It is good to have a balanced view of the increase of Christ it its two main aspects: the increase of Christ for the outward increase in number of believers, and the increase of the element of Christ within us for our spiritual progress and growth in life.
The external increase in number of believers and disciples takes place as we go forth to all the nations, ethnicities, and Gentiles, to bring the Triune God to them and disciple them, transferring them out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God to become kingdom people, subjects of God, for God’s rule and reign on earth.
We are the Lord’s witnesses: both in our family and in our neighbourhood and at work and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Christ, who is universally great in His unsearchable and unfathomable dimensions, needs a great Body composed of numerous believers to match Him and express Him.
On the other hand, there is the intrinsic side, the more important side, the side which probably most Christians have not seen or talked about: the increase of Christ intrinsically, inwardly. The great and universal Christ needs an external expression, and it is a glory to God when many sons have His life and express Him; but it would be wrong for us to think that merely having many people in the church is God’s goal.
God wants Christ to increase in our being! He must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30); there must be an increase and spread of Christ in us and through us, and there must be the subtraction of what is not Christ. All that is of Christ needs to grow and what is not Christ needs to be reduced to nothing.
To be a genuine believer is to be Christ-centric: Christ is the center of the universe, the center of the Godhead, and the center of God’s economy, and we as believers in Christ need to be centered on Christ because God is centered on Christ. There’s nothing else in God’s heart but Christ.
It pleases the Father to reveal His Son Christ in us so that we may know Him, receive Him, experience Him, be filled with Him, and even become Him. Christ is the meaning of the universe and the meaning of our human life.
This Christ in God’s plan and desire is complete, full, and perfect, but God wants to see this Christ increase and grow in us; as His chosen ones, we need to let Christ grow from our spirit into all our mind, emotion, will, and part of our inner being. Amen!
Spiritual Progress is the Increase of the Element of Christ within the Believers
The progress a believer is made after he is saved is the increase of the element of Christ; when there’s the increase of the divine element, there is spiritual progress, but when there’s no increase of Christ, there is no progress.
Before we were saved, we may have not sought after God, but after we were saved, we began to seek after the Lord, desiring to know Him and read His word. This seeking for God, this hunger for more of Him, keeps us in a spiritual progress in which Christ grows in us daily.
The key and secret to our spiritual progress is our hunger. If we think we are full and content, God sends us away empty, but if we are hungry, He fills us with good things (Luke 1:53). If we ask the Lord for more of Christ, He will give us (Luke 11:9).
If we want to make spiritual progress, we need to be hungry for God. Perhaps there is no greater blessing that God can give a human being than a hunger for God; this is where everything starts.
The first condition for spiritual growth in a Christian is hunger….God’s principle is to fill the hungry with good things and to send the rich away empty. Today if you come to the Lord empty and go away empty, it means that you are already too full and too rich….A man can experience grace by chance, but spiritual progress does not come by accident. It is not something that one picks up along the way. Salvation may come by chance, but the power of the Spirit, a holy life, the power of God, and the overcoming life are not things that are obtained by chance. God will only give these things to those who seek for them; He will only give them to the hungry ones. Watchman Nee
All spiritual progress depends on our hunger, so in order to have a sustained progress before the Lord, we need to have a sustained hunger. The Lord promised that those who are hungry and thirsty for Christ as righteousness will be satisfied (Matt. 5:6); if we have a constant longing for the Lord, we will be satisfied.
Our hunger for Christ needs to be sustained; we need to always have room for more of Christ. God’s principle is to fill the hungry with good things and to send the rich away empty (Luke 1:53); our regeneration is free, but in order to make spiritual progress we need to pay the price.
May we not be self-deceived thinking that we are rich (when we are impoverished and poor), clothed and well (when we are naked), and thinking we see (when we are spiritually blind), but may we come to the Lord to pay the price and grow in life to have spiritual progress (Rev. 3:18).
It is true that we don’t have to work for our salvation or redemption, but we need to pay the price for spiritual progress.
The five prudent virgins in Matt. 25 paid the price to buy extra oil in their vessels – not just in their lamps; we have the Spirit in our spirit today (oil in our lamp, Prov. 20:27), but how much of the Spirit do we have in our soul? We need to daily pay the price and gain Christ.
