EXERCISING THE SPIRIT
Scripture Reading: 1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim. 1:7; 4:22
First Timothy 4:7 says to “exercise yourself unto godliness.” Second Timothy 1:7 tells us, “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of sobermindedness.” Then 2 Timothy 4:22 says, “The Lord be with your spirit.” When we put all these verses together, we can see that the exercise unto godliness depends on the exercise of the spirit, where the Lord is. If you are going to exercise yourself unto godliness, you have to know how to exercise your spirit because the very God is in your spirit. These verses are the scriptural ground for the exercise of the spirit.
WALKING ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
The Christian walk is a walk according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4) which is our spirit mingled with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). We have seen that we can know this spirit by sensing the different aspects of life, peace, or death. Whatever we do, whatever we say, we have to do it and say it by the spirit, not by the soul or by the flesh. Whatever we do, we must turn to the Lord. Some Christians may think that to turn to the Lord means to turn to the heavens, but to turn to the Lord in our experience is to turn to our spirit because the Lord is in our spirit. This means to set our mind on the spirit (Rom. 8:6). To set our mind on the spirit means to turn ourselves to the Lord. We must turn away from the flesh, away from reason, away from sickness, and away from troubles. Even Bible knowledge and teaching could be a distraction from which we must turn away. Day by day we have been distracted from our spirit by many outward things.
To love your wife is not wrong but good. To consider the Bible teachings and seek after knowledge is good, but in our love, consideration, and seeking, we are mostly independent from the Lord. We set our mind, which represents our self, on so many things other than the Lord Himself in our spirit. We mostly either do things by the soul or by the flesh, not by the spirit. We all must learn this practice: whatever happens to us, we must turn ourselves to the Lord. This means to turn to the spirit. On the one hand, I deny my natural and independent mind, emotion, and will, which is my self. On the other hand, I learn to sense the spirit. I only do things when I sense that I have the inner life and peace. To do this is to exercise the spirit. We all must practice to walk according to spirit in this way.
Romans 7 shows us a person trying to be good, trying to keep the law of God. The law of God is outside of us. The person in Romans 7 was trying, endeavoring, and struggling to keep the law of God. His intent, thought, and desire were directed outward. But in Romans 8 this person’s direction is changed. He would never be distracted by anything, not even by the law of God. He directs himself to nothing else but the Lord Himself in his spirit. In Romans 8 we have to walk according to the spirit (v. 4). We are not supposed to strive, to struggle, to endeavor, to do good or to keep the law by ourselves. We are just charged to walk according to the spirit. Whatever I do, whatever I say, I do it and say it by denying my mind, emotion, and will and by sensing the spirit. If I have the life and peace, I do it or say it. If I do not have life and peace, I do not do it or say it. This is the way for us to exercise the spirit, to use the spirit.
A CHANGE OF ORGAN
So many of us simply do not exercise our spirit or use our spirit. In our daily life we do not care for our spirit or pay attention to it. We care for so many good things and try to do these good things by ourselves. We must have a change, not of the things but of the organ. The question is: do we use the soul or the spirit?
For example, since I am a Christian, I have to love my brother, so I change hatred into love. This is a change of things. Morally speaking, this change is right. Spiritually speaking, it is not so right. When I hated this brother, I hated with my self. When I loved this brother, I also loved in my self. Now I have to change by exercising the spirit. This is a change of organ. Formerly, my dealing with my brother was in the self. Now I have to change my dealing with this brother to the spirit. By changing the organ, I learn how to exercise and use my spirit.
If I mean business with the Lord, I must learn how to exercise my spirit. I must firstly reject my mind, my reasoning, my emotion, and my desire. I should stop exercising my soul and begin to exercise my spirit. As we practice this day by day, this exercise will become our habit.
EXERCISING BY PRAYING
We have to start to exercise our spirit by praying, because to pray, in principle, is something in the spirit (Eph. 6:18). If we are going to exercise our eyes, we have to see. If we are going to exercise our feet, we have to walk. The more we walk, the more we exercise our feet. In like manner, the best way for us to exercise our spirit is to learn to pray.
LEARNING TO SENSE THE SPIRIT
Maybe when you begin to pray, you are still in the mind, in the soul. But if you keep on praying, you will pray yourself into the spirit. Even in your prayer you must deny the mind, the emotion, and the will, and learn to sense the spirit. You should not pray according to what you know. You should not pray according to what you like, desire, or love. You should not pray according to what you decide to pray. You must deny the mind, emotion, and will, and take care of the inner sense deep within you.
Maybe you made a decision to pray for the church, but when you go to the Lord and start the prayer, the sense within is something different. You have to forget about your decision and take care of the inner sense. The inner sense may indicate that you have to say something like this: “O Lord, even with the church, I am too much in the flesh.” Your decision is to pray for the church, but the Lord gives you the sense that you are so much in the flesh. The more you confess that you are in the flesh, the more you sense the anointing, the peace, the harmony, and the refreshment. On the other hand, if you stood with your decision to pray for the church against the inner sense, you would sense the dryness and emptiness within.
THE NEED OF PRACTICE
We must put all these principles into our daily practice. Whatever we do or say, we do and say it by denying our mind, emotion, and will, and by sensing the inner situation. This means that we are using and exercising our spirit. We are living, walking, and doing things not by our self but by our spirit with the Lord. In our spirit we have the victory. Just turn to the exercise of the spirit. In our spirit we have the enjoyment of the Lord. Let us practice to use and exercise our spirit.
(Our Human Spirit, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)