Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), by Watchman Nee


When a believer has fallen deeply into passivity, he may think that he is submissive to God. But he does not realize that evil spirits are utilizing his passive state to accomplish their deceit. The believer thinks he must be very passive before he can truly submit to God and before he can be truly in union with God in his will. He does not realize that God has no use for his passivity. It is the power of darkness that has use for his passivity. Moreover, God requires that the believer exercise his own will to actively work with Him. This is what the Bible repeatedly says: "If anyone resolves to do His will, he will know..." (John 7:17), and "Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" (15:7). God does not annihilate our will.

Human beings have a free will. God never infringes upon this and does not change this. He wants man to actively work with Him. Though He wants us to be submissive to Him, He does not annihilate our personality. (Author’s note: in this book, "personality" refers to "man’s person," not "man’s character." The readers should take heed.) He wants us to propose on our own and choose what He wants us to choose. He will not choose in our place, allowing our will to lapse into a state of deadness. He requires active cooperation from us. God delights to see man reaching the highest level of attainment as a creature, which is the total freedom of the will. God in creation established man’s free will. God in redemption regains man’s free will. At creation, God did not want man to obey Him mechanically. Therefore, after redemption, He definitely does not want man to follow His direction like a machine. Indeed, God is so great that He does not require man to become wood and stone to submit to Him. His way is to rely on the working of His Spirit in us; the Spirit causes us to obey Him willingly. But He will never make any decision on our behalf. The difference here is truly immeasurable.

The principle of God’s work and Satan’s work in man is the same. When God created man, He wanted man to have a free will. This is why He gave man a free will. He wanted man to have the right to choose and determine everything related to himself. Though God is the Lord of the universe, He delights in being limited and does not infringe upon man’s free will. He does not want to force man to be loyal to Him. Similarly, without man’s consent (consciously or unconsciously), Satan cannot occupy any part of man. Both God and the devil require the permission of man’s will before they can work in man. Just as man "wants" a good thing and God accomplishes this for him, if man "wants" an evil thing, evil spirits accomplish this for him. This is what we see in the garden of Eden.

Before man is regenerated, his will is a slave to Satan and cannot be free. But with a regenerated and victorious believer, his will is freed; he is able to choose all that is of God. However, Satan will not give up on these newly regenerated believers. He will scheme to gain them. He knows he cannot obtain their clear permission for evil spirits to come into them and rule them. Therefore, he uses deceit to obtain the required permission. We should note that Satan must obtain the believer’s permission. However, a believer will certainly not give him the permission. This is why he can only steal this permission through deceptive maneuvering. Evil spirits will not come into a person without first gaining the permission of man’s will. Even the degree to which they enter is determined by man’s will.

Evil spirits know if a believer is fully submissive to God and willing to pay the price to follow Him to the end. Hence, they deceive the believer by counterfeiting God Himself, by counterfeiting God’s voice, God’s work, and God’s presence. Among the believers who have contact with the spiritual realm, there are many who assume that certain things are from God because of supernatural experiences they receive in their feeling. Consequently, they accept many counterfeits of the evil spirits and place themselves in danger. In this way, believers are deceived and regard the counterfeits of the evil spirits as genuine, allowing the evil spirits to continue working on them. In the beginning, they were merely deceived. But after they have given their consent, they passively allow evil spirits to work! In this way, evil spirits gain the approval of the will and deceive them further, to the extent that certain parts of their being become possessed by evil spirits. Being passive is the first step to demon-possession.

If a believer is aware of the condition for the working of evil spirits and aware of the principle of spiritual life, he will not fall into this kind of danger. However, if the believer does not know that passivity affords convenience to the evil spirits and does not know that spiritual life requires an active will to work with God, he may allow his will to become passive. We should note in particular that God never replaces man’s will with His will. Man should be responsible for what he has done. God will not make any proposal for him.

Actually, if the activity of evil spirits is not present in a passive person, his passivity will merely result in laziness and inactivity. In ordinary cases of "inactivity" (i.e., when there is no activity of evil spirits), an inactive person can become active again at any time. But when he falls into passivity and becomes demon-possessed, he cannot become active again even if he wants to, that is, even if his will wants to.

Here we can see the difference between God’s work and Satan’s work on man. God wants man to be entirely consecrated to Him; He wants man to exercise all the faculties of his entire being to cooperate with His Holy Spirit. Satan wants man’s will to be wholly passive; he wants man to stop all activities and allow his evil spirits to act on his behalf. God wants man to actively, consciously, and willingly choose and act according to His will so that man’s spirit, soul, and body will be totally free. Satan wants man to be his passive slave and prisoner. God wants man to be independent and free and his own master in a conscious way. Satan wants man to be his puppet, machine, and worker. God never requires man to stop his activity before He works. Satan, on the contrary, wants man to be entirely passive and stop all activities. God wants man to work with Him in a conscious way. Satan wants man to be passive so that he can coerce man into obeying him. God requires that man stop only his sinful activity, whether it is out of his nature or life, because only in this way can man work with the Holy Spirit. But Satan wants man to stop all of his activities—even the function of the soul—because he wants to act on behalf of man. He wants man to be an unconscious machine only, bearing no responsibility of his own.

It is a very dreadful thing that believers do not understand the principle of God being in man and working through man. They think that God wants them to become dead like wood and stone and be maneuvered by Him. They do not realize that when God created man, He gave man a free will. It is true that He does not want man’s will to demand anything or do anything apart from Him. But He does not want man to be without a will and obey Him like a machine either. As long as the believer’s will chooses what God wants, He is satisfied. God does not require man to become a person without a will. There are many things that the believers have to do themselves; God will not do these things for them. Today there is a wrong teaching that says one should entrust everything to God and allow Him to do everything for him. This kind of teaching assumes that we do not need to lift our hands or move our feet; it assumes that God will lift and move them for us. It says that we should wholly yield to the Holy Spirit within and let Him arrange everything for us. There is some truth to this teaching. But the errors mixed in with it are perhaps more than the truth contained in it! (More will be spoken about this in the next chapter.)

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)