EARLY RISING

Scripture Reading: S.S. 7:12; Psa. 57:8-9; 63:1; 78:34; 90:14; 108:2-3; Exo. 16:21

Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves. (Song of Solomon 7:12)

Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.  (Psalms 57:8-9)

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;  (Psalms 63:1)

When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.  (Psalms 78:34)

O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.  (Psalms 90:14)

Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. (Psalms 108:2-3)

And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:21)

 

 

I. EARLY MORNING BEING THE BEST TIME OF THE DAY

What time should believers rise up every day?

A sister once put it well when she said, “How much a person loves the Lord can be judged primarily by the way he chooses between his bed and the Lord. Do you love your bed or the Lord more? If you love your bed more, you sleep a little longer. If you love the Lord more, you rise up a little earlier.” She spoke these words more than thirty years ago. Yet they are still fresh to us today. A man must choose between his love for his bed and his love for the Lord. The more he loves the Lord, the more he will rise up early.

A Christian should rise up early because the early morning is the best time to meet the Lord. Except for those who are sick, all the brothers and sisters should rise up early. Actually, many sicknesses are not sicknesses at all. They become sicknesses because men love themselves too much. Other than those who are advised to rest by doctors, everyone should rise early. We do not want to go to extremes; we advise sick brothers and sisters to sleep more. However, the healthy ones should get up as early as possible. The best time to meet the Lord, to contact Him, and to fellowship with Him is early in the morning. Manna is gathered before the sun rises (Exo. 16:14-21, “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.”). Anyone who wants to eat God’s food should rise up early. When the sun waxes hot, manna melts and is gone. If we want to receive spiritual nourishment and spiritual edification, and if we want to have spiritual fellowship and spiritual supply, we need to rise up early. If we rise up late, the manna will be gone. The early morning is the very time when God dispenses His spiritual food and holy fellowship to His children. Whoever is late will not gather anything. Many children of God lead a sick life, not because they have spiritual problems, but because they rise up too late. Many children of God have no lack in consecration, zeal, or love, but they cannot live a normal Christian life because they rise up too late. Do not think that this is a small matter. Do not think that this has nothing to do with spirituality; it has much to do with spirituality. Many people are not spiritual because they rise up too late. Many people have been Christians for years, yet they fail to live a proper Christian life because they rise up too late. We do not know of anyone who knows how to pray, yet rises up late. Nor do we know of anyone who has intimate fellowship with God, yet rises up late. All those who know God rise up early. They rise up early as a rule to fellowship with Him.

Proverbs 26:14 says, “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” Here it says that a slothful person in bed is like a door that turns upon its hinges. The slothful keeps turning upon his bed; he cannot leave it. He turns to one side on his bed. Then he turns to the other side on his bed. Whichever way he turns, he is still on the bed. Many people cannot part with their bed. They love their bed as they turn from one side to the other. When they turn left, they are on their bed. When they turn right, they are still on their bed. They love to sleep and cannot part with their bed. Many people just want to sleep a little longer; they cannot get out of their bed. If one wants to learn to serve God and be a good Christian, he has to rise up early in the morning every day.

Those who rise up early in the morning reap much spiritual benefit. Their prayers at other times of the day cannot be compared with their prayers in the early morning. Their Bible reading at other times of the day cannot be compared with their reading in the early morning. Their fellowship with the Lord at other times cannot be compared with their fellowship in the early morning. The early morning is the best time of the day. We should spend the best time of the day—the early morning—before the Lord, rather than in other things. Some Christians spend the whole day on other matters and kneel down to read the Bible and pray only at night when they are about to go to sleep. No wonder they are ineffective in their Bible reading, their prayer, and their fellowship with the Lord. They wake up too late in the morning. The moment we believe in the Lord, we should set apart the early morning for fellowshipping with God and for contacting Him.

II. EXAMPLES OF EARLY RISING

In the Bible we find God’s servants rising up early in the morning. Let us consider their examples:

  1. Abraham—Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3
  2. Jacob—Gen. 28:18
  3. Moses—Exo. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4
  4. Joshua—Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10
  5. Gideon—Judg. 6:38
  6. Hannah—1 Sam. 1:19
  7. Samuel—1 Sam. 15:12
  8. David—1 Sam. 17:20
  9. Job—Job 1:5
  10. Mary—Luke 24:22; Mark 16:9; John 20:1
  11. The apostles—Acts 5:21

These many verses tell us that God’s servants had the habit of dealing with God early in the morning. Every one of them had the habit of waking early in the morning and fellowshipping with God early in the morning. They rose up early in the morning to do many things related to God’s business. They also rose up early in the morning to consecrate themselves. Although there is no commandment in the Bible that tells us to get up early, there are sufficient examples in the Bible to show us that all faithful servants of God rise up early. Even the Lord Jesus Himself rose up early. He rose up very early in the morning, while it was still night, and went away to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35). When He wanted to appoint the twelve apostles, He called them to Himself early in the morning (Luke 6:13). If the Lord had to rise up early to do these things, how much more do we need to rise up early?

