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The Principle of Life or the Principle of Right and Wrong—Which Do You Live By?

Which Principle Do You Live By— The Principle of Life or the Principle of Right and Wrong?

Have you discovered the two principles to live by–the principle of life or the principle of right and wrong?

Here is my personal story…

When I was a child, I was always taught to be good, to do the right thing–never to lie or  steal and to always clear up my wrong doings. I do thank the Lord for my godly parents and for such a proper upbringing; it really preserved me.

So growing up, I tried my best to be right in everything. But all my efforts for perfection left me full of anxiety.

As a young Christian, this subconscious principle of trying to be right and to avoid wrong, continued to govern my thinking. Yet all my efforts left me frustrated with myself and distant from the Lord.

Then one day I got some help that has really freed me…

I discovered another principle to live by–the principle of life

Through reading a little booklet by Watchman Nee entitled Two Principles of Living—the Principle of Life or the Principle of Right and Wrong, I found out that God intended something much higher for us.

God did not just want us to try to be good,  but to live by “the principle of life”—the principle of living that would fill us with Himself, enabling us to express Him and fulfill His plan (Gen. 2:9a; Rev. 22:14).

I found out that as far as God is concerned,  right and wrong, good and evil, are on the same tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9, 17). They are from the same source.

Eating from that tree, that is, living by the principle of right and wrong, makes us independent from God. It separates us from Him just as it did for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:6-8).

I was also enlightened to see that the other principle to live by, the principle of life, is a matter of taking the divine life as our source in everything. It’s to live by God’s life–the life signified by the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9a).

This divine life is the life in Jesus Christ and is actually Christ Himself (John 1:4, 1 John 5:11-12).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the reality and the life (John 14:6).

To choose the principle of life, to eat from this life-tree, is actually to choose Christ, to be dependent on Him, in our daily life.

We’re in “the Garden” with two trees to choose from…every day

I discovered that, as believers, we’re in the same position as Adam was—a triangular situation with two trees to choose from, two sources to draw from, two principles to live by.

If we make the same mistake that Adam and Eve made and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we’ll automatically find ourselves in a condition of spiritual deadness (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 8:6a).

Honestly, this is our default mode. Whenever we’re doing things without contacting and enjoying Christ in our spirit, by default we’re living by this deadening principle of right and wrong.

We simply do what’s right in our own eyes, and act independently from God. We may even argue with others, insisting that “we’re right.”

The mind set on the spirit is life and peaceOn the other hand, whenever we live by the principle of life, that is, choose the tree of  life, we feel enlivened and peaceful within (Rom. 8:6b).

We sense such a freedom within when we do everything in the principle of dependence upon God. This is simply to contact Christ in everything, even in ordinary, mundane things like driving and shopping.

Just consider.  In everything related to our physical life, we’re dependent. Take for example, our breathing, drinking and eating. We’re dependent on air, water and food. We never graduate…or we die. And this is just a picture of the spiritual reality.

With our spiritual life it’s the same. This indicates that the Lord wants us to continually breathe Him, drink Him and eat Him (John 20:22; 7:37; 6:57).

Life or death–it’s your choice

So honestly, the real choice before us today is not a matter of right or wrong, but of life or death. Every day we need to ask ourselves, “What principle am I living by right now?

This life-changing discovery I made as a young person, is more real to me today than it was then.  Every day, even every hour and minute, I need to grasp the opportunity to choose life—and so do you.

One of the simplest ways I’ve found to choose life is to stop and call on the name of the Lord Jesus—“O Lord! Lord Jesus!”—so that I contact Him and breathe Him, to be dependent on Him.

Romans 10:12 says,

“…the same Lord…is rich to all who call upon Him.”

I hope you’ll join me in building up the practice of living by the principle of life, of going along with the sense of life and peace in your spirit. In this way, Christ will grow in you, make His home in your heart so that God can be expressed in all your living.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that there is a principle that’s higher than right and wrong, the principle of life. Thank you, that I can now live by You as my inner life.  Remind me to always turn to You and follow the sense of Your life and peace in my spirit. Lord Jesus, I love You.”

If you’ve been helped to live by the principle of life instead of the principle of right and wrong, I hope you’ll share it in a brief comment.

