Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), by Watchman Nee


In the life of a believer, each level has its own danger. The new life unceasingly wars against anything which is contrary to itself. While the saints live in the realm of the body, it wars against sins; while they live in the realm of the soul, it wars against the natural life; finally, while they live in the realm of the spirit, it wars against the principalities and powers. When a believer becomes spiritual, evil spirits launch an assault against his spirit. This is why it is called spiritual warfare, for it is a battle fought with spirit on both sides. However, unspiritual believers will not have, or will rarely have, such a danger. A believer should not think that once he reaches the spiritual realm, everything will be just fine and there will no longer be any need for war. We should realize that a Christian spends his whole life on the battlefield. It is impossible for him to lay down his arms until he appears before the Lord. While he is fleshly, he encounters danger and conflict in the realm of the flesh; while spiritual, he encounters spiritual danger and warfare. In the wilderness the Israelites only warred against the Amalekites. But after they entered Canaan, they started fighting against the seven tribes of the land. Before believers become spiritual, Satan and the evil spirits will not attack the believers’ spirit; after believers become spiritual, all this will happen.

Because the enemy pays great attention to our spirit, it is necessary for spiritual believers to keep their own spirit in a proper state and constantly exercise their spirit. They should be very cautious about the sensations of their body. Any supernatural feeling and undue awareness of the natural affairs in the body need to be carefully distinguished. The believers’ thoughts should be kept in perfect peace without any disturbance; their bodily senses also should be kept in complete calmness without being stirred up. They should reject anything that may cause their spirit to lose its peace, deny and oppose any falsehood with their will, and wholeheartedly pursue to walk only according to the spirit. Otherwise, they will lose ground in spiritual warfare as they walk according to the soul. Additionally, there is another matter which needs our full attention: the saints must guard their spirit from being passive in spiritual warfare.

We have mentioned that all the guidance we have comes from our spirit and that we must wait for the leading of the Spirit in our spirit. This is absolutely true, but we should be very careful lest we be led into error. While we are waiting in our spirit for the moving and guiding of the Holy Spirit, there is a danger of letting our spirit and person fall into a state of passivity. Nothing can give more opportunity for Satan to work than such a passive state. On one hand, we should not use our strength to do anything and should only obey the Holy Spirit; on the other hand, we should take heed not to let our spirit or any part of our being become mechanical and tumble into passiveness. Our spirit should livingly govern our whole person and actively cooperate with the Spirit.

Once the spirit is in a passive state, the Holy Spirit will no longer have a way to use it because the condition under which the Holy Spirit operates in man’s life is totally different from that under which Satan operates. The Holy Spirit requires man to cooperate with Him entirely and livingly. He desires man to actively work with Him. He never denies the personality of the believers. In contrast, Satan requires man to fully stop in order that he may take over. He wants man to receive his work passively and become his mechanism. We must be watchful not to go to extremes by misunderstanding spiritual doctrines. We need not be afraid of going to the extreme in obeying the Lord or in rejecting the works of the flesh, which we must put away thoroughly. However, we should be very careful not to go to the kind of extreme that results from misunderstandings. We have stressed the point that whatever belongs to man and comes out of man is vanity and that we should seek only after God’s own work. Nothing will have spiritual value unless it is done by the Holy Spirit through our spirit. Therefore, we should wait for God’s revelation in our spirit. All of this is true. How good it would be if the believers acted according to this truth! But here lies the danger of an extreme that comes from misunderstanding. Due to misinterpretation, believers assume that they should not do anything --that their mind should be "blank," letting the Holy Spirit think for them; that their emotion should not be allowed to have any affection, letting the Holy Spirit put His own affections in their heart; and that their will should not make any decision, letting the Holy Spirit decide for them. They accept whatever happens to them, assuming that they should not actively use their spirit to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, but passively wait for the Holy Spirit’s move. Once there is any moving within, they think it must have come from the Holy Spirit.

This is absolutely wrong. God wants to do away with the action of our flesh, but He does not intend to destroy us as a person. He never eliminates our personality. He does not want us to become a lifeless mechanism; He wants us to cooperate with Him. He does not want us to become void of thoughts, affections, and judgment. He desires that we think, feel, and decide in accordance with what He thinks, feels, and decides. The Holy Spirit will not replace our thoughts, feelings, and decisions; we still have to think, feel, and make decisions in accordance with God’s own purpose. (We will thoroughly discuss this later.) If our mind, emotion, and will become utterly passive, requiring an outside power to take their place, then the spirit will inevitably fall into a passive condition. When a believer is unable to use his own spirit and needs a power from without to "move" his spirit, Satan will take full advantage of him.

There is a fundamental difference between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of an evil spirit. The Holy Spirit motivates men to work by themselves, never denying their personality, but an evil spirit requires men to be entirely still, doing the work for them, so that their spirit becomes mechanical. Therefore, passivity of the spirit (i.e., a passive state involving the whole person) not only gives an evil spirit opportunity to work, but also makes the Holy Spirit unable to function properly because He lacks the cooperation of the believers. The result is the domination of the evil spirits. If believers are not spiritual, they will not have the danger of coming into contact with evil spirits. After they become spiritual, however, evil spirits will come to attack their spirit. Only spiritual believers, not fleshly ones, have the danger of passivity in the spirit and counterfeit experiences of the spirit, etc.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)