Any brother or sister who wants to follow the Lord must never think that there is little difference in rising up an hour early. You must realize that your Bible reading becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Likewise, your prayer becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Although one may spend the same amount of time in reading the Bible, an hour’s difference will produce very different results. Early rising brings in great blessing. We hope that you will not miss the blessing of early rising at the start of your Christian life. One brother was asked at least fifty times during his first three years as a Christian, “What time did you get up this morning?” Early rising is a great blessing. Those who have learned to rise up early know the significance of it. If you do not rise up early in the morning, you will live in spiritual poverty. Late rising brings in much loss. Many spiritual things are lost through late rising.

We have seen many examples from the Bible. How about the servants of God who are not mentioned in the Bible, like George Müller, John Wesley, and many other famous servants of God? They also rose up early in the morning. We can say that almost all the ones we know of or have read about from books, who are of any use in God’s hands, pay attention to the matter of rising early. They call this early rising “morning watch.” All servants of God emphasize morning watch. The term morning watch itself tells us that it is done early in the morning. Have you heard of anyone who keeps watch when the sun is already up? Never! One keeps morning watch early in the morning. This is a good habit, and we Christians should cultivate this habit. God’s children should not be sloppy people. The church has been practicing this for years. We should maintain this good habit of meeting God early in the morning. The term morning watch is not found in the Bible. We can give it another name, but no matter what name we give to it, meeting God early in the morning is a very crucial matter.

III. WHAT TO DO IN THE EARLY MORNING

We do not merely rise up early. There must be spiritual exercise and spiritual content to what we do. Here are a few things to do early in the morning:

A. Fellowship with God

Song of Songs 7:12 shows us that the early morning is the best time to fellowship with the Lord. To fellowship means to open up our spirit and our mind to God and allow Him to enlighten us, speak to us, impress us, and touch us (Psa. 119:105, 147). During this time our hearts are drawn near to God, and we allow God to draw near to our hearts. We should rise up early in the morning to tarry before the Lord, to meditate, to receive leading and impressions from God, to learn to touch Him, and to give Him an opportunity to speak to us.

B. Praise and Sing

There must be the sound of praise and singing in the early morning. The early morning is the best time to sing praises to God. When we offer our highest praise to God, our spirit rises to the highest peak.

C. Read the Bible

The early morning is the time for us to gather the manna (which is Christ). What does it mean to eat the manna? It means to enjoy Christ, to enjoy God’s Word, and to enjoy His truth early in the morning every day. After we eat the manna, we have the strength to journey in the wilderness. The early morning is the time to gather the manna. One will not be fed spiritually or be satisfied if he spends his early morning on other things.

We have mentioned already that we should have two Bibles, one with marks and notes in it to use in the afternoon and the other with nothing in it for “eating manna” early in the morning. In the early morning, do not read too much and do not take many portions of the Word. Instead, read a single portion of the Bible carefully, always mingling your reading with unceasing communion with God and singing. This does not mean that you should fellowship with God first, praise second, and then read the Bible last. You have to blend all these things together. At the same time you should also pray. Come to God’s presence and open His Word. As you read, you may be convicted to confess your sins. As you read certain portions, you may be touched by His grace to offer up thanksgiving. You can also pray to God concerning what you have read in the Word. You can say, “Lord, this is truly what I need. This portion, this verse, this word, truly exposes my lack. Lord, fill up this lack of mine.” When you find a promise, you can say, “Lord, I believe in this promise.” When you find grace, you can say, “Lord, I take this grace.” You can also intercede. While you are reading, you may remember the condition of those who fall short of what this portion says. You should not accuse or criticize them. Instead, you should pray, “God, fulfill this word in me. Fulfill this word also in my brother and sister.” You can confess your sins and the sins of others. You can pray for yourself and for others. You can believe for yourself and for others. You can give thanks for yourself and for others. Your Bible reading in the morning should not be too long; it should not cover too much. Two, three, four, or five verses are sufficient. You can dwell on them for an hour. As you read these verses word by word, pray over them, and commune with God through them, you will be filled.

Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, there were people who fellowshipped with God this way. They knew God and communed with God. Their fellowship with God became part of their lives.

In Psalms David interchanged the pronouns you and He freely. At one moment he would be speaking to man, and at the next moment he would be praying to God. In the same psalm, he would say a few sentences to man and then say something to God. On the one hand, David spoke to man. On the other hand, he spoke to God. The Psalms show us that David was a person who was in constant fellowship with God.

