THE EXPERIENCE OF THE BELIEVERS
But how can the believers see what God sees? God hates the flesh and the conduct of the flesh so much, yet, except for the evil acts of the flesh, the believers still are lenient with the flesh and cannot be as absolute as God is. Moreover, the believers still do many things in the flesh with self-trust, self-reliance, and self-confidence, considering that they have received God’s grace to the full and are able to utilize the flesh to have righteous acts. Because of this, the Holy Spirit of God must lead the believers through the most shameful pathway that they may know the flesh and thus have God’s view. Therefore, God allows the believers to fail, become weak, and sometimes even to commit sin, so that they will know whether or not there is any good in the flesh. Frequently, when the believers think that they are progressing spiritually, the Lord tries them in order that they may know themselves. Often the Lord reveals His holiness to them to cause them to judge the corruption of the flesh. Sometimes the Lord allows Satan to attack them so that they may see their self in suffering. However, this lesson is the most difficult one to learn, and even while learning, success cannot be attained overnight. Actually, it is after having gone through many years that the believers gradually realize the unreliability of their own flesh. At best, it still has some mixture of corruption; perhaps God often permits the believers to experience Romans 7 so that they will finally be willing to say as Paul said, "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells" (v. 18). How difficult it is to learn to say this word! Unless the believers have gone through many painful failures, they are always self-dependent and always think that they are capable. It is after one has failed a hundred or a thousand times that he realizes that all self-righteousness is totally unreliable—in the flesh nothing good dwells.
However, this is not the end. Such self-judgment must be continuous. Whenever the believers do not judge themselves and do not consider the flesh so useless and so disgusting, but rather are slightly self-confident and self-glorifying, God has no choice but to let them pass through the fire again to burn up all the dregs. How few are those who humble themselves and acknowledge themselves as unclean! If they do not, God will not stop His working. Because the believers cannot be rid of the influence of the flesh for a moment, self-judgment cannot cease for a moment. Otherwise, they will fall back again to the self-boasting of the flesh.
Many people think that the Holy Spirit’s convicting men of sin pertains only to the people of the world—He convicts sinners of their sins that they might believe in the Lord Jesus. We ought to know that this kind of work of the Holy Spirit is as essential in the saints as it is in the sinners. He must convict the saints of their sins not only once or twice, but daily without stopping. Oh, may we have more of the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that we may forever place the flesh under judgment and may not let it take control. May we not forget, even for a moment, the true facts of our flesh and God’s evaluation of it! May we never again trust ourselves (that is, the flesh), thinking that it can do anything to please God! May we forever depend upon the Holy Spirit and not give the slightest place to self.
If ever there was one in the world who could boast according to his flesh, that was Paul because, as to the righteousness of the law, he was blameless. Even today, if anyone could boast according to his flesh, that must be Paul also because he was an apostle who had seen the Lord with his own eyes and was greatly used by the Lord. However, he did not do this because he knew the flesh. In his experience of Romans 7, he already knew what his self was like. God had opened his eyes in the experience of life, and he knew that in his flesh was nothing but sin. Whereas he had boasted in the past of the righteousness of the self, he now realized that it was nothing but dung and nothing but sin. He had learned this lesson, and having learned, henceforth he did not dare to trust the flesh. In fact, he did not forget what he had learned, and he still continued to learn. Therefore he could say, "Have no confidence in the flesh, though I myself have something to be confident of in the flesh as well. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I more" (Phil. 3:3-4). Although there were many reasons for him to trust his flesh, he not only knew God’s view towards the flesh but also knew how undependable and untrustworthy his flesh was. If we read the following verses, we will see how humble he was: "Not having my own righteousness" (v. 9); "If perhaps I may attain to the out-resurrection from the dead" (v. 11); "Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (v. 12). If the believers want to attain to the state of being completely spiritual, they must have the thought of not having obtained and not have the slightest self-confidence, self-satisfaction, and self-pleasing, which are the proofs of trusting the flesh.
If God’s children sincerely seek after the more abundant life and are willing to accept God’s evaluation of the flesh, they will not consider themselves stronger than others no matter how advanced they are. Neither will they say such words as, "I have always been different from others," but they will be willing to let the Holy Spirit reveal to them God’s holiness and the corruption of their flesh and will not be afraid to see these clearly. Then the Holy Spirit will be able to cause them to realize the corruption of the self at the proper time. Perhaps in this way their failure may be lessened some. How pitiful it is that, although the intention of the believers may not completely be to trust the flesh, they may be impure and still regard their self as having some strength. Therefore, God cannot avoid allowing them to go through failure in order to remove that little bit of self-dependence.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)