Thanks to a brother’s sharing of the earlier history and experiences of the local assembly, I had a glimpse of the “first love” (Rev 2.4) which the assembly had in the beginning about 20 years ago.
Tragically, the assembly gradually left the first love.
A great treasure has been lost — a treasure in the Lord’s eyes, and a treasure to those who love the Lord.
The assembly came under attacks by the enemy through flesh. It was spiritual ignorance, but also hypocrisy, self-righteousness and spiritual pride.
The assembly developed invisible rules to maintain a spiritual condition, 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 brandishing 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 spoke powerfully not because they were appointed by an organization to do so, but because they were led by the Holy Spirit.
This is the condition of the church when it was born in Pentecost. 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 that was a testimony by the Church in her purity, not a precedence for certain policy, nor 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 seven brothers to be in charge, and the church did produce the right seven. This fact itself is a testimony of the work of the Holy Spirit, not that of human governance.
Had the church not been filled by the Holy Spirit, the process of electing the seven would have been either 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 itself is perfect, but the Lord knows that we temporarily live with our old selves in the old creation, and He does not blame us for this condition but only tries to help us, to save us from it.
But He wants nothing short of resurrection life for us, and the resurrection is always through death. True death and true resurrection is what we need to experience but have experienced too little.
The Holy Spirit always offers himself to work with us, but tragically we too often respond to that offer in hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Our hypocrisy and self-righteousness deprives the prerogative of the Holy Spirit, and end up hurting and even damaging others.
One may be granted a glimpse of the glory and immediately thrown into tests of self-righteousness. While the glimpse may be genuine and the glory illuminating, the person may start to think of that glory to be something in his own possession and applies it against others, automatically assuming that others are inferior in seeing.
He fails to see there is an Ananias in him, with both hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
The Ananias in every one of us only starts to die when the Lord placed each one in an absolutely hopeless situation. But it’s only a start, and we must ask the Lord for more mercy and grace, so that the Lord can do deeper work.
In this local assembly, 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 hopelessness is not always a correct spiritual reaction. Such awareness could still be based on self-righteousness.
Let me illustrate using an example. Let’s say a brother is offended by me and decides to disagree with me and even to be apart from me. I automatically assume that he is offended because I am telling the truth and he does not understand the truth. I think I am faithful and willing to pay a price, while the other person is just ignorant and stubborn. If the situation persists, I start to feel hopelessness, and acknowledge such hopelessness.
However, in this situation, what I actually feel hopeless is the other person not myself.
In reality, the other person may have been offended by my flesh, not by the truth itself. It may be my flesh that makes the situation hopeless, but I don’t recognize it. I may sincerely believe it is the other person who is the source of the hopelessness. This awareness of hopelessness may bear an appearance of humility, but is in reality just hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Further, an educated person’s flesh may appear under the cover of dominating spiritual knowledge, making it the most difficult for people 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 hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Because the Holy Spirit will not work with our hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
It is the hardest thing for the self-righteous to repent, because self-righteousness may hide behind spiritual knowledge and even under an appearance of humility.
Only the Holy Spirit may reveal one’s true condition by manifesting the poor fruit of the person’s life and ministry.