References and Further Reading:

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

11 Replies

  1. May God Almighty continue to reveal Himself more and more to you as you toll the path of righteousness in Jesus` Name

    1. Tom Smith

      Amen. May the Lord continue to reveal Himself to you as the divine life in your spirit, so that walking the way of life and peace, you may grow in Christ more every day. This is so practical by following the principle of life, going along with the sense of life in our spirit. Thank you for your appreciative comment.

  2. Amen! … “we are learning to turn to our spirit, we are learning to take Christ as our life,” no longer to follow the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but to follow Him, Christ as the Spirit in our regenerated human spirit, as the tree of life, filling us with His life, within our living, to be a living member of His Body, the church, the home He is looking for. Thank You Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus! May we continue to breath Your life-giving name, drink in of You as the living water, and eat of You as the bread of life, keeping us now dependent upon You, “of going along with the sense of life and peace in our spirit,” as our saving grace. O Lord Jesus! We love You Lord! Hallelujah! Amen.

    Thank you brother Tom for your post, for this enlightening word, of the principle of life to live by. Thank You Lord Jesus! Amen.

    1. Tom Smith

      Amen. By learning to turn to our spirit, taking Christ as our life, we follow the principle of life, enjoy the tree of life and give God our daily cooperation so He can carry out His eternal purpose in us and through us. It’s so good that it is as simple as breathing, drinking and eating the Lord Jesus every day. Thanks Didier for your confirming comment.

  3. When I was in high school I was a nominal Christian trying to be good and to help people. I was also doing well academically. However, a close friend was better, helped people more, and got better grades, but he did not believe in God. This puzzled me – why was a non-Christain doing better than what I was supposed to go as a Christian?
    Years later the Lord revealed the two trees (partly through brother Nee’s booklet – Two Principles, referenced above). I saw right and wrong, good and bad all on the one tree. I turned to life and am still enjoying the tree of life.

    1. Steve Reinke

      I praise our loving God, His Holy Word is life. Handle with prayer, ask the Father for wisdom to understand what we are reading, in the name of His only beloved Son whom is God, who created the heaven’s and the earth, Amen.
      God is still teaching. I am 62 years old and even though I have read it before. God reveals something brand new to me. May we continue to put on the full armor of God on daily, with prayer, so we have done everything possible to stand. I now understand that I will choose Life! May our Lord watch over you and your Ministry.

      1. Tom Smith

        Steve, it is really a great mercy from the Lord to see that God does not want us to try to do good to please Him. Rather, He simply wants us to come to Him in moment-by-moment dependence to breathe Him, drink Him and feed on Him. This is to live by the principle of life instead of the principle of right and wrong. By contacting God in this way we are supplied to grow in His life, that we may be transformed for the building of spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5). Thank you for your confirming comment. I encourage you to check out the links in this comment to related verses and notes that show how we can enjoy Christ as our life.

    2. Tom Smith

      As Christians still living mostly in the old creation, we need a continual reminder, and strengthening, to turn to the tree of life in our spirit, that is, to follow the principle of life. To live by the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the default mode for fallen mankind. It is this source, the principle of right and wrong, that draws us away and deadens us. But praise the Lord, as regenerated believers we do have the tree of life, Christ as the life-giving spirit, installed in our spirit. May the Lord continually remind us to turn there and take Him as our life. Thank you for your confirming testimony.

  4. Thank-you for this article. I really “amen” the part of the prayer that says, “remind me to always turn to You.” I need much reminding. It seems my default is “right” and “wrong.”

    1. Tom Smith

      That’s right. As I indicated to Don, we need the continual reminder and strengthening to turn to the tree of life, in our spirit. Since the Lord is with our spirit. Grace (Christ as enjoyment and supply)is with us in our spirit. The two quickest and most helpful ways I’ve found to get out of “default mode” of right and wrong is to call on the name of the Lord and to pray-read a verse. These simple practices bring me back to the principle of life.

  5. Gerard J. McLain

    1st Cor.6:17 “Who ever is joined unto the Lord becomes one in spirit with Him.” Having had an unmerited personal “unitive experience”with my Lord when He filled my surrendered, empty, aching, heart with His love and Eternal Life in Christ Jesus, the Christ of God. That decided it forever for me. I choose Life. That was over 50 years ago. Praise God’s Holy Name forevermore!

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