When He Ascended on High, He Led Captivity Captive
If the Lord has mercy, I hope that when you go back to your locality, you can try to review these messages. I rarely request this – usually, you have a conference, and when it’s over, it’s over. But these five gatherings are telling us why we are here, how we can be here, how we can be healthily before the Lord and bearing the testimony of the Lord.
So the last part: the marvelous building up of the body. You have to understand that all Christians are regenerated. All Christians have eternal life. The totality of Christians in a locality becomes the testimony locally, and we consider that as the local church. Then there are ones who God has gained. Those who God has gained are not just for a locality; they are for the body of Christ.
When He ascended high, the Lord was in the heavenlies, then what did He do? He grabbed some, conquered some, captured some, to be His captives. These captured captives became the workmanship of God. So God eventually developed them, raised them up. Eventually, they became gifts. Not for one church, but for the churches, for the body of Christ. So this is why this says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift… When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive.”
Do you understand what that means, “captivity captive”? You were originally captured. By Satan, right? So you like all the rock music, you like a lot of things, apart from Christ. Like today, with all kinds of inventions, new technologies, even 6-7 year olds begin to play. 20 years later, we’ll find out how much brain cancer has developed. Today, we have no idea, because the time has not come yet. But eventually, these things damage people’s minds, destroy people’s personality or character. People become easy going. People refuse to be in-depth. People take things quickly. All are in the principle of fast food restaurants like McDonald’s. Whether that’s real meat or not, only God knows. But for some reason, people like it. Why? Because it’s quick. In today’s living, everything is fast. And people don’t really pay a price for anything. If you do, you become permanently head damaged – a PhD. So, you get into more trouble.
Eventually, God says, there are so many Christians. Among so many Christians, most all of them will be captured by something. They are captives of the world and the trends of the world. They are captives of the things of this world. They are captives of the elements of the world. Now, I want to capture them. Recapture them. That’s why here it says, “He led captivity captive.” I can really gain you. You were of the world, come back! You were of sin, come back! You were of self-life, come back! You were of your own development, come back! I want to gain a captivity captive. Then, I will work on them, so that they can become gifts to the churches.
He Himself Gave
Now, we come to the outline: “He Himself Gave.” Now Christianity, that means us, throughout centuries overall may not bring God to satisfaction. From 500-1500, those were the “Dark Ages.” People were so superstitious, there was a full religion of Jesus, yet there was no reality of Jesus. Remember when they were building St. Peter’s chapel? They sold the kind of tickets that could save your ancestors. They even said that, when your coin was dropped in, your grandfather went up.
Brothers, you would not believe Christianity could be fallen like that. Yet, for one thousand years, all of the somewhat developed countries believed in this. There was only one religion. Catholics were really a sect because of Luther. They considered Luther Satan, because he caused a division of the body and they thought they lost their joined strength. In a way it is true. When Catholics work only as one institution, they are powerful. But when it is all divided, especially as Christians all like to be divided, Christians are very interesting animals only God can love. Many times, I look at Christians and I have a question. Is there any difference between these guys and those who are unregenerated? I mean, those Christians don’t have the outward form of fallen things. They don’t declare ‘I commit certain things,’ no. But hiddenly, they have just as many problems as others.
However, in Christianity, overall, we are so discouraged. But God says, no, I will gain someone. For instance, this brother is a captive of the world. People aim at their future, he aims at that future. People try to get a profession, he is trying to get a profession. People try to build a house, he is trying to have a house. People try to give into marriage, he’s trying to give in. I’m sorry, you are a captive of Satan. And he doesn’t know, he says, I go to the church of my choice! Or, I was born in the local churches, my father is very godly! That is true. That’s why your father lost all his hair and you haven’t. You know what the Lord decides? The Lord desires to see some captives, to be captured by Him. Then in His hands, they become gifts to the church. Without the gifts, the church cannot go on. Without this gift, Christians in general will have no standard.
Rarely do we realize how crucial the gifts are. Rarely do we understand how hard it is for a gift in whatever capacity to be produced. We think they are good Bible scholars. No, a Bible scholar is not a gift. We think they are very good at speaking, and very good speaking is a gift. A gift is one who was formerly captured by Satan. Now they have come out, captured back by the Lord. And they give themselves are a captive to the Lord, so the Lord has the right to work on them, to develop them, and they become a gift to the church. Become a gift to man.
Short of a Container
Now, when we read it, “Christianity through the centuries, overall, may not bring God to satisfaction. However, God has still given ministries.” Who are the ministries? The ministries are the gift. “God has still given gifts throughout the centuries to care for His body and to produce overcomers.” These ministries are gifts. If there is one gift, not a gift of talent, but a gift, a person. The person becomes a gift for the testimony of the Lord. So, God still has given ministries, for the care of His body and to produce overcomers. “Even so, though hungry pursuers of Christ realize they may not be short of spiritual riches through these ministries, we seem always to be short of one container…” In other words, you have to realize what the testimony is, what is the local church as the testimony of the Lord? That is the container. You cannot just have movement.
I saw a brother, I have heard him personally and although I never had a chance to talk to him, I respect him to the utmost. That is Austin Sparks. I was in his meetings, I saw that person, I saw how spiritual he was. I saw how inspirational he could become. I saw how rich his ministry was. Yet eventually, he never had a container. It is very sad actually, when T. Austin Sparks left, it’s like his ministry almost discontinued. This ministry should always continue. Like Brother Nee, he is still with us. Brother Nee died, but he is still speaking to us. For some reason, T. Austin Sparks was finished. But you say, didn’t you say that we should not have institutions? He never had an institution, but there was a discontinuation of the ministry. That is not proper. His speeches should be with us.
