the other side. The blind man met the Lord only after he was cast out of the of of the synagogue (John 9:35). If we remain in the synagogue, we will never meet the Lord. But when we are cast out, we see the Lord’s blessing upon us immediately.

As new believers we must come out from the world. Only then will we taste the Lord’s sweetness. Once we drop something on one side, we will taste the goodness of the Lord on the other side.  It is not a question of legalism as some weak and unspiritual Christians try to maintain, but it is leaving all the influences, styles, music, friends, family, and anything else that is of the world and moving toward the place of a Christian in Christ and in the family of God.

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 Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

TERMINATING THE PAST

Today we come to the question of how a person deals with his past after believing in the Lord. After believing in the Lord, a person still carries many things of the past with him. How should he terminate these things?

I. THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE BEING CONCERNED
WITH WHAT ONE DOES AFTER SALVATION

The entire Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but especially the New Testament, shows that God does not pay attention to what a person does before he believes in the Lord. Try to find a verse from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 on how believers should terminate their past, and you will see how hard it is to find something on this subject. Even the Epistles, which touch on our wrongdoings in the past, mainly tell us what we should do hereafter, not what we should do about our past. The books of Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians all cover something about our past, but they do not tell us how we should terminate our past; they only tell us how we should go on.

You may recall that someone asked John the Baptist, “What then shall we do?” John answered, “He who has two tunics, let him share with the one who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” He did not talk about their past but about their future. Some tax collectors came to John and asked what they should do. John answered, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.” Some soldiers also asked, “What shall we do?” John replied, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:10-14). This shows us that John, who preached repentance, emphasized the things that we should do hereafter, not the things of the past.

Let us also consider Paul’s Epistles. He always emphasized what we should do in the future, not what we should do regarding the past, because everything of the past has been covered under the precious blood. If we err a little in this matter, we will corrupt the gospel; we will corrupt the way of the Lord, the way of repentance, and the way of restitution. We must deal with this subject carefully.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Here Paul speaks of the believers’ past conduct, but he does not say how they should deal with it. “… but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God ” (1 Cor. 6:11b). The emphasis here is not on dealing with the past, because we have a Savior who has already dealt with all our past. Today the emphasis is on what we should do hereafter. A saved person is already washed, sanctified, and justified.

 

” And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:1-5). These verses do not tell us how we should terminate the things of the flesh. There is only one termination—our Lord’s termination of everything for us based upon the great love with which God loved us and the rich mercy of God.

 

Ephesians 4:17-24 also speaks of our past condition. “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”(Ephesians 4:17-24)

 

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25) This refers to the things hereafter. It does not tell us how to deal with our past falsehood but that henceforth we should no longer remain in falsehood. Today we must “…speak every man truth with his neighbour… Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:25b-27). These verses do not refer to the past but to the future. “Let him that stole steal no more:” (Eph. 4:28a). Paul did not say that he who steals needs to return what was stolen. His emphasis is still on hereafter. What was stolen in the past is another matter. “… but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:28b-31).

 

” But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”(Ephesians 5:3-4)  These words are still in the same principle. They speak of things after one believes in the Lord. They are not about the termination of things done before one believes in the Lord.

After reading all the Epistles, we find a marvelous truth: God pays attention only to what a person should do after he has believed in the Lord. He does not pay attention to the things he has done in his past. He does not tell us what to do with them. This is a basic principle.

Many people are in bondage because they have accepted a wrong gospel. Such a gospel places too much stress on dealing with one’s past. This does not mean that we do not need to deal with our past. Certain things of our past must be dealt with, but such a dealing is not the foundation of our going on. God always draws our attention to the fact that our past sins are under the blood. We are fully forgiven and saved because the Lord Jesus has died for us. Our salvation is not based on how we deal with the past. Man is not saved by repentance for his past bad deeds, just as he is not saved by trusting in his past good deeds. Man is saved through the salvation accomplished by the Lord on the cross. We should hold fast to this foundation.

II. NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
OF DEALING WITH THE PAST

What then should we do with the things of our past? In reading the New Testament, I have spent much time to find out how one should terminate his past after believing in the Lord. I found only a few passages where the subject is mentioned briefly. However, they are not teachings but examples.

A. Matters Related to Idols
Needing to Be Dealt with Thoroughly

First Thessalonians 1:9 says, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” When a person believes in the Lord, he must deal with all idols. Please remember that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. What agreement does the temple of God have with idols? Even the apostle John, in addressing the believers, said, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”(1 John 5:21) Hence, this is not as simple a matter as many may think.

One thing we must take note of is that God forbids man to make an image of anything. We cannot consider a man-made object to be living. The moment we have such a thought, the object becomes an idol to us. Of course, idols are nothing, but if we consider them to be living, we fall into error. This is why God forbids the worship of such things. Even an inclination in the heart towards them is forbidden. One of the Ten Commandments forbids the making of idols (Deut. 5:8).

Deuteronomy 12:30 says, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.” This shows us that we should not even inquire how the Gentiles worship their gods. Some who are curious like to study how the nations worship and serve their gods. But God forbids us to inquire about such matters. If we inquire about them, the next thing we will do is worship their gods. Hence, we are forbidden from being curious.

