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“In Your Light Shall We See Light”

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light… Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle… O Lord, You have searched me and known me… Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties” (Psalm 36:9; 43:3; 139:1,23).

“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Gen. 1:3-5).

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:21-24).

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4).

“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:13).

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).

“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup… For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1 Cor. 11:28,31).

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5).

If one does not set out to serve God wholeheartedly one does not feel the necessity for light. It is only when one has been touched by God, apprehended by God, and one seeks to go forward with God, then one finds how necessary light is. There is a fundamental need for light to know the mind of God; to know what is of the Spirit and what is of the soul; to know what is Divine and what is human, merely out of man; to know what is really heavenly, and what is only earthly; the difference between the things which are spiritual and the things which are carnal; to know whether God is really leading one, or whether one is walking by one’s feelings, senses or imaginations. It is when we have been put to a position where we would like to follow God fully that we find the light is a necessary thing in the Christian life.

Illumination Does Not Come From Introspection

For the past few days I have been talking with a number of brothers and sisters, and the same question has come up again and again. The question is, How can I know that I am walking by the Spirit? How do I know that I am not walking by myself? How do I distinguish which prompting in me is from the Spirit and which prompting is from self? How do I know that this is natural and the other spiritual? It seems as if they are quite alike. Some have even gone further. They try to look within, to differentiate, to discriminate, to analyse; and they bring themselves into deep bondage. They think by looking within, by analysing their own feelings, they can find out what is of God and what is not of God. Not only so, some have been asking me the question, How do I know that I have no will of my own? I do not want to do anything out from myself, I try to follow God, and I have got no knowledge whether what I have been thinking or desiring is of God or myself—even that I do not know. So they try to look within and ask if this is from God or if this is from self.

Now, this is a situation which is really serious to Christian life, for no looking within will bring us inward knowledge; and looking within, or, using another word, self-examination has been used by Christians as the means of acquiring knowledge, whereas self-examination is not stated in the Word of God to be the way for us to know ourselves or to know anything. We have to be careful; we have to have self-knowledge, we have to know what is going on within, we do not want to live in a fools’ paradise because we have altogether gone wrong and yet we do not know we are wrong. But how does that knowledge come about? It is not coming about by my turning within, analysing my own feelings, motives, everything that is going on within, and then trying to pronounce whether I am walking by the Spirit or from myself. This is the crucial point today in the lives of many.

We have read two passages, one in 1 Cor. 11 and one in 2 Cor. 13. Both these passages can easily be made to teach that Christians should examine themselves, which is not true. In 1 Cor. 11. the Lord did say we have to discern ourselves or we have to judge ourselves, but please remember in that particular connection it is associated with the Table, and that knowledge is to discern whether we recognize the Body or not, and that has nothing to do with self-knowledge, as such. The whole question is that I should discern myself, judge myself as to my relation to the Body. The question is not that I should try to discern myself, examine myself, to find out which feeling in me is of God and which feeling is not of God, which is the right kind of movement in me and which is the wrong kind. It is nothing to do with that. It is a question of my relationship with the Body.

Then another passage which has been very often quoted is 2 Cor. 13:5. You have a very strong command from Paul that you should examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith or not. It is not to discover whether you are living by the Spirit or whether you are living from yourself, that you should try to examine yourself. It is nothing to do with anything in yourself, it is an examination of yourself to know whether you are in the faith or not. Are you a Christian? The question is, Examine yourself to find whether you are a Christian or not. That is all. Do you really believe in the Lord Jesus? Have you got that fundamental faith? It is nothing to do with self-knowledge or the knowledge of the will of God. So we put away these two passages which have been used to prove what the Word of God does not teach.

Illumination Can Come From God Alone

Now we will go back to the Word of God to find out what is the thing which God has given us or which He is going to give us, for us to know ourselves and to know His mind. Let us remember that verse in the Psalms, Psalm. 36:9, “In thy light shall we see light”. I think that is one of the best verses in the Old Testament. There are two lights there; the first light is “Thy light”, and then, if we have that, we shall see light.