There’s no container. For instance, brother Sparks denied the local testimony. His feeling was whoever is of Christ. Whoever has Christ, then what? Having Christ shows they are God’s testimony. No, God’s testimony must be expressed in localities. You take the locality away, there’s no way to contain such an expression.
Some brother said, someone in Pittsburgh calls themselves something “center” and is talking all about the testimony of Christ, the testimony of Jesus. I know that was Sparks’ teaching. Sparks’ teaching is passing on through another servant of the Lord, and is passing on to more. I didn’t answer that brother. I was thinking, Lord Jesus, it’s getting serious. Our coworkers have no realization why we’re here.
Brothers, there can be first center, there can be second center, there can be third center… let me tell you, with anything you develop, you can only do two things. I preach a lot of gospel and lots of people get saved, but I never perfect them. If you want to raise them up and perfect them, they will have followers. Then there will be a first center, second center, third center; their division will be endless. What confines a division so that you cannot be divided? Locality. This is the wisdom of God. God needs testimonies, but testimonies must be expressed through localities, in locality, with the locality in view. No matter how spiritual you are, no matter how many spiritual men you have in that locality, it is still one testimony. There’s no center after center after center, and more than that, with that, it provides no chance for minor separation. You cannot say, I love the Lord, now I have a church. We have to be together, because one locality is one testimony. Now secondly, it’s against a long institutional organization. I’m just a locality. I fellowship with all the other localities, but we are not institutions. There’s no headquarters. You brothers have to learn, not Cleveland please, not Titus please. You have to say, Our headquarters is in the third heaven. Christ is the headquarters in the operation of all the churches.
The Local Ground Protects Against Divisions and Institutions
The local ground produced two good things. Number 1, it is against the divisions. With the locality in view, you cannot be divided. You cannot say we are a local church and you are a local church. Then, number 2, with the local church in view, you will not have institutions.
If you want to have institutions, then you will become like Living Stream Ministry. See, you have to come above the local church. Living Stream MInistry is an institution, a large organization. There’s no head local church. Even they cannot say the Church in Anaheim is the head church, because the local church is the local church. You may want to put it together and develop it into an institution with the proper control of the congregations. Brothers, maybe they would say no we don’t control, we lead. Okay, you lead the congregation, so there has to be an extra institution. You marvel at the wisdom of God, but, when you say, that’s it, we are the local church, God says shut up, shut up, shut up.
I’d like to tell you two things. A local church, if you are not careful, can become a division too. Where are you meeting? Baptist church. Where are you meeting? The local church. Do you put them together? Isn’t that just as shameful, when you talk about a local church? It’s just as shameful as one that says I’m a Baptist. You remember what Watchman Nee said about the local church? What church do you go to? Well, I’m a Third Baptist. The church you go to does not include me, but the church I go to includes you. What church do you go to? Well the answer is, the church I go to includes you, because there’s the one body, expressed in localities. But the church you go to does not include me, because I’m not a Third Baptist. I’m happy, I’ve heard First Baptist, Second Baptist, Third Baptist, but I’ve never heard Eleventh Baptist, so I know it’s not divided that far.
The Local Ground Is a Piece of Land
Brothers, why is there so much division? They don’t see locality. Locality is so crucial, but when you think we are the local church, brothers, be very careful. The local church is for God’s testimony. The local church is not a dead administration. Saying I’m an elder of a local church in a certain place is a very dangerous thing. It’s based on how you see the local church. You see the local church as, We’ve taken the ground already, we have the ground already, we are the church here, no one can come in. Brothers, that is more than divisive, that is even impure. But, saying I’m an elder, I’m a serving one in one locality, as a local testimony for the Lord. We are bearing the testimony of Jesus, the local ground is where our base is, and Christ is our foundation. The local ground is a piece of land. The piece of land doesn’t mean anything, it’s what you build upon the piece of land that means a lot. Without the piece of land, you will never be able to have a building.
Once, I bought five acres of land and I built a building. It wasn’t finished, but I went up to my bedroom, I looked at the back, I looked at the front. A beautiful view, acres of hilly views, so beautiful. Praise the Lord. Then, God allowed the government to tear it down. The good part is, it was a wooden building, so I destroyed the whole building. It was just a disassembly, I could use all the material there and try to find another piece of land. But if you ask me, where is my house now? I couldn’t find the land yet. No land, no building. You don’t know how hard it is to find a piece of land in China. Unless you are a developer, you won’t be able to find a piece of land to build anything. It’s just so hard to find a piece of land. I tried this city and that city. But the good part is, I tell you honestly, I’m a somewhat spiritual man, so nothing bothered me. Otherwise, just that one thing would bother me to death, I’d lose 20 pounds.
I’m very happy, praise the Lord, hallelujah, somehow I began to realize: God gets all the materials, but where is the land? You know what the local church is? It is the land. What’s the local ground? The land. So is the local ground what God’s testimony is? No. God needs a building, but without the land, where do you build? God builds His churches upon localities. This is the church in Ephesus. This is why in writing to seven churches, He didn’t even say the church, he said, seven lands. And each land was a city. To Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, to Laodicea. To seven cities, and the seven cities are seven churches.
What is the local ground? The local ground is not the building, the local ground is the land. Don’t despise the local ground, brothers. Because of what I experienced, I would never give a message and say, “See? Only the ground is crucial.” When I saw that the whole house was torn down, a big beautiful house, I was very happy. The elevator went to two floors, with the basement. The elevator took me to the second floor, I said, this will be my bedroom, and sitting in my bedroom I said, “Praise the Lord, there is really a place I can rest.” I think the Lord would say the same thing: I’d like to see a building, the body as a testimony, that I can rest in. Then, the second question comes, where is the land? Don’t despise the local ground. Without the local ground, you cannot have the building. So people usually mess up these two. Christ is important, the land is not important. Brothers, even years ago in that situation, if there was no land, there was no building. No ground, no healthy church. You say wow, God is really after the ground! No. God is really after the building. The building up the body.
