The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


After we are dealt with by the Lord and have learned our basic lessons, our spirit will be released, and we will be able to use our spirit to touch other brothers, and we will know their condition. Here we should discuss some practical steps in learning to know men.

In order to touch others’ spirit, we have to let them speak. Of course, some people can touch others’ spirit without waiting for them to open their mouths. But such persons are rare. Generally speaking, we have to wait for others to open their mouth. God’s Word says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. No matter what intention or tactic a man may have, what he says comes out of the abundance of his heart. If he is spurious, a spurious spirit will come out. If he is jealous, a jealous spirit will come out. We can touch a person’s spirit by listening to what he says. When a man is speaking, we have to pay attention not only to the things he is saying but to the condition of his spirit. We do not know men merely by their words but by their spirits.

When the Lord Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and two disciples saw the Samaritans rejecting Him, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Once they opened their mouths, their spirits came out. The Lord said, "You do not know of what kind of spirit you are" (Luke 9:54-55). Here the Lord showed that one’s spirit can be discerned by listening to his words. As soon as words come out, the spirit is exposed. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Whatever the condition of the heart is, the mouth will reflect it.

In listening to others, we should pay attention not only to their story but also to their spirit. Suppose two brothers are arguing, and both say that the other is wrong. When the matter is presented to us, how should we deal with it? When the argument broke out, only the two brothers were present. We do not know what happened. But as soon as they open their mouths, we can find out something; we can know their spirits. Among Christians, wrong is not judged by mistakes in facts but by deviations in spirits. When a brother opens his mouth, we may not be able to tell if he is wrong according to facts, but we immediately can tell whether he is wrong in spirit. He may accuse others of slandering him, but his own spirit is wrong. The whole issue depends on the spirit. A person with a wrong spirit is wrong not only in the things he has done but also in his very own person. Right and wrong before God are determined by the spirit, not merely by facts. Therefore, in listening to others, we have to touch their spirit. In the church many problems are related to the spirit, not to facts. If we judge everything according to the facts, we will bring the church into another realm. We are in the realm of the spirit, not in the realm of facts. We should never be dragged away by the facts.

If our spirit is open, we will be sensitive to all kinds of spiritual conditions. Sometimes we will sense when the other party has a closed and bound spirit. At such times we have to make discernments with our spirit and learn to know him. May we be able to echo Paul’s word: "We, from now on, know no one according to the flesh" (2 Cor. 5:16). We should not know men by the flesh. We should know men by the spirit. Once we learn this basic lesson, we have a way to go on in God’s work.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)