Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), by Watchman Nee


Some have said, "I am surprised that I can commit that kind of sin." If we say such a word, we do not know our self. We do not know how corrupt we are and that we can commit any kind of sin. We have to realize that other than the new life which God gave us at regeneration, we are no better than anybody else. Indeed, every man has the possibility of becoming a robber, and every woman has the possibility of becoming a prostitute. We do not become such because we are placed in different environments. Brothers, I have to admit that the seed of all sins is within me. If it were not for the ruling of God’s life, I could commit any kind of sin.

Many tears shed for sins today are not actually shed for sins; they are shed because the self cannot come up to the standard of the believers’ expectation. Many seekings, prayers, and faith are outwardly directed toward God; but inwardly they are motivated by an expectation that the self can improve. God allows you to fail in order that you will realize the corruption of the flesh and the weakness of the self. He wants you to give up your self, turn to Him, and depend on Him. When you see your self as such, you may weep, but this does not mean that you are giving up your self or that you are accepting the judgment of God on your flesh. You are weeping because you bemoan the fact that your own life is not as good as you would have it. Dear ones, you still have not realized that the flesh is incurable. After you have wept bitterly, you exert even more strength to make up your mind to be watchful and on the alert. You exert more strength to exercise self-control and seek more for the Holy Spirit to apply the cross in you. At the same time, you cherish more hope in the self, thinking that it will change for the better and that you will not fail as before. But the sad thing is that you still fail as before. Brothers, have you not seen through your own corruption yet? Each time you fail, you should realize your self that much more. Each time you fall, you should realize your weakness that much more. Each time you sin, you should give up hope on your self and reject your self that much more. Unfortunately, every time you fall, you struggle that much more, strive that much more, and shore up your own strength that much more. It is useless for you to believe and to call with your mouth, if you do not accept the principle of the cross in judging your self.


Has not the Bible told us about this kind of mistake? We know that Romans 6 speaks of our dying with the Lord, chapter seven speaks of the battle between the new life and the old, and chapter eight speaks of the victory in the Holy Spirit. We should have overcome through dying with the Lord. Why have we not overcome even after we have understood and accepted the truth in Romans 6? It is because we lack the experience of failure in Romans 7. Chapter six tells us that the death of the self is a fact (v. 11). But after many have believed in this truth, why do they still not have the victory of chapter eight? The reason for this is that they have never failed. God must bring the believers through the failure of chapter seven; they must fail again and again, and they must be brought to the final point where they have exhausted all their means and declare, "I am fleshy, sold under sin...For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells" (vv. 14, 18). This is the knowledge of the self. This is to know our self. The reason God allows us to fail all the time is that He wants us to realize our true condition. God allows us to repeatedly stumble so that we would concede that we are "sold under sin" and that in us "nothing good dwells." Then we will know that in order to overcome, there is no hope except to receive power from outside. This is why there is the cry: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me...?" After we have realized our own corruption and conceded that we cannot overcome sin without the salvation of Christ, then the beginning of chapter eight refers to our dying together with Christ as mentioned in chapter six. It also mentions how the believers have fully overcome through this death. Brothers, we are familiar with the salvation of dying together with Christ, and we indeed hope for the glory of overcoming. But the question today and the work now is to know our self. How difficult it is for God to bring us to know our self and put our self in the position of death! We have suffered many failures in the past. But we are not willing to know our self through our failures. On the contrary, we try our best to improve our self and cover up our self. If we examine our past failures in the holy light of God, we will realize what kind of persons we are. If we go on further to deny our self, God will then lead us into the Canaan rest.

Of course, all of us have some self-knowledge, and all of us know a little about our self. In our past experiences, we received God’s leading and knew briefly the corruption of the self. But brothers, I am afraid that many do not have a sufficiently deep and satisfactory knowledge of their self. We must not be afraid to know our self too much! Although the self is ugly and even horrifying, and although it is loathsome and detestable, we have to somehow know it. We must never think that we fully know our self. Brothers, we are still far from the mark! Self-satisfaction and self-contentment also harm us in the course of knowing the self. The stronger the self-life is, the more we think that we have this and many other things. Little do we realize that we are Laodicean believers. God has to subdue us so that we will no longer be self-contented or self-confident.


Knowing the self is a life-long lesson for the believers. God desires that believers be completely free from their self and be in Him; therefore, He allows them to fail time after time so that they will know their self more and more. Stubborn believers will experience failures that others have not experienced before, so that they can reach God’s goal. Such believers may think that the Lord is especially harsh towards them. They do not realize that the reason for this is that their tie with their self is stronger than that in others. God allows the believers to fail so that they will know their self and trust in Him. After a believer has learned to trust in Him, God will give him the victory to see whether or not the believer will still trust in Him completely and whether or not he will steal the glory for himself. It is most pitiful that shortly after believers have won a victory, they begin to be boastful again and no longer trust in God in fear and trembling but claim glory for themselves. As a result, God has to allow them to fail again. Today a countless number of believers are still living this life of victory after failure and failure after victory. But they still have not learned the lesson which God wants them to learn. Brothers, besides the way of self-knowledge, self-judgment, and self-denial, there is no other way to enter into spiritual life. If we judge our self all the time through a knowledge of the self, we will avoid many failures. Otherwise, as soon as we forget our weakness and become active again, God will allow us to fail again. This will cause us to bow our heads and acknowledge that there is no goodness within us.

After God has broken you in such a way, you will not see anything else except the evil and abomination of the self. You will not dare to initiate anything by yourself, nor dare to do anything by your own strength. Instead, you will wait on God’s will in everything and trust in God’s power. If there is any success, you will not dare be boastful, for you know that you do not deserve any glory. Today those who are (1) following their self-will, (2) relying on their self-power, and (3) giving glory to themselves do not know their self.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)