THE CROSS AND THE DEEPER WORK
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Because the flesh is very subtle, the believers must moment by moment have the deeper work of the Holy Spirit through the cross. Once the believers see the standing of their own flesh before God, the cross and the deeper work of the Holy Spirit are indispensable. By the cross the believers are delivered from the sin of the flesh. By the cross the believers are also delivered from the righteousness of the flesh. By walking according to the Spirit, the believers will not follow the flesh to commit sin. By walking according to the Spirit, the believers will also not follow the flesh to do righteous deeds.
In fact, the work of the cross has been accomplished absolutely, perfectly, and infinitely; it cannot be deepened. However, the process of a Christian’s experience of this fact can be deepening step by step. Little by little, the Holy Spirit teaches the believers more of the principles of the cross. If one is faithful in submission, gradually he will experience more deeply what the cross has already accomplished. This means that the cross, from the objective side, is absolute, and nothing can be added to it. However, from the subjective side, it is progressive and can advance deeper and deeper.
Now the believers should see more clearly their having died with the Lord Jesus on the cross because the Holy Spirit can only work through the cross. Besides the cross, the Holy Spirit has no other instruments. The believers should have a fresh understanding of the teaching in Galatians 5:24. Not only the "passions" and "lusts" of the flesh have been "crucified," but "the flesh" (including all its righteousness and ability to do righteous acts) has also been "crucified." The cross is the place not only for crucifying the passions and lusts but also for crucifying the flesh, which brings forth the passions and lusts, no matter how it is respected and loved by man! When the believers see this and willingly reject all that is of the flesh (whether good or evil), they are able to walk according to the Holy Spirit and please God and attain to a completely spiritual life. This "willingness" is indispensable. What the cross has accomplished in fact is complete, but how much man has realized in experience is determined by his knowledge, willingness, and faith.
If the believers do not reject all goodness in the flesh, they will see that in many things, although the flesh seems to be very powerful and very capable in working, when the real calling of God comes, calling them to prepare to go to Golgotha to suffer, they will be as weak as water, shrink back, and not be able to go forward. No matter how good or how strong the flesh is, it can never satisfy the requirements of God. Why did the disciples fail in the garden of Gethsemane? Because "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). It is the weakness here which causes greater failure later. The flesh with its power and work may be excellent, but it can only manifest its capability in matters suitable to its own taste. As to the actual requirements of God, the flesh inevitably backs away. Therefore death is unavoidable; otherwise, God’s will cannot be done.
Our flesh is whatever comes from within us—our desire, our opinion, all that aims at developing ourselves so that we may be seen and respected by others—all is of our flesh. In this flesh, there is natural evil and natural goodness. John 1:13 mentions the "will" of the flesh which can will, decide, and plan to do good to please God. Nevertheless, this originates from man’s flesh and needs to go to the cross.
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)