After all these ministries through centuries come in, they cannot find the container. There is a rich ministry, but there’s no container. Why is there no container? They don’t see the ground of locality. They don’t produce land to contain these riches. So eventually, there’s no “container that can uphold all the riches as substance to bear the testimony of the Lord.” So when these groups fade, God would raise up another gift to carry on His testimony. Remember, “God has given us all these ministries.” Ministry is the substance of 20 centuries of Christianity. Without these ministries, the church cannot bear the testimony for that far, that long, that healthily.
Today, I’m very thankful that God has shown us the crucialness of the land. When you have the valuable land, you’ll be ready to pay money so you can build your house upon it. But for some reason, you just can’t find a piece of land. For God, it’s easy. Every city is a piece of land. Just in Cleveland, there’s a hundred pieces of land. Cleveland, Lakewood, Westlake, Lorain, Rocky River, Avon, Avon Lake – these are all lands. Every land can build up a healthy building for God to find His resting place. Localities are lands. Don’t spoil the locality. You go and occupy the locality, build a shed, and tell the Lord, we’ve found the land, we are the local church, come and join. The Lord says, you want Me to live in this? No gold? No silver? No precious stones? Just a bunch of rotten wood? You want this to be My abode? No, I cannot live in this. You have to treasure the land you have, then build very carefully to have a residence to provide for God. A resting place to provide for God. When riches come but there is no land to build, God raises up more riches.
God Is the God of Eternity
So here, “We are thankful that God is the God of eternity.” You brothers don’t realize how crucial this God of eternity is. He doesn’t give you eternal salvation alone. He sees you in eternity. Do you realize you have eternal life? That eternal life comes in, now you have eternal life. You can go to the heavens. You have eternal life because eternity is in you. You try to beget Christ. You try to destroy Him. I prayed many times when I was very young: Jesus, I repented, please move away from me. And He never answered that prayer. If He answered, then I would be finished. He said, well, young boy, I know you don’t know what you are talking about, but I am the eternal God. Once I save you, I’ve saved you forever. Your salvation is of eternity. In your life, you’ll have failures, frustrations, defeat, discouragements. In your life, you’ll have many things that bother you, but remember, eternity is in you. That eternal value is there.
“He is beyond time. He knows exactly what He’s after. He knows that the divine riches cannot be grasped in by Christians in one shot.” He realized one ministry is not enough. With another ministry, and another, it’s still not enough. If you study church history, you see how God moves. In one century, God focuses on this. In another century, God will focus on that, based on who that very ministry the Lord has raised up as a gift to the body. “He knows exactly what He is after. He knows that the divine riches cannot be grasped in by Christians in one shot. Rather, He advances through all the ministries to produce what is in HIs heart.”
The Marvelous Desire of God!
“The Marvelous Desire of God! At the end of the New Testament age, it seems God desires some container that is ripe, that is able to contain the riches of generations, while at the same time, through such riches, displaying a testimony of the one unique body. God is speaking to Satan, “Look! For centuries you have damaged or poisoned numerous Christians, to the point that all the ministries I raised up cannot properly find their resting place…””
There’s a rich ministry, but where does the ministry go? Remember the cry of Isaiah? Oh God what I preached, who is going to believe? Where can I display your hands? Your hands manifest to whom? There is a rich ministry of Isaiah. But there is no landing place for Isaiah, so it became a province of speaking out until Christ resurrected and the resting place came in. But Satan would still damage the Christians, so ministries were raised up which could not properly find their resting place.
“Now, in My wisdom, I want to produce a vessel, a testimony, which is so extremely marvelous! Inside is Christ upheld and made known to all the saints through the ministries I raised up.” This is inside, right? “Outside, I like to show you, Satan, all the Christians are really one.” I like this. When Satan raised divisions through men’s failure, he is very happy, saying, I’m going to destroy the oneness of the body. The Lord would answer, Stupid Satan, do you know that they cannot be divided? It’s not because you say you are a Baptist that you are a Baptist. You are still a son of God. You are still children of God. The body is just one body, it cannot be divided. “I like to show you, Satan, all the Christians are really one. I will raise up some pure ones who only care for Me, for My economy, for My manifestation. I will use the ground of locality as its land…”
Now you see why the local church is crucial. And now you see why the local church is not crucial. Do you get my point or not? The local church is very crucial; it’s a land. It’s a vessel. A local church is not crucial if the land doesn’t build up anything. No value. If a vessel has no content, there is no value. You have a vessel, you have a piece of land ready to contain the riches of Christ. So I will use the ground of locality as the land and I myself as the foundation and they shall express me with no division.
You know, sometimes, when a son gets mad at his dad, he says, I don’t believe I should have that last name. I’m bothered by that. Just because of that, the last name is gone? Even if you change your last name, just because of that, the blood relationship is gone? I never go that far. Sometimes I get mad at my parents, but the interesting thing is, no matter how mad you are at them, when you see them, you just love them. There is something organic. Do you ever have that experience? Do you ever get mad at your dad? But for some reason when you see your dad, you just want to hug him. When you see your daughter you just want to hug her. What’s the reason? There’s a blood relationship. That cannot be changed just because I don’t like it, I hate it, I’m bothered by it. No, if something really happened like that, you are not a human being. You are an animal. A real human being has this kind of blood relationship, it is really marvelous. Brothers, this is why we’re Christians who just by nature love one another.
