THE GOAL OF SPIRITUAL WORK
The goal of spiritual work is nothing other than the spirit of man receiving life and building up the spirit which has life. If the aim of our work does not pay attention to the spirit in the deepest part of man, then our work will not have any spiritual value and result. Sinners do not need some sort of beautiful thought; rather, they need life. Believers do not need more knowledge of the Bible; rather, they need something which can feed their spiritual life. If all that we have is just excellent paragraphs, clever illustrations, deep meanings, wise words, or clear reasonings, then we can only give the mind of man one more thought, the emotion one more stimulation, and the will one more decision. After so much effort, we still allow the person upon whom we have worked to go away just as he came—with a dead spirit. A sinner does not need better reasonings, more tears, or a firmer resolve; he needs the resurrection of the spirit. A believer does not need the building up of the outward man; he needs the more abundant life which can make his spirit grow. If we pay attention only to the outward man and forget the inner man, the spirit of man, then all our work, even though it is complete and absolute, will eventually be empty. This work is the same as not working and may even be worse because time is wasted!
A person may be emotionally touched, shed tears, confess his sins, understand doctrines, admit the reasonableness of redemption, be interested in religion, resolve, repent, sign his name, read the Bible, pray, be "revived," rejoice, and testify. However, his spirit may still not have received the life of God and may be just as dead as before. The soul of man can do all these things regardless of whether his spirit is dead or alive. We do not despise them, but we know that if the spirit is not made alive, these things are just sprouts with no roots and will dry up when the sun shines on them. In the regeneration of the spirit, there may be these expressions outwardly in the soul; however, in the deepest part of his whole being he has received a new life, enabling him to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. If the spirit has not resurrected so that he can know God in the intuition, none of the work will have any spiritual result.
We must realize that it is possible to have a "false faith" and a "false regeneration." Many have confused "apprehending" with "believing." To apprehend is just to understand in the mind that this doctrine is reasonable and believable. To believe, in the biblical sense, is to be united. To believe that the Lord Jesus died for us is to unite ourselves in the death of the Lord Jesus. A person may understand the doctrine, but he may not believe in the Lord Jesus. We should pay attention to the fact that man is not saved by his own doings but by receiving eternal life through believing in the Son of God. Man must believe in the Son of God. Many have "believed the doctrine of redemption" but have not believed in the redeeming Savior. Many have put the blood of the Lamb in the container but have not applied this blood on the door of their heart. Regeneration may also be false! The living of many so-called Christians seems to be the same as that of the genuinely regenerated. They are very clean, pious, and willing to help others; they know how to pray, often read the Bible, often come to meetings, and are very loving! They exert a great effort to lead others to believe in Christ. Although they have all these things and even say that the Lord Jesus is their Savior, they have a basic lack. They do not know God in their intuition. They may hear and talk about God, but they do not know God, nor do they have a personal knowledge of God. "My own know Me...and they shall hear My voice" (John 10:14, 16). Those who do not know the Lord and do not know the Lord’s voice are not the Lord’s genuine sheep.
Since the relationship between man and God begins at regeneration and is all in the spirit, all our works should focus on this point. If one only wants superficial success and his goal is just to make people fervent and excited, he will find that there is nothing of God in his work. Once we know the position of the spirit, our work must have a fundamental change. Rather than working aimlessly, following what we think is good, we should have a clear goal to build up the spirit of man. While we previously emphasized natural things, now we must stress the things of the Spirit of God. The meaning of spiritual work is nothing other than working by the spirit to enliven the spirit of others. All other work is not genuine spiritual work.
