Thanks to a brother’s sharing of his earlier experiences, I had a glimpse of the “first love” (Rev 2:4) which one gathering had in the beginning about 20 years ago.
The gathering gradually left the first love. A great treasure has been lost since then — A treasure in the Lord’s eyes, and a treasure to those who love the Lord.
The assembly came under attacks through flesh, manifested not only in spiritual ignorance but also in hypocrisy, self-righteousness and spiritual pride. They developed invisible rules attempting to fight against flesh, but failed to allow the Holy Spirit to act on His own prerogative. They failed to trust the Holy Spirit and His power in the body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit always demands absolute authority and Christ’s headship so that we may experience true death and true resurrection. The Holy Spirit insists on this because this is the only way the body of Christ works.
But tragically, sometimes Christ’s headship is emphasized as a doctrine but the reality falls into man’s control with seemingly good intentions. When matters are decided by a certain form of teaching, a certain format in the name of order, or a certain individual’s authority, the Holy Spirit is denied of His absolute authority. Strict practice of certain correct doctrines may reduce the apparent manifestations of the flesh, but the hidden hypocrisy and self-righteousness find more room to grow under the cloak of teaching and doctrines. That is the essence of religion, not faith.
Christ’s headship is realized in the reality of the Holy Spirit working in the body according to His prerogative only. A mere emphasis of a doctrine of of Christ’s headship does not produce that reality, no matter how correct and the spiritual the emphasis may seem to be. When an assembly is under the power of the Holy Spirit acting in His prerogative, the headship of Christ is a reality without requiring any spiritual banners. All forms of flesh are dead, and the resurrection life thrives.
We should remember that Ananias (Acts 5) was judged not because he violated a certain rule, but because he lied to the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the seven were chosen (Acts 6) not according to a certain church regulation but according to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Stephen and Phillips performed wonders and speak powerfully not because they were appointed by someone to do so, but because they were led by the Holy Spirit.
Under the Holy Spirit, no one cared about themselves. They all gave themselves to the Lord. The church did not think the Apostles were arrogant when they said they were not going to spend their energy on administrating church affairs. In fact, the church thought it was very good because it was manifested by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Apostles did not feel their authority was bypassed when Stephen and Phillips performed wonders and spoke powerfully.
They were spiritual companions fighting the same battle for the same goal. Facing the same enemy, and led by the same Holy Spirit, their fate was tied together as one.
But all this is a testimony by the Church in her purity. It’s not a precedence for certain policy, certainly not a license for us to act whenever we feel like we are led by the Spirit.
With the Holy Spirit, the Apostles asked the people to recommend the seven, and the church did produce the right seven. Had the church not been filled by the Holy Spirit, this process would have been a disastrous democratic election if decided by the people, or a terrible dictatorship if decided by the Apostles.
For this reason, the Holy Spirit insists on having His prerogative to work only through the new life not the flesh. The Holy Spirit will not work with our hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit does not require each of us to be perfect in order for the assembly to be healthy as a body. The new creation is perfect in itself. But the Lord knows that we temporarily live with our old selves and with the old creation, and He does not blame us for this condition but only tries to save us from it.
But He wants nothing short of resurrection through death for us.
True death and true resurrection is what we need to experience but have experienced too little. But I know how my hypocrisy and self-righteousness may hurt and even damage others. I acquire a glimpse of the eternal glory, but while the glimpse is genuine and the glory illuminating, I think of that glory to be something in my possession and apply it against others, always (in fact automatically) assuming that the other person is in darkness and does not see.
I have an Ananias in me, only that he had hypocrisy, but I have both hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
My Ananias only started to die when the Lord placed me in an absolutely hopeless situation in my life. But it’s only a start, and I ask the Lord for more mercy and grace, and deeper work.
We talk about death and resurrection more than anyone else does. We even humbly confess that we are facing a hopeless situation and our only hope is for a resurrection. But becoming aware of death in a hopeless situation is not always a correct spiritual reaction. Such an awareness could still be based on self-righteousness.
For instance, when a brother is offended by me and decides to disagree with me and to be apart from me, I tend to automatically assume that he is offended by the truth due to his lack of understanding of the truth, to which I think I am faithful and willing to pay a price. And when I feel the situation is hopeless, what I actually feel hopeless is the other brother not myself. But in reality, the brother may have been offended by my self, and it is my self (and perhaps the self of the other brother as well but that’s his responsibility) that makes the situation hopeless.
And the fact that the self may appear in good spiritual knowledge (but in reality may often be a misrepresentation of the truth) makes it difficult for me to realize the true nature of the condition.
In such a condition, I cannot die with Christ and resurrect with Him, unless I have true repentance of my self-righteousness. The Holy Spirit will not work with our hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
But it is the hardest thing to repent for self-righteousness, because self-righteousness may hide behind spiritual knowledge and even under an appearance of humility.
Only the Holy Spirit may reveal my true condition by manifesting the poor fruit of my life.