“They shall be so one with Me that I become their content and they become My expression in localities.” Now you understand the local church and the testimony. The local church locality is ground. Locality is not what God is after. God is not after any local church, but the local church must build on localities. Why? With localities, the divisive element is prevented. Otherwise, they are so free. People say, wow, praise the Lord, the brother just had a meeting which is very good, there were a hundred-some people. Within me, I don’t think it’s very good. When you have a hundred, it’s about time to divide. Because there is no ground, no limitation. Chinese speaking is not a ground. So I am meeting at my home, eventually I rent a place, eventually I have a hundred. In principle, numbers just provide the opportunity for division. Similarly, if you’re not wise as the elder in a local church, if you don’t see the content, the real building, a testimony, even a local church can be a ground to divide yourself from the body of Christ, from the ministries the Lord has raised up.
“We need to be careful saying that we are “the local church.” This makes us no different than all other denominations or free groups.” If I go to a meeting and feel very happy, I just love the brothers. Brothers, but how about God? For you, everything seems fine. For God, he needs a testimony – the testimony of Christ and the testimony of one Christ. The body cannot be divided, so if you say I’m a local church, be careful. Who are we? We are not a local church, we are the testimony in our locality. When you say you’re the church in Chicago, do you mean that you are for Chicago? No, we are a testimony of Christ in Chicago. Chicago is the ground for us to be together, however, we are the testimony there. That’s where it’s crucial. No matter how many or how few of us are meeting together, our Lord’s table includes all the saints in our locality.
“Our Lord’s Table includes all the saints in our locality. We are a testimony that we include all of them. We feel sorry they are not meeting with us at this time.” This is not a good statement. We should say, we are sorry we are not able to meet with them. We are not the center, Christ is the center. We are not the center, the profit of the saints is the center. That’s not a denomination, just a group of brothers meeting together, loving the Lord. I’m very happy, I’m very very thankful. If we can change this to “We are not able to meet with all of them. But we do know that we and all the saints in our locality are one body of Christ. We bear such a testimony.”
“He Gave Gifts”: The Conquered Ones of Christ
“He Gave Gifts: The Conquered Ones of Christ. More than that, we are growing through the perfecting of the gifts God has given to us, to His body.” We are one already. When we say we are one, that is really marvelous. But even when we say we are one, which is so marvelous, we still have to say, we need to grow. How do we grow? We grow through the perfecting of the gifts. Who are the gifts? “We are thankful that there are some who are conquered…” You are not conquered, you are very free. You make your own decisions, you play your own life. With or without Christ makes no difference because you are not conquered, and therefore the Lord cannot use you. There’s no way a person who is not conquered by the Lord is used by the Lord. The Lord will only use those who are conquered, subdued, by Christ and have become His captive, as gifts to the church. Can we all say, Lord, I’m very happy to be your captive. Capture us!
“We are thankful that there are some who are conquered, subdued, by Christ and have become His captives. They give themselves to Christ.”
In 1954, 64 years ago, in September, I really began to touch the Lord for no reason. The Lord just came to me and I touched the Lord. Once I touched the Lord, I told the Lord, Lord, I’m yours. I have no plan, I have no decision. Whatever I have, I just want to give myself to You, I just want to be Your servant to serve You. Now, they give out Christ, “their living is on the altar. Their being is under the consuming fire of God. Their existence is for God’s satisfaction.” There’s a song, I lay on the altar, and I dare not move. Please, consuming fire, come down, burn everything of me, I have no choice, I have no decision, I am on the altar. Your being is under the consuming fire. God will really come to burn you – burn a little ounce of ambition, a little ounce of comfortable disease.
When you are serving the Lord, your wife serves the Lord with you, but say your wife loves piano. And she’s good at it, praise the Lord, but even then, can she say, “My existence is for God’s satisfaction.” Can she say, “I’m not for myself. If my husband and I, our family, can become a gift to the church, we have to be captured by the Lord. We have to be His captives. He takes care of us, then, our living is on the altar, our being is under the consuming fire, and our existence is only for God’s satisfaction.” What a high existence.
Brother, I have loved the Lord for 64 years. There is one thing that makes me most joyful. Not that I have some spiritual attainment, which is very limited. Not that I’m sitting in the church, which can damage the body life. That one thing is that I have had a lifelong existence focused on Christ and Christ alone. It’s really a high existence. Who are you living for? Think about it. Say I’m working in the White House. But in the White House, that young girl was getting into corruption with Clinton, and that’s pretty ugly actually, right in the White House. You get my point? You think White House is a good place to work? Say I’m working at IBM, but now it’s fading. Isn’t IBM fading? I don’t know, maybe they’ll have a good chairman that will develop the company, bring something new into it. Did you find out and think that now this new person will come in and rise up? They really don’t have anything; they just have their mind, and they do use their mind. But I say this, I’m not of IBM, I’m not of the White House, I’m not of any famous or crucial institution. My existence is for Christ. My existence is for Christ, I’d like to say that! Can we all say together?
My existence is for Christ! Can we say that louder? My existence is for Christ!
This is a high existence, and you’re able to enjoy all the riches the Lord has provided to His body. They are transformed, they are equipped, and they have a certain spiritual stature, did I pronounce it right? I say statue, they say “No, it’s not statue, it’s stature!” They have a certain spiritual stature, they have proper operation, and they are a gift to the church and to man. Something is attained because of their insistence that they’d like to be a captive of Christ. As a captive of Christ, their existence is for God’s satisfaction. So eventually, they are transformed. They become mature, and they are equipped, they have some riches. And they have a certain spiritual stature, and they have proper operation.
There Is No Honor in Just Having Good Brothers
You know what you don’t have, brother? You don’t have any of this. You know why? You are a church goer. A good church goer, like your dad. Actually I say this, for you, I was very upset. I’m not upset at you, but I was very upset at the brothers who served you.
He is a good brother. A pure brother. A capable brother. A brother that is somewhat gifted. No one ever tried to raise him up. They told him to just be a good brother. Just lead the songs. Just share something in the meeting. Just do something for the Lord. They are not captives! Many of our young people are like this! You are a good second generation, but a hopeless second generation. When you are old, you still testify about when you were in a children’s meeting. What good is that? It’s shameful! What is your life for? What are you living for? It’s shameful.
