(A) THE TRUE
LIFE AND THE FALSE LIFE
As you know
by now, we are occupied in these morning meetings with
what we are taught through the Apostle Paul in 2
Corinthians 3:3, that is, that the Holy Spirit is writing
a spiritual biography of Jesus Christ in every member of
the Body of Christ. To put that in another way, the
spiritual history and experiences of true believers are a
repetition of what was true of the Lord Jesus, excepting
His deity. So we have to understand that the Holy Spirit
is repeating the life of the Lord Jesus in us.
So far we have been occupied with the first chapter of
that biography: the eternal link with the Lord Jesus,
which is by the gift of eternal life. That means that
what was true of the Lord Jesus in His eternal life
becomes true in every believer.
Now I did not say all that I wanted to last time, so I
will add just a few things and then hope to be able to go
into the second chapter of this biography.
then, repeat this truth. Eternal life does govern the
history and destiny of humanity. Without that eternal
life there is no hope; humanity is in a hopeless
position. The destiny of those without this gift of God
is a very hopeless thing, for it is eternal death. That
does not mean annihilation, nor extinction, but it does
mean eternal separation from God; and if you want to know
what that means, look at the Lord Jesus in the last
moments on the cross and hear Him cry: "My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me?"! But this other
side, eternal life, is the basis of eternal hope, so it
is just exactly the opposite. Thus eternal life is the
governing factor in history and in destiny.
That is indicated in two ways in the Bible. It is
indicated on the first page and on the last page, which
means that the whole of the Bible lies between this one
thing. All that is in the Bible of history and destiny
lies between chapter one and the last chapter, and in
both of those chapters this one matter of life governs
everything. It is therefore all-governing. In the
beginning it is indicated in the tree of life in the
Garden; at the end it is indicated in the tree fully
grown in the city - the tree of life in the midst of the
paradise of God.
As to that tree in the Garden at the beginning (and, of
course, it is only a figure, or type), it is the centre
of life, so God indicates that this thing called life is
at the centre of everything. Life is centred in that tree
representatively, and you notice how very jealous God is
about that tree. He is so jealous that, when man sinned
against IT, He set a wall of fire around it, and
took every precaution against man touching it. He said:
"LEST he put forth his hand, and take also of
the tree of life", and put a cherubim there with a
flaming sword. It would be a very dangerous thing to
touch that unless man was in full fellowship with God!
God is very jealous over this matter of eternal life!
That tree, symbolically, is a test of man's relationship
with God. It is a challenge to man as to his relationship
with God, or, in other words, as to whether he is in
right standing with God. The whole issue hung upon man's
fidelity to God, for that was the test. You see, man was
put on probation. This life was to be given on one
condition only: was man going to be faithful to God, or
Let us get away from the symbol and the type. That tree
is a type of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for He is the
tree of life, and our attitude towards the Lord Jesus is
going to determine our destiny - whether we have eternal
life or eternal death. We know from Genesis that on that
day when man showed that he was not faithful to God, that
in spirit and in mind he was not true to God's Son, he
died, and the whole race died in him. In Romans 5 Paul
says that death entered into the human race because of
one man's disobedience; so the destiny of the human race
was settled on that day. The Lord had said: "Of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not
eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Thus man died
spiritually, because death is separation from God.
So we are brought to this, as our New Testament teaches
us so fully: the Lord Jesus is the test of our
relationship with God, and that relationship determines
whether it is to be life or death. The Lord Jesus is set
up in the midst of the human race to determine life or
death for mankind. So eternal life governs everything.
LIFE RESERVED IN JESUS CHRIST
the next thing. The Lord took action and set a fence
around that tree of life. In so doing He said: 'No one
shall have life apart from that tree.' In other words, it
is impossible for anyone to have eternal life apart from
the Lord Jesus, for this life is in God's Son. "He
that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son
of God hath not the life" (1 John 5:12). Life, then,
is reserved in Jesus Christ and cannot be had outside of
Him. Well, of course, that is very simple and elementary
but we have not finished yet!
You notice what happened in the Garden: Satan was there
to make God a liar. Jesus said that Satan "is a
liar, and the father thereof" (John 8:44), and he
was there in the Garden to make God a liar, Did he do it?
Mark you, this is something very important for us to
notice today, for this is always Satan's way. He did not
accept the situation in the Garden, and he never does
accept a situation. There will come a time when he will
have to accept a situation and will not be able to do
anything about it, but all through the ages he has
refused to accept this situation and has told a lie. So
man has fallen a victim to the lie of Satan. What is
Satan's lie in connection with life? He offers false
life, another kind of life that looks like the true one.
Satan falsifies true life, and, instead of being
spiritual life, it is just soul life. Do you know the
difference between spiritual life and soul life?
