Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Before we were saved, we did not feel the evil of sin. Before we became Christians, all that we felt was the evil of the many sins. Even after we became Christians, what saddened us were our many sins, not sin itself. The many sins made us feel terrible, not sin itself. Even though we are saved now, we may still lie or lose our temper, and we may be jealous and proud, or be inadvertently loose with others’ possessions. Hence, these individual sins bother us. What do we do? We go before God and ask for forgiveness for each of these items. We may say, "O God, I have been bad today. I have sinned again. Please forgive me." If you did twelve wrong things yesterday, you felt sorry inside. But if you have done only two wrong things today, you feel happy within. You feel that you have committed far fewer sins today, that there are fewer sins in you now. But let me remind you that this is only the initial stage of a Christian life. During this period of time, we feel sorry only for the many sins that we commit.

After we have been Christians for many years, we realize that what saddens and bothers us are not the many sins, but sin itself. In the end, we find out that it is not the things that we do that are wrong, but our person that is wrong. It is not the things that we do that are evil; it is our person itself that is evil. One comes to realize that all the things that he has done are but outward matters and that the real evil thing is his person. There is a natural principle inside us that causes us to sin. The outward things can be of many categories. We can call them pride, jealousy, filthiness, or any other names. There can be all kinds of sins outside of us. But within us there is only one principle, and it is something that craves sins. There is an inclination within us toward sins. There is something in our being that craves these outward things. This is why the Bible makes these outward sins plural in number; they are realized item by item. Pride is one, lying is another, and fornication is yet another. Pride is different from murder, and lying is different from fornication. But there is only one thing which inclines us to sin, which controls and entices us. The reason that we sin is that there is a law within us. It constantly directs us toward the outward sins. This sin is singular in the Bible. It does not denote our conduct; rather, it denotes our nature. This sin is in our nature, and we need to be freed from it.

Since God’s salvation for man is complete, He must deliver us from the many sins and He must also deliver us from sin itself. If God only delivers us from the many sins, without delivering us from sin, then God’s salvation cannot be said to be complete. Since there are two things with us, the sins and the sin, we need a twofold salvation. On the one hand, we need to be delivered from the many sins. On the other hand, we need to be delivered from sin. In the following pages we will see how in accomplishing His complete salvation through the redemption of Christ, God delivers us both from sins and from sin.

I can clarify my point with an illustration. The many sins are like the fruit of a tree. They exist individually, and a tree can bear one or two hundred of them. This is how sins are. Sin, on the other hand, is like the tree itself. What we the sinners see with our eyes is the fruit. We realize that the fruits are bad, but we do not see that the tree is just as bad. The fruits are bad because the tree is bad. This is how God teaches us to understand the problem of sin. At the beginning He shows us the individual sins. In the end, He shows us ourselves. At the beginning we need forgiveness because we have committed sins. But after a while we realize that we need to be freed because we are sinners.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)