The Experience of Life, by Witness Lee

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Among Christians there are very few who deal with self and opinion. In regard to dealing with flesh and dealing with temper, all who have pursuit in spiritual things have had some experience. However, very few brothers and sisters are aware that self needs to be dealt with. This is because we do not know the meaning of self, nor do we know that opinion is the expression of self, the embodiment of self. But the biggest reason is that we think our opinions are good and lovable, not knowing that self is hidden within them. We have mentioned several times that in Matthew 16 the opinion of Peter was commendable in showing his love for the Lord, but he did not know that self and Satan as well were hidden within it. Only those who have been enlightened by the Lord know that man’s opinion is the enemy of God’s will as well as the opponent of the cross. Whenever we care for man’s opinion, we will surely neglect the will of God. Whenever we mind the things of men, we cannot mind the things of God. Whenever our opinion comes to fruition, our self grows. Opinion is the fertile soil, and self is planted therein. He who has the most opinions has the grossest self. Therefore, when we are together with young brothers or sisters, we need to grasp this principle and not permit their opinion to have any place. To give place to their opinion means to give their self the fertile soil to grow.

When we see the awfulness of self and are willing to learn the lesson of dealing with self in our daily living, we must beware of one thing—of ever taking the way of magnanimity, which is exactly contrary to the goal of dealing with self. Unfortunately, most of us are not clear with regard to this aspect of the truth, and we unconsciously fall into the error of being magnanimous. While we are with others, we sometimes have our opinion; yet for the sake of not striving with others, we refrain from expressing our opinion. Similarly, in our homes we often are confronted with many situations which are incompatible with our opinion; we feel that it is useless for us to say anything; so we simply swallow our opinion and remain silent. In many churches and homes today, there are many such situations. According to man, this condition is much better than that of quarrelling. However, according to life, this state is much more difficult to deal with than that of quarrelling. Quarrelling exposes the corruption of man; thus when man is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he will fall before God. It is difficult for those magnanimous people who never quarrel to be enlightened. It is hard for the Holy Spirit to touch them or shine upon them. Those who always swallow their opinion are those who always seek the Lord’s light for others. Actually they themselves need light the most. Though a magnanimous person withdraws his opinion when it is rejected by others; yet he considers himself most right and praises his own opinion most highly. He continually lives in the self, not knowing that self is the greatest enemy of God. Therefore, magnanimity does not cause us to be broken, but on the contrary it causes our self to grow and become tough.

This is not so with the matter of dealing with self. In dealing with self we must see that as long as we live and grow in ourselves, Christ will have no way to live or grow. Since we live in our opinion, we must condemn it by putting it to death, that is, putting our self to death. This is the work of the cross, which issues in Christ being increased in us. We are not taking the way of magnanimity; rather we are taking the way of putting to death the self, thereby letting Christ have a place to grow and be formed in us.

Concerning the application of the experience of the cross, we must realize that all dealing with the flesh and self is continuous and not once for all. All the objective facts in Christ are accomplished once for all, but all the subjective experiences in the Holy Spirit are continuous. Our opinions cannot be crucified all at once; neither can we deal with the flesh all at once. The farmer weeds the field; today the weeds are removed, but tomorrow they will grow again, and he must remove them again. He can never exert one supreme effort to gain eternal ease. Likewise, today we are still in the old creation, and the old man cannot refrain from expressing himself in various aspects. Therefore, when we apply the dealing of the cross through fellowship in the Holy Spirit, one application is not enough; we must apply it morning, noon, and night. When these subjective experiences become mature and deep, we may be able to apply a last thorough crucifixion and severe dealing to a certain expression of the old man, bringing it to an end. However, in the initial stage of our experience, we must apply the dealing time after time. Therefore, when speaking of the subjective dealing, the Lord said that we need to bear the cross, meaning that we cannot depart from the cross. While in the meeting, a certain brother may have an opinion: he condemns it and withholds himself from speaking, but after the meeting, in privacy, he speaks forth. This is not the bearing of the cross. It is not that you bear the cross when you have an opinion during the meeting, and then after the meeting you throw off the cross. We should always be crucified on the cross and always bear the cross. The meaning of bearing the cross is not to depart from the cross.

Throughout the generations all those who have experienced the cross, such as Brother Lawrence and Madame Guyon, have agreed that one who bears the cross cannot be separated from the cross. A person who bears the cross is one with the cross; he is inseparable from the cross. When he sees the fact of the putting to death through the cross, he receives the mark of death as a seal upon him, and thereafter he continually applies the fact of death to his practical daily living. This is called the bearing of the cross. Therefore, the acceptance of the death of the cross is not once for all, but a daily bearing of the cross.

When the Lord touched upon the matter of dealing with self, He spoke about the bearing of the cross and not the crucifixion. There are two meanings of crucifixion. One is to be nailed to the cross; the other is to be put to an end. Many think that once we accept the cross, our self is terminated and there is no further need to bear the cross. However, the Lord spoke of our need of bearing the cross, thus showing us that our self is not brought to an end simply by the acceptance of the truth of the cross. We must still bear the cross and not be separated from it. When we receive the fact of our being crucified, that is crucifixion. But when we go on to experience the crucifixion, that is bearing the cross.

When the Lord Jesus was a man on this earth, He first bore the cross; He bore it until one day He went to Golgotha and was nailed upon the cross. This is called the crucifixion. When the Lord was crucified on the cross, He died and was brought to an end. When He died, He was separated from the cross. So also are we. Factually, the Lord has crucified us with Him on the cross, but experientially we have not died. Therefore, we need to bear the cross continually until we are raptured and transfigured, at which time we can be separated from the cross. In reality, however spiritual a Christian may be, he cannot for one moment depart from the cross. Whenever he departs from the cross, he is living in his flesh and by his self. When through the Holy Spirit we apply the cross so that we have the mark of the cross upon us continually, this is called bearing the cross. Therefore, dealing with self is a life-long lesson. During our entire life, we should apply the death of the cross to our self and be one who denies self and bears the cross.

(The Experience of Life, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)