Satan attacked the soul life of Adam. You know what the
soul is, do you not? It is your reason, your emotions,
your will. Satan began by REASONING with Adam,
and, oh, what a dangerous thing it is to argue with
Satan! Never reason with the devil, or, in other words,
do not listen to his arguments! There is a sting in his
tail! So Satan first came to man's reason and started an
argument: "Yea, hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1).
Immediately a question about God was lodged in the mind.
There is a terrible destiny bound up with that question!
Then Satan appealed to Adam's FEELINGS, and,
pointing to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, he said: 'You see how lovely and full of
juice that fruit is! How much it is to be desired!' So
Adam looked at the fruit and said: 'How lovely! I think I
would like some of that.' His emotions went out to it,
and when Satan has got your mind and your emotions, it is
not far to your WILL! The next thing was that Adam
took the fruit. He used his will, and the damage was
It is all symbolic, but, you see, it contains eternal
principles. The whole kingdom and reign of Satan are
built upon that basis. The mind, the heart and the will
of humanity are captured by the devil, but it is false
life. What about all the emotion in the world, even in
Christianity? There is a vast difference between
spiritual, eternal life, and soul life. There is such a
thing as false life, and that thing is the master-stroke
of Satan! You will remember that there was a time in the
history of Israel in the wilderness when certain sons of
Aaron brought false fire and offered it upon God's altar.
You know what happened! You know all about God's
jealousy. There is a vast amount of false fire in this
world today. It looks like true life, true fire, what is
of God, but there is a lie in it, and the fruit of that
tree is bitter fruit in the end.
I think this is a time in the world's history when we
need to understand this more than ever. How can we
discern the difference between the true life and the
false life? Well, I think John is the great messenger of
this, because his writings were particularly in this
connection. He wrote in a time when everything in
Christianity was being falsified. There was Christ and
anti-Christ. In fact, there were many antichrists, for
many false spirits had gone abroad. It was a time when
Christians were being deceived, and John, writing for
that time, said: "The anointing which ye received of
him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach
you" (1 John 2:27). In effect, John was saying: 'By
the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the true life, you
will be able to discern between the true and the false.'
Even when they look so much alike, the Spirit in you will
say: 'There is something not true about this!'
I think that one of the things that indicates whether it
is true or false is whether man made it or not. You see,
those sons of Aaron MADE their incense, and they
did not make it of the same ingredients as those with
which the true incense was made. It was something which
looked like the true, but it was false, and the Spirit of
God knew the difference. We have to be very careful that
we do not create false fire, for that is the danger of
strong personalities. Do you notice how many of these
things which look like life have come from strong
personalities? They are uncrucified Christian men! Is
that a contradiction in terms? No, the Cross has to
divide between soul and spirit, and if you see the fire
coming from strong, forceful soulish men, you have reason
to doubt the reality of it. When the true fire comes, it
is always through crucified men.
I think the Apostle Peter could have created a lot of
false fire. He was a man who was always trying to get
things going! He would rush in in front of someone else,
and would even tell the Lord Jesus where to get on and
where to get off! It would have been a poor lookout for
Christianity if it had come through Peter! But Peter had
to go to the Cross, and the true fire of the Holy Spirit
did not come until he was an utterly broken man.
Well, perhaps I have said enough on that matter, but it
is something that should be an instruction to us in these
days. We do verily need to know the difference between
the true life and the false life, for Satan's master-work
is to imitate God.
Now can we go on with the next chapter in this spiritual
THE CRISIS OF BETHLEHEM
I want you
to read these passages very carefully. You may think that
you know them, but before we have finished I think you
may find that you do not!
1:26-34,37,38. Mark 10:42-45. Philippians 2:5-8.
to be a Bethlehem in the spiritual history of every
believer. What is the Bethlehem of the child of God? It
is not in Luke's Gospel, for that is the Bethlehem of the
Lord Jesus. John's Gospel is the spiritual history, and
the Bethlehem of the child of God is in chapter 3: 'Most
truly I say unto you, you must be born anew.' That is our
RENUNCIATION OF THE LORD JESUS
not begin with the Lord Jesus at the little town of
Bethlehem in Palestine. I have called that a 'crisis',
for it was a turning-point in Christianity, but it all
began in heaven. You have to go back behind Bethlehem and
into heaven, and see what was happening there. The
eternal Son of God was there, and He was equal with God.
He was one with God in position, having all heaven's
fullness and Divine glory. In John 17:5 the Lord Jesus
prayed in these words: "Father, glorify thou me with
thine own self with the glory WHICH I HAD WITH THEE
BEFORE THE WORLD WAS", and that was before
Bethlehem! In heaven, then, before this world was, there
was the Son possessing the glory of God, occupying the
very throne of God, the throne of the universe. Then,
speaking in human language, the point came when something
needed to be done in this little world. God had lost His
place, had been rejected, and man had lost what God had
intended for him. He had forfeited the eternal life which
God had intended him to have. So to speak Satan and man
together had turned God out of this world, and it was in
pride. Satan had said: "I will ascend into
heaven, I will exalt MY throne above the
stars of God... I will be like the Most High"
(Isaiah 14:13-14). We know the result of that! And man
entered into a complicity with Satan and God's place and
God's life were lost to man. There is so much more in
that word 'lost' than we are accustomed to thinking! We
sing: "I was lost, but Jesus found me", but
when were you lost, and what did you lose?