 

Second Corinthians 6:16 says, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” The meaning here is quite obvious. Christians should not visit temples. There are exceptions of course, such as when a person is stranded on a deserted mountain and cannot find a place for shelter at night and there is only a temple for lodging. But generally speaking, believers should not visit any temple. This is because 2 Corinthians 6:16 says clearly that we are the temple of the living God. It also says that there is no agreement between idols and the temple of the living God. Unless one is pressed by special occasion or circumstance, it is inadvisable to go near or purposely tour any temple. John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21) Guarding ourselves from idols means staying away from them.  (As this is written in China over 60 years ago, perhaps we should stay away from “American Idol.”)

 

Psalm 16:4 says, “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.”  Even at the pulpit, we should carefully avoid the names of other gods except in the case of a necessary illustration. We should not hold on to any superstition, fear of misfortune, or taboo for certain associations or words. Many believers still pay attention to fortunes, the reading of facial features, and destinies. (This applies to reading the horoscope and talking about what sign of the Zodiac someone is under.)  Everything related to fortune-telling or horoscopes is prohibited. Everything in the realm of idolatry should be dealt with thoroughly before God. We should sever our relationship with it completely.

A new believer must give up his idols from the very first day of his salvation. He should not mention the names of idols, be involved with fortune-telling, or visit any temples. (Some TV programs are filled with stories about heathen temples.  Such movies as “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” are steeped in the Occult and mythology.) We cannot worship anything with an image. Even the thought of worshipping such things is forbidden. (This includes idolizing movie stars or sports heroes.)  We cannot inquire about the worship of other religions. All these things belong to the past, and we should deal with them. Anything that falls into these categories should be destroyed; they should not even be sold. We should destroy, exterminate, and remove them. I hope that new believers will not take this matter lightly; they have to be very careful about these things, for God is extremely jealous of idols.  (If you were in the Catholic Church or another religion where they worshipped Mary or other “Saints” and idols, you need to remove them and have nothing more to do with any of them.)

If you cannot take a strong stand against idols today, you will have a hard time escaping the greatest idol on earth in the future. Of course, we should not worship idols made of clay or wood. But even if there is an idol that is living, we must not worship it. There are actually living idols—the man of lawlessness (2 Thes. 2:3) being one. Please remember that you cannot worship any idols; you must reject all of them, even images of the Lord Jesus and Mary.

We must deal with this matter thoroughly. Otherwise, we will be distracted to follow another way. We are those who serve not in the flesh but in spirit. God is seeking those who serve Him in spirit, not in the flesh. God is Spirit, not an image. If all the brothers and sisters take care of this matter, they will not fall into the hands of Roman Catholicism, Islam or Mormonism in the future. One day Antichrist will come, and the power of Roman Catholicism will be greatly expanded.  (One of the worst forms of idolatry is the worship of Allah and revering of Mohammed as if he were some form of idol with power.)

In the Bible, the first thing one has to do in dealing with his past is to reject all former idols. (This includes false books like the Book of Mormon and the Quran of Islam.  A new Christian should remove from these completely.)  We must turn away from idols and wait for the coming of the Son of God. We should not even keep any picture of the Lord Jesus. Such pictures are not the real image of the Lord Jesus; they are worthless. In the museums in Rome, there are over two thousand different images of the Lord Jesus. All of them represent the imagination of the artists. In some countries artists often look for people who resemble their idea of Jesus and then pay them to pose for portraits of Jesus. This is blasphemous. Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate such things among us. There should not be any kind of superstition. Some people like to say, “It is not a good day today; there are bad omens.” Such remarks are directly from hell. God’s children should get rid of these ideas from the very first day and deal with them in a thorough way. They should not allow any flavor of idolatry to come in.

In this generation, idols have actually come into the church in the form of Rock & Roll music which is sung to the same beat as the Druids used to worship idols and demons in ancient England.  The forerunner of this form of idol worship was Larry Norman who wrote a song, “Why should the devil have all the good music.”  I can assure you that the Devil has no good music and the very thought that churches are now enshrining a set of drums on the platform is a sign that the idol of Rock & Roll is alive and well in our churches.  As Frank Garlock has so adequately taught concerning music, the message is in the beat and the message of all CCM music is quite different from the words that they add as a last resort to make the Devil’s Music (a term Larry Norman loved) into pseudo-Christian music.  I truly believe that the greatest idol in our generation matches the popular music show on TV, “American Idol.”  People are completely dominated by this form of music.  It is a high far more powerful than drugs or alcohol and now the Devil’s music along with his NIV Bible are dominating churches.  The NIV teaches that Jesus is Lucifer in Isaiah 14 where the name “Morning Star,” which is a term for Jesus, is substituted for Lucifer.  Also, in the New Testament in 5 or more places, Jesus is called the “Cap Stone” which is another occult symbol.  This is a change from foundation or corner stone, the true Bible term.  So, if a person is truly saved they need to destroy all occult versions of the bible except the King James Version and occult styles of music like CCM or Christian Rock because they are certainly not Christian, nor are they spiritual or holy.

