The Ministry of the Apostle John (3)
By Titus Chu
When I travel in China, I often visit congregations that were raised up by Watchman Nee. Many of these churches are fragmented based on whether or not they are registered with the government, and who helped them over the years. The sad part is that these congregations cannot seem to fellowship together. Each lays claim to being the church. But the Lord only has one church, and therefore there is only one church in a locality made up of all the believers who live there. There is no need to fight over this. As long as the leaders are one, the saints are one.
Therefore I encouraged the leading ones of the different congregations to come together to pursue the Lord. The leading ones, however, often disagree about who should lead among the leaders. I continued to fellowship with them that to be the true church, they must be inclusive and not childish. Leaders must be focused on what the Lord is after, and at the same time receive all the believers. Even after all this fellowship, however, some among them were offended when someone would pray, “In Jesus’ name, amen,” for by that they felt he was trying to take the lead among them. It was very discouraging for me.
By this I realize how John must have felt when he confronted the situation in his day. Those who had been leading the believers in the early years had been martyred. Now others had risen up who had things in view other than Christ. One might have declared he was present at Pentecost or at Antioch. Another might have declared that he had labored in Galatia with Paul, and had witnessed how Paul raised up the churches there. Another might have claimed to have helped Peter in Baghdad. Thus different people each thought they knew what was best, and everyone was doing what seemed right to them. This is what confronted John and the churches as he wrote his first epistle.
In his wisdom, John did not try to take charge and tell everyone what he thought would be most correct or prevailing. He simply asked everyone, “Do you have Christ?” He did not use the term “Christ,” but instead wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). John directed the saints to life and God’s economy.
John told the saints, “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (v. 3). Thus all the saints are one body bearing one testimony for the Lord’s interest.
A Proper Relationship
with the Lord’s Servants
A servant of the Lord should be able to testify, “I may not be rich in doctrine or knowledge, but I am rich in Christ because I have heard Him, seen Him, looked at Him, and even touched Him.” When he has all these things, he is able to proclaim it to the church as John did.
How sad it is when a local church isolates itself from the Lord’s servants and takes its own way in the name of being a local church. Of course any church can do whatever it wants as long as it is led by the Holy Spirit, but that leading must be evaluated by whether it is properly related to the Lord and to His servants.
John wanted the churches to realize they were blessed when they received the supply the Lord granted through His servants. The fellowship the Lord’s servants had was with the Father and with the Son, and so to enter into the fellowship with the Lord’s servants was to enter into that fellowship they themselves enjoyed. In that circumstance, everyone’s joy was made full. According to John, a healthy church life requires a proper relationship with the servants of the Lord, for the servants of the Lord are those who have heard the Lord, seen the Lord, looked at the Lord, and touched the Lord.
Handling the Lord
To touch the Lord is to handle Him. Parents should be able to relate to the term “handle,” because they are always having to handle their children. The parents’ handling of a child requires that they closely consider the child in all respects, for if they are either too lax or too stringent, they may cause their child to be either spoiled or overburdened. Children know how to take advantage of the love of their parents, but if the children are not handled properly, they will not grow well. To know how to touch the Lord by handling Him is a big thing.
Throughout all the years I have been with the Lord, He has continually handled me, and I have handled Him in return. I have learned that if the Lord tries to handle us in a certain way and we do not know how to cooperate, the Lord will have handled us in vain. If we only demand and never know how to receive, we will never grow. If the Lord desires to lead us a certain way, we must know how to handle that. Knowing how to handle the Lord’s handling is an art.
Too often we do not know how to handle the Lord’s handling of us, and thus our usefulness to Him becomes limited. It is easy to simply react and demand our own way. When we do this, the Lord is forced to handle us differently. So we must ask, are we handling the Lord, or is the Lord handling us? Are we forcing the Lord to handle us another way because we resist what He truly wants to do? Is the Lord able to lead us, or do we force the Lord to lead us in some other direction?
My life is so romantic, because for the past sixty years the Lord has handled me, and I have handled the Lord’s handling. He kicked the ball to me, and I kicked the ball back to him, telling Him, “Now it is Your turn!” Can there be anything more romantic than interacting with the Creator and Savior? Can there be anything more wonderful than a life of being handled by the Lord?
Sometimes I hear someone say, “Why me?” My response is always, “Why not you?” Anything could happen to anybody. A personal crises is the perfect time for the Lord to handle us and for us to handle Him in return.
We should give our lives to handle the Lord. We should focus on Him, not ourselves. If we handle other things too much and allow them to occupy us, we will not be able to properly handle the Lord. We should be very careful about how the Lord leads us and how we respond to His leading. As we follow the Lord, we should always have a very healthy interaction with Christ. As He does something, we also do something. That is to handle the Lord.
It is the same with parenting. Children have to learn to handle how their parents handle them. If the relationship is merely one sided, there will be problems. Either the children will experience continual harsh discipline, or they will be spoiled because the parents gave up. The danger is the same in our relationship with the Lord. This is why we must learn how to handle the Lord.
