In 1958 we began to speak of eating the Lord, drinking the Lord, and enjoying the Lord, because we felt the futility of doctrine, knowledge, and philosophy. The Lord is the Spirit; hence, we must touch the Spirit. In 1960 we spent the whole year learning to exercise our spirit and to blend in the spirit. The Supplement of Eighty-five Hymns was written in early 1961 in Chinese. Christ, the Spirit, and the church are the three important items in these eighty-five hymns. One of these hymns is "Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace!" (Hymns, #499). Everyone liked to sing these hymns, but they merely appreciated the hymns without touching the Spirit. We sang many hymns concerning the Spirit, but I am concerned that we did not touch the Spirit.
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Others can be excused if they have not seen or heard the vision, but we cannot be excused. The riches of the Lord are here for us to enjoy. If I were leading the church in Taipei, I could lead the saints for a year just on the matter of singing hymns. I would spend an entire week on Hymns, #499, which says, "Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace! / The Christ who's all within me lives," until the saints know that both Christ and life are in them. The hymns cannot be exhausted by singing them or by speaking of them in a light way; they are too rich. Furthermore, we also can speak concerning Christ and life from the Bible.
Some of the hymns are on the central line of God's economy. We must sing these ones more often, such as Hymns, #499: "Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace!" There are eight whats in this hymn, and we should learn to sing them with expression. For example, the first two phrases of the first stanza can be sung in a strong way, and the third and fourth phrases can be sung softly. When we sing "Now it's no longer I that live" the first time, we should sing it a little softer, and when we repeat it, we can sing it stronger. If we practice this, our hymn singing will be living, and the entire meeting will also be living.
When we preach the gospel, we should also be familiar with hymns on the assurance of salvation, such as Hymns, #309. It is not difficult for young people to sing hymns, because many of them have a good foundation in music. It is especially not difficult for the sisters to sing hymns, because God created them in this way. In Ecclesiastes 12:4 Solomon is referring to the vocal chords when he mentions "the daughters of song." When young people sing, there truly is music.
Among the hymns on the assurance of salvation, Hymns, #322, which is about "the Fountain that never runs dry," is a good hymn. Another good hymn is #296, which was written by Charles Wesley. This is not an emotional hymn; it is very elegant. The first stanza says, "And can it be that I should gain / An int'rest in the Savior's blood? / Died He for me, who caused His pain? / For me, who Him to death pursued? / Amazing love! how can it be / That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" The fourth stanza is also very good. When the young saints invite their professors to a meeting, it is good to sing hymns with them. We can choose a stanza that we like and lead our professors to sing with us. This will help them to receive the Lord Jesus. When we sing a hymn, others should be touched. We should then sing with them according to how they are touched. Hymns, #499 is also a good hymn to sing. If we are always singing these hymns, it will be difficult for our gospel friends not to be touched and to believe in the Lord.
The first major conference held in the United States in December, 1962, was on the all-inclusive Christ typified by the land of Canaan. Those messages have been published as The All-Inclusive Christ. A very good hymn on the experience of Christ as life was inspired by these messages. The last stanza of this hymn (Hymns #499) is given below...
The Organic Union in God's Relationship with Man, chapter 1. (LSM)
The problem is, by what life will we live? By the first life or the second life? By the natural life or the divine life? By our self or by Christ? I say again that I have not found anyone, even one who is very much in the church life, who lives Christ day by day and hour after hour and does not live himself. Hymns #841, 499, and 501 (Hymns) speak of living Christ and not ourselves. We need to check to see if our life matches the standard expressed in these hymns. We need to realize that we were created to be like God, even to be one with God. Furthermore, we have been saved into God to be regenerated by Him that we may be His children and may be members of Christ to constitute the Body of Christ. However, we need to ask ourselves whether we live God or not. We do have a marvelous provision. God has provided us with a body and with a spirit, which are very sufficient for us to live as a man to worship God, to receive God, and to contain God that we may live God and express Him.
Even after being saved by God, we may not live Him. We may be gentlemen, men who are right, but we may not be able to say, "It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20a). We may not be able to apply this holy word to ourselves. We need to realize the organic union between us and God. We need to behave ourselves, to walk, to live, to do everything, in this organic union. It should not be I but Christ; it should not be I by myself, but I with God, united, mingled, and blended to be one person, a God-man.