While Nehemiah was working, he would speak a few words and then offer a short prayer. When the king asked him something, he would speak to the king first and then to the Lord. He mingled his work and prayer together. He did not separate his work from his prayer.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to those in Rome. However, more than once he turned his speaking to the Lord. A few times he seemed to have forgotten the fact that he was writing to the Romans. It seemed as if he were talking to God. We can find frequent examples like this in Paul’s Epistles. In an instant he could turn around and speak to God.

Those who have read the autobiography of Madame Guyon will notice one characteristic of hers. Most autobiographies are written for man. But in Madame Guyon’s autobiography, she spoke to man in one instant and to God in the next instant. In one moment she would be speaking to LaCombe (who asked her to write her autobiography), and at the next moment she would be speaking to God. This is fellowship. One does not know where fellowship with God begins and where it ends. Fellowship does not mean to set aside other affairs to pray. Nor does it mean to pray first and then deal with the affairs. It is to do both simultaneously.

Hence, during this early morning hour of gathering manna, you should learn to mingle prayer with God’s Word. You should learn to mingle praise and fellowship with God’s Word. One moment you may be on earth, but the next moment you are in the heavens. One moment you may be in yourself, but the next moment you are in God. If you maintain this practice before God every morning, you will be filled after some time, and God’s word will dwell in you richly. Such reading of God’s Word, such gathering of manna, is indispensable to us. Many brothers and sisters are weak and unable to take the wilderness journey. We need to ask them, “Have you eaten anything?” They cannot walk because they have not eaten enough. Manna is gathered in the early morning. This is why we need to rise up a little earlier. We will not have any manna if we are late. We have to rise up early in the morning to labor in God’s Word.

D. Pray

In the early morning we should fellowship, praise, and gather the manna. We must also pray to the Lord. Psalms 63:1 [KJV] and 78:34 [KJV] both say that we should seek the Lord early. The prayer spoken of in the previous paragraph is a kind of blending prayer. But the prayer we are talking about here is more specific. After one fellowships, praises, and eats manna, he has strength and can present everything in prayer before God. Prayer surely requires much strength. One must first draw near to God early in the morning and be fed. Then he can set aside about half an hour or a quarter of an hour to pray for a few urgent things. He can pray for himself, for the church, or for the world. Of course, he can pray also in the afternoon or at night. But if he takes advantage of the fresh power he has gained, the power acquired in the early morning through fellowshipping with God and eating manna, he will receive greater support.

Every believer should do these four things conscientiously before the Lord early in the morning: fellowship with Him, praise Him, read the Bible, and pray to Him. Whether or not a person has done these four things in the morning is manifested in his walk during the day. George Müller confessed that the degree to which he was fed by the Lord in the morning determined his spiritual condition throughout the whole day. His spiritual condition for the day depended on his feeding before the Lord in the morning. Many Christians find themselves weak during the day because their mornings are ill spent. Of course, there are those who are so far ahead in their spiritual journey that they can experience the total separation of the spirit from the soul. Their outward man is broken, and they are not that easily shaken by anything. However, this is another matter altogether. New believers should learn to rise up early. Once they become loose in this, they become loose in everything, and everything will go wrong. There is a great difference between being nourished and not being nourished in the morning.

A very famous musician once said, “If I skip practicing for one day, I will notice it. If I skip practicing for two days, my friends will notice it. If I skip practicing for three days, my audience will notice it.” If this is true for practicing music, it is even more true for the spiritual lesson of rising up early. If we fail to have a good morning watch before God, we will know it. Those who are experienced in the Lord also will know it when they come into contact with us. They will know that we have not touched the spiritual source. From the very first day, new believers should strictly discipline themselves. Every morning they should rise up early to exercise this way before the Lord.

IV. THE PRACTICE OF EARLY RISING

Finally, we should speak a little about actual ways to implement this practice. How can we rise up early? We need to pay attention to a few things.

All early risers must have the habit of going to bed early. No one can stay up late and rise up early. This is like burning a candle at both ends.

Do not set too high a standard for rising. Some people want to rise up at three or four o’clock in the morning. When they find out that they cannot make it, they quit after a few days. It is better to take a moderate course. Five or six o’clock is a suitable time to get up. Get up when the sun is about to rise or has just risen. Always get up around sunrise. If one tries to get up too early, his practice may not last long. An unreasonably high standard will only result in a condemned conscience. Some people have set too high a standard for themselves. They get into problems with their family or their work. When they take hospitality at the homes of others, they get into problems with their hosts. This is not a profitable thing to do. Our standard should be reasonable. We do not advocate extremes. Do not set too high a standard for yourself. Before the Lord you should consider carefully the proper time for you to rise up. You should take into consideration your physical limitations as well as the environment. Set your standard accordingly and keep it.

