Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), by Watchman Nee


Many believers cannot perceive the damage of their soulish experiences. They only consider that to sin in doing "things of the flesh" could pollute the spirit, and this is the thing that should be truly rejected and eliminated. The soul-life is the common life of all people, and all animals have this life. Is it not reasonable for us to live by this life? We are not committing any sins, just living by the natural life. Is anything wrong with this? If a believer merely receives teachings in his mind, then no matter whether he opposes or agrees, he can never see in his heart the reason for the biblical teaching that the soul-life should be rejected. For instance, if he does transgress the law of God and sin against God, that, of course, is not right. But if he tries his best to do good and develop all the good virtues within him, what is wrong with this? As he is fervently doing work for God, even though he does not depend on God’s power, he thinks he is doing God’s work. Maybe there are many things which are really not God’s will for him to do. However, what he is doing is not sinful but is the best. What can be wrong with this? Since God has given me many gifts and intelligence, why am I not allowed to work with these? While I work, is this not the right time for me to utilize my talents? If one does not have any talent, of course, there is nothing to say. But if one has talents, is this not a good opportunity for him to bring forth his talents and use them?

Furthermore, of course, it was wrong in the past that one did not pay attention to the Word of God. But now, how can it be wrong for him to use his mind most diligently to seek the meaning of the Bible? Can there be evil in reading the Bible? As there is much truth which I do not yet understand, if I did not exercise my mind to study it, would it not be the case that I have to wait for a long time before I have the opportunity to understand it? When God gave us a mind, did He not intend for us to use it? When we use our mind to plan God’s work, we are not committing a sin. Rather, it is all for God’s sake. Why can we not do this?

Furthermore, it is also out of our most sincere heart to seek the feeling of the presence of God. When my life has sometimes left me dry and my work became of no interest, God many times has caused me to have a feeling of the love of the Lord Jesus as though there were a warm fire burning in my heart, making me feel very happy. I could feel that He was with me as though I could have touched Him. Is this not the peak point of our spiritual life? Many times when I lost this kind of feeling, I felt that my life was very dry, tasteless, cold, and without merit. At such times, I would earnestly desire, seek, and pray in order to get back this kind of good feeling. How can this be wrong?

The above are the things which many believers may want to say in their hearts, for they cannot differentiate between what is spiritual and what is soulish. They have not yet received the personal revelation from the Holy Spirit that can make them aware of the evil of their natural life. They have to be before God more often and be willing to learn more, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to them how many evil things are in their own natural good lives. To do this, one must be honest, humble, and willing to eliminate what the Holy Spirit enlightens him to eliminate. Having done this, the Holy Spirit will at a suitable time show him how corrupt his own natural life is.

The Holy Spirit will let such a one realize that all his work and life are merely centered on and motivated by his "self," and that he does not allow the Lord to be Lord over all things. All the good deeds he has done are done according to himself. Many among them may be simply for his own glory. All the works he does are done not by the way of seeking God’s will, not by being willing to submit to God, follow God’s leading, and trust in God’s power. He does nothing except what is according to his own will, having his own way in everything. Thus, all his outward prayer and seeking God’s will are merely hypocritical. Although he applies the gift given to him by God, he only single-mindedly thinks and boasts of the gift he received, and he sets aside the Lord who gave the gift. Although he has many gifts, he simply uses these gifts and never cares for the will of the Lord who gave him the gifts. Although he zealously seeks the words of the Lord, he is not willing to wait for God’s time. His asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to him and to make him understand is merely to seek for knowledge so as to satisfy the desire of his mind. Although he seeks God’s presence, wanting to feel the Lord’s love and closeness, this is not for the Lord. He simply wants to make himself happy. It is not because he loves the Lord, but it is because he loves that kind of feeling, for that feeling makes him feel refreshed, happy, and as having the glory of "the third heavens." All his living and work are only centered on himself, hoping to make himself happy.

It is after a revelation of the Holy Spirit that the believer realizes how abominable his own life is and understands the former foolishness of upholding his own soul-life. This kind of revelation does not come suddenly but gradually. It does not happen once for all, but occurs again and again. When the Holy Spirit shines on a believer with light for the first time, he repents in the light and is willing to put the soul-life to death. But since man’s heart is very wicked, after a little while, perhaps just a few days, the heart of self-confidence, self-love, and self-amusement in the believer returns again. Therefore, this kind of revelation comes frequently so that the believer may be willing to renounce his soul-life. But the most pitiful situation is that there is hardly anyone who would automatically submit to the Lord and have the sight of the Lord in these matters. It is always after the Holy Spirit has allowed the believer to fall numerous times and experience many defeats that he becomes willing to renounce his soul-life. But even if he is willing, how incomplete the willingness is, and how easily the willingness is liable to change!

Believers should abandon foolishness. We should accept God’s viewpoint and consider our life as truly unable to please God. We should have a heart without fear to let the Holy Spirit expose all the pitiful places of our soul-life one by one. We should by faith trust God’s appraisal of our life and be willing to wait for the Holy Spirit to reveal our life to us through the Word. Only by this will He be able to lead us on the pathway of deliverance from our soul-life.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)