But I don’t blame you. I’m very upset with the leading ones. To the coworkers, what are you doing there? Don’t tell me there are no brothers. In your locality, at least there’s one brother with you. If I had such a brother with me, I’d spend time with him. I would pray with him; I would cultivate him and the spiritual appetite for his development to raise him up to be a pillar for the Lord. I may not be able to be a pillar, but I can teach him. Maybe I’m not that gifted, but another person can become a gift because of my labor!
One day Brother Lee asked me to come up and say something. Then he commented, “Brothers, you know, there’s no champion teacher, but there are always champions. Every champion was developed by the teacher, by the coach, but the teacher is not the champion. There is no champion teacher.” When he said that and asked me to get up and comment, I was quite embarrassed because he is the real champion. You get my point, brother? You are not gifted, so what? You have no ability, so what? You don’t know how to manage the church or take care of the church, or you don’t know how to bring new ones into the church life, so what? At least the ones you are with, at least the ones the Lord has given to you to raise up, don’t swallow their life. Don’t damage their life. You shouldn’t do this kind of thing. If you do, you are unfair to them and you are unfair to Christ.
It’s not good that many young ones go through our hands and go nowhere, just because we leading ones are so common, common to the point that we have lost our drive even in raising up second generations. Maybe I cannot preach, but I can help you to preach. I don’t know how to read the Bible, but I can read the Bible, and then you know how to read the Bible. I don’t know how to sing songs but I can be with you, so you know how to conduct hymns. Brother, without these kinds of elders, without these kinds of full-timers, where will our future be? Our full-timers are so unwise, just focusing on what to preach on Sunday morning. They don’t need your preaching! Your preaching has damaged the church enough. You should be with saints one on one. You should be with brothers one on one. You should spend time with brothers one on one. Develop them, raise them up, so that they can be captured by the Lord. There’s no honor in just having good brothers. We have many good brothers. There’s no honor to only be in the church life. There’s great honor if brothers can be captured by the Lord. We’re not doing very well, but maybe through interceding, through prayer, a young brother can begin to love the Lord. A young brother can be captured by the Lord.
Brother, even though you say we don’t have a Matthew, you don’t need Matthew. You have James and John. Maybe they’re not twenty, but they’re forty. So what? You say, oh they’re not forty, they’re fifty. Even if they are fifty, can you pray with them? Even if they are sixty, can you pray with them? Can you spend time with them? Can you perfect them, one by one? Can you give them the warmness of proper shepherding? You leading ones are not just supposed to prepare messages. That’s stupid, sorry, not stupid, that’s foolish to the uttermost. What do you do this for? Nobody needs your message. All the old saints have heard enough messages. They need to be brought into functioning. I’ve been in the Lord for 40 years, but at least I have a testimony. I can share a verse. I can say a few things that can be profitable to the church. Brother, it’s a shameful thing that our second generation, our young people, just love the Lord outwardly. If you ask about their life, they still have their plans for the future. They still have their thinking concerning the days to come. Brother, they are not captives. You as a leading one should be a captive. You say, “But I am captured by the Lord.” Yet, nothing has developed. Develop young ones that can be captured by the Lord. Develop the old ones, even 70-year-old ones. You can pray together and have corporate labor. You can generate some brotherly love. You can generate some warmness for new ones to come in.
There’s nothing wrong with a congregation that is old, but that shows that there is something wrong with you. You don’t realize how crucial it is to help the saints who are with you, to be warm, to have the Bible, to have Christ to enjoy, and to know how to have some riches that are according to Christ. Without that, brother, your church will be hopelessly reliant on young people’s activities. If you rely on some brother’s preaching, it goes nowhere. You have to bring people first to be captured by the Lord. Let them be captured. Some are not captured; they have their life, they play with their life, and there’s not much. They go to a common university and they still have a plan for their life. Who is the one serving them? Who is one helping the? Who is the one leading the? Who is one helping their growth and development into a brother? You have this good second generation for nothing. I speak the truth, don’t I? I speak exactly what we need.
Some older ones care too much for their speaking. You don’t need to speak, brother. Please, you’re not going to any place when you are 50, 60, 70 years old. You should know that if you have any growth, your growth will come from the young ones. Do you know what I’m talking about? You know why I’m still young at the age of 80? Some of you can say I am always young. You know why I’m not tired? It’s because everyone of you is my spiritual blessing. Every year, I am speaking to thousands of Christians and every one blesses me and feeds me life. They’re very young. They can be just saved. If you spend time with young people, you are young. If you spend time with brothers, you will be anointed. If you fight for the Lord and struggle alongside brothers, no matter how old they are, if you are together for the testimony, then you will see what the Lord is doing. Right now, you hold the pattern on Sunday mornings. If I give a message, you hold the pattern. First, you sing a song. Brother, you will go from bad to worse. Lord have mercy. Anyways, let’s continue.
Bring the Saints to the Perfecting of Ministries
“This is why God has given some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds, and some teachers. Their existence–the perfecting of the saints. Their purpose is unto the view of the building up of the Body of Christ.” Now we come to the perfecting of the saints. Yes, all the saints, not just one or two. All the saints. Never look down on any brother who is older. Don’t say “I am 65, and now I have been in the church life for 35 years. I am nothing. I begin with nothing and now I am still nothing.” No, if your leading ones know how to be with you, you will be useful. If your leading ones know how to spend time with you, you will be useful. We rarely understand the crucialness of this ministry because we don’t care. We are born again. We love the Lord. We have zealousness, and out of seniority or out of our capabilities, we become a leader of the congregation. I tell you brothers, honestly, all the elders have a good conscience. If I don’t talk about you, you ask “Why don’t you talk about me?” If I talk about someone, you ask “Who are you talking about?” You think I’m talking about you, but please remember I don’t talk about you. I’m not using my message to attack anyone. I’m telling you about the spiritual principles.
