III. OUR HEART BEING DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS AND BEING INCURABLE
According to Jeremiah 17:9, our heart is deceitful above all things and incurable. The King James Version says the heart is "desperately wicked," but Darby’s translation says it is "incurable." In the things of God, our heart is incurable; it is a hopeless case.
IV. OUR MIND BEING FILLED WITH VANITY
AND DARKENED IN UNDERSTANDING
According to Ephesians 4:17-18a our mind is filled with vanity and darkened in understanding. Verse 17 speaks of the vanity of the mind and verse 18 of the darkened understanding. This shows that our natural mind is utterly useless in the things of God.
V. OUR WILL BEING HARD
Ephesians 4:18b speaks of the hardness of man’s fallen heart. This indicates that the will, as a part of man’s heart, is hard, stubborn. Thus, our heart is incurable, our mind is full of vanity with a darkened understanding, and our will is hard, stubborn.
VI. OUR FLESH BEING UNABLE
TO BE SUBJECT TO GOD AND TO PLEASE GOD
Romans 8:7 and 8 say, "Because the mind set on the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Our flesh cannot do two things. It cannot be subject to God, and it cannot please God. We need to develop these points in our speaking to the saints. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell us that God hates the flesh. God wants nothing to do with the flesh.
In today’s religion of Christianity, most of the service is either in the soul or in the flesh. This is why we have to see the impotence of our natural being for our service. We need to impress the saints that our flesh cannot be subject to God and cannot please God. Then the saints may ask, "What is it to be in the flesh?" We should tell them, "As long as you are not in the spirit, you are in the flesh."
The New Testament mostly gives us a contrast between the spirit and the flesh, not the spirit and the soul. Actually, not many people are soulish; most people are fleshly. Even the most so-called moral persons are fleshly. At God’s creation man is called a soul (Gen. 2:7), but after the fall of man, man has become flesh (6:3). Thus, in Paul’s writings concerning salvation and justification, he does not use the word soul but the word flesh. He says that out of the works of the law no flesh can be justified before God (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:20). The flesh here refers to man himself.
When the Bible says something about people in a positive sense, it uses the word soul as a term for man (Exo. 1:5). But when the Bible says something concerning man in a negative sense, it uses the word flesh. No flesh, no man, can be justified before God by the works of law. The flesh is the fallen man. If we are not in the spirit, surely we are in the flesh. We should not think that we are so good that if we are not in the spirit, we are in the soul, not in the flesh. Actually, today our soul is one with the flesh, which is the uttermost expression of the fallen tripartite man. So if we are not in the spirit, we are in the flesh, and our flesh is altogether impotent in the things of God. It is unable to be subject to God and to please God.
(Basic Lessons on Service, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)