The Lord never deceives us: He freely gives us salvation, but He also tells us that we need to pay the price if we want spiritual progress. The higher the price, the more the progress.
Lord Jesus, increase our hunger for You. Restore our hunger and sustain our hunger for Christ. May we never lose our hunger and seeking and longing for more of Christ and less of us. Lord, may we never be content or self-deceived but may there always be a seeking in us for more Christ! We want to pay the price to gain more Christ and let Christ increase in us. Strengthen us to pay the price needed for spiritual progress. Save us from being foolish regarding our salvation: we want to be like Paul, counting all loss on account of gaining Christ!
Spiritual Progress is not Outward Improvement but the Inward Increase of the Element of Christ
In God’s eyes Christ is everything; our spiritual life is Christ Himself: Christ is our life. Our spiritual living should be Christ – Christ should be living in us, and for us to live is Christ. Real spirituality, therefore, is not outward improvement or better behavior according to the best doctrines and teaching; real spirituality is Christ Himself, and spiritual progress is the increase of Christ.
Pursuing spirituality apart from pursuing the growth of Christ’s element in us can lead us to pride, arrogance, and is dangerous for the Body life. Our spiritual progress as believers in Christ should not be only an outward improvement but the inward increase of the element of Christ, as we let Christ make His home in our heart (Eph. 3:17).
Real spiritual progress is not merely having a better behavior: we used to be rude and impolite, and now we are nice, gentle, and sweet; real spiritual progress is not merely improvement of behavior but the growth of Christ in us.
Some people improve their outward behavior but do not have more of Christ in them. This is not spiritual progress but religious progress. This is not the growth of Christ but the growth of morality. Today very few Christians are able to discern between morality and Christ. They often regard a certain Christian’s morality to have its source in Christ and are not able to discern whether the change in a Christian is merely an ethical change or a change due to the increase of Christ. What is real spirituality? Spirituality is Christ Himself. What is spiritual progress? Spiritual progress is the increase of Christ. (Witness Lee, The Crucified Christ, pp. 137-138)
People can improve themselves: many buddhist, Mormons, students of Confucius, and Jehovah witnesses may be very good people with a high standard of morality, yet they have no element of Christ within them. Christian morality has its source in Christ, Christian ethics is Christ Himself living in us, and spiritual progress is the increase of the element of Christ in us.
Some believers improve their outward behavior but they don’t have more of Christ in them; this is not spiritual progress but religious progress. Religion is here to change people outwardly without the essence of Christ; what we are after is not outward improvement but the inward transformation through the increase of the element of Christ in us.
Very few Christians, however, are able to discern whether the change in a believer is merely an ethical change or a change due to the increase of Christ. We need to have an inward discernment regarding ourselves, whether we live Christ and express Him or we simply live out ourselves in our good humanity – without the element of Christ.
We need to discern between mere human morality and Christ living in us. Real spirituality is Christ Himself, spiritual progress is the increase of Christ, and our spiritual life and living should be Christ Himself.
Lord Jesus, cause us to see that our spiritual life is Christ, our spiritual living is Christ, and our spiritual progress is the increase of the element of Christ in us. Save us from pursuing spirituality apart from Christ. Save us from mere outward improvement in our behavior without the increase of the element of Christ. Lord Jesus, grow in us! Cause us to advance in our spiritual life as we seek You, open to You, and let You grow in us and make Your home in our heart!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Minoru C. for this week, and portions from Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 42, ch. 33, as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Increase of Christ for the Building up of the Church (2016 Memorial day Weekend Conference), week 5 / msg. 5, The Increase of Christ in the Believers Being Their Spiritual Progress and Growth in Life.
- Hymns on this topic:
# O Jesus Christ, grow Thou in me, / And all things else recede; / My heart be daily nearer Thee, / From sin be daily freed. / Each day let Thy supporting might / My weakness still embrace; / My darkness vanish in Thy light, / Thy life my death efface. (Hymns #395)
# Make us in spirit poor; / Lord, take whate’er we think we know. / We’ll open to life’s flow, / And thus take in the life that makes us grow— / Lord Jesus, grow in us. (Hymns #1132)
# Lord, Thou knowest all the hunger / Of the heart that seeks Thee now; / How my soul hath long been craving / What Thou only canst bestow. / Seeking now, seeking now, / Let Thy Spirit meet me now. (Hymns #283)
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