If we truly know that all that we have cannot give life to others, we will see how useless we are. If we truly do not rely on or use anything of ourselves, then we will see how weak we are. Then we will see how much power our inner man, our new I, and our spiritual life really has. Because we ordinarily live by the soul, we do not know how powerless our spirit is. Once all the other help from our soul is eliminated and we solely depend on the power of the spirit, we will realize that the life in our spirit is so small. When we no longer want others to understand in their mind, when we no longer want them to be moved in their emotion, and when we no longer want them to decide in their will, and instead only want their spirit to receive life, we will see that we absolutely cannot give life to others unless the Holy Spirit uses us. "Who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). If God does not beget them, truly we cannot beget them. Then we will realize that all the work must be done by God and that we are just empty vessels. Within us there is nothing which can beget people, and within a man there is nothing which can beget himself. Rather, it is God who pours out His life from our spirit. Therefore, spiritual work is nothing other than the work which God does Himself. Everything that is not done by God cannot be regarded as spiritual work.
We must ask God to reveal this to us, to let us know the nature of His great work and that we need His great power in order to do His work. Then we will realize that our opinions are truly foolish and our self-reliance is truly laughable; all our works are nothing but "dead works." Although many times God grants us special mercies and lets our work have results beyond what we deserve, we must not think that we can do even more. Any work from ourselves is useless and dangerous. The work of God cannot be accomplished in a fervent atmosphere and attractive environment, by romantic thoughts, poetic imaginations, idealistic viewpoints, rational suggestions, impassioned persuasions, or by occasionally arousing the will to encourage people to have a lasting zeal. If spiritual work was based on our imaginations and not on reality, these methods could be used. But if spiritual work truly causes the spirit of man to be regenerated, resurrected, and receive new life, it can only be done through the power of God, through which He raised the Lord Jesus from among the dead.
If we do not give people the life of God, then there will be no praise in the heavens. Regardless of whether our work is full of reasonings, emotions, and words which can cause people to resolve in their will, or even if our work is completely against reasons, feelings, and stimulations, if it does not issue from the spirit in which the Holy Spirit dwells, our work will not cause man to receive life. Although counterfeit spiritual power may produce similar results, the dead spirit of man can never genuinely receive life from it. Many things may have been gained, but the goal of spiritual work has not been obtained.
If our goal is truly to impart life to others, then the power we use must be the power of God. If we utilize the power of the soul, we will encounter failure. The soul may be living (Gen. 2:7), but it cannot give life; "it is the Spirit who gives life" (John 6:63). The Lord Jesus is "the last Adam [who] became a life-giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45). "He poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12). Those who are channels for the life of the Lord Jesus must also deliver their soul-life to death and work by the life of the spirit so that people can be regenerated. Otherwise, even though the soul-life may be beautiful, it has no power to give birth. Drawing real power from the natural life to do any spiritual work is impossible. The old creation never helps the new creation. If we have revelation from the Holy Spirit and work through the power of the Holy Spirit, our audience will be self-reproved and will allow God to enliven their spirits. Otherwise, the sermon we preach will become an excellent ideal which can stir people up temporarily, but nothing spiritual will subsequently happen. The one who depends on the power of the spirit may use the same words, but these words will become life to the spirit. The words of the one who depends on the power of self will become human ideals. Moreover, the work that is done by utilizing the power of the soul will cause these people to demand these feelings and ideals more and more. Therefore, they will stay around whoever can give them these things. Someone who is ignorant will consider this to be spiritual success because many people have been gained. However, someone who has spiritual knowledge will realize that they have no life in their spirit, because their spirit still cannot move. This kind of work in the religious realm is like opium and alcohol to the physical body. Man needs life, not ideals and stimulus. Therefore, a believer has no responsibility other than to consecrate his own spirit as a vessel for God’s use and to commit to death all that is of his self. God could greatly use His children to be channels of life to enable sinners to receive salvation and saints to receive edification, but they block their own spirits on the one hand, and on the other hand, they give to others only what they have in themselves. All that the audience receives are the thoughts, reasons, and emotions of the worker. After all the speaking, the audience does not receive the Lord as their Savior so that their dead spirit can be made alive. If we understand that our goal is to let the spirit of others receive life, then we ourselves must have considerable preparation. If we really lose our soul and depend on the spirit, we will see that the words which the Lord speaks from our mouths "are spirit and are life."
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)