THE REASON FOR THE FAILURE
OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE CROSS
Those who are not crucified cannot be and are not worthy to preach the message of the cross. The cross which we preach should crucify us first. The message we preach should burn in our life first so that our life and our message can be mingled together. In this way our life will become our living message. The cross we preach should not merely be a message. We should daily live out the cross in our life. What we preach should not be merely a message but a life which we daily live. When we preach, we dispense this life to others. The Lord Jesus said that His flesh is meat and His blood is drink (John 6:55). When we partake of the cross of the Lord Jesus by faith, it is like eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But to eat and to drink are not just empty words. After we eat and drink, we digest what we eat and drink so that it can become part of us—become our life. Our failure lies in the fact that many times we study the Word of God with our own wisdom and prepare our notes with our own thoughts. We often take the knowledge we gain from books and the doctrines we hear from our teachers and friends and make them our sermons. Although we have many good thoughts and ideas, and although the audience listens to us with much attention and interest, all the work ends right there. We cannot dispense the life of God to others. Although we preach the word of the cross, we cannot dispense the life of the cross to others. We can only give thoughts and ideas to people. However, what people lack is not good thoughts but life!
We cannot give to others what we do not have. If we have life, we can give life to others. If what we have is only thoughts, we can only give thoughts to others. If we do not have the experience of crucifixion in our life, if we do not have the experience of dying together with the Lord in overcoming sin and self, if we do not have the experience of bearing the cross and following the Lord to suffer for Him, and if we only know the word of the cross from others’ speaking and writings but have no experience of it ourselves, we surely cannot give life to others. We can only give the theories of the life of the cross to others. Only when we are transformed by the cross and when we receive the life and the spirit of the cross can we dispense the cross to others. The cross should daily do a deeper work in our life so that we can have solid experiences of the suffering and the victory of the cross. Then when we preach, our life will spontaneously flow out through our words, and the Spirit will pour His life through our life to nourish the dried up ones—the audience. Ideas can only reach man’s brain; they only result in more thoughts for man’s brain. Only life can reach man’s spirit, the result being that man’s spirit either receives a regenerated life or a more abundant life.
Man’s thought, words, utterance, and theories can only move and reach man’s soul, because they can only move man’s provocation, emotion, mind, and will. Only life can reach man’s spirit. All the work of the Holy Spirit is in our spirit (Rom. 8:16; Eph. 3:16). Only when we are in the experience of the spirit, flowing out the life of our spirit, will the Holy Spirit pour out His life to others’ spirits through us. Therefore, it is a most vain thing to save the sinners and edify the saints by man’s own mind, utterance, and theory. Although what one speaks may be very persuasive outