Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Elsewhere we have emphasized that only the spirit can do spiritual work; all other works are without spiritual value. Because this point is so important, we will now go into more detail.

Today men pay much attention to human psychology. Some who work for the Lord diligently study psychology. They think that if their words, teachings, presentations, attitudes, and interpretations can appeal to man’s psychology, they will win many people to the Lord. This psychology is the working of man’s emotion. Although it may prove useful at times, dependence on emotion alone has no spiritual significance at all.

We already know that man’s lack is regeneration—the regeneration of the spirit. A work is absolutely useless if it cannot cause man’s deadened spirit to be enlivened, cause man to receive God’s uncreated life, and cause man to have the Holy Spirit indwell his regenerated spirit. If the purpose of the believer’s work is not to impart life to others, the result of his preaching is no different than if he exhorted people to worship the devil. Neither our psychology nor other’s psychology can help them receive life. Unless the Holy Spirit Himself does the work, everything is in vain.

A believer must realize that his emotion is altogether natural; it is not the source of God’s life. May he truly acknowledge the fact that his emotion is void of God’s life! Therefore, he must not consider using the power of his emotion through tears, a sad countenance, weeping, or other emotional expressions to save people. None of the functions of his emotion can influence man’s darkened spirit in any way. Unless the Holy Spirit gives life to man, no one can receive life. If we do not depend on the Holy Spirit, but depend on the emotion instead, we will see that all of our work’s efforts are futile and bear no real fruit.

Emotion can never give life to man. Those who work for the Lord must clearly see that if they depend on themselves, nothing in them can generate God’s life. We can exhaust every psychological method to excite man’s emotion to arouse his interest toward religion; we can make him feel repentant, sorrowful, and shameful for his past history and fearful of the coming judgment; we can cause him to admire Christ, desire to contact other Christians, and be merciful to the poor; we can even make him feel happy while doing all of these things, yet we still cannot cause him to be regenerated. Whether we cause interest, regret, sorrow, shame, fear, admiration, desire, mercy, joy, etc., all of these are just the various functions of the emotion. Man can have them all and still be spiritually dead, because he has not apprehended God intuitively. From our human viewpoint, is not someone who possesses these qualities a first-class Christian? Nevertheless, these are only the impulses of the emotion and cannot sufficiently prove one’s regeneration. The manifestation of regeneration is apprehension of God in the intuition of the regenerated one, i.e., his spirit is quickened. Therefore, when we work, we must not think that it is sufficient for men to change their attitude toward us, have a good feeling about us, and display all the previously mentioned emotions. This is not regeneration!

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 26, by Watchman Nee)