The church life is nothing else but Christ lived out through us in a corporate way, so we need to learn to be inward Christians who are being transformed for the practice of the church life.
The church life is a new living, a new society, a new family life – it is the living out of Christ by many believers who are being transformed. The church life is not merely believers living together and coordinating for many practical necessary things; it is Christ Himself being lived out through each and every believer, and corporately this living out of Christ is the church life.
We need to be able to say like Paul, For me, to live is Christ; our testimony as normal believers in Christ should be, I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (see Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20).
How can it be Christ living in us, and how can it be for us to live is Christ? It is by our taking Christ as our life and person, and at the same time by experiencing the cross. Our Christian life is not a religious life, a life lived by the rules and regulations in the Bible; rather, our Christian life is Christ Himself lived out through us.
We need to take Christ as our life and as our person and let Him live in us; then, our living will be the church life. When we live Christ, He joins us in oneness, and Christ will be lived out through us in a corporate way.
Our living as believers is as branches in the vine; we were grafted into Christ, and we need to exercise our spirit to receive and enjoy all the riches of Christ, taking Him as our life and person, and letting Him live in us.
The way for us to practice the church life is not merely by meeting together and sharing something from what we enjoyed as we meet; rather, we practice the church life by putting ourselves and everything on the cross, and by taking Christ as life.
When we put ourselves on the cross and take Christ as our life and person, we will be permeated and saturated by Christ and with Christ, and our living will express Him.
The Lord doesn’t want us to put on a show or behave outwardly in a certain way; He wants to work Himself into us day by day until He lives in us, and we live one spirit with Him; this is the church life.
Learning to be Inward Christians who are being Transformed for the Practice of the Church life
The church life is an issue of our inward experience and enjoyment of Christ. As we take care of the Christ within us, He grows in us, and He as the Spirit saturates, permeates and transforms us. This is the church life: the church life is Christ Himself as the Spirit permeating, saturating, and transforming us.
As we are being transformed and are full of Christ, we become living, real, and practical members of the Body of Christ, and it is easy for us to be joined, knit, and built up together with others. Such a knitting and building is not natural but in the divine life, and it builds up the church.
Therefore, we need to not focus on outward behavior but on what is happening inwardly, that is, the growth of the divine life within us and our being transformed by the Spirit. We need to be inward Christians, persons having the Lord’s life within and being transformed by His life.
First of all, we need to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, for the mind has a lot of thoughts, opinions, and ideas coming from our family, background, education, etc.
Then, as we are being transformed by the renewing of the mind in the word of God, there are many virtues that spring up from the Christ living in us, as seen in Rom. 12:2-21.
Such virtues are loving others without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good, loving one another in brotherly love, taking the lead to show honor to one another, rejoicing in hope, enduring in tribulation, persevering in prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality, blessing others and not cursing them, not being wise in ourselves, and not repaying evil for evil.
These are the virtues needed in the church life, and they come from being transformed by Christ inwardly; they are the human virtues that have been strengthened and enriched with the divine nature and the divine attributes.
These human virtues are Christ Himself; He is our patience, kindness, lowliness, and all the human virtues we need to live the church life. All of Christ’s human virtues – as beautiful, pure, and good as they are – are not merely human, but they are strengthened and enriched by the divine nature and attributes.
We need to be saturated, permeated, and transformed by Christ as the Spirit who lives in us, and we need to cooperate with His transforming work (see 1 Cor. 15:45; Eph. 3:16-17). The church life is a transformed life, not a natural life; the church life is Christ Himself as the subjective Spirit transforming us and living within us (Rom. 12:2).
The more we are transformed and filled with Christ, the more we will be living members of Christ and realize the genuine church life.
The more we are being transformed, the easier it will be for us to be joined, knit, and built up together with others; this is to be built up in the church life. Building can’t occur without transformation, and without being transformed we cannot have the church life.
In the church life we spend a lot of time together, and even though we want to be built up together, many times we offend one another and have problems – because we are not yet transformed.