B. Improper Objects Needing to Be Terminated

“Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts 19:19)  This is another matter which new believers should deal with and terminate. (This could include the Book of Mormon, the Quran, or any pornographic books, magazines or sleazy novels, movies, and DVD’s.)

This is not a command or a teaching; it is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved in such a strong way that the Ephesians brought out all the improper books in their possession. Here it says the price was “fifty thousand pieces of silver,” which is a considerable sum. They did not sell their books and give the money to the church. Instead, the books were burned. If Judas had been present, he certainly would not have allowed this. This was much more than thirty pieces of silver which could have been given to the poor. But the Lord was pleased to have them burned.

Apart from the kind of objects mentioned above, there are many other questionable objects that need to be dealt with. Some of them are clearly related to sins. Gambling instruments and improper books and pictures are some examples. These must be burned or destroyed. There may be many luxury items and objects of indulgence which cannot be burned. However, they still need to be removed. Burning, however, is the general principle in dealing with these things, especially if they relate to the occult.

After a person believes in the Lord, he should go home and check through his personal belongings. In an unbeliever’s home, there is always something related to sin. He may have things which do not befit the saints. Things related to sin must be burned or destroyed; they cannot be sold. Luxury items should be converted and altered if possible. If they cannot be altered, we must sell them.

The garments of the lepers in Leviticus 13 and 14 are a good illustration. Garments which have become leprous and cannot be washed must be burned. However, those which can be washed should be washed for reuse. If the style of our clothes is unbecoming, we can alter them. Some garments may be too short, and we can lengthen them; others are odd-looking, and we can make them look more inconspicuous. Some objects cannot be salvaged; they have the element of sin in them, in which case we have to burn them. Those that can be sold should be sold, and the money should be given to the poor.

There should be a termination of improper things. If every new believer will go through all his belongings thoroughly, he will have a very good start. Superstitious objects have to be burned, these belong to the occult.  Others can be altered or sold after being altered. Once we learn this lesson, we will not forget it for the rest of our lives. We must realize that being a Christian is a very practical matter; it is not just a matter of going to “church” and listening to some sermons.

C. Repaying Debts

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)   Zaccheus did not do this as a result of doctrinal teaching; he did this as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit. If it had been the result of doctrinal teaching, only the exact amount would have been repaid, no more and no less. But since it was the working of the Holy Spirit, the amount could vary; it could be a little more or a little less. Zaccheus said, “If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four times as much.” Actually, a double compensation would have been more than adequate. The principle in the book of Leviticus is to add one-fifth to the original amount. For one thousand dollars, you would have to repay one thousand two hundred dollars. But if one is touched, he can pay as much as the Lord’s Spirit directs him to pay. He can be moved to repay four times or ten times as much. What is spoken of here is only a principle. In reading the Bible, we must be clear that what is covered is not a mere teaching. It is the result of the leading of the Holy Spirit when He operates in man.

Suppose that before you became a believer, you had extorted or defrauded others, stolen from them, or obtained things by improper means. Now that the Lord is working within, you have to deal with these things in a proper manner. This has nothing to do with the forgiveness you received from the Lord, but it is very much related to your testimony.

Suppose I stole a thousand dollars from someone before I was saved. If I have not dealt with the matter clearly, how can I preach the gospel to that person after I am saved? While I am preaching to him, his heart may still be on the thousand dollars. No doubt, I have received forgiveness from God, but I do not have a proper testimony before man. I cannot say, “Since God has forgiven me, it does not matter whether or not I repay him.” No, this matter is related to my testimony.

Please remember that Zaccheus restored four times as much for the sake of his testimony. At that time everyone was saying, “How could the Lord lodge in this sinner’s home? He has extorted and defrauded many people!” They were all indignant. While they were saying this, Zaccheus stood up and said, “If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four times as much.” This fourfold restoration was neither a requirement for becoming a son of Abraham nor a requirement for God’s salvation coming to Zaccheus’s house. This fourfold restoration was the result of God’s salvation coming to Zaccheus’s house and of his becoming a son of Abraham. Due to this act of restoration, Zaccheus had a testimony before man. This was the basis of his testimony.

I knew a brother who was not very upright in financial matters before he believed in the Lord. Many of his classmates were upper middle-class people. After he believed in the Lord, he became rather zealous in leading his classmates to the Lord. But he did not see much fruit. Although he earnestly preached the gospel to them, they said in their heart, “What is this? What about all the money?” His past had not been eradicated from them. This brother did not follow the example of Zaccheus. His sins were forgiven before God. All his problems were solved. But the matter concerning his money before his classmates was not resolved. He had to confess and make recompense for all his past wrongdoings before he could testify to others. The restoration of his testimony depended on the termination of his past.

As I have mentioned, Zaccheus did not become a son of Abraham by restoring four times as much. Neither did he gain salvation by restoring four times as much. Rather, he restored four times as much because he was a child of Abraham. He restored four times as much because he was saved. By restoring four times as much, he shut the mouths of others. They could no longer say anything. His fourfold restoration went far beyond what he owed, thus shutting the mouths of others and restoring his testimony.

