THE CROSS AND THE SOUL’S LOVE OF THE WORLD
In Luke 17:32-33 our Lord has a similar word, but what is pointed out there is concerning the things of the world: "Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his soul-life will lose it, and whoever loses it will preserve it alive." Here the Lord speaks again that we must lose the soul-life, but what the Lord speaks here especially stresses the believers’ reluctance to lose their belongings. The Lord told us to remember Lot’s wife because she even remembered her belongings while she was in danger. She did not turn back and walk toward Sodom; she did not backtrack even an inch. The only thing she did was cast a look behind. But how much is revealed in this looking back! It speaks forth a very long story in her heart.
A believer can leave the world and lose all things outwardly, but within him he still can have a heart loving all those things he lost for the Lord’s sake. This then is the working of the soul-life. With a believer who is consecrated to the Lord, there is no need for him to regress and go back again to the path of the world. He also does not need to labor to gain back what he has forsaken for the Lord. The unwillingness of the heart to part with the world is sufficient to show that he has not clearly seen the position of the world in relation to the cross. There is no need for the working of the soul-life to cause man to turn back and walk toward the world. It only needs to cause the believer, secretly within his heart, to be reluctant to give up the things which he is going to abandon or which he has already abandoned.
When the soul-life really reaches the point that it is lost, none of the things of the world can truly touch the believer’s heart. The soul-life in fact belongs to the world; thus, it is reluctant to give up the things of the world. Only when a believer is really willing to put the soul-life to death will he be able to follow unflinchingly the teaching of the Lord Jesus on the mount. In the teaching on the mount, we do not see that the Lord clearly mentioned the function of the cross. However, we know that unless a believer really has the experience of dying with the Lord—not only being dead to sin but also denying the soul-life based on being "already dead"—he will have to devise ways to follow the teaching of the Lord on the mount. If the cross has not done a deep work in a believer’s soul-life, even though he can walk outwardly according to the teaching on the mount, his inward heart and his outward walk are not one. A believer who has lost his soul-life can spontaneously and without any pretense give away his cloak when he is sued for his tunic. A believer who has lost his soul in death is a believer who is cut off from all the worldly things.
The condition for gaining the spiritual life is that we should have some loss; then we will have some gain. In this world, it is not by how much we have gained that we are counted rich, for actually, the richer we are, the more we lose. We should not use "gain" to measure our life; we should use "loss" to measure it. How much wine has been poured out is our real measurement. It is not how much we have retained. The one who has lost the most is the one who has the most with which to supply others. The power of love can be seen by the sacrifice of love. If our hearts have not been cut off from loving the worldly belongings, our soul-life has not yet been under the working of the cross.
Hebrews 10:34 says that certain believers were robbed of their family possessions, but this they "accepted with joy." This is the issue of the work of the cross. The attitude of the saints toward their possessions is an indication of whether the soul-life is preserved or is already willing to be put to death.
If we really want a pure and spiritual living, we have to let God work on our heart, in order to be truly cut off from everything worldly and no longer have the intention of Lot’s wife. Not loving worldly belongings in such a way is a condition for gaining the complete spiritual life in Christ. When the Holy Spirit reveals the heavenly reality and the complete spiritual life to a saint, he will despise all the worldly things because the one cannot be compared with the other. The experience of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3 is precisely like this. In the beginning he "counted as loss" all things; later he truly "suffered the loss of all things" that he might gain Christ. Eventually, he told us that the issue of this is to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is a complete spiritual life. We often do not know how much power our soul-life has. When we are tested in the material things, we see where our soul-life is. It often seems that the loss of possessions requires more of the grace of God than the loss of life! The worldly things are really the material for testing the preservation or loss of the soul-life.
Those children of God who pay too much attention to their drinking, eating, and daily home life should let the cross do a deeper work in them so that their spirits will not be surrounded and influenced by their souls. Thus, their spirits will be separated from all things worldly and will be enabled to live in God without any hindrances. Whoever cares for the things of the world always does so because his soul-life has not been lost and has not passed through the working of the cross.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)