Here we are in an eternal setting. Jesus said: "The
Son of man came to seek and to save that which was
lost" (Luke 19:10), and as we go on we shall see
what that was.
In this situation in eternity the Son said: 'I will
undertake to bring it all back. Father, I will do this
service for You. I know what it means. Because it was
pride that did all the mischief, pride must be destroyed
in Me. Because it was disobedience that resulted in all
this trouble, obedience must be the law of My life.'
Well, to make it short, away there in eternity the Lord
Jesus made the great renunciation. He relinquished His
position, emptied Himself of His fullness, humbled
Himself, and then came forth to do this service for God,
which was to recover God's place in this world and in
this universe. That was the crisis of Bethlehem!
Can it be true? Is that little babe in that manger in the
innermost reality of His being that eternal Son who
occupied the place of supreme authority in the past ages?
Is this little baby the same One who was filled with the
glory of God and all heaven? Oh, wonder of wonders, He
has indeed taken the lowest place! What ought He to have
had? But what He did have was a manger in a stable! There
was no place for Him in the world that He Himself had
created. "He came unto his own things, and they that
were his own received him not" (John 1:11). What a
crisis in the ages!
That is what took place in heaven, so you are not
surprised that heaven is interested in this crisis! To
begin with, an archangel, Gabriel, is interested, and
then we read of a "multitude" of angels who are
interested, for they know something of the meaning of it.
have to come to the really important thing. Where was all
this focused? In a simple Galilean woman, whose name was
You know, for two reasons we have lost something very
wonderful in this connection. It is the devil's trick
again! Satan will always try to get hold of something
Divine and discredit it, and the Church of Rome has
discredited this living thing by the worship of the
Virgin Mary. If you go into Roman Catholic countries and
see the place that the Virgin Mary has, your whole being
revolts against it and you do not want to talk about her.
This is a great triumph for the devil, as you will see in
a moment or two.
There is another thing that has made us very hesitant to
dwell upon this birth of Christ, and I think it is either
a right or a wrong sensitiveness. We are so nice and so
good, you know, and we do not like to read and talk about
this Virgin Mary! I wonder how you felt when we read that
passage from Luke just now! 'It is very wonderful and
very beautiful, but don't let us dwell upon it too much!
Let us be very sentimental, very proper, very good and
very nice!' Do you know what I mean?
So, for these two reasons, we have lost something that is
very Divine, and I think poor Mary needs to be redeemed.
She needs to be brought back to her right place, and we
have to get a new appreciation of this young woman. I
have a friend who is a Mother Superior in a very high
Catholic body. When I last went to see her she took me
into the chapel, and as she went in she bowed to the
Virgin Mary. I cannot tell you how badly I reacted to
that! She did it again when we went out, and, no, I did
not bow! My reaction to that was very bad, but I have had
to recover something about Mary.
There is a link between that which happened in heaven
with the Son of God when He emptied Himself, and Mary. Do
not make any mistake! Mary had to make a great
renunciation, for she knew what it meant to have a child
without a husband. Is that not the deepest shame that a
woman can know? Does that not mean that she has
sacrificed all that is noble and honourable about
womanhood? Supposing it became known that this child was
born and Joseph was not the father! Who was the father,
then? That is something for people to talk about! I am
not sure that the people in wicked Nazareth had not
already spread a rumour, because at one time some of the
enemies of Jesus Christ threw this thing at Him, when
they said: "We were not born in iniquity" (John
8:41). Is that not horrible, terrible? Ah, Mary knew what
it meant! She knew that if this thing got out into the
world she would be counted as one of the world's most
disgraceful people. Everyone would look down upon her.
She was afraid, and, more than that, "greatly
troubled". The angel Gabriel read what was going on
in her soul and said: "Fear not, Mary." Never
in all history did a woman need that word more than Mary
did that day! She had taken in the situation and realized
in what she was involved. The angel Gabriel said: 'Mary,
you are a very specially favoured woman. God has favoured
you more than other women.' And the word that the angel
used was 'grace' - 'God has put His grace upon you more
than upon any other woman.' Well, she considered the
whole thing, realizing what it meant, knowing that if she
had to go out into the world, and the world knew about
it, it would talk (and the world never gives a Divine
meaning to a thing like that! You know the kind of world
we are in!), and she said - note! - "Behold, the BONDSLAVE
of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." I
put a mighty emphasis upon that word 'bondslave'! Did
Mary empty herself of a woman's glory? That is what it
meant naturally. Did Mary humble herself to be obedient
unto death? For, you know, a woman like that would have
been stoned in Israel, and she knew it. Did she humble
herself and become obedient unto death? Oh, yes, she did.