Brothers and sisters, did you wrong anyone in any way before you became a believer? Do you owe anyone anything? Have you taken things home which belong to others? Have you taken anything by improper means? If so, you have to deal with all these things properly. The repentance of a Christian has to do with confessing his past wrongdoings, whereas the repentance of ordinary men only involves a change in his present conduct. For example, as a human being, if I have a bad temper, I need only to refrain from my temper. But as a Christian, in addition to refraining from my temper, I have to apologize for my former temper. Apart from not losing my temper before God, I must also apologize for my former temper before men. Only then can this matter be terminated.

Suppose you stole from others in the past. Your problem before God is settled as long as you no longer steal. Likewise, if you have ever taken things that belonged to others, your problem is settled once you stop doing it. However, this is not enough for you to have a testimony before men. Even if you have not stolen anything in three years, others may still consider you as a thief. After believing in the Lord, you must testify before men; you must deal with all your mistakes in the past. Only then will your position be clear.

But here is a difficult problem. Suppose you stole ten thousand dollars from someone. What should you do if you do not even have one thousand dollars now? In principle you have to confess to the person from whom you have stolen. You should tell him frankly that you cannot repay him at the present time. Whether or not you can repay him immediately is another matter; you should still confess and testify to him. If you do not testify now, you will not be able to testify for the rest of your life.

Please remember that in the course of giving your testimony, you may be affected by personal problems. But you cannot avoid dealing with these problems. You still must deal with the problems. You can have a testimony before men only after you have dealt with your problems.

Some have committed murder in the past. What should they do now? This is a part of their past. In the Bible there are two murderers who were saved. One was involved directly with the act of murder, while the other murdered indirectly. The first one was the robber on the cross. It is clear in the Greek language that the word robber does not just mean an ordinary robber; it means a criminal who engages in such acts as murder and arson. He was not just a thief but one who robbed and killed. After he believed in the Lord, his sins were forgiven. The Bible does not tell us how he terminated his past. The other person is Paul. He was not involved in any direct murder. However, he was an accomplice in the murder of Stephen, and he watched over the garments of those who killed Stephen. After Paul was saved, nothing was said about how he dealt with this matter.

In principle I believe that once a murderer has believed in the Lord, his sins are behind him. There is no sin which cannot be cleansed by the blood. The robber did not have to do anything to terminate his past. In fact, he had no opportunity to do anything. The Lord said to him, “Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Therefore, when we encounter such cases, we should not overly burden the conscience of others, unless of course God has first worked in that person’s heart. This is because in the two New Testament cases that deal with murder—one directly and the other indirectly—God did not pay attention to the rectification of the past. However, I believe that some have no peace in their conscience, not because they are suffering from ordinary accusations, but because God is working in them. In such cases, we should not stop them from expressing their regrets to the victim’s family.

D. The Termination of Unsettled Matters

When a person is saved, he surely has many unsettled secular matters at hand. These may easily hinder him from following the Lord. What should he do? “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22). This is another biblical case of terminating the past. Here, a man came to Jesus and said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father” (v. 21). The Lord said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” The word their refers to the first use of the word dead, whereas the second dead refers to the man’s father. The first dead refers to those who are spiritually dead. In God’s eyes those in the world are spiritually dead. The Lord was saying that the man should let the dead bury his father, while he should follow the Lord.

I am not exhorting new believers to not make funeral arrangements for their fathers. I am saying that the dead should bury their own dead. We must lay hold of this principle. We should let go of unfinished business. If we wait until we have finished settling them before we become Christians, we will never have the time. There are hundreds and thousands of items of unfinished business in our families, with our fathers, and in our lives. Who then could become a Christian? There is only one word to describe the principle behind all of these things—these are dead people. Let the dead bury their dead. Let the spiritually dead handle the matters of the dead! This is the principle. This is not to exhort new believers to neglect their family. It means that they should not wait until they have settled all their earthly matters before coming to the Lord. If they do, they will not be able to follow the Lord.

Many people want to settle all of their affairs before they believe in the Lord. If so, they will have no opportunity to believe in Him. We should not be bound by matters of the dead. Instead, we should just regard the unsettled matters as settled. If we want to settle them before following the Lord, we will never make it. Matters concerning idols, improper things, and debts must be dealt with thoroughly. As for other unsettled matters, we should just let them go!

With regard to the attitude of a new believer towards his past, I can only find the above four categories of things in the Word of God. As for many other unsettled affairs, we should regard them as settled. As to family duties, we should let the dead take care of the dead. We have no time to deal with them. We want to follow the Lord. Those things are not for us to settle; they are for the dead to take care of. Let the ones who are spiritually dead handle them.

A QUESTION

A brother asked: If I have offended a person and he is not aware of it, must I also confess to him?

