THE STAGES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
In the first stage of the spiritual life, we experience Christ as the living water. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). This is the gospel for the sinners. Come and drink, and you will be filled; your thirst will be quenched. When we come to the Lord, we experience Him as the living water, as the living stream. By continuing in this experience we are brought further. We are told that from the throne of God and of the lamb, there flows a river of living water, and in this river grows the tree of life. The living water brings us the supply of Christ as food. By experiencing Christ as the living water, you will find growing in this water different kinds of plants; you experience Christ as your food supply. With the flowing of the living water is the bread of life, the food of life. This means that you not only experience the waters but also the supply of Christ as different kinds of food. All these kinds of food will bring you to maturity; they will bring you to the place where you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You will be an olive tree before the Lord, a son of oil.
At this point you are mature. Your experience of Christ is so rich and sweet, just as milk and honey. What is honey? Honey is the cream of all the plant life. And what is milk? Milk is the cream of all the animal life. Milk and honey are the cream of all the food supply. Sometimes when you are weak in spirit and you taste a little of Christ, you sense how rich and sweet He is. You have enjoyed just a little of Christ as milk and honey. But when you are really mature in the life of Christ, Christ will be just as milk and honey to you through the whole day. When you first come to receive Christ, you feel that you are drinking the living water, but when you are matured in Christ, you feel day by day that you are drinking milk and honey. He is so sweet and so rich to you. Of course, the living water is included in the milk and honey, but this drink is exceedingly richer than water.
The first time I came to America, I received a deep impression. I was thirsty and asked the brother with whom I was staying for something to drink. I asked him if he had a teapot, and he replied that he was sorry, but he had no teapot. I exclaimed, “Is America so poor? You don’t even have a teapot!” Where I come from, we have all kinds and sizes of teapots. Then I asked him if he had some thermos bottles of water. He replied that he had none of them either. “What is the matter?” I thought. Then to my surprise he gave me a cup of milk, saying, “Brother, here in America we drink milk instead of water. Every day, morning, noon, and evening, we drink milk.” I was much impressed. I said, “Oh, you are really rich in this country! You are so rich that instead of water, you drink milk!”
The first experience of Christ is that of living water, but after growing in Him and maturing in life, a certain point is reached where Christ is not only the living water, but the flowing of milk and honey. You must notice the order. The Holy Spirit put honey at the end of the list of the vegetables, and He put the milk and butter after the cattle and the flock, the animals. This means that if you enjoy Christ to a certain extent as the plant life, you will enjoy Him as honey. And if you enjoy Him to a certain extent as the animal life, you will feel that He is just as the milk. He will be so rich and sweet to you. This means that you are somewhat mature.
Now we come to the last stage, the stage of the minerals. We come to the place where we have something to do with the stones, the mountains, the iron, and the copper. What are these for? They are for the building, for the kingdom, for the battle, and for the security. Whenever there is a matured life in Christians, the building of God’s house will take place and the battles of the spiritual warfare will be fought. In other words, when there are believers who are matured by experiencing Christ, with them the house of God is built and by them the battle is fought. We must be very clear that whenever we enjoy Christ to a certain extent, there is always an issue—the building and the battle. These two always go together. If you would have the building of God, you must prepare to fight. For the building of God we need the materials, and for the fighting of the battle we need the weapons. All these depend on the stones, the mountains, the iron, and the copper.
We must remember that upon the land, the city and the temple are built, and they are built with these very materials—stones, iron, and copper. These minerals signify that there is something in the life of Christ as materials for the building of God and as weapons for the fighting of the battle. All these things are still something of the riches of the life of Christ.
Whether or not we have arrived at this stage depends upon the measure of our experience of Christ. If we just enjoy Christ as the living water day by day, we can never reach the point where the building of God will be realized among us. We are still very young. We must enjoy Christ as the living water, as the wheat, as the barley, as this and as that. We must enjoy Christ to a certain extent; then there will be a building for the Lord and the battle with the enemy ( The All-inclusive Christ, pp. 74-76).
APPLYING THE COPPER
How can we apply this? Sometimes when you are following the Lord, while you are serving the Lord, or perhaps while you are coming to a meeting to minister, a thought of how dirty and sinful you are enters your mind. What do you do at such an instant? Yes, you ask the Lord to cover you with His precious blood and cover your mind with Himself. But do you realize what this is? This is the helmet made of bronze. You realize that the Lord is the perfect One, the shining One, the One who has been tested and proved. Then in faith you exercise your spirit and say to the enemy, “Satan, I am dirty, I am sinful; but praise my Lord, He is the perfect One, He is the One who has been tested and proved, and He is my covering, He is the helmet for my head!” You can exercise your spirit by faith to apply this tested, proved, and perfect Christ as the helmet for your head.
Do you have such experiences? I believe you have, but you are not clear regarding them. You must learn how to apply Christ in this way with an enlightened heart.
I know the subtle working of the enemy. More than thirty years ago, when I was a young man, by His grace I loved the Lord greatly. Early every morning I went to a certain mountain to sing hymns, to read the Scriptures, and to pray, many times with tears of love and joy. Oh, the fellowship was so sweet and the presence of the Lord was so full! But when I came down from the mountain, all kinds of thoughts entered my mind. Every morning it was the same. At first I thought something was wrong with me. I confessed to the Lord and asked Him to forgive me. But, praise the Lord, after just a few days, I was clear. I said, “No! This is not something of me. I love the Lord so much, I read His Word and pray, I have had such excellent fellowship with the Lord, how could these things be from me? They must be from the enemy.” Do you know what I did? I shook my fist at the enemy. That was my way to fight the battle
APPLYING THE IRON
Now, what about the authority, the iron? The Lord said that all authority in heaven and in earth has been given to Him. But this is not the end of the story. The Lord also told us that He has given this authority to us. Brothers and sisters, do you know that you have the right to claim the authority of the Lord? You have something more than power; you have authority! Do you know the difference between authority and power?
Let us illustrate. You have an automobile, and with that automobile you have power. Now suppose you meet a policeman on the street, directing traffic with his whistle. He is just a little policeman, but when he stands there and raises his hand, all the cars must stop. What is this? This is authority, the authority of the government. That little policeman represents the government. You must take his orders. It does not matter what kind of car you have or how powerful it is. You must stop! Whether you have a car, a truck, or a bus, it matters not. When he says “Stop!” you stop! The policeman’s power compared with that of all the cars, or even with one of the cars, is much inferior; in fact, it is almost nil. But he has something which you with your powerful car do not have—that is, authority. When he says “Stop!” everyone must stop! His authority surpasses your power.
Regardless of how strong the enemy is, the most he has is power. We have the authority. We have the authority of the Head of the whole universe. That little policeman represents the city government, but we represent the King of the universe! Brothers and sisters, have you ever enjoyed this authority? I am afraid when trouble comes, you simply forget it and act like a pitiful beggar. You forget that you are representing Christ—none other than Christ! The authority committed to Christ has been committed to you. The Lord told us that He has given us authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. Oh, what a salvation is this! Oh, may we realize it and experience it! Try to apply the authority given to you by Christ ( The All-inclusive Christ, pp. 86-89).