So many times, the leaders come out of seniority. For example, my father was the head of the military. He got promoted, and when he got promoted, the one who was second in line tried to negotiate that by turn he should become the head of the particular unit. Similarly, you say, “by turn I will be an elder.” Brother, that’s not good. Don’t come into leadership by seniority, come to the leadership by burden or by capability, and because you’re able. We should become leaders of our congregation unconsciously. We should think that the congregation belongs to us. This is my church. This is my congregation. In this congregation, I raise up brothers.
When I was in Taiwan, I gave a training, and my influence was island-wide. The whole country of Taiwan was affected. I finished the training on a Friday, and I departed on Saturday. I refused to let anyone think that I have any intention of staying in that area. People said, “Now that you’ve come, all the young people can be raised up by you. You can do a lot of things.” No, I can’t. I went back to Cleveland, because that’s where I belong. That’s where my residency is. That’s where the church I serve is. I never hold a territory. I never hold a church. Only the church in Cleveland knows how little I care for the church. I’ll give an example of a situation when one of the elders was bothered. He’s a good elder, one of the purest brothers. No matter how pure you are, unconsciously you’ll have the feeling that “I’m an elder now, and this is my church.” No, you don’t have a church. The church is of Christ. You raise the saints up, but they’re not your church. They’re still the church for Christ, of Christ, and unto Christ. And more than that, we desire to render them the best profit, which the best elder should do and which seems to be very precious, we do not understand God’s higher view. No one, no matter how zealous or faithful they are, should avoid the perfecting of the ministries. A good elder leads the saints into the perfecting of ministries. An elder that’s not knowledgeable enough prevents the saints from being in the ministries.
Once, when we wanted to go to Southern California to be in the training, I said: “Wow, let’s all go.” Nobody wanted to go, so I told the brothers in the elders meeting, “There’s a chartered aircraft. Let’s all fly to SoCal first thing.” A brother said, “What? So we have the aircraft to ourselves?” and I said, “Yes you have a chartered one with 150 seats.” You see how desperate I am? You’ve got to be under the perfecting of the ministries. Eventually of course, because of Brother Lee’s inheritance, the continuations of his son-in-law frustrated many saints, but that should never frustrate us from the riches of Brother Lee. Brother Lee’s riches have no problem, but once his son got involved, the situation became bad. The people who are one with Brother Lee’s sons eventually took over. I still remember when the son was so buoyant; it was really messy. Benjamin Jin said to me, “Titus, what should we do?” I said, “Don’t do a thing!” He said, “I want to call him!” I said, “What?” Benjamin said, “I want to let him know that if after Brother Lee dies, he still wants to have a good time, he has better work with Titus.”
You know why? Because I’m not an evil person, I don’t take advantage. I appreciate favors. I appreciate the blessings that I have. I don’t care if Benjamin Jin called him or not. Was Benjamin right? He was right. Because right after that, this brother had nothing. He was the soul of everything involving the so-called Lord’s Recovery–all the churches, all the work, were in Brother Lee’s son’s hand, but he didn’t have any riches. So one day, when his father departed, nobody even cared for him. Nobody. It’s a sad thing.
Brother, you don’t have any place that belongs to you. Don’t take your saints away from the ministries. Try to encourage them, try to bring them into the richest ministries. And then God gives gifts to the saints, to the churches, even to man. This indicates that without being properly helped by and joined to the gifts God has given, our development would be very limited. God has no desire for merely zealous congregations. We say, “We all love the Lord!” God says “No, that’s not enough. I don’t deserve just that, merely a zealous congregation.”
Perfecting the Saints: Life, Truth, Operation
God’s desire is for the saints to be perfected in three things. Number one, in life. Number two, in truth. Number three, in operation. You need to be perfected, in life, in truth, in operation. Do you get my point? Can we say that together, starting with “God’s desire for the saints”? Read together: “God’s desire is for the saints to be perfected in life, in truth, in operation.” Yeah, continue. “Both in their human existence and in their pursuing of Christ.” Remember three things, in life, in truth, and in operation. We need to be perfected so that we know life, so that you know how to grow in life, and so that you know how to let life have the proper domain in your Christian walk. And more than that, you need to know truth. Just reading the Bible is good. You need to read the Bible. But you also need the help of ministries, like I got help from Brother Lee when I first got saved, and later I was helped by him a lot. Also, I was helped by T. Austin Sparks. When he gave a conference, he’d say, “Lord of Lords. King of Kings.” I can never even forget that kind of scenery. He was so released, so spiritual, and I was there. I began to have a realization, without Christ being the Lord, without Christ being the King, nothing has much value. He’s the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. Praise the Lord! You get help from ministries, but you are not for that ministry. The ministry leads you to Christ; the ministry helps you to appreciate and apprehend Christ. Brothers, you need to be perfected in life, in truth, and in operation. Both in your human existence and in your pursuing of Christ. All the saints, especially desirous ones—further, even the leading ones—need to realize the crucialness of being perfected.
Be wise. Don’t hold down forty people and say “This is my congregation.” Don’t hold sixty people, saying “This is my congregation.” Realize that your congregation is a part of the body of Christ. You need to have an open fellowship with the churches nearby. You need to receive the help of the gift that God has given to you, right? Even all the leading ones need to realize the crucialness of being perfected. If you are a leading one, remember, you need to be perfected. You may ask me: “Hey, Titus, who perfected you?” Do you have that question? Do I need to be perfected? Do I? Yes, I do. Even if I get bothered, and I say “How dare you say that I need to be perfected?” I still need to be perfected. You know who perfects me? God? No, it’s you, saints. You saints are the best perfecting for the servants of the Lord. I’m very happy that every year, I speak to thousands of saints, mainly in the United States, mainland China, and Taiwan. These three places I go regularly. I’m very happy. Every one of you can become my perfector. Your reactions, your faces, the nodding of your head is all my perfecting.