Answer: It all depends on whether or not he has suffered material loss. If the other party is aware of this loss, you should deal with the matter by following Zaccheus’s example. Even if he is unaware of this loss, you should still confess to him, especially when material loss is involved. It is best to bring the matter to the church and let the more experienced brothers help you solve it because they know what is most expedient.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

 

BAPTISM – Immersion in water

Scripture Reading: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12

Baptism is a great subject in the Bible. We need to be clear about two aspects concerning baptism. First, before we are baptized, we need to be clear as to what baptism can do for us. Second, after we are baptized, we need to look backward and ask, “What is the significance of baptism?” In the first case, the baptism pool and the water are before us. As we are going to be baptized, we should ask ourselves, “What can baptism do for me?” After our baptism, we need to ask, “What is the meaning of my baptism?” One is a question posed in foresight, and the other is a question posed in hindsight. The former touches one’s knowledge prior to baptism, and the latter, one’s understanding after baptism.

I. WHAT BAPTISM DOES FOR A PERSON

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

(Mark 16:16). This verse shows what baptism does for a person.

A. Baptism Saving Man from the World

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” I suppose that all Baptists are a little afraid of this verse. Therefore, they dare not read it. Whenever they read this verse, they change it to, “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” But the Lord’s Word does not say this. In order to avoid the error of Catholicism, the Baptists deliberately go around God’s Word. However, as they evade the error of Catholicism, they fall into another error. The Lord’s Word is clear: “He who believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Man has no authority to change it to, “He who believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”

1. Salvation Being a Deliverance from the World

Let us now pay attention to the meaning of the word salvation in the Bible. What is a person being saved from? According to the Bible, a man is saved from the world, not hell, though being saved he will go to heaven. The opposite of eternal life is perdition, but the Bible does not regard salvation as the opposite of perdition. The Bible shows us that salvation is one’s deliverance from the world. As long as a person is in the world, he is already in perdition.

Let us consider man’s condition before God. Today man does not have to do anything to perish. I will not perish because I have killed someone, and I will not be saved from perdition because I have not killed someone. The fact is that the whole world is perishing. From among the perishing ones, God has pulled us out and saved us. The whole world is perishing corporately, but God is saving men one by one, individually. God does not catch all the fish from the sea and then separate the good from the bad, assigning some to salvation while destining others to perdition. All the fish in the sea are perishing. Those which are caught by God are saved; the rest remain in the sea.

Hence, the matter of salvation and perdition has nothing to do with whether or not you have believed or how good your conduct is; it has to do with your location. If you are in the boat, you are saved. If you are still in the sea, you are perishing. You may not have done anything, but as long as you are in the world, that is enough for you to perish. It does not matter whether you are good or bad, a gentleman or a villain. It does not matter whether or not you live by your conscience. As long as you are in the world, you are finished. If you have not left that place, you are condemned by God.

2. Salvation Being a Matter of Position

Because Adam sinned and became a sinner, all men became sinners. Man need not sin to be qualified as a sinner. All have become sinners through one man’s sin. Today God has saved you from among many men. If you are on the world’s side, no matter what kind of person you are, you are opposed to God, and you are God’s enemy. Your position is wrong; it is a perishing position, one that leads to perdition. If you are a person in the world, you are perishing.

The word salvation has been used freely among us and with much confusion. There is a distinction between salvation and obtaining eternal life. Obtaining eternal life is a personal matter, but salvation is a matter not only of receiving the eternal life personally but also of coming out from a wrong corporate body. Brothers and sisters, are you clear about this distinction? Receiving eternal life is a personal matter. Salvation, however, is not just a personal matter; it has to do with the corporate body to which you formerly belonged.

Salvation means coming out of one corporate body into another. The receiving of eternal life speaks of what one has entered into; it does not speak of what one has come out of. Salvation includes both a coming out of and an entering in. Therefore, the scope of salvation is wider than that of receiving eternal life. It includes being delivered from the world, that is, coming out of the world.

3. Four Major Facts Concerning the World before God

There are four major facts concerning the world as shown in the Bible: (1) The world is condemned in the eyes of God, (2) the world lies in the evil one, (3) the world has crucified the Lord Jesus, and (4) the world is at enmity with God; it is God’s enemy. These are the four major facts concerning the world before God. As long as a person is in the world, he is already condemned and will perish regardless of his conduct.

Please remember that the salvation of men is not a matter of personal conduct. They are wrong because their position is wrong. We know that it is not easy to be delivered from the world. How can I forsake the world if it is still attractive to me? However, when I realize that the world is in a wrong position with respect to God, I will have to forsake it no matter how lovely it may be to me. Hence, salvation is not just a matter of our personal conduct. The corporate body to which we belong is wrong. We need to be saved from our relationship with and our position in the world.

When the Jews tried to do away with the Lord Jesus, they cried, “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Matthew 27:25). Although we are not the ones who killed the Lord Jesus, our forefathers did. Even though we did not commit the act, the corporate body to which we belong did. The corporate body to which we belong is an enemy of God and is condemned to perish. Whether we are right or wrong individually is another matter. I hope you can see not only that we are sinners individually and need to be saved individually, but that we also belong to a corporate body which is wrong. The world to which we belong is God’s enemy. The world we are in is condemned by God. We need to be delivered from that relationship and that position.