She went down to the lowest place. But what is the word?
"BONDSLAVE of the Lord" - the servant of
Now the whole Bible is opened up! Before the Bible began
the Divine Son was saying: 'I will be Your servant,
Father. I will go down to be Your bondslave.' And right
from the beginning God has sought to have SERVANTS.
You have a long line of servants of God in this world's
history: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
and on you go to Isaiah, the Prophet, who says:
"Israel, my servant" (Isaiah 41:8). They were
the people of service.
That is what God is seeking, but it is always a very
costly thing. It cost Abel his life, for he was obedient
unto death; Enoch found it was no longer possible to live
in a world like this; and so you could go on.
But what do
we arrive at? The point is: What is service? What is the
meaning of being the servant of God? Can you put your
finger upon it? Go to Mary again. What is the law? To
bring God back into His world, and that is the only
service of God. Service is comprehended in that one thing
- making a place for God, bringing God back into His
right place, seeing that He is not excluded from His
world. The presence of God is the great law of everything
in service. Mary brought God back into this world, so she
was "highly graced", supremely honoured. It was
not just an angel, or a little cherub, that was sent to
her, but the archangel Gabriel was sent from GOD
to this woman Mary, because she was to be the vessel and
the channel of bringing God back into this world. Is that
not tremendous? Is Mary redeemed now? Has she got a new
place? But it is not Mary herself. It is Mary as the
bondservant of God. And it is not what we are in
ourselves, but just a matter of how much of God is
brought back to this world by our being here.
Dear friends, is that what the service of God means to
you? It is not the place, nor the person. The place may
be a stable and the person a simple woman. It is nothing
of the glory of this world. Oh, how men have made a
mistake over this! They think that in order to have God
present they must have a very elaborate building, with
some very important persons, Lord this and Baron that,
with a cathedral here and a cathedral there - and the
Word says: "The Most High dwelleth not in temples
made with hands" (Acts 7:48). Where is God?
"Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in
my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew
18:20). That can be anywhere, in anything, but the point
is this: we are here, dear friends, as the Lord's people
to be His servants, and true service is bringing God back
where we are. Do you understand that? Why am I here? Why
are you here? Why are you wherever you are? Our presence
ought to mean the presence of the Lord.
You see, God has been seeking a place for His feet all
through the ages. He raised up the men I have mentioned
in order that He should be brought back to this world. He
raised up Israel in order to bring Him back, and said:
"Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell
among them" (Exodus 25:8). The Old Testament is just
about that one thing - a few men bringing God back. That
is the meaning of the priesthood, for it was just to
bring God back. That is the meaning of the kingship. The
supreme king said: "I will not come into the
tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not
give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids;
until I find out a place for the Lord" (Psalm
132:3-4). David was a very imperfect man, and Mary, I
expect, was a very imperfect woman, but it was where
their hearts were and what was the purpose of their lives
that mattered, and that was to bring back the Lord.
Israel was raised up to bring God back into the midst of
the nations. In the end they failed, and you close the
Old Testament. Then you open the New Testament with Mary
of Nazareth, and God coming back through this simple
I repeat, it is a costly thing to be here for God, but it
is a glorious thing, because heaven IS interested.
The angels of God are rejoicing if there is anything of
God in this world. The wise men and the poor shepherds
were all wondering what this thing meant. They did not
understand it - but there was another one who knew what
it meant, and this that represented the presence of God
was a mark for Satan. Satan had an evil man in Jerusalem,
and that man massacred all the little boys in order to
get hold of this One. The fear and the hatred of hell
were focused upon this that was of God, and if hell could
drive it out, it would. Does that not explain a lot of
spiritual experience? Surely you can now see the
biography being written in spiritual experience! If you
are standing for God here, heaven is on your side, but
men will not understand you. Hell will hate you and do
everything to get you out.
Oh, does this not throw a lot of light upon what is
happening? Communism is anti-God, and is the most satanic
thing that history has known. It is saying: 'Get rid of
God!', and is the great instrument of Satan in the
nations. The battle for holding the ground for God is
becoming very intense.
Let this test everything. Let it test your own life. How
much of the Lord has come into this world by our being
here? That will determine whether we are the Lord's
servants, or not. In the little assemblies of God's
people where they live or work together, it is not the
outward things that matter, but how much of the Lord is
there. In the places where God puts you in this world,
does the fact that you are there mean that the Lord is
there? That is the crisis of Bethlehem.
I think I have said enough. It is something to search our
hearts, and we must just say: 'Lord, make me a point
where You are in this world!'