THE NATURE OF THE GOOD WORKS OF THE FLESH
God is very much against the flesh because He knows the actual condition of the flesh. God’s purpose is that the believers would be completely free of the old creation and enter completely into the new creation in experience. Whether good or evil, the flesh belongs to the old creation. There is a big difference between the good that the flesh does and the good that comes out of the new life. The flesh is centered on the self; it can do good by itself and does it with its own strength. It has no need to depend on the Holy Spirit, no need to be humble, no need to wait upon God, and no need to pray and beseech God, but only has to decide by itself, think by itself, and perform by itself. Naturally, it is inevitable that it accredits glory to itself, telling itself, "Now I am much better than before!" "Now I am really quite good." Moreover, such deeds do not lead people to come to God but instead cause them to become puffed up in secret. God wants man to come completely helpless before Him, submitting wholly to His Holy Spirit and waiting on Him humbly and trustfully. The goodness of the flesh which centers on the self is always evil in the eyes of God because it is not the work of the Holy Spirit, and it does not issue from the life of the Lord Jesus. Rather, it is the work of man’s own self, and the glory is ascribed to himself.
In Philippians 3:3 the apostle mentioned "confidence in the flesh." "Confidence" in the original text is "belief." He said that he himself did not "believe in the flesh." The greatest work of the flesh is self-confidence! Since one thinks he is able, he does not need to trust in the Holy Spirit. Christ crucified is the wisdom of God, but a believer trusts in his own wisdom. He can read the Bible, preach the Bible, hear the Word, and believe in the Word; however, all of these are done through the power of his own mind, and he does not think that he absolutely must ask for the Holy Spirit to teach him. Many people believe they have received all the truth, even though what they have is something which they have received from others and from their own searching and what they have is more of man than of God! Furthermore, they do not have a teachable heart that is willing to wait on God and to let Him reveal His truth in His light.
Christ is also the power of God. But how much self-reliance there is in Christian work! The time spent in the employment of human methods and arrangements is more than the time spent waiting before God. The time spent on preparing the items and sections of the message far exceeds the time spent on receiving the power from above. It is not that we do not proclaim the truth or that we do not confess the person and work of Christ as our only hope or that we do not want to glorify His name, but that, because our confidence is in the flesh, many of our works are dead before God. In our speaking we rely on human wisdom to present a doctrine in a full way. We use appropriate illustrations and various kinds of expressions to stir up men’s emotions. We also use wise exhortation to cause men to make a decision. However, where is the real result? In this kind of work, how much is the reliance on the Holy Spirit and how much is the reliance on the flesh? How can the flesh give life to man? Does the old creation actually have sufficient power to help man become the new creation?
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)