Know God as Spirit,
Love, and Light
A local church is inclusive in its nature. It therefore does not stress its practices. But it must be careful about the two things John stressed. First, it must be closely related to the servants of the Lord who have heard, seen, looked at, and touched Him. Second, it must remember who God is, that He is Spirit, love, and light (John 4:24; 1 John 4:8; 1:5).
God is Spirit. This is who and what God is. When you exercise your spirit, you have the enjoyment of who He is. When your spirit is not strong and exercised, you cannot be a proper pattern to the saints. Everyone, in some sense, has God. He is the dominating force in the entire universe. But those who know God as Spirit enjoy Him as their supply. If we do not have such a supply of nourishment, we lose our strength. No matter how good we are, if we do not enjoy God as Spirit, we will find that nothing we do works.
As we enjoy God as the Spirit in our spirit, we enjoy love. This is always the case, because God is love. How normal it is for Christians to love God and to love their Christian brothers and sisters. As the God who is love saturates us, the church life becomes so sweet.
When we really enjoy Him as love, He operates as light, because God is light. This is not always easy to grasp. Once I gave a message on God being love, and those attending interpreted it as making and giving money. Such an understanding shows they were short of light, and did not quite get God’s operation.
Labor in the Light
Christians are wholesalers—they should only sell Christ! They should not use anything as bait to get others. Once a brother told someone, “Instead of going to the movie, come with me to the church meeting! If you don’t like it, I will go with you to the movie.” He may have reasoned, “If he gets saved, he won’t want to go to the movie afterwards anyway,” but there was still something sneaky involved. That was not something totally in light. Some Christians even preach that the Lord will financially bless those who give themselves to Him. That may sometimes be true, but to stress it is pretty dark. In my service to the Lord, I have endeavored to avoid anything that is dark. It is better to be frank than political, even though it may not be so comfortable sometimes.
To use impure means to gain people will surely bring them into something not so good, for something pure cannot be produced from something impure (Matt. 7:17-18). Such activity shows that those responsible have lost their taste for Christ alone and pursue something else.
Although there is no law among us about what we do, we should not do things just with the goal of gaining people. Our goal must be Christ. When we arrange the chairs, select the music, or present the gospel, we must do it with Christ. Let Him be the light; anything else is darkness. No matter how good your package is, it will not work to bring others to Christ if it is not out of Him.
It is too easy to treat the church as a worldly business, seeking short term success in numbers rather than the eternal blessing of Christ Himself. Be careful! In Christ, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Don’t operate with any darkness. We should have no goal other than to see people come to Christ and to see the church life blessed with Christ. Any other motive introduces darkness into the church life. We must only desire to see Christ increase among us.
in the Light
John says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7).
Everyone in the world lives in darkness. When we arrive at the hall for the meeting, we are often pretty dry. After two meetings together, however, we feel peaceful. This is because when we have fellowship with one another, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, which here refers to the guilty sense of sin. After we pray, sing, and enjoy the ministry of the Word with all the saints, we feel so clean! This is not a positional cleansing, but an organic, subjective cleansing.
How precious that John ties the cleansing by the blood of Christ to the fellowship with one another. This is our experience in the church life. Therefore, do not miss the meetings! We should encourage one another not to miss the times the saints gather, because it is through our fellowship together that we experience this organic cleansing.
A meeting is a spiritual love feast. As we function together by our singing, prayer, receiving, and testifying, organically we are freed from the guilt of sin and made strong. We are brought to experience a oneness with God and enabled to follow Him even more. What a blessing this is!
Confessing Our Sins
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (v. 8). Regardless our age, education, or station in life, we sin. According to John there are two ways we can take care of this. The first is to come to the meetings to be cleansed organically. The second is to go to the Lord and confess our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v. 9). As we confess our sins, we enjoy a real cleansing. God’s light brings us into the organic cleansing, and it also brings us into the positional cleansing. Even if you cannot itemize your sins, simply confess to Him. You will be surprised at the cleansing you experience.
John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). In the church life, nothing is more crucial than knowing that God is love. This love was manifested by a great sacrifice. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (v. 9). Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we might live through Him. Therefore we have to learn to sacrifice ourselves so that others might love God.
To love others is to pay any price so that they might love God. It is more than an emotion. It is to struggle for their spiritual lives, that they might love God and live unto Him. If we love others, our life will be charged and controlled by those we love, in the same way that God loved us. Love will cause us to die to our soul life so that others might live unto God. Our life will be controlled by the ones we love; it will no longer be our own.
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (v. 16). When we abide in love, we abide in God, and God abides in us. Before a young couples marries, they live in dreams, but once they are married, they enter into reality. To abide in love is to enjoy that love. It is to know Jesus as our lover. In such love, we are made strong.
Therefore let us breathe His name continually and abide in His love. As we abide in love, we surely abide in Him. May we never be dry. O Lord! You are our lover all our life!