The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


We have these two main things before us—the Spirit’s discipline and God’s shining, or we can say the Spirit’s revelation. Let us make a comparison of the two things. The discipline of the Holy Spirit is generally a slow process. It comes to us slowly, little by little. Sometimes it takes a few years for Him to deal with us concerning a certain thing. Moreover, this discipline does not come necessarily through the ministry of the word. Many times there is no ministry of the word, yet the Spirit still exercises His discipline. But the revelation of the Holy Spirit is different. Often it comes quickly, maybe in days or even in minutes. God’s light may shine on a man for a few minutes or a few days. Under this light he sees that he is finished, that he is absolutely useless, and that all of his former boasts are now his shame. Such revelation of the Holy Spirit often comes through the ministry of the word. This is the reason the revelation of the Holy Spirit occurs more frequently when the church is strong and the ministry of the word abundant. But even when there is no ministry of the word, and consequently little revelation from the Spirit, no one can remain in the Lord’s presence while still preserving his outer man. The word and the revelation may be lacking, but there is still the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Even if a person has not come into contact with any other believer for years, the Holy Spirit still performs His disciplining work on him, and a man can still learn and touch something high before the Lord. Some do not have the ministry of the word because the church is weak. Some even think that they have lost the discipline of the Spirit through their own foolishness. This does not mean that there is no longer any discipline of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it means that the Holy Spirit has been disciplining for years without producing anything or arriving at any result. The Lord may strike once, and we may not know what it means. He may strike again, and we still may not know what it means. He may strike for ten years, while we act like a mule without reason, unaware of His intentions. This is a pity. Discipline never falls short in us; what falls short is our vision of the Lord’s hand.

The Lord often chastises us, but we turn our attention to men and take the wrong track. Our attitude before the Lord should be as the psalmist said, "I did not open my mouth; for You have done this" (Psa. 39:9). We have to remember that it is not our brother, sister, friends and relatives, or any other person who is dealing with us. It is God who is dealing with us. We have to see this. We have to realize that the Lord has been disciplining us and dealing with us all these years. Because of our ignorance we have put the blame on others or even on fate. This is total ignorance of God’s hand. It is wrong. We have to remember that everything has been measured to us by our God. The amount, the length, and the intensity of what befalls us are all measured by Him. He orders everything around us, the only purpose of which is to break our conspicuous, obtuse, and hard spots. May the Lord be gracious to us and show us the meaning of His work in us. May He grant us much light to expose us and to humble us. If the Lord breaks our outer man, we will no longer present others with our strong self when we touch them. Instead, our spirit will flow out whenever we touch men.

We pray that the church will come to know God in a way as never before. We also pray that God’s children will receive unprecedented blessings from God. The Lord has to adjust our being until we become proper. Not only must the gospel be proper; the gospel preacher also must be proper. Not only must the teaching be right; the teacher also must be right. The question is whether or not God will be released through our spirit. When the spirit is released, it will touch many in this world who are in need of the spirit. No work is more important or basic than this, and no other work can replace this. The Lord’s attention is not on our doctrine, our teaching, or our message. He is asking what impression we are giving to others. What is coming out of us? Are we drawing others to ourselves or to the Lord? Do they touch doctrines, or do they touch the Lord through us? This is a very serious question. If this question is not resolved, all of our labor and work will not be worth much.

Brothers, the Lord cares more for what comes out of us than for what we say with our mouth. Every time we contact someone, invariably something comes out of us. Either our self comes out or God comes out. Either the outer man comes out or the spirit comes out. Brothers, let me repeat the question: "When we stand before men, what comes out of us?" This is a fundamental question that needs to be resolved. May God bless us and may we see the light.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)