The Flesh and the Spirit, by Witness Lee


Before we were saved, we were careless. Now that we have been saved, we might tell the Lord, "Lord, thank You that You have saved me. O Lord, pardon me for all my carelessness in the past. Now I am Your child, heavenly Father. Help me to build up a good character so that I can glorify You in my parents’ eyes and in the eyes of all my relatives. Help me, Lord." We may pray, "Lord, help me not to lose my temper, not to put You to shame. Help me to be a good brother in the church life." Many of us have prayed in this way because we are under the influence of the teaching of morality, of good behavior, and of building up a good character. Humanly speaking, there is nothing wrong with this, but this is not what God wants. God wants Christ to get into you.

We may have asked the Lord to help us to be a good person, to be a person who does not lose his temper and is not offended by anyone. After such a prayer, however, we became worse. Before we got saved, we may have lost our temper once a week. After we got saved and prayed in this way, we lost our temper three times a week. Then we wonder why it seems that we have become worse since we were saved. Actually, we are not "worse enough." We need to be exposed by being worse and worse. I experienced this. The more I prayed to become better, the worse I became. Eventually, I asked the Lord why He would not take this ugly flesh away from me. The Lord showed me that I needed it. Without such a troubling thing, that is, the flesh, none of us would go to the Lord.

We may want to be like Adam before the fall in the garden. Adam was good before the fall; he was innocent and pure. But there was a void, an emptiness, within him that gave the way for the enemy, the devil, to come in. Even if you were innocent and pure like Adam was before the fall, that could not last long. The devil would still come in to fill you up and possess you. We have the flesh with us today as a real trouble, but praise the Lord, this trouble is helpful. I was never so much with the Lord until I experienced this trouble. I prayed again and again that I could overcome this ugly flesh. Eventually, I found out that the ugly flesh is hopeless. Then the Lord showed me that He had no intention to deal with this ugly thing. Rather, He would leave it here, not for our bad temper, but for us to be forced to turn ourselves to the spirit.

For many years I have been alert and aware that day and night this ugly thing is here. When I am talking to the brothers, my wife, or my children, I realize that I am walking on thin ice. I have no confidence that I will be altogether victorious, because of the fact that this ugly thing is always with me. Since this ugly thing is always with me, I always have to be on the alert to turn to the Lord. While I am talking to the brothers, my wife, or my children, I need to pray inwardly, "O Lord, preserve me. O Lord, keep me in the spirit. Save me." This is because this ugly thing, the flesh, is so close to me. It is as if we are "one-eighth of an inch" away from being in the flesh at all times. If I am not alert that I have to be in the spirit, after two minutes I will be in the flesh. Then I will offend everyone.

Eventually, though, it is not a matter of offending or not offending someone. It is a matter of gaining more of Christ. I gain more of Christ because I have been turning to Him in my spirit all the time. It is not a matter of victory. It is a matter of gaining Christ. God’s intention is to work Christ into us day and night. But we all need a helper to help us to turn to Him. Who is the helper? The most subjective and closest helper is our ugly flesh. Many of us do not realize that we have such an ugly helper.

I am burdened to tell you that within your spirit there is the real help. Within your spirit, there is the source of life. Within your spirit, there is the reality of life. The only problem is that you have been saved for so many years, yet you are still not used to turning to your spirit. So under God’s sovereign wisdom this ugly flesh is left here for the purpose of forcing you to turn to Christ all the day.

If we would open ourselves to the Lord’s enlightening and practice this, in the coming years we will gain more of Christ. Eventually, when we are transfigured in this ugly body, we can tell Satan good-bye. Without his bothering us in our flesh through all the years, we could not have gained so much of Christ. This shows that even Satan is used by God to fulfill His purpose. If we had never fallen that much, we would never appreciate the Lord’s salvation so much.

(The Flesh and the Spirit, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)