4. Salvation Being to Come Out of the World

What is salvation? Salvation is a deliverance from a certain corporate body. It is a deliverance from a certain position and certain relationships. In other words, it means to come out of the world. Most people pay much attention to their personal salvation, but the question before us is what are they saved from? The salvation highlighted in the Bible involves being saved from the world, not from hell. The world as a whole is condemned by God.

There is no doubt that he that believeth has eternal life. We have been preaching this for many years. Once a person believes in the Lord Jesus, he has eternal life and is saved forever. All problems are solved. But please remember that if a person believes but is not baptized, he is still not saved (from the world). Indeed, you may have believed and you may have eternal life, but are you saved in the eyes of the world? If you are not baptized, you are not saved (in their eyes), because no one knows that you are different. You must rise up and be baptized, declaring that you have terminated your relationship with the world. Only then will you be saved by the truest definition given in these verses.

5. Believing Being on the Positive Side, and Baptism Being on the Negative Side

What then is baptism? Baptism is deliverance. Believing is on the positive side and baptism is on the negative side. Baptism delivers you out of that corporate body. Many people in the world may say that you are one of them. But the moment you are baptized, they will realize you are finished. The one whom they have known for years is now saved and baptized. Your friendship with them is terminated. You are in the tomb; you have reached the end of your road. You already know that you have eternal life. Now that you are baptized, you are saved. From now on, everyone knows that you are the Lord’s and that you belong to Him.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This is true because once a person believes and is baptized everyone will know where he stands. Without believing, there is no inward reality, and what one does will be nothing but an outward display. With believing, there is inward reality, and if one takes a further step to be baptized, he will be separated from the world, having terminated his relationship with it. Baptism is a separation. It separates us from others.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The Lord Jesus’ word is quite clear. It goes on by saying, “but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Unbelief alone is sufficient for condemnation. As long as a person belongs to that corporate body, his unbelief is sufficient for condemnation. But if one has believed, he still needs to be baptized. If he is not baptized, he still has not made an exit outwardly.

6. A Very Amazing Thing in the World

A very amazing thing in the world today is the attitude of Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam toward baptism.

Any Jew who embraces the Christian faith in secret will not be persecuted. Many Jews believe in the historical record concerning the Lord Jesus. Their greatest hurdle is not in believing in Him but in baptism. Once they are baptized, they are cast out. Some sisters were poisoned by their fiancé after they were baptized. Such things happen even in civilized communities like London and New York. It is all right for a person to believe in his heart, but once he is baptized, others will persecute him.

In India, no one will do anything to a believer if he is not baptized. But once he is baptized, they will cast him out. It is all right for one to believe in the Lord, but he cannot be baptized.

The reaction of the Muslims is more violent. Someone once said that it is difficult for a Muslim believer to remain alive. As soon as he believes, he will die. Dr. Swema is the first person who succeeded in working among the Muslims. He said, “My work will never grow, because once a person believes in the Lord, he has to be sent away immediately. Otherwise, he will die within two or three days after his baptism.” This condition is prevalent even among Muslims today.

Baptism is an open declaration that one has come out. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We should never consider the salvation here to mean a personal salvation of the spirit. In the Bible, salvation signifies a deliverance from the world, not deliverance from hell.

B. Baptism Being for the Forgiveness of Sins

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles told the Jews, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38). The Baptists have difficulty accepting this verse. But this verse is the plain word of the apostles. “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” It is strange that the emphasis of the apostle’s word is not upon faith but upon baptism.

Was the focus of Peter’s message in Acts 2 on persuading men to believe? No. Does this mean that Peter’s preaching was inferior to ours? The Bible tells us that the most crucial thing concerning salvation is faith. How could Peter have left this out? Perhaps he could ignore other doctrines in his message, but how could he not speak about faith? Nevertheless, he did not speak about it. Instead, he spoke about baptism, and the Holy Spirit pricked the heart of those who listened. What about us? We say that faith alone is enough. We think this is orthodox Christianity. Yet Peter said, “Be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ.”

Peter spoke only of baptism because those who listened to him were the ones who had killed the Lord Jesus. Fifty days prior to that, they were crying, “Take this man away.” These were the same people who were shouting and crying in Jerusalem. Now they needed to be separated from the rest of the Jews. This is why it was not necessary to speak to them about believing. They only needed to be baptized. That would be sufficient for them to get out. As soon as they were baptized, their relationship with that corporate body would be terminated. As soon as they were baptized, they would leave that corporate body and their sins would be washed away. They would no longer be part of that corporate body; they would be out of it. This is why Peter said, “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” The act of baptism brought them out. As soon as they came out, all problems were solved.

You need to realize that you were originally in the world and that you were an enemy of God. Since you have come out, you are saved. You need to confess before God and before men that you have come out and have nothing to do with that corporate body. You are through with it. “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This was the main teaching on the day of Pentecost. At this point your mind needs to be directed by God’s Word, not by Protestant theology.

C. Baptism Being for the Washing Away of Sins

Let us consider the case of Paul. Ananias came to Paul and said to him, ” And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16).

Paul was the foremost and greatest teacher, prophet, and apostle of Christianity. Was there a little error in his experience? Sometimes we preach the right doctrines but have the wrong experience. What would happen when we gave our testimony? What would happen if others did the same thing we do? The testimony of a teacher is very important because it may mislead others. Could it be that the experience of the foremost teacher of Christianity was wrong?