Now, these two lights are different. The first light is objective, the second light is subjective. The first light is the light which belongs to God, but is given to us. The second light is the knowledge imparted by that light given. “In thy light shall we see light.” We will know something, we will be clear about something. We shall see. That is the second light. How can we come to the point of saying, Praise the Lord, I know it! How do we come there? In Thy light. How different it is from our theories! We think we have to look within to find out what is the light, that is, what is the true condition inside. We try to find it by thinking, by analysing, by those introspective ways of turning within to put everything in its order, to find out which is which; but no man has ever got to know God that way, and no man has ever got to know himself that way. It is not the Divinely appointed way for self-knowledge; self-examination is utterly useless there. It can only leave you in doubt, in bewilderment, in everything being hazy. I would like to emphasize this as strongly as possible. That is not the path by which God is leading us. No, the path is, “In thy light shall we see light”. When there is the light coming from God, we will see something. No sight has ever come by feeling or by analysing. Sight only comes by the light of God coming in. That is the Divinely appointed way.

You remember in Psalm 139, the Psalmist said, “Search me and know my heart”. You know what it means to say, Search me. It does not mean that I search myself. “Search me” means “You search me”. You search me and know my heart. That is the way. It is for God to come in and search, not for me to search. I do not mean to say we may live in a careless way and just go on as we like. No, that is not the thing. The question here is the knowledge of self as such, where does it come from? It comes from God searching me, not from my searching myself.

Now the point comes, What does it mean that we come into the light? What does it mean, “In thy light shall we see light”? When He searches me, He will know my heart. How? I think we had better cease from the doctrinal side, and come down to practical things. I think some of us have been living quite honestly before God. We believe that we have been quite honest, and we do not think there is much wrong with us; for a number of days we have been making progress, we think, going on; then somehow “the entrance of thy word giveth light”. Some brother has given out the Word of God, and that word has made an entrance into us, or we ourselves have been waiting before God, and the Word of God has come in in power. Then we see something which we have never seen before. We are convicted, we know where we are wrong. We look up and confess, Lord, I have sinned, how blind I was; for so many years I have been wrong and yet I did not know it! Light comes in and you see light. The light of God brings you to see the light concerning yourself, and every knowledge of self comes through that way. It may not be the Word sometimes. Some of us have known saints who really know the Lord, and through praying with them or talking with them, in the light radiated from them, you see something which you have never seen before.

The light of God is the thing that brings us to a knowledge of ourselves. All the rest will not do it. Introspection will never bring us even one step nearer the truth. Some of us are prone to do it more than others, but let us settle it with God. Can I find out my true state by turning within? If I cannot I will not do it any more, I will have to let go.

Illumination Comes by Walking in the Light of God

So we come to the point. What is the light and how can we be brought into the light of God to know ourselves? In 1 John 1:5, we have that “God is light”. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light…” (1 John 1:7). God is in the light and we walk in the light. Walking in the light means always being open to exposure, there is nothing which cannot be touched by light. There is a law about light, it comes in wherever there is a crack; if you let it, it will come in. But the point is that we must be in the light, and walking in the light is one of the most precious things in the world. Do you not admire, or sometimes even envy, those who live really in the light of God, and know what they are doing? There is such a walk with God, such a knowledge of God, such a constantly being under the Divine, searching light, that the slightest spot of darkness will be brought into light immediately. It is a marvellous thing. Life and light are interwoven, you cannot separate the two. Real light from God is something very precious. It is the starting point of the new creation, and it is the starting point of the old creation. “Let there be light: and there was light.” Before everything else, the first point is light. God wants to bring us into the reality of it, and show us what it is. Light is the first thing. Some of us mistake our own feelings to be the will of God. To some of us it seems as if the Word of God is most hazy, is something which we do not understand, it is beyond us. But there are those whom you have met, and they have seen the light of God, they know what they are doing. They know that the will of God is that; even in the future, being brought before the Bema [Judgment Seat],even then the whole thing will stand. When God brings everything to light, you will find that there is still something which will stand. There is still something known as gold, silver, precious stones, which will stand not only the burning, but the light before the Judgment Seat. That is greatly to be desired. Living in the light, not living in uncertainty, in analysis of all kinds, but living in the light, knowing that you know. It is walking in the light that produces that.

Illumination is Known Inwardly in Terms of Life

The light is something objective. God is light. But Christ is our life, and that life is the light of men. We have that life, have we not? Praise the Lord, the life is in Him, and He is in us. He is our life, and that life is the light. There is something inside showing you something, there is something in you breaking forth into knowledge. It is not that I try to find out things, it is something shown. I cannot emphasize that word strongly enough, it is shown. People may ask you why and how, and you say, I cannot say; I know it, that is all. You know what you have got. If you have seen it, you have seen it, that is all. This is the life that is in us.

