Experience throughout Church History
(This section will hopefully be expanded in the future)
We have been called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9), an extraordinary invitation by the Triune God to partake of the riches of the all-inclusive Christ. The early apostles enjoyed this fellowship, and the goal of their ministry was to include us in the same fellowship (1 John 1:1-3).
Although over time the church in general has fallen away from the vision and experience of the early apostles, we can still find many shining testimonies of believers throughout church history who genuinely experienced this fellowship with Christ. The testimonies of several such believers follow. May we be encouraged to follow their pattern to experience our all-inclusive Christ in a richer way.
Experience of the Limited Jesus
Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was born in China. He received the Lord when he was seventeen and immediately began to serve the Lord. His ministry was very prolific (his Collected Works contain 62 volumes), edifying believers not only in China but eventually throughout the world. He was imprisoned by the Communists in 1952 for his faith and remained in prison until his death in 1972. During these years he surely experienced Christ as the grain of wheat, the limited and crucified One. Though he was confined in a dismal environment he maintained his joy in the Lord. In the following excerpts from letters that he sent from prison, we can see a glimpse of one who was living in the principle of the cross of Christ. It should be noted that he was not at liberty to write openly concerning Christ due to the Communist censorship.
You know my physical condition is chronic, an illness of the organ itself. When it is activated I suffer much, but even when it is latent, it is still present with me. The difference is whether or not it is activated. Summer is here, and although more exposure to the sun can alter a little the color of my skin, it cannot change the illness. However, I maintain my joy, so please do not worry. I hope you will also take care of yourself and be filled with joy in your heart.
May 6, 1972
As far as my living goes, I try as much as possible to make things simple, so that I would not bother others. In my sickness, I really miss my own relatives and long to be with them. However, I submit to the arrangement placed on my environment.
May 30, 1972
Eldest sister Pin-cheng,
I have been reassigned to shan-shia-pu Group No. 14. It is ten [Chinese] miles away from the station and is separated from it by a mountain. It is very inconvenient for you to come. You do not need to come anymore.
In my sickness, I still remain joyful at heart. Please do not worry. I am still doing my best to not allow myself to be grieved by my own illness.
Pin-hweis ashes will be left to your care. I am trusting in you for everything.
I give my consent to everything.
This letter is short, yet my feelings run deep. I can only wish you well.
The following is an account by Watchman Nees grandniece:
In June 1972, we got a notice from the labor farm that my granduncle had passed away. My eldest grandaunt and I rushed to the labor farm. But when we got there, we learned that he had already been cremated. We could only see his ashes
Before his departure, he left a piece of paper under his pillow, which had several lines of big words written in a shaking hand. He wanted to testify to the truth which he had even until his death, with his lifelong experience. That truth is Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee. (Witnes Lee, Seer of the Divine Revelation, 190)
Experience of the satisfying Christ
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a powerful evangelist in London, England whose ministry affected thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic. He truly experienced Christ as the fig, the sweet and satisfying One. The following are excerpts from his writings.
I do from my soul confess that I never was satisfied till I came to Christ
Since that dear hour when my soul cast itself on Jesus, I have found solid joy and peace, but before that all those supposed gaieties of early youth, all the imagined joy and ease of boyhood, were but vanity and vexation of spirit to me. That happy day when I found the Saviour and learnt to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me.
In life He is my life, and in death He shall be the death of death
I bear witness that never servant had such a Master as I have, never brother had such a kinsman as He has been to me; never spouse had such a husband as Christ has been to my soul; never sinner a better Saviour, never soldier a better captain; never mourner a better Comforter than Christ hath been to my spirit. I want none beside Him. In life He is my life, and in death He shall be the death of death; in poverty Christ is my riches, in sickness He makes my bed; in darkness he is my star, and in brightness he is my sun. By faith I understand that the blessed Son of God redeemed my soul with His own hearts blood, and by sweet experience I know that he raised me up from the pit of dark despair and set my feet on the rock. He died for me. This is the root of every satisfaction I have. He put all my transgressions away (J.C. Carlile, Charles Spurgeon, 32-33)
Experience of the ascended Christ
Witness Lee (1905-1997) received the Lord in China at the age of 19. Eight years later he began to serve the Lord full-time as a co-worker of Watchman Nee. He labored faithfully in China until he was sent by Watchman Nee to Taiwan in 1949 to escape capture by the Communists and to continue their ministry work. He labored in the ministry in the Far East for several years and moved to the United States in 1962, where he continued ministering faithfully until his death.