“And now, why do you delay? Rise up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Please take note of this verse. It says that baptism can wash away one’s sins. The Catholics quote this verse and regard it as a personal matter before God. The error of Catholicism lies in saying, “If you are baptized, your sins will be washed away.” Therefore, they claim that a death-bed baptism can wash away sins. They do not realize that the significance of this matter is not before God but before the world.

Formerly, Paul was a man in the world. After he had believed in the Lord Jesus and had seen Him, he needed to rise up and be baptized. The moment he was baptized, his sins were washed away. The moment he severed his relationship with the world, his sins were gone. If you are a Christian secretly and are not baptized, the world may still consider you as one of them. You may say that you are saved, but the world will not admit it. You may say that you have believed in the Lord Jesus, but they will say that they have not seen it. Once you get into the water, they will see it; they will know that you have believed in Jesus. Otherwise, why should a person be so foolish as to get into the water? The moment you are baptized, you are freed from the world. Water baptism is a severance of one’s relationship with the world.

If a person believes in his heart but does not have any outward gesture, the world will still consider him to be part of it. For instance, in Kuling of Fukien there is a strong tradition of idol worship every fall; everyone is required to donate some money. If a person merely says that he has believed in the Lord, others will not believe him. But the moment he is baptized, they will know that he is no longer one of them. Therefore, baptism is the best way to free oneself from the world. If you want to be freed from the world, you must be baptized. You must tell the world, “My relationship with you is over.” By doing this, you come out of the world.

Baptism is an open testimony, and we should not be afraid to let others witness it. Unbelievers can also be present during our baptism. Recently, when we baptized some people in Foochow, a brother said, “We do not like to conduct the baptism meeting in such a messy way. There were too many spectators.” If this is the case, John the Baptist would have to learn from this brother because John conducted baptisms that were not that orderly. Even the baptisms of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost were not that orderly. The issue is not whether a meeting is orderly. Of course, it is not good to be disorderly. But all the brothers and sisters should know what we are doing. When we baptize someone, we should let the whole world witness what we are doing.

D. Baptism Leading to Salvation through Water

The Scripture is consistent in its principles. First Peter 3:20 says, “… in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water ” This verse shows us again that baptism leads to salvation. The Lord Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins.” Paul’s action shows us that when a person is baptized, his sins are washed away. They are not just forgiven, but washed away. This is because our sins are washed away when we sever our relationship with the world. Here, the word in 1 Peter also shows us that we are saved through water. Therefore, baptism leads to salvation through water.

Those who cannot pass the test of water are not saved. A person who cannot pass through water drowns. During Noah’s time, everyone was baptized, but only eight souls came out. All the people were baptized and immersed in the water, but only eight souls emerged from it. (They were in the ark – our ark is Christ and by the illustration we are saved “into” Him.  We who are saved are also in the ark spiritually.) In other words, the water became the water of death to some, but to others it was the water of salvation. Others go into the water and remain there, but we pass through the water and emerge from it. There is something positive in Peter’s word. When the flood came, everyone drowned. Only the eight souls in the ark, whom the water could not overcome, emerged from it. While the rest perished, these eight souls were saved. Today the whole world is under the wrath of God. For one to be baptized today means that he goes through God’s wrath. But he does not only go through it; he comes out of it. His emergence from it shows that he is one who has come out. This is baptism.

Baptism is being immersed on one side and emerging out of water on the other side. Baptism means passing through and emerging from the water. You must emphasize the aspect of “emergence.” Everyone went into the water, but only the eight souls came out. Today we are saved through baptism. What does this mean? When I am baptized, I do not go into the water and remain there. Rather, I enter into the water and emerge from it. If you have never believed in the Lord Jesus, your baptism will not result in an emergence. Today my going into the water and coming out of it means that I am different from you. I can come out from the world through the water. I testify to others that I am different from the world.

E. Baptism Freeing Us from the World

The above four portions of the Scripture clearly show us what baptism is. Once we are baptized, we are freed from the world. We do not need years to be freed from the world. The first thing for a new believer to do is to be baptized. You must see the position of the world before God. You have renounced your former position in the world. This is salvation. You must put off the world completely. From now on, you are no longer a part of the world; you are on the other side.

Once we believe in the Lord, we should realize that we are no longer a part of the world. (See the illustration!  We have moved out of the world and “into” Christ.)  Our baptism is a sign that we are freed from the world. Through baptism we assume a different role. Henceforth, we abide in the ark and are persons on the other side. We can tell others that we do not do certain things because we have believed in Jesus. But, even more, we can tell others that we do not do them because we are baptized. We have crossed the bridge; we are on the other side. (In the illustration we have moved from the left to the right.)