You cannot believe how marvelous this organic life is. For example, my heart is so crucial to the body, so what does that have to do with a little finger? But for some reason, when the heart helps the little finger exercise, this little finger helps the heart. What is the crucialness of the whole body besides the heart? Do you realize, without all these parts being healthy, the heart is sometimes not so healthy. The body is a unique organism, where every part helps others.
However, for your growth in life, your riches in truth, your riches in operation, you need the perfecting of the gift. And the gift needs the body to perfect him, by being in the Lord’s presence, not by accommodating the body. Not by the saints saying, “Brother! We’d like to hear about the blood again!” Then, say I give you a conference about the blood. Brother, that’s kind of unwise. We all need to be perfected. You should have a deep realization: Lord, perfect me. Lord, perfect me. Only with proper perfecting can we be one with Christ and do the work of ministry, unto the work of ministry.
“The Ministry,” “A Ministry,” and “Ministry”
There is a universal ministry right? With ministry, you can say it three ways. You can say the ministry. You can say a ministry. Or you can say ministry. What’s the difference? “The ministry” is a particular ministry. Sometimes we say that’s the ministry of Christ. You know, Brother Lee usually says, “this ministry, this ministry.” I somehow began to realize that he’s going to say he has “the ministry.” When I began to realize this, I got nervous and I knew we’d be in trouble. I knew he was making a decision. Otherwise, why would he have that utterance? I was praying, “Lord please, please, not ‘the,’ not ‘the’.” All of a sudden he says, “THE ministry.” I never lost my full respect for Brother Lee, but at that moment, I was so sad, and I knew that all the churches would have a hard time, because once you say you are “THE ministry,” all the other ministries disappear. God has given us gifts, not “gift.” Apostles. Not Apostle. So, if you can still find the tape, that day, you can hear Brother Lee saying, “Ummmm, Ummmm,” because he was thinking if he could use that term. He knows the truth more than I do, but my guess is he considered with his understanding. Maybe Brother Lee would rebuke me to the uttermost for saying this. But anyways, as I was sitting there writing the notes, praying “Lord Jesus please, Lord Jesus please,” Brother Lee said, “THE ministry!” At that moment, I had a feeling that we were going to have a hard time. Why? Because “the ministry” belongs only to Jesus Christ. Saying “a ministry” makes it common. I have my ministry, which is a ministry. Many servants of the Lord have a ministry, which is his ministry.
But there is another word, just “ministry.” What does that mean? In this ministry, it is universal. In this word, “ministry,” Christ is involved, and with Christ as the center, it dispenses into many ministries. And all these ministries belong to “ministry,” unto the work of ministry, the corporate ministry, the universal ministry. This “ministry” is inclusive of all the ministries in the 20th century and includes the ministries that are coming. For instance I say, “the man”, that refers to a particular man. “A man” refers to any man. What does “man” mean? Let us make man! It means the human race, which is inclusive. In saying “let us make man,” God was not making a man, He was making mankind. If you say the man, the man is Jesus. A man, like if you say a man, like Titus, is common. Then if we say man, that is the human race.
With ministry, you also have three ways to say it. You can say “the ministry”; that is the ministry of Jesus Christ. We can say “a ministry,” that can refer to any brother who has something special that the Lord has given to him. Overall, God says “ministry” unto the work of the universal ministry. In this ministry, Christ is the center. In this ministry, there is the ministry of Paul, the ministry of Peter, the ministry of Luther, the ministry of Witness Lee, the ministry of Watchman Nee, there are ministries of so many brothers! We are all brought into the work of “ministry.” Because of this universal ministry, together, the totality of the universal ministry produces the testimony of the body of Christ. So, don’t ever despise the riches of “ministry.”
Unto the Work of Ministry
Only by being perfected is there a building up of the body of Christ. Let’s read from “Unto the Work of Ministry.” “In these verses, there are the prepositions ‘for’ (toward) and ‘unto’ (with a view). This shows that it is a long process.” “Unto the work of ministry”—this is a long process. “Perfecting is not an exercise, an acceleration, or even an elevation. Perfecting, here, is a bit-by-bit constitution in different parts for Jesus-lovers individually and corporately.” I’m under the perfecting of Brother Lee. Before I knew Brother Lee, when I got saved, Brother Lee was in the Philippines. So, I read a lot of spiritual books, and I heard about this man but never got to know this man. Before I first began to attend his meetings, I was so helped by Watchman Nee. Then, I was under Brother Lee’s ministry for 60 years – maybe close to 50 years. I got helped, bit by bit by bit. Eventually, something became constituted. Out of what is constituted, you can develop a talent. You can develop even more.
For example, let’s say you want to be an artist. If you want to be an artist, you have to have a base. You can’t paint something just because you have an inspiration – it doesn’t work. You have to have some basic art education. It’s a base. We have Brother Nee’s riches and we had Brother Lee’s help, for so many years, from 1954 to 1997, 43 years. Now he’s been gone for 20 years. Even in 10 years after he left us, I was still very much in what he had. Then after 10 years, especially the last 4 or 5 years, something has begun to grow more, develop more, based on being constituted bit by bit from what I received in that 40 some years from Brother Lee.
Don’t be so quick to jump to asking “What can I do?” Learn to be properly under the perfecting, but don’t be confined. You can develop, but faithfully follow and learn bit by bit what the brothers can help in different parts, as a Jesus lover and individually. It is precious, like apostle Paul said, to have a view to the work of ministry. This indicates that no perfecting is for the sake of perfecting self.