So the difference between the carnal man and the spiritual man is a difference of knowledge. We know by life, they know by knowledge. We eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life: they eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They try to judge, to come to a point where they say, This is good, or, This is evil. Their knowledge of good and evil comes from a finding out, a trying to analyse and come to a conclusion. To us sometimes we do not know, it may appear to be right, but the whole question is Life or death? Our right and wrong, our true pathway is this, Is there life or is there death? Is the Lord rising up in me in life, or is He not rising at all? It is not only a question of good and evil; the question is, life, and the life is the light. When the Lord is rising in us, we know it; all those who have life in them know it. Praise the Lord, that is settled. I do not try to deduce things, to put things together, and then try to come to a conclusion,—that is right or wrong. No, that belongs to another realm. That is the natural man. Our knowledge is this, Christ has risen in me in life and shown me so that I can say, I know it! Oh, the certainty of light is a most precious thing!

Illumination is from the Word of God in the Power of the Spirit

So, friends, I would like this, that we should learn in the clearest way, once and for all—I pray God that He will give us light as to this point—I will not analyse myself any more. I will not try to look within and to find out which is the spirit and which is the soul. Some have been asking me this question. How do I know this is the spirit, and how do I know this is the soul? How do I differentiate here? Has God ever told you to differentiate between the soul and spirit in you? I have never read anything like that in the New Testament. God has never asked us to discern what is soul and what is spirit. What does He say? It is when His Word, the Word of God, the two-edged sword, comes in, that soul and spirit are divided. When His Word comes in, you know it. No self-discerning can ever bring us to a true knowledge of self. So, if that is so, do not try to do it. We have to stop altogether. Lord, I will stop trying to differentiate between this and that, I am not able to do it. Show me. Thou art going to do the work; I keep myself open! That is my attitude. I am willing to be shown anything. I am not afraid of the light, I am not afraid to lose my spiritual standing, I am not afraid of what people will think, I do not mind that. I am ready for anything from the Lord, but I will not do anything by my own efforts by looking within to get something out. Thou must show me! The light of God must shine into our hearts to tell us the truth about ourselves. So no man by searching can find out God, and no man by searching can find out himself. Everything must come from God. He is the light, and He has to say “Let there be light”. Then there will be light and then we will have real knowledge.

The only definition of light in the whole Scriptures, I think, is given in Eph. 5:13. Paul made it very clear what the light is, everything, anything, that makes things manifest, that shows: that is light. So what we need is only that God shall come in and bring manifestation. Praise the Lord, that is an essential part of the work of the Spirit. Whenever He comes in, He brings manifestation. I do not know how many of us have experienced the judgment of the Spirit in our hearts. It is a blessed thing when the Spirit comes in and judges, and then there will be no doubt whether we are wrong or not. Nothing comes by analysing, by feeling, by trying to discriminate whether this is that, or that is this. Whatever is of that nature has always the stamp of doubting about it. You are always doubting. You cannot say you know, you are not sure. But praise the Lord, when the Spirit comes in with the light of God manifesting through the life of Christ in us, we find we can only say, I know I was wrong; I know that is of the natural, that is of the Spirit; I have seen it! The fundamental experience of a Christian is, I have seen it! Without that, you cannot get anywhere. Do not trust even in what you think to be right. The keenest power of judgment can never arrive at the same conclusion as a flash of light from God. You may have the keenest sense of right and wrong, and you may utilise that to judge yourself or others, but it will never bring you to that reality, to that manifestation, to that revelation, to that something seen. It cannot. A flash of light from God brings you there. I have seen it! The whole thing is settled. Self-knowledge comes from the light of God alone and from nothing else.

