THE HOLY SPIRIT AND EXPERIENCE
"For when we were in the flesh, the passions for sins...operated in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we...having died..." (Rom. 7:5-6). Therefore, the flesh can dominate us no more.
We have already believed and confessed that our flesh has been crucified on the cross. Now—not before this—we should pay attention to the question of our experience. Even though we may pay attention to experience, we still hold fast the facts we have before God because what God has accomplished for us and our experience of the accomplishment of God are two inseparable matters.
God has already done all that He could do; He has already accomplished all. Now, the only questions are how do we deal with what He has done and what is our attitude toward what He has accomplished. He has crucified our flesh on the cross, not just in term, but in reality. If we are willing to believe and willing to exercise our will to choose what God has accomplished for us, that very matter will become experience in our life. There is no need for us to accomplish it, because God has already accomplished everything. There is no need for us to crucify our flesh, because God has already crucified it on the cross. Now the questions are whether we believe that this is real and whether we want this to be accomplished in our life. If we believe it and we want it, we need to work together with the Holy Spirit to obtain this experience. Colossians 3:5 says, "Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth." This is the way to have the experience. The word "therefore" follows the foregoing portion. Verse 3 says, "For you died." This is what God has accomplished for us. "For you died." "Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth." The first death is a positional fact which we have in Christ. The second death is the real experience which we possess. We can see the relationship between these two deaths. The failure of the believers in the flesh is because of not seeing the relationship of these two deaths. Some only want to put to death their flesh, first paying attention to their experience of death, but the more they put to death their flesh, the more alive their flesh is. Some only know that their flesh has been crucified with the Lord Jesus on the cross and do not pursue the practice. In both cases they cannot have the experience of crucifying the flesh.
If we want to put our members to death, we must have a basis. Otherwise, even though we eagerly pursue experience, relying vainly on our own efforts, we will not have the experience. We believers who know that the flesh has died with the Lord and do not apply what the Lord has accomplished for us will see that the knowledge of the believers is also of no avail. In order to put the flesh to death, we must first understand co-death. Having known co-death, we must practice putting to death. These two go together and support one another. If we are only satisfied with knowing the fact of co-death, thinking that now everything is spiritual and the flesh has been extinguished, we deceive ourselves. On the contrary, if while putting to death the evil deeds of the flesh, we pay too much attention to the evil deeds and do not take the attitude that our flesh has already died, this also is in vain. If while putting to death the flesh, we forget that death already took place, nothing can be put to death. "You died"—you died with the Lord Jesus because, when the Lord Jesus died, He crucified your flesh on the cross. "Therefore," you now need to practice applying the death of the Lord to put to death all the practices of the members. This "putting to death" is based upon "you died." To put to death means to apply the death of the Lord Jesus to execute the death sentence on every member. The death of the Lord is the most authoritative death, the most fatal death, and whatever meets it cannot but die. Since we are identified with His death, if temptation is in any of our members and lust is going to operate, we can apply this death to deal with that member and cause it to die instantly—to put it to death.
The death in which the believer is joined with the Lord has already become a reality in his spirit. (The death of Christ is a most powerful and active death.) Now the believer should bring that definite death out of his spirit to deal with all the activities in his members because the lust in his members can operate at any moment. This kind of spiritual death is not once for all. Whenever the believer is not on the alert or loses faith, the flesh will operate again. If the believer wants to have his whole being conformed to the Lord’s death, he must often put to death the deeds of his members so that that which is in the spirit can also reach his body.
But how can we have power to apply the Lord’s death to our members? Romans 8:13 says that "by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body." A believer who wants to put to death the practices of the body must depend on the Holy Spirit to make his co-death with Christ become experience. When a believer puts to death the practices of his body by the Lord’s death, he must believe that the Holy Spirit will cause the death of the cross to become real in the particular matter which he wants to put to death. The crucifixion of the believer’s flesh with Christ on the cross is an accomplished fact. There is no need to crucify it again. Nevertheless, if the evil deeds of the body seem about to operate, then the Spirit should be there to apply the death which the cross of the Lord Jesus has accomplished for us to that very evil deed that it might be put to death by the power of the Lord’s death. The evil practices of the flesh at all times and in every place are ready to come out and be manifested from our body. Therefore, unless the Spirit empowers the believer with the power of the holy death of the Lord Jesus, the believer cannot overcome. If the believer can put to death his practices in this way, the indwelling Holy Spirit will be able to accomplish God’s purpose that the body of sin might be annulled (6:6). When the baby believers know the cross in this way, they can be liberated from the dominion of the flesh and be joined to the Lord Jesus in the life of resurrection.
From here on the believers should "walk by the Spirit" and "by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). We must take notice that no matter how much the death of the Lord is rooted and grounded in our life, we cannot expect, even for an hour, that we will not have to be watchful in order to prevent the practices in our members from rioting in us. Whenever a believer is not walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit, right away he is walking by the flesh. The real condition of the flesh which God reveals to us in Romans 7, after verse 5, is the real condition of the believer himself. If for one moment the believer stops walking by the Spirit, he right away becomes the kind of person about whom we are speaking. Since Romans 7 stands between chapter six and chapter eight, some people consider that once a believer has passed through chapter seven and has entered into the Spirit of life in chapter eight, chapter seven will become merely a past history. But in reality chapter seven and chapter eight are simultaneous and parallel. Whenever the believer does not walk according to the Holy Spirit in chapter eight, there immediately is the experience of chapter seven. Therefore Paul says in verse 25, "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." "So then" is the conclusion of all his speaking concerning experiences before 7:25. Before verse 24 he was a failure. Not until verse 25 is he victorious. But, it is after he failed and then gained the victory that he said, "With the mind I myself serve the law of God," which means that what God wants is my new life. "With the flesh, the law of sin" means that no matter how he served the law of God with his mind, his flesh always served the law of sin. And no matter how he was freed from the flesh, his flesh always served the law of sin (v. 25). The meaning here is that flesh is always flesh. No matter how our life in the Holy Spirit is growing and rooted, the flesh has not changed its nature and still serves the law of sin. Therefore, even though we do not walk according to the flesh, in order to be led by the Spirit of God (8:14) and be freed from the oppression of the flesh, we always need to put to death the practices of the body and walk according to the Holy Spirit.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)