You brothers will be somewhat blessed. Brother, you should have your wife with you. Milwaukee is not the right place for you. There’s no need to go to Milwaukee. You always can find a better job than that. It’s not valuable to your resume. Brothers, I will help you with how to minister. Not sisters, sisters, I’ll let you be free. The brothers can come up one by one. Sisters can give testimonies and share something. Brothers, I will help you with how to speak and how to stand properly, with how to read the verses properly, and how to minister properly. But even with all this, realize that I won’t make you a good speaker. Perfecting is not for the sake of perfecting. I can help you to be a good speaker, but that doesn’t mean I want you to be only a good speaker. Perfecting is not just for perfecting. The maturity of life, the equipping of truth, and the facilitating of operations are with a view to the work of ministry. I can help you. Because of my help, you can become a good speaker. Praise the Lord for that. But never say “Praise the Lord, I’m a good speaker.” If you have anything that you can speak, it’s unto the work of ministry, for the sake of ministry to be realized. This indicates how strong God’s desire is to find people to work with Him. Through the perfecting of gifts, people are able to do the work of ministry. You must do the work of ministry.
I tell you, I’m very happy. You know, in mainland China, so many churches are raised up. There are so many full timers there. Praise the Lord for that. For that, I appreciate the government to the utmost, because they probably know what I’m doing. The first day I’m there, they know what I’m doing. Usually, they don’t allow new Christian groups. But for some reason, they’re gracious to me as an old man. One day, a government official talked with me, and he said, “You know brother, we forbid Paul Wu from coming in. We forbid Andrew Lee from coming in. We forbid Ouyang from coming in. But you have been coming here for about 10 years, right?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “We have never forbidden you from coming in.” That made me scared, and I thought, “Does he mean next time will be my turn or something?” China has its order of its society. But for some reason, up to now, God has mercy. I’m very thankful. Brothers, you have to be more thankful. You know why? No one that is with me has had any thought of developing another Christian institution. Paul, aren’t you one with me? Have you had that thought? Rex, have you had that thought? Mike, you may have had that thought because you are very good at organizing. But, no one who is with me has ever had that thought, even for one day when I am gone. We know we are organic. I have full confidence that if you learn to be proper with the older brothers’ ministry, years later, if something happens, you will know how to go on. If you are divided, that only means my ministry was not properly received. If my ministry is properly received by you, there will be no problem. You will be together as a testimony of the body of Christ.
The Work of an Apostle
Not many people are apostles, but through the perfecting of gifts, people are able to do the work of the ministry. So, let me ask you, brother, are you an apostle? Are you an evangelist? No. But do you want to do the work of an apostle? Do you desire to do the work of an evangelist? If you do, you need the perfecting. For example, when I was with Brother Hao in New York, there were 30-40 saints from this area, in New York. We had no idea what to do with them. Brother Hao was with me, and we began to consider how I’m not going to New York, but some brothers are going to New York to do the apostle’s work, of New York, in New York. Likewise, I’m very happy that Joseph Chin was in Northern California. By being there, the first meeting they came together, there were 20 of them. That’s very good. Then, in the first meeting, they asked, how many can come next week? Eight of them said they can come next week. That was very discouraging, but 17 ended up coming. We don’t know what happened. Is Joseph Chin an apostle of today? No, but he’s doing apostle’s work. I asked Joseph Chin and Steven Hao if they could go to Northern California again, and then go to Seattle to see if a testimony can be raised up by the Lord there. What are they doing? Apostle’s work. Are they apostles? Today, no. Maybe someday, they will be. But they are doing the apostle’s work. Look at Mark, even though he’s only been in the Lord for about 10 years! He was with the brothers, beginning to learn from scratch, just as a college graduate. Now he’s visiting the churches in Kenya. There are 3 other churches raised up by testimonies, and there are 3 other testimonies raised up in the border of Congo. There are 3 churches there, 3 testimonies there. So if there’s a brother with him, and he just goes 3 places, what is he doing? He’s doing the work of apostles.
I can’t raise up a church, but I can help a church. The isolation of any individual saint, the isolation of any individual church, is a disgrace to God’s operation. Don’t think isolation is just “Well, we’re here.” No, that’s a disgrace to God’s operation. Those in isolation do not realize that by being isolated, they’re unconsciously somewhat cut off from the organic supply of the body of Christ, through these precious gifts. These gifts help the body of Christ. We, as churches, try to fellowship with all the churches, with all the members of the body of Christ, until we all arrive.
God Desires that We Can Arrive
Even more, God desires that we can all arrive. You might ask, “arrive at what?” Number one, the oneness of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God. Number two, we must arrive at a full grown man. Firstly, I hold on faith, then secondly, in this faith, I have the knowledge of the Son of God. Number two, I become mature as a full grown man. Then thirdly, which is very crucial, we arrive at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is precious and crucial. Without the help of the rich ministry of the gifts, we may have inspirations, even burdens initiated by these inspirations that satisfy the saints and even make the congregation joyful. You might say, “We have a good speaker!” This may be precious to a particular saint, and can be from the Lord. In other words, whatever you feel inspired by, don’t despise it, because it can be from the Lord. However, when ministries come to help us, they bring us into the full realization of the economy of God. For instance, say a message was given about bringing you to God’s economy, not just bringing you to satisfaction. Afterwards, you wouldn’t just say, “I heard a good message,” but you are brought into what God is after.
The operating purpose of Christ, what Christ is doing, is for the dispensing of the spirit. The function of the gift is not for man, but for God. All gifts must begin to operate. They’re not man-centered. They’re God-centered. They operate according to God, not according to man, but according to God. Through being related properly to the burden, desire, and function of the body, there can be the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is what a built up body ought to testify.