KEEPING OUR SPIRIT LIVING
Certain verses in chapter five of 1 Thessalonians help us to see that the first way to preserve our spirit is to keep it living through proper exercise. Verses 16 through 19 say, “Always rejoice; unceasingly pray; in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” To rejoice, pray, and give thanks are to exercise our spirit. When we exercise our spirit in this way, we cause it to be living. Exercising the spirit to keep it living is the first way to preserve it.
No one likes to have any kind of illness or disease in his physical body. If you become ill, you certainly will not want your body to remain in a sick condition. On the contrary, you will do everything possible to bring your body out of such an unhealthy situation. Likewise, we should not leave our spirit in a deadened condition. We should struggle to have our spirit freed from that kind of condition.
How can we release our spirit from a situation of deadness? We can do it through exercising our spirit by rejoicing, praying, and thanking. Do you realize that to be quiet is to keep your spirit in a deadened condition? If you allow your spirit to remain in a situation of death, this means that you do not cooperate with the sanctifying God to preserve your spirit.
Because of the fall, our spirit has been deadened. Our spirit, therefore, must overcome the problem of deadness. Many times the saints attend the church meetings in death. When they attend the meeting, they sit in their chair with a deadened spirit. But other parts of their being may be very active. For example, in their thoughts they may criticize the testimonies given by others; they may think that some testimonies are not real and that others are full of oldness. Although these saints criticize others, they do not preserve their own spirit. Instead of preserving their spirit, they allow it to remain in a deadened condition.
I wish to emphasize strongly the fact that to preserve our spirit is first of all to exercise it in order to pull it out of death. The spirit of an unbeliever is absolutely dead. Most of those around you at school, at work, or in your neighborhood are utterly dead in their spirit. Many of your relatives, perhaps members of your immediate family, are also dead in the spirit. Have you been sanctified, separated, from a spirit-deadening situation? Many saints have not been separated in this way. This is the reason they never pray or praise the Lord in the meetings. They do not rejoice or give thanks. Instead of praising the Lord with the exercise of the spirit, they prefer to save their face by leaving their spirit in a deadened condition. Some may say to themselves, “I am a cultured person. I must cause others to realize that I am refined and have a high education. Thus, I shall sit quietly in the meeting in a cultured way. Let the young people and those who are not well educated shout praises in the meetings. I don’t care to behave in such a way.” If this is your attitude, your spirit will remain deadened. Furthermore, as far as the condition of your spirit is concerned, you are not sanctified. You are common, for you keep company with those who are dead in the spirit.
This habit of allowing our spirit to remain in death has even invaded the church meetings in the recovery. I am not encouraging anyone to behave in an unruly manner in the meetings. My point is that we need to pull our spirit out of death and cooperate with the operation of the Triune God in sanctifying us. He wants to separate all of us from those whose spirits are deadened. Because we have been regenerated, we need to be different. We need to show that our spirit is living, that it is not deadened. Thus, our spirit should rejoice, pray, and give thanks to the Lord.
KEEPING OUR SPIRIT FROM DEFILEMENT
Another way to preserve our spirit is found in 2 Corinthians 7:1. In this verse Paul says, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This verse indicates that we should abstain from all defilement of both flesh and spirit. We need to stay away from anything that contaminates our spirit. This is the reason we should keep our eyes from looking at evil things, such as defiling pictures. Such pictures defile not only our eyes; they also defile our spirit. This is something I have learned from experience. In 1933 I visited Shanghai the first time. The church had two meeting halls then, one in western Shanghai and the other in northern Shanghai, quite far from each other. For transportation we often used the streetcar. The ride from western Shanghai to northern Shanghai took more than an hour. The first few times I took this ride in the streetcar I looked around at the various sights on the main street. But when I arrived at the meeting hall, I realized that my spirit was deadened. It had been deadened by my looking at so many things on the street. From this I learned to close my eyes and pray when taking the ride by streetcar. This preserved my spirit. Because I learned to preserve my spirit in this way, when I arrived at the meeting hall in northern Shanghai, my spirit was living. I had truly been sanctified in my spirit.
If you become contaminated by looking at certain kinds of pictures, your spirit will be defiled, contaminated, and deadened. As a result, you will not be able to pray unless you first ask the Lord to cleanse you from all defilement. I offer this as an illustration of our need to cooperate with the sanctifying Triune God to have our spirit preserved from deadness and contamination.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 23, by Witness Lee)