From chapter eight of The Ministers in the Lord’s Recovery – Genuine Ministers of the New Covenant
The ministers of the new covenant are earthen vessels that contain a heavenly treasure—the Lord of glory wrought into them to be their ministry (James 2:1; Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:25-29). When we consider them, we should learn to see beyond the earthen vessel and discern the divine treasure within. This is to know them not according to the flesh but according to the spirit, not according to their outward appearance but according to their inward reality (2 Cor. 5:16-17; cf. John 8:15-19). With our natural human sight it is not difficult to see the imperfections and weaknesses in the earthen vessels of the new covenant ministers. However, it is only with a spirit of wisdom and revelation and by having the eyes of our heart enlightened that we can see the riches of Christ constituted into them to be the intrinsic content of their ministry (Eph. 1:17-18; 3:8; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2:7-8). In Brother Nee’s words, “Sometimes…our eyes only see the earthen vessel. Those who know God, however, are able to see the treasure in earthen vessels when they look at God’s children.”71 Brother Lee echoes this thought:
We all have defects, and we all are earthen vessels. However, we thank the Lord that He is the treasure in us, the earthen vessels. When we enjoy the saints, we do not look at the earthen vessels; rather, we enjoy and appreciate Christ, who is the treasure in the earthen vessels. No matter how weak a believer is, how many shortcomings or failures he has, or how insignificant he seems to be, we must admit that he has a portion of Christ and that his portion is precious. If we look at the saints from this point of view, we will immediately see that they have a portion of Christ for us to enjoy…The Lord wants us to enjoy the treasure and not look at the earthen vessel. This can be likened to drinking water from a bottle. We should focus on the water, not the bottle that contains the water. We all must see that every believer is an earthen vessel with weaknesses, but he also contains Christ, the treasure.72
Every genuine new covenant minister is a living paradox: an earthen vessel in which the glorious Christ dwells as a priceless treasure, and a lowly thornbush in which the God of glory burns as the holy flame of fire (Exo. 3:2-4; Deut. 33:16; Mark 12:26-27). We need to shift our gaze from the earthen vessel to the heavenly treasure within, from the thornbush to the divine fire. Brother Lee underscores the importance of this matter, offering a personal testimony:
According to God’s principle in His creation, in order for anything to grow there is the need for a negative side. Take the example of a chicken. We all appreciate chicken eggs, breasts, and legs, but we certainly do not care for chicken dung, feathers, and bones. Nevertheless, without dung, feathers, and bones, a chicken cannot grow. In order for a chicken to be a chicken, it must have these things. But it is not our portion to eat them. We should enjoy the eggs, the breasts, and the legs, and forget the dung, the feathers, and the bones. If we concentrate on the positive aspects of the chicken, we shall receive much nourishment.
I admit that the church in Los Angeles has made certain mistakes, and I confess that I have made mistakes. The elders can testify of this. Everybody makes mistakes. No one can deny this. I have had to make mistakes in order to grow. These mistakes are my “dung.” If you eat this, you are foolish. I also admit that I have “feathers.” The church in Los Angeles also has had a certain amount of “feathers” and “bones.” However, without these “feathers,” “bones,” and “dung,” neither the church in Los Angeles nor my ministry would be able to exist. Do you intend to gather up the “feathers” and say, “Look! This is the church in Los Angeles. Look! This is what Brother Lee has done. See all these awful ‘feathers.’” If you do this, you will not damage the church in Los Angeles or my ministry, but you will surely damage yourself. To do this is not wise. These who have been perfected to be pillars, who surely are not less intelligent than you, are wise. Their eyes are much clearer than yours. But they refuse to devote their attention to the negative things. They would say, “Although Brother Lee has some ‘dung,’ he has a great many eggs. I don’t care for the ‘dung’ issuing out of his ministry—I want to eat all the ‘eggs,’ ‘breasts,’ and ‘legs.’ I have no time to hear about ‘feathers’ and ‘bones.’” Let us follow the example of such brothers to forget the negative things and to feast upon the “eggs,” “breasts,” and “legs.”
Three or four of us knew Brother Nee very intimately. He fully opened himself to us, and we knew his imperfections. But we realized that these imperfections were the “dung” that enabled him to exist. Unlike others, we would not cling to his “feathers,” nor to the “bones” of the “chicken” in Shanghai. If we had done this, we would have sacrificed ourselves. I never suffered such self-inflicted damage. Rather, I enjoyed the fresh, nourishing “eggs,” “breasts,” and “legs” of Brother Nee’s ministry. When a great turmoil was aroused against his ministry, I was not ashamed to say that I was an absolute follower of Brother Nee. I did not care what others said about his mistakes. I only knew how grateful I was to him for the perfection he had rendered to me. I knew the nourishment I had received from him. Even when we are in the New Jerusalem, I shall be able to say that the Lord used Brother Nee to perfect me. Apart from his ministry, I would never be the person I am today.73
In a similar vein, in The Knowledge of Life Brother Lee admonishes the saints not to criticize or resist those who have the ministry of the Holy Spirit lest they sustain a tremendous loss:
When the Holy Spirit performs this enlightening work within man, it is a very tender and delicate matter. As soon as He meets resistance from man, He immediately withdraws…Not only does the Holy Spirit work in this way; even those who have the ministry of the Holy Spirit work in this way. A servant who knows God and is used by God is always happy to help others. Yet if you criticize him or intentionally resist him, he will not contend with you, reason with you, or argue concerning right or wrong. He has only one way: He simply withdraws, having nothing more to say to you and being no longer able to help you. Thus, he who likes to contend is foolish, and the loss he suffers is tremendous! Toward one who has the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we should really be careful! You may freely criticize those who walk on the street, but you should not freely criticize nor purposely dispute with one who has the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that your criticism is not right or your disputation not reasonable; perhaps all your criticisms are right, and all your disputes are reasonable; but one thing is certain: as soon as you criticize him and dispute with him, his ministry toward you is finished. He may be able to help thousands of people, but he cannot help you. It is not that he would not help you, but he cannot help you. Even if he wants to help you, you would gain nothing. What a serious matter this is! How careful we should be!
Thus, toward both the Holy Spirit who speaks within us and the ministers who speak without, we cannot engage in criticism or dispute. The enlightening of the Holy Spirit within man cannot be disputed with, for once you dispute with Him, you will be in darkness for at least several days. This period of darkness is both a punishment and reminder to you.74
If we focus on the imperfections and weaknesses of those who minister to us and close our heart to them, we will suffer loss, for we will disqualify ourselves from receiving the rich portion of Christ that God has deposited into them for the sake of the church. We need to feast on the positive aspects of the ministry in the Lord’s recovery and disregard its negative aspects so that instead of inflicting damage on ourselves, we may be nourished and perfected by the ministry (1 Tim. 4:6; Eph. 4:12). May we receive mercy from the Lord to see beyond the fallible earthen vessels to the perfect heavenly treasure contained within so that the God of glory who has shined in the hearts of the new covenant ministers may also shine in ours for our transformation into the image of the Christ of glory. Thus may we become the New Jerusalem shining forth the glory of God in Christ for eternity (Rev. 21:10).
71 CWWN, vol. 56, p. 453
72 Christ Making His Home in Our Heart and the Building Up of the Church, p. 89-91
73 Life-Study of Genesis, pp. 1139-1140
74 CWWL, 1953, vol. 3, pp. 195-196
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