III. THE MEANING OF DEALING WITH THE SPIRIT
We must learn the lesson concerning the spirit in two aspects: one is to let the spirit come forth, and the other is to let the spirit come forth cleanly.
The purpose of the previous lessons on dealing with the flesh, the self, and the natural constitution is to let the spirit come forth. The result of the dealings is that the spirit may be released.
In God’s original arrangement for man, He placed the spirit of man above his soul and body in order that man might live by the spirit, on one hand exercising the spirit to contact God and be ruled by Him, and on the other hand exercising the spirit to control his whole being. But after the fall, the body and the soul usurped the position of the spirit so that man no longer lived by the spirit, but by the flesh and the soul. Thereafter, man’s spirit gradually withered and approached deadness. Therefore, all those today who have not experienced salvation are living in the flesh and the soul. The spirit within them seems to exist, yet it is almost without any function. Furthermore, man’s body has become flesh because of sin, while the soul has become self because of self-opinion and has become natural because of natural ability. The flesh, self-opinion, and the natural constitution tightly and securely surround the spirit. When God comes to save man, His Spirit enters into man’s spirit that it might be revived and strengthened, enabling man to live again by the spirit. Nevertheless, the spirit of man is surrounded by the flesh, self-opinion, and the natural constitution, plus the fact that man is so accustomed to live by these; therefore God requires that man, through the killing effect of the Lord’s cross, put all these to death, dealing with them and breaking them, so that there will be some crack or opening for the spirit to come forth. When man’s spirit comes forth, it brings forth also the Spirit of God. Thus, man can live by the spirit, directing his soul, controlling his body, being a genuine man, living and acting, worshipping, and serving God by the spirit. Therefore, dealing with the flesh, the self, and the natural constitution, which were discussed before, are for the breaking of both the flesh and the soul of man to enable the spirit to come forth. This is the first aspect of the lesson we should learn with regard to dealing with the spirit.
It is not enough, however, if we simply experience the breaking of the outward surroundings of the spirit so that the spirit can be released, for when it is released, whether its condition is correct, upright, pure and unmixed is still another aspect of the problem. Our experience proves that some brothers or sisters are truly very faithful in denying self and dealing with the natural constitution so that their spirit can come forth. However, when their spirit comes forth, it bears with it some improper conditions, such as being rude, haughty, crooked, or unfair. This proves that in their spirit there is much mixture unpleasing to God.
For example, we have said that when a man loses his temper, his spirit comes forth easily. But the spirit which comes forth at such a time is undoubtedly cruel, full of hatred, and rude. This is an improper condition of the spirit. As another example, consider a brother who is going to a certain place to preach. He knows from experience that he cannot rely on his outer man, but that he must allow his spirit to be released; hence, he denies self and rejects the natural constitution. As a result, his spirit as well as the Holy Spirit within his spirit are really released so that many people are touched. However, while he is speaking, there is a desire to exhibit himself and gain the praises of man, as well as a desire to compete with others and surpass them. This improper condition of boasting is manifested along with the release of his spirit. Without doubt his spirit is released at this time, but the condition of its being released is neither right nor pure.
Strictly speaking, within our spirit there are many impure elements, such as haughtiness, boastfulness, crookedness, unfairness, cunning, subtlety, rebellion, and stiff-neckedness. The condition is complicated and delicate beyond our imagination. Therefore it is a problem whether or not our spirit is released, but even more a problem whether it is clean when it is released. With regard to our spirit, not only should we allow it to be released without any hindrance, but we should also cause it to be clean, pure, and proper when released. This is the second aspect of the lesson we need to learn with regard to the spirit, the lesson which we call dealing with the spirit. In conclusion, with regard to the spirit, we need on one hand to be broken in order to release the spirit, and we need on the other hand to be dealt with so that the spirit may be clean, the latter being what we call dealing with the spirit.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)