[The second] stanza of the hymn was written with Galatians 4:19 as the basis. For Christ to be formed within us means that His element is being constituted into our being. In other words, His being becomes our being, and His constitution becomes our constitution. This is not merely a matter of the element of Christ being within us but of having the element of Christ constituted into our being. To be constituted of Christ in this way involves a process of organic transformation and formation. In this process something living is being constituted into, wrought into, our being.
Before we come to this message, I would first fellowship one thing with all of you. God's economy, that is, His plan, purpose, and arrangement of things to accomplish His desire, is carried out in ways very different from ours. For example, God wants us to please Him. When we read this word, immediately we would make up our mind, pray, and even fast, saying, "God, be gracious to me. I do have the desire to please You. But You know that I have all kinds of obstacles, problems, and weaknesses. I cannot do it. Please help me." Everyone would justify this kind of prayer and would think that it is right. But although God wants us to please Him, He has no intention that we please Him by our own effort. Rather, He wants us to please Him through living by His life, and even by Himself. Verse 1 of Hymns, #499 says: "Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace! The Christ who's all within me lives." This is the overall subject of the hymn. However, in the experience of many people, for Christ to live within is not peaceful, but bothersome. The above hymn continues to say: "With Him I have been crucified; This glorious fact to me He gives." What is this glorious fact? "Now it's no longer I that live, But Christ the Lord within me lives." It is no longer I that live. This is truly wonderful! Now it is Christ that lives. This is glorious! However, is it really true that from morning until evening, it is no longer I that live, but Christ within me lives? Even today, from morning to evening, is it no longer I that live? I know that most of us would say that sometimes it is He and not we. But most of the time it is we and not He. This is our real condition.
We have to realize one thing here. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible tells us that God requires man to do many things. But He has no intention that man would do them by himself. God wants man to do these things, but He has no intention for man to do them by himself. Everything that God wants us to do is something that we cannot do in ourselves. God says that we have to honor our parents, but we cannot do it. God says that we have to be humble, but we cannot be humble. It is true that God wants everyone of us to be humble. But He has no intention that we be humble by ourselves. Rather, God wants us to be humble by depending on Him. This is why the New Testament has the expression "in Christ" or "in the Lord." We have to walk in love in the Lord. It is God's commandment to us that we walk in love. But He has no intention that we walk in love by ourselves, because we have no love in ourselves. On the contrary, we are full of hatred. If we have no love in ourselves, how can we live by our love? Hence, we have to remember well that God has chosen us to be holy. But He does not need us to accomplish this work of being made holy. We cannot accomplish it or fulfill it. It is also true that God has predestinated us unto sonship. But He has no intention that we obtain the sonship by ourselves either.
This is a hymn that we sing from the depths of our being after we have experienced Christ as life and resurrection.
Colossians 3:16 continues, "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." If you read this verse carefully, you can see some controversy here. First it is the Word, yet eventually it is a psalm or a hymn. The principle is this: if you do not speak a certain word very many times, that word could never be a psalm or a song. Whatever becomes a psalm or a hymn has to be a word that you have been speaking once, twice, three times, four times, many, many times—then that word will become a psalm. You cannot write a song unless you compose it with the words spoken by you repeatedly. The same word spoken by you again and again eventually becomes a poem, a song, a hymn, or a psalm. For instance, Hymn 499 in our hymnal says, "Oh, what a life! Oh, what a peace! The Christ who's all within me lives." This is poetry composed by me. I had been speaking this for years. "The Christ who's all within me lives. With Him I have been crucified.... Now it's no longer I that live, but Christ the Lord within me lives." I had been speaking the next verse also. "Christ now is being formed in me. His very nature and life divine in my whole being inwrought shall be. All that I am came to an end, and all of Christ is all to me." I had been speaking this, so eventually it became a song. This indicates that we have to let the word of the Lord dwell in us to such an extent that it eventually becomes a song, a hymn, or a psalm. Psalms are long poems, hymns are shorter ones, and spiritual songs are the shortest.