Illumination Depends Upon Singleness of Heart Godward

Then we come to this question. We would like to have this knowledge; we would like to walk in the light; we would like to have the light. What is the attitude that can bring me to the place where I can see? We have read part of Matt. 6. I think that chapter is very precious. I think that is the only place in the New Testament where we have the condition for light. The requirement of God in order that we may see is simply this. “Lay up… treasures in heaven.” It begins there, quite a remarkable beginning. Why? Because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be”. Then the Lord continues to say that if the eye is single, then the body is full of light. Now, we come to the condition. My eye must be single. If the eyes of the body are wicked, evil, then the body is full of darkness. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

So the point is, how can one get light? There must be the singleness of heart and the singleness of eye. We read in the Song of Solomon, “Behold… my love… thou hast doves’ eyes.” Some of us who keep doves know that doves are a kind of bird that can only see one thing at a time. That is a peculiarity about the dove, and the Lord praises the Church that her eyes are like doves’ eyes. I think there must be a reference to that. You are going to see one thing at a time, not two objects before you. Singleness of heart will result in singleness of eye, and singleness of eye brings in the light from God. The whole thing is, do I really want God?

I have to confess this; I have met one who is now with the Lord, and I always think of her as a ‘lighted’ Christian. If I walked into her room, without talking about anything I was simply brought immediately to a sense of God. In those days I was very young, I had been converted about two years. I had got lots of plans, lots of beautiful thoughts, and lots of schemes for the Lord to sanction. With all these things I came to her to try and persuade her, to tell her that is the thing to do. Before I could open my mouth, she just said a few words in a very ordinary way. Light dawned. It simply put me to shame. My doing was all so natural, so full of man. Something happened. I was brought to a place to say, Lord, all I have is full of creaturely activities, but here is someone who is not out for them. There was one thing about her, there was only one motive. The one motive was—God.

We have to learn to say, Lord, do I want anything outside of Thee? There comes the crux. Do I want anything outside of Him? In the Bible of the one of whom I have just spoken, the biggest word written there was this, “Lord, I want nothing for myself”. I do not know how many could really say that. The treasure was there and so her heart was there, therefore the eye was single.

After the verses which we read in Matt. 6 we have these words, “No man can serve two masters”. That is the immediate context, so the whole question comes to one point, singleness of heart. God cannot keep light from that kind of man. God has to show something to the man who has singleness of heart to Him. The friendship walk with God brings light. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do….?” (Gen. 18:17). If you are living as Lot in Sodom, you may be a righteous man, but you do not know what is going on. No, you are too occupied with what is going on in Sodom and Gomorrah. But living in a tent, having fellowship with God, light must come.

Oh, may God open our hearts to see, that we can really say, Lord, beside Thee I want nothing. I live here for thee alone. I am not here even to work for Thee, no, not even to save souls or to extend the Kingdom. I am here for Thee. Many times the Lord has to bring us to a place to see that there is a vast difference between living unto Him and working for Him. When we come to that point—Lord, I want nothing for myself, I have got nothing to seek, nothing to ask, nothing to grasp, I want Thee alone—we shall find the light will be great. We shall live in the light, and there will be no need, no necessity, for us to analyse ourselves.

In closing, may I say this personally. In my experience I have found that among those who do not mind Divine things, to whom Divine things do not matter, there will be no danger of introspection, because they do not mind whether they are doing the will of God or not—there is no point in looking within. But for those who are really out for God, then the greatest danger is introspection, because if I want to please God, I have to know myself, I have to know God, I have to know His mind, know what is of Him and what is not of Him, what is coming from Him or from myself. The greatest temptation is to look within and find that out for myself. Please remember, the result produced by introspection is only deception. It will only bring you into bewilderment, uncertainty and doubt, and you will not know where you are, nothing will be clear. That is the only result. We must look up at the light. We must tell God, Lord, even if I try to know myself, I cannot. Thou dost know me far better than I do; give me a glimpse; whenever there is anything wrong, show me where it is wrong. If the light does not show anything, I will rest there with the Blood. I may not know there are things which need dealing with, because God has not shown them. Yes, they may need dealing with, but the Blood of His Son cleanses me from every sin. What the light condemns, the Blood will cleanse. What the light has not yet condemned, I trust the Blood just the same. Do not try to turn it up with your own effort and think you can do better. We rest with the Blood. Lord, I am willing, although I do not know whether it is right or wrong, since Thou hast not given me light and it is not my business to try to turn it up. But I trust Thy Blood to cleanse me from sin. Whenever I have need for knowledge of what is wrong, Lord, I trust Thee with all my heart to show me. Then I will make my confession; I will only make my confession then and not before.

May the Lord bless us!

First published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine, July-August 1946
Watchman Nee