We cannot be built up in our natural life; we need to exercise our spirit and be transformed by the renewing of our mind, for in our mingled spirit we can be built up together! The church life is in our mingled spirit, and it is here that we are the house of God and the building of God!
Lord Jesus, we want to learn to be inward Christians who are being transformed for the practice of the church life. Save us from living in our natural man or in the flesh as we meet with the saints. Keep us in the process of being transformed day by day by the renewing of our mind in the word of God. May we realize that the church life is a transformed life and not a natural life, and may we learn to let Christ live the church life in us. Oh Lord, it is only by being transformed that we can live the church life and be built up together!
The Genuine Experience of Christ always Issues in and Requires the Church Life
The Christ who lives in us is not an individualistic person; rather, the genuine experience of Christ always issues in and requires the church life (see 1 Cor. 1:2, 9, 30; 2:2, 10; 5:7-8; 10:3-4; 12:12-13, 27).
On one hand we came into the church life, but on the other, the Christ in us brought us here, for the Christ in us wants to live the church life.
Here in the church life we experience Christ and the cross; this is the solution to every problem in the church. Christ saturates us and permeates us with the element of God, the divine nature, and the divine attributes; the person of Christ replaces us as the person, and He becomes our life and person.
At the same time, Christ terminates all the negative things and our old man, and the issue is that the church life is the reality of the Body of Christ.
The more we experience Christ, the more something within requires that we live in the proper church life. When we genuinely enjoy and experience Christ, the Christ within us requires that we have the church life, that we meet with the saints and be built up together in spirit.
The more we experience the divine dispensing and are being transformed, the more we want to be in the church life, for the genuine experience of Christ is for the church life. The divine dispensing is for the Body, and all that Christ is to us for our enjoyment and experience is for the Body and in the Body.
When we experience Christ in a genuine and living way, He will require us to get into the church life, because the dispensing of Christ into us – which we enjoy and experience daily – is for the producing of the church (see Rom. 8:11; 12:2-21).
The Lord in our spirit wants us to be in the proper church life; He always tells us, Go and meet with the saints – go be in the church life! When we touch the Lord and contact Him, He requires us to get into the church life.
God dispenses Himself into us as everything for the purpose of gaining His corporate expression, which is the church (Eph. 3:16-21). We can all testify that this is our experience; when we genuinely enjoy Christ and experience Him, we desire to be in the church life with the saints, sharing our experience and enjoying Him even more.
The Christ within us requires us to be in the church life, and He even becomes the church life. Christ is everything to us for the church life, and we are in the church life because of Christ Himself.
What is the church life? It is Christ being lived out corporately through us. How can we be in the church life? It is by experiencing Christ, enjoying Christ, and being transformed by Him.
Lord Jesus, may we have a genuine experience of Christ that will issue in the church life. We want to be saturated, permeated, and filled with Christ, so that Christ in us would live the church life. Thank You, Lord, for bringing us into the proper church life and for requiring the church life and even being the church life. Lord, dispense Yourself more into us for the gaining of Your corporate expression, the church. We take You as our life, person, and everything, for the church life!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by Mark Raabe for this week, and portions from, The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, p. 81 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Recovery of the Church (2017 fall ITERO), week 5, The Recovery of the Church Life.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Cause us to grow in life divine each day / That we may be transformed and built by Thee / Into a body to express Thyself, / That Thou in us Thy Church and Kingdom see. (Hymns #829)
# Jesus is getting us together, / Come and see the saints in one accord. / His love is knitting us together, / To the stature of the fullness of the Lord. (Hymns #1232)
# We have an inner life; that’s for our daily life; / That’s for the meeting life—just Christ! / We’ll live the inner life; we’ll have the daily life; / We’ll see the meeting life—that’s just the church. / Out from our inner life will come our daily life, / And all our living be filled up with Christ. / Then as we live by Him, He lives His life in us, / And He becomes to us our daily life. (Hymns #1216)