Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), by Watchman Nee


Before we were regenerated and saved, the Holy Spirit caused us to be convicted so that we would know that we were just sinners and that all our goodness and righteousness in the past were simply filthy rags, insufficient to cover our nakedness or to save us. We also knew that even if we tried our best to do good for the rest of our lives, our righteousness would still not be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the law. As a result, we knew we could not go about establishing our own righteousness outside of Christ (Rom. 10:3). We knew we had to come to God helplessly, to receive the righteousness of the Lord Jesus and be saved through Him. That was our past experience. But how forgetful we are! When we were saved and regenerated, we knew it did not depend upon our goodness and righteousness, but entirely upon the merit of Christ. At that time, the Holy Spirit revealed our perishing condition to us. He showed us that not only was our righteousness untrustworthy, but that we ourselves were filled with filth and exceedingly corrupt. After we were saved, though we were filled with joy, we were still very humble because we had just received the grace of being forgiven. However, after a while, we forgot the initial principle by which we were saved. Because this new life had new desires, we began again to fulfill the righteousness by ourselves, to meet the outward demand. When we were saved, God told us, "Your own goodness and righteousness are useless." However, we did not realize that He would also be telling us forever, "Your own goodness and righteousness are forever useless." We did not realize that, just as God said we would not please Him when we were saved (no matter how it looked outwardly), He would say the same thing to us after we are saved. The way we took to obtain salvation is the way we also should take to nurture this life after salvation. The principle at salvation should continue till eternity. The self is always useless; it is always judged by God and should be put to death. But it is very regretful that the goodness and righteousness we threw away at salvation is welcomed again by us after a while. The self, which we confessed to be useless when we believed in the Lord, gradually becomes active again. God originally intended that after we were saved we should know the corruption of the self more deeply and, as a result, forsake its goodness and righteousness more deeply. The attitude we had toward the self when we first believed in the Lord was only the beginning of God’s good work. God’s goal is to work deeper and deeper in such a way that the believer becomes completely freed from the rule of the self. However, the believer destroys the work of God.


The first work of the Holy Spirit in a believer is to bring him to know the self after he is saved. This is so he will, according to God’s will, forsake all that is from the self and completely depend on God. But how difficult it is! How unflattering it is to know the self! How unbearable it is to forsake the self! A believer often does not know the self or want to know the self. Because he does not know the self, he thinks the self is reliable; because he does not want to know the self, the Holy Spirit has no way to reveal to him his true character under God’s light. Under such circumstances, God has no other way than to use a more painful method to cause a believer to know the self. This method is to deliberately allow him to fail.

Just as the failures in the wilderness caused the children of Israel to realize their self-motives, failures similar to those in the wilderness also cause believers to know the hopelessness of the self. Because believers are self-confident and think that they themselves are competent, able, capable, and perhaps talented in many ways, they lose a heart of complete dependence upon God. Therefore, God allows them to fail in all their affairs and have no true abiding fruit. This makes them realize that they themselves are not reliable. Many believers imagine that they are naturally patient, kind, gentle, and pure. For this reason God causes various things to come upon the believers to bring them to the point that they can no longer be patient, kind, gentle, and pure, to make them know that not one thing that comes from the inherent self is reliable. Believers may consider that they love God. They may want to boast of the completeness of their consecration or the diligence of their work. But God allows the world and its people to attract them and cause them either to be secretly corrupted or openly unfaithful. As a result, the believers realize that their love for God is very shaky. Other believers may feel that they are completely for God, that nothing is for themselves. God will cause these ones to experience the praise and welcome of men so that they will see how they steal God’s glory and covet men’s exaltation. Sometimes when believers have progressed slightly in their spiritual path, they feel that they are victorious and sanctified. But while they are satisfied, God permits them to fail and sin just like others, or even worse than others, thus making them realize that they are not any better than anyone else.

Brothers, if you do not misunderstand me, I would like to tell you one word: God likes His children to sin more than He likes them to do good. The more believers sin, the more God is pleased. Please do not misunderstand what I mean or deliberately misunderstand my words. I am not persuading you to sin, nor does God want you to sin. However, the believers’ self-confidence, self-boasting, self-satisfaction, and every selfish thought, feeling, and act cause God to prefer that they commit sin rather than do good. If they did not sin, they would not know themselves and break away from their pitiful, ludicrous, and detestable self-life.

We must know where God wants us to arrive. We must know out of what and into what we have been saved. It is true that we will go to heaven and not to hell. But does God’s purpose stop there? No, God wants to save us completely from the self into His life. He wants us to live absolutely apart from the soul-life. From God’s point of view, there is nothing more filthy than the self. The self is the source of all sins and is God’s greatest enemy because the self declares independence from God in everything. God considers everything of the self to be utterly filthy, unacceptable, and useless. What is the self? It is all that man has, all that he can do, and all that he has done without seeking God, waiting on God, and depending on God. This is the self and the things that result from the self.

Although God hates the self very much, the believers’ view of the self is totally different from God’s. They depend on the self, admire the self, and glorify the self. They do not know the true character of the self. They do not know how filthy, corrupt, and weak they are in God’s eyes. They do not have God’s view. They still have no self-knowledge, that is, they do not know the self. Under such circumstances, if they have more progress, success, or are continuously victorious, their self-life will become stronger. It will become even more difficult to forsake it. At this point, the more good or righteous work that they perform, the more they will be alienated from God. The more strength they have, the more veils there will be between themselves and the Holy Spirit. The more success they have, the more the self will gain the glory, and the more the detestable self-life will be prolonged. This is why I say that God would rather have the believers commit sins than do good. The more they commit sins, the more they will realize the untrustworthiness of the self. The weaker they become, the more they will realize their vanity. The more falls they have, the more they will know the incurability of the self. God is not bothered by believers committing sin because sinning causes them to know the self and depend on God.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)