You may face a little difficulty at the beginning. It is always easy the first and second day. But the third day is difficult. You will find it easy for the first few days. But after a few days, you will love the bed so much that you will not want to get up at all. This is especially true in winter. It takes a long time for us to build up a new habit. Perhaps you are used to getting up late, and your mind has been used to getting up late. But if you rise up early a few times, your mind will gradually adjust to getting up early. After you do this for a few days, you will not want to go back to sleep even if your mind is telling you to do so. In the beginning you will need to force yourself a little in order to rise up early. Before a habit is built up, you need to ask God for grace. Continue to ask until this habit is built up. Try to do this again and again. Give up your bed daily to rise up early. In the end you will rise up early spontaneously. You must build up this habit before God. You must not miss the grace of fellowship early in the morning.

A healthy person does not need more than eight hours of sleep. Do not think that you are an exception. Do not worry that early rising will affect your health. It may be your anxiety which is affecting your health. Many people love themselves too much and worry themselves to sickness. You may need ten or twelve hours of sleep if the doctor says that you are ill. But six to eight hours of sleep are sufficient for a normal person. However, do not go to the extreme. Maintain at least six to eight hours of sleep. We do not expect those who are sick to rise up early. If you are sick, it is all right for you to lie on your bed in the morning and read your Bible there. However, those who are not advised by doctors to stay in bed and who are not really sick should rise up early in the morning.

We hope those who are mature and weighty in the Lord will uphold this practice. The church should push the sluggard ones to go forward. They should be shaken up a little. We should usher the new believers into this great blessing. You should take every chance to ask the new ones, “What time do you get up every day?” After a few days, you have to ask them again, “What time did you get up this morning?” This kind of reminding should go on for at least a year into a person’s initial Christian life. After a year, you may still need to ask, “Brother, what time do you rise up now?” Ask the new believers whenever you see them. You need to go to them and render them some help in this matter. However, if we have not learned the lesson well before the Lord, it will be hard for us to do this to others. This is why we must first learn this lesson well ourselves.

Early rising should be a believer’s first habit among all habits. Giving thanks before meals is a habit. Meeting together on the Lord’s Day is also a habit. Rising up early is even more an essential habit. A new believer needs to build up this habit. It is unfortunate that some have been Christians for years and yet have never enjoyed the blessing of early rising. They have never enjoyed the grace of early rising. If we want to experience this grace, we have to learn this lesson well. If more brothers and sisters will come together to learn this lesson, and if everyone will rise up early in the morning, the church will grow. When one brother receives more light, the whole church will receive more shining. When everyone receives a little more light each day, the church as a whole will become richer. The church is poor today because too few people are receiving their supply from the Head. If everyone receives something from the Head, however little it may seem to be, the culmination of all the little portions will make the whole very rich.

We do not wish to see only a minority of people working in the church. We hope to see all the members rising up before the Lord. We hope to see the whole church rising up to receive God’s riches and grace. What one member receives from the Head becomes the profit of the whole Body. If every brother and sister takes this way, there will be many containers before God, and we will be richer and richer as the days go by. We hope that you will not consider early rising as a small matter. If we all learn to rise up early, and if we all maintain this habit, we will have a bright spiritual future ahead of us.

Over 30 years ago I read these lessons and put them to practice in my life.  This lesson was special to me.  I would go to work at 5:00AM and while waiting for the construction crew to arrive, I had my “morning watch” praying and singing unto the Lord.  It was a few years later when I was praying early in the morning that I was inspired to write this poem which became a song:

IN THE MORNING

In the morning, that’s when I meet my Savior

And then I His wondrous presence know.

In the morning I tell Him all my problems.

That’s when I to God’s own throne room go.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He shows me all His mercy

And forgives my sins from day to day.

In the morning He understands my heartaches

As I seek to walk with Him each day.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He fills my cup with blessings

And His love melts all my fears away.

In the morning we walk and talk together

As he listens to all that I say.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning I sing to Him His praises

That have caused this sad heart now to sing.

In the morning my heart is broken often

As I   think how few lost souls I bring.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning I hear Him whisper gently

That in time He’ll show me all His will.

In the morning that’s when He shows me simply

How “that day” His will I can fulfill.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.

 

In the morning He opens wide my vision

Of a world that’s dying now in sin.

In the morning He makes me want to tell them

How that they can have real peace in Him.

 

In the morning I bring my friends and loved ones

And each need I always leave Him there.

In the morning He answers through the Bible

As I spend this time with Him in prayer.  (Hear this song on the front page)

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 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.

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 was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

 

My Own Songs

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Recent Posts

Donate

Order DVD's of If You Could Know Video - shipping address follows payment . Minimum donation $20 please.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

To subscribe to our teachings for Christian growth simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you!

Tags

Admin

If You Could Know That Jesus Loves You is proudly powered by WordPress and the Theme Adventure by Eric Schwarz
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

WATCH THIS AMAZING VIDEO