During the war between China and Japan, Witness Lee was imprisoned. The following is his testimony of that experience:
In 1943, because of the work of the Lord, I was imprisoned by the Japanese Military Police. At that time the Japanese Army occupied a large part of the mainland of China, and the city where I was working was under their occupatioin. During my imprisonment, I was brought up for trial almost every almost every day, both in the morning and in the afternoon. From 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning and from 2:30 to 6:00 in the afternoon I stood before them. You cannot imagine what a dreadful situation it was. I had no help but the Lord, and I had no way to get help but to pray. They put me into solitary confinement, because they feared that some word from me might be sent out. I had nothing to do but pray all the time, but I can testify that the more I prayed, the more I felt that I was in the heavens. I was not in prison; I was in the heavens. When I was brought forth to be put on trial before the officials, I felt much higher than they. I was not under them; I was above them. Why? Because I was in the ascended One. Prison was nothing to me, but Christ was everything to me. Oh, brothers and sisters, in the midst of all their threatening, I was living in the heavens.
I can testify that the more I prayed, the more I felt that I was in the heavens.
After three weeks of this kind of treatment, they could find no fault with me. Their only judgment was that I was a superstitious person. They said, Mr. Lee, you are possessed with God. One day they called me out of prison to mock me. Tell us, they demanded, which is more important, God or the country? I knew their tactics. If I said that the country was more important, they would no longer judge me a superstitious person, but a patriotic person. They intended to determine whether I was patriotic or not, whether I cared for the country or not. I hesitated. They demanded, Tell us quickly, quickly! The more they said quickly, the more I hesitated. Eventually I told them, To me God is first. Then they said, All right, let God give you your bread today; we wont give you any more food in prison. This was another kind of threat. I just smiled at them and went back to prison.
Soon after, a young Greek was arrested and put into prison, and the military police felt that since this man had no relations in the city and thus would not be liable to communicate anything from me, it would be safe to put us together in the same cell. When dinner time came, the Japanese soldier who distributed the food came to the cell. He could not speak Chinese, so got my attention and mockingly jabbed his finger upward several times. That meant he would not give me anything and God was supposed to feed me. He passed some bread to that young Greek and left me with nothing. After he went, the young Greek spoke with me and inquired about my situation; so I told him the story. Then he said, Oh Mr. Lee, I will not take this food. You take it. But, I replied, this is your portion. He said, You are suffering for Christ. Why should I not share your suffering? So he compelled me to take the bread and drink the milk.
Though I was gravely ill, yet when I prayed I had the sense that I was not in illness, but far above it all in the heavens.
The next day they brought me out of prison to mock me again. Did your God supply you with food? Yes! I said. They could do nothing with me. They felt that I was just a superstitious person who cared for nothing but God. Then they said, All right, we will call in a barber to cut your hair and get some good food from the restaurant for you.
Do you realize what kind of experience this was? This was an experience of the ascended Christ. We are in One who has ascended. When we experience Him, we too are ascended. We are transcendent; everything is under our feet.
Not long after I was released from prison, I became seriously ill with tuberculosis. I was confined to bed for six months of absolute rest, followed by two and a half years of greatly restricted activity for recovery. Outwardly speaking, those days were really dark. But, I tell you, whenever I prayed I felt that I was not in bed, but in the heavens. Though I was gravely ill, yet when I prayed I had the sense that I was not in illness, but far above it all in the heavens. You do not know what kind of pleasure I had in the Lord in those days. Imprisonment and persecution, then poverty and illness. But, praise the Lord, the ascended Christ was my way! The transcendent Christ was my way to the heavens (Witness Lee, All-Inclusive Christ, 28-30).
Copyright © 1999-2001. Christian Websites. All Rights Reserved