To exalt oneself is to put one’s self in an improper place. This is a danger to the young believers and a trap to the older saints. Only after the cross has done its thorough work in a person’s heart can he refrain from expressing himself. Only then will a person allow others to receive the glory and remain silent himself as a sword in God’s scabbard. The life of a Christian must not for a moment be separated from the cross. The Holy Spirit of God works through the cross to expose our fallen and corrupt nature. After such discipline from God, the saints will know by experience their own miserable state. Thereafter, they not only will avoid expressing themselves, but will consider it a shameful thing to do so, for God has shown them their true condition through their experience. The more a person knows his own condition, the less he will express himself. But the pity is that we do not know ourselves! We ought to see light in God’s light. There are varying degrees of self-exaltation. Some blow the horn before men, whereas others may just have a little self-appreciation. Nevertheless, the eagerness of the self within is the same. Some self-exaltation comes from pride—esteeming oneself above others. Some self-exaltation comes from jealousy—elevating oneself to be equal with others. These are all works of the flesh. Even though some motives may be better than these, they are still liable to put a person in danger.
To worship the creature instead of giving glory to the Creator seems to be man’s peculiar sin. If the Lord gives us honor and glory, it is already hard to avoid hero-worship from others; how much more if a person purposely exalts himself to attract people’s attention? Besides its effects on others, his own spiritual desolation can definitely be foretold.
Although superficially such ones have a certain amount of success, in the spiritual battle they have already lost their ground. Oh, how numerous are the newsletters and reports today! May the Lord restrain me from judging people. Few of those reports direct people to give glory to God! Oh, amidst the words of praises to God, there are so many words of praises to men—even praises to themselves! Alas, many times our heart desires people to glorify God, and us as well!
In many works God is pushed to the back, and we wonder who is really the master. At any rate, there is no reason whatsoever to justify a person’s praising himself.
Was I not the same when I was a babe in Christ? How happy I felt when I received praises and recognition from people!
May the Lord cause us to know ourselves and to learn to be a quiet and hidden person.
A FLY IN THE OINTMENT
The goal of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we be perfect. He wants to "sanctify her, cleansing her [His church] by the washing of the water in the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she would be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:26-27). This is the Lord’s expectation and ordination.
But we have fallen far short of this!
Indeed, we are pursuing daily, but how far are we from this mark? The Lord Christ wants us to be perfect, and so does the world. If we are not perfect, we cannot please Christ, and neither can we attract the souls of the world. Of course, compared with the time when we were newly saved, we have made some progress, even significant progress. But, are there not many minor blemishes and spots in our disposition and behavior? "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor" (Eccl. 10:1). How numerous are the dead flies! Often we say of some, "He does love the Lord, but his temper is a little on the bad side. She is really zealous, but she is a bit proud." It is so easy to see dead flies in others’ ointment!
Yet we should know that in our own daily living there are so many kinds of dead flies. May the Lord open our eyes to see them all! Sometimes we save people and render help to them, and our hearts are filled with the Lord’s love. But after a while, when we are stirred up, we become anxious! Sometimes the Lord uses us to save some people and help them, but in the very next moment we turn around and give the glory to ourselves. Sometimes we are zealous to work, ready to suffer for the Lord, and even to die for Him. But when we return home and find that our loved ones do not appreciate our labor and do not care about our fatigue, we ignite the fire of hell again! Sometimes we make up our mind not to mention others’ shortcomings, but we tell others, saying, "I tell you this so that you can pray for him." Sometimes through the teaching of the Lord we develop a love for all the brothers, but we still cannot avoid treating some coldly and thinking that we have to "separate ourselves from them"! Alas, there are countless numbers of dead flies in the daily walk of the saints!
Those who pursue holiness wholeheartedly will understand this.
Satan—Beelzebul, which means the king of flies—always puts flies in our daily living to cause failure amidst our success and to put in flaws that mar perfection. We should confess the sins of our failure before the Lord and ask Him to wash us always with the water of the word. But this is painful, and our flesh is not willing! We should resist Satan and recover the ground we lost to him, so that we would not be unconsciously contaminated by his filth.
Brothers, let us by the grace of the Lord get rid of the little foxes (S.S. 2:15), the little leaven (1 Cor. 5:6), and the little folly (Eccl. 10:1) so that we can be perfect as our Father is perfect.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 24, by Watchman Nee)