Today we must recover the place of baptism before God. What is the meaning of baptism? Baptism means to come out of the world. It is a step which we take to free ourselves from the world. Our baptism is a declaration to others that we are out. This is like the words of a hymn which say, “Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come.  Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I, come to thee.” Our dear ones know that we are finished and that we have come to the end of our road. We are through. Only this kind of baptism is effective. If this is not our realization, our baptism is too light and insubstantial. We must realize that we have been freed from the old circle and have come out of it. Eternal life is something that our spirit gains before God, but salvation is an act of our separation from the world.

II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAPTISM

Everyone who is already baptized needs to look back and consider the meaning of baptism. Even if you were baptized ten or twenty years ago, you still need to review this matter. We should always remember the verse which says, ” Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”(Romans 6:3). This verse is spoken in retrospect, not as forethought.

The verses in Mark 16, Acts 2, Acts 22, and 1 Peter 3 are for those who have not yet been baptized, whereas the verses in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 are for those who have been baptized. They address those who have been baptized already. God is telling them, “Do you not know that when you were baptized, you died together with Christ and were buried and resurrected together with Him?”

Romans 6 emphasizes death and burial even though it also speaks of resurrection. Colossians 2 is more advanced; it emphasizes burial and resurrection, with resurrection as the focus. The emphasis of Romans 6 is death: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? ” The main point here is death. We should die together with Christ. Romans 6 is on death and burial, whereas Colossians 2 is on burial and resurrection.  “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)

The water of baptism typifies the tomb. Today, when we put a person into the water, it is as if we are burying him in the ground. When we raise him up from the water, it is equivalent to raising him up from the tomb. Before one can be buried, he must first be dead. You cannot bury a living person. If a person rises up again after he is buried, this is surely resurrection. The first part of this truth is found in Romans, and the second part of this truth is found in Colossians.

A. A Great Gospel—I Am Dead

When the Lord Jesus was crucified, He carried us along with Him to the cross; we were crucified there as well. In the eyes of God, He has terminated us. What do you think of yourself? You may say, “I am a terrible person to deal with!” Those who do not know themselves do not realize how impossible they are. A person who knows God and who knows himself will say, “I am an impossible person.”

When we were heavy-laden with sin, we heard of the death of the Lord Jesus. This is the gospel. Then we saw that we were beyond all hope and that we were dead. This is also the gospel. Thank God, this is the gospel! The Lord’s death has included all of us. We are dead in Christ. This is a great gospel! Just as the Lord’s death is a great gospel, our own death is also a great gospel. Just as the Lord’s death is a joyful matter, our own death is also a joyful matter. What should be the first thought that comes to our mind when we hear that our Lord has died? We should be like Joseph of Arimathea; we should bury Him. Similarly, when we hear that we are dead, the first thing that we should do is to bury ourselves, because burial is the first thing that follows death. Death is not the end. We are already dead in Christ; therefore, the first thing we need to do is bury ourselves.

B. Having Died and Risen

Brothers, when we step into the water of baptism or when we look back after being believers for many years, we must remember that we are already dead. We allowed others to bury us because we believed that we were already dead. If our heart is still beating and we are still breathing, we cannot be buried. In order to be buried, we must be dead.

When the Lord was crucified, we were crucified too. We allowed others to put us into the water because we believed that we had died. The Lord Jesus has resurrected; He has put His resurrection power within us. Now we are regenerated through this power. This resurrection power operates within us and causes us to be resurrected. This is why we rose from the water. We are no longer our former self; we are now resurrected persons. Today, we must always remind ourselves of this matter. When we went into the water, we believed that we died and needed to be buried. When we came up from the water, we believed that we had newness of life. Now we are on the side of resurrection. Death is on the other side, but resurrection is on this side.

C. I Am in Christ

Once I saw a headline in the newspaper which read, “One Person, Three Lives.” The article was about a pregnant woman who had been murdered. After the woman died, it became known that she was pregnant with twins. Hence, the headline read, “One Person, Three Lives.” Please note that concerning the Lord, it is, “One Person, Millions of Lives.” This is why the Bible repeatedly emphasizes the words in Christ. In the murder spoken of above, the murderer apparently killed only the mother; he did not kill the two children. However, because the two children were in their mother’s womb, they died when their mother died. Likewise, since we are in Christ, when Christ died, we died in Him.

God has put us into Christ Jesus. (See the illustration above.)  This is the revelation in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Of Him ye are in Christ Jesus.” Since Christ has died, we are all dead. The basis for our co-death with Christ is our being in Christ. If we do not know what being in Christ means, we will not understand what dying with Him means either. How could the children die with their mother? They died because they were in their mother’s womb. The analogy in the spiritual realm is even more real. God has joined us to Christ. When Christ died, we died also.

As soon as this gospel is preached to us, we should learn to look from God’s viewpoint and acknowledge that we have died in the Lord. We have died because we believed this to be a fact. We have been buried in the water and have come out of it. We declare that we are on this side of the tomb. This is resurrection. Reckoning in Romans 6 involves both reckoning oneself dead in Christ Jesus and reckoning oneself alive in Him as well.

Brothers and sisters, I hope that you will take this way once you are saved. These are two separate thoughts. One thought comes before baptism, and the other comes after baptism. Before baptism we must see that we have already died and that we need to be buried. After baptism we must realize that we are in resurrection and that we can therefore serve God today.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

 

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