REGAINING THE GROUND
We have previously mentioned that evil spirits are able to work in the mind of the believer because he has given them the ground. We have also mentioned what this ground is. We can briefly divide it into six items. If we sum up these six items, they can be classified into three main groups: (1) the unrenewed mind, (2) accepting (or believing in) the lies of evil spirits, and (3) a state of passivity. The believer must carefully examine what kind of ground he has given to evil spirits and what has led him to his present condition. Is it the unrenewed mind? Is it that he has believed in the lies of evil spirits? Is it a passive mind? Or is it a combination of all three of these? According to the experience of the believer, many have given this kind of ground to the evil spirits. If he realizes in which aspect or aspects he has given ground to the evil spirits, he should regain the ground that he has given to them. Regaining the ground is the only way to obtain deliverance. Because the believer reserved ground for evil spirits, he fell into his present position; therefore, once the ground is removed, the believer will gain freedom. The unrenewed mind must be renewed. The lies that were accepted from the evil spirits must be uncovered and refused. Passivity must be changed into self-governing activity. Now we want to see the regaining of these three kinds of ground separately.
The Renewing of the Mind
God not only wants the minds of His children to be transformed at the time of their repentance, but to be renewed completely like a transparent crystal. There is such a command in the Bible because the believer has not yet been completely freed from the fleshly mind that evil spirits can work through. At first, a believer just has a narrow mind, which is unable to tolerate others; or he may have a foolish mind, which is unable to understand profound doctrines; or he may have an ignorant mind, which is unable to bear important work. But later, he may degenerate into deeper sins "because the mind set on the flesh is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). After many believers have learned the teaching in Romans 6, they often think that they are completely freed from the fleshly mind. Little do they know that the effectiveness of the cross must be applied in detail to every part of man. After reckoning "yourselves to be dead to sin" (v. 11), believers should "not let sin therefore reign in your mortal body" (v. 12). Likewise after the mind has been transformed, they should "take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). The mind must be renewed completely because, no matter how little remains of the fleshly mind, it is still enmity against God.
If we want to have our mind renewed, we must come to the cross, for it is here that we can have the renewal. This is clearly explained in Ephesians 4. In verses 17 through 18 the apostle speaks of the darkness of man’s fleshly mind. In verses 22 through 23 he speaks of the way of renewing: "That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind." We know that our old man has been crucified with the Lord (Rom. 6:6), but these verses advise that we should "put off" in order for our mind to be renewed. By this we can see that the renewing of the mind is through the cross. Believers should know that our old mind is a part of the old man, which God wants us to "put off" completely. The salvation which God has carried out on the cross does not just give us a new life. He also wants to renew all the functions of our soul. The salvation within the depth of our whole being must be "worked out" gradually (Phil. 2:12). What is lacking today is that believers do not know that their minds need to be saved (Eph. 6:17). They think that salvation is a general and ambiguous matter. They do not realize that God wants to save our whole being in order that all of our faculties may be renewed and become perfectly suitable for His use. Our mind is one of our faculties. God wants the believer to believe that the cross has crucified his old man. He should acknowledge God’s judgment on his old man in a definite way and exercise his will to reject—to put off—the conduct of his old man, which includes his old way of thinking. He should be willing to come to the cross and forsake his old mind, his old way of thinking, and his old reasoning; he should be willing to trust in God for a new one. Brothers, all of these should be put off in a definite way. The renewing of the mind is God’s work; but the putting off (the rejecting) and the denying (the forsaking) of the old mind is your work. If you take care of your part, God will fulfill His part. After you have put off in a definite way, you should believe that God will do the renewing for you in a definite way, even though you may not yet know the way to be renewed.
Today a countless number of believers carry their old way of thinking with them wherever they go. Although they are saved and have obtained the new life, they have not changed any in their former reasoning, their way of thinking, and their prejudice. They merely put on a Christian coating! They still apply their former mind, reasoning, way of thinking, and prejudice to examine, receive, or preach spiritual truths. It is no wonder that they fall into many mistakes and cause many disputes in the church. Just as God hates man to do His work with his own strength, He also hates man to think His truth with his own mind. The unrenewed mind is spiritually dead; whatever issues from it is also dead. Although many believers boast of the profoundness of their biblical knowledge and the excellence of their theological doctrines, they are just dead to those who have eyes.
After the believer is aware of the oldness of his mind and is willing to concentrate on "putting off" through the cross, he should daily refuse all the thoughts that are of the flesh through practice. Otherwise it will be impossible to be renewed. Even though God wants to renew the mind of the believer, the believer may continue daily to think according to the flesh. When this happens, God’s work cannot be successful.
The believer should patiently and resolutely examine his own thoughts one by one in the light of God. All that are not of God and contradictory to God’s truth should be "squeezed out" from the mind and abandoned completely. Even the exercise of his unrenewed mind to understand God’s truth must be rejected completely. The apostle tells us that the unrenewed mind is full of "reasonings" and all kinds of imaginations that rise up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). These reasonings and imaginations hinder man from truly gaining the knowledge of God. The believer must break through them. "Every thought" must be brought "unto the obedience of Christ." The believer cannot be satisfied until every thought of his mind has come unto the obedience of Christ. The apostle said "every thought." Therefore, the believer cannot let one thought be loose. He should examine his thought and find out whether it is: (1) from his former position, (2) from the ground which he has relinquished, (3) from new ground given to evil spirits, or (4) whether it is a proper thought. He should examine why his mind is so confused and why he has prejudicial thoughts, rebellious thoughts, and angry thoughts. For example, why do I reject certain truths without ever examining them? Why do I oppose certain persons, based only on hearsay? Do I have sufficient reasons? Is there any intention to hate within my natural mind? Every thought must be examined in order that every thought issuing from the old creation would be discovered and eliminated. Naturally, this is a heavy burden to those who are accustomed to living foolishly because their thoughts are controlled by the power of darkness, and they are wild. But warfare is warfare, and it can never be carried out by a simple method. If we do not fight, we cannot break through these thoughts one by one, because the mind is the stronghold of evil spirits. The enemy is real. This has been proven by warfare. Because there is a warfare, there must be an enemy. Since the enemy is before us, how can we be negligent?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)