The Practical Expression of the Church, by Witness Lee


Brother Watchman Nee has written a book entitled The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit. I am afraid that many Christians who read this book will think that the release of the spirit means the Holy Spirit. This is wrong. Brother Nee meant that our spirit must be released. The Lord Himself as the life-giving Spirit is within our spirit. Our spirit is simply the container of the Lord as the life-giving Spirit. If our spirit is released, the Lord, who is within our spirit, will be spontaneously released. But if our spirit is closed, we imprison the Lord. He is confined in our spirit.

It is a fact that the more cultured a person is, the more self-conscious he is. Those who are not so well educated and cultured simply do not have much self-consciousness. If we are cultured, we are so careful to keep our standard. Whatever we say or do must be done in a proper way according to our standard. This just kills the spirit and builds up the outer man. All those who are cultured have a strong outer man. We all need the breaking of the outer man; the natural man must be broken. When we are in the meetings, we must function without any self-consciousness.

I was saved through the preaching of a young sister of about twenty-five years of age. She was speaking in a large meeting, which was attended by more than one thousand people. According to her natural disposition, she was exceedingly shy and self-conscious. But when she stood up to speak, she simply forgot about herself. You could sense the release of her spirit. She was not a good singer, but frequently in her preaching, she would sing songs. When she sang, the whole audience was convinced and even controlled by the release of her spirit.

We need to forget about ourselves. When we come to the meetings, we must even forget whether we are American or Chinese. We must simply be in the spirit. In some places I have met some highly qualified sisters. In all the meetings they kept their high standard. They were so highly qualified educationally, spiritually, and mentally. They had a high standard, and whenever they came to the meetings, they liked to keep it. Oh, how much they need to forget their standard so that they may learn how to release their spirit.

The natural man is the stronghold that imprisons our spirit. When the Lord Jesus as the life-giving Spirit is confined in our spirit, there is the need for breaking. Brother Watchman Nee told us that in preaching the gospel, the first lesson is to lose our face. This simply means to abandon our self-consciousness. Then the spirit will go out to reach the people. The principle is the same for functioning in the meetings. We all need to forget about ourselves; then the spirit will be released.

We still have many considerations which cause us to be bound. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). So where there is no freedom, there is bondage of the spirit. Our natural disposition needs to be broken. Some brothers are very quick. But when they are quick in their natural disposition, this is a bondage to the spirit. Their quick disposition must be broken. Some brothers and sisters are very slow. This slow disposition also must be broken. We all need to learn the lesson of brokenness.


We all know that it is very easy for our spirit to be bound by sinful things. Anything sinful, anything worldly, or anything of the self and the flesh will immediately bind our spirit. Many brothers and sisters cannot say anything when they come to the meetings. They do not have one bit of release of their spirit. This is simply due to the fact that they are sinful and worldly and in the self and the flesh. Being sinful, worldly, and in the natural life binds the spirit. By dealing with all our sins, the world, and our self and flesh, we will immediately see the release of our spirit.

When I was away from Los Angeles recently, I heard that the brothers and sisters here had a big burning at the beach. Over a hundred people went there to burn all the sinful and worldly things. No one told me, but I believe this caused a real release. In such a case, when you sing Hallelujah, the tune is different. Without the release, the singing is not as good; but with the release, it is wonderful, for all bondages have been broken. Jesus breaks every fetter. Then there is the release of the spirit.

It is not only a matter of walking in the spirit and having the natural man broken; it is also a matter of dealing with all sinful, worldly, and fleshly things in the natural life. All these things are fetters, and we need by His grace to get rid of them. If we are a worldly church, we will be “pew” members, because everyone will be greatly bound. It is impossible to release the spirit. We must overcome all sinful things, all worldly things, all things in the flesh, and all things of the natural life. The more we get rid of these, the more we are released.

Of course, this will create a battle with the enemy. I heard that after the burning here in Los Angeles, there was a battle. The enemy, the subtle one, the evil one, came in to accuse, saying that too much had been done. But is it too much to get rid of all bondage? No! The more that is gone, the better. The enemy knows it. He utilizes the worldly things, the things of the flesh, and the things of the natural life to bind, to damage, and to wreck our spirit. When we are worldly, we are wrecked in the spirit, and as long as our spirit is wrecked, regardless of how much we love the Lord, we are finished. Many dear brothers and sisters have been wrecked by the enemy’s subtlety so that they are simply useless. We must look to the Lord’s mercy, that by His grace we will deal with all sinful things, all worldly things, all things of the flesh, all things that satisfy the self, and all things of the natural life. We can never do too much in this matter. The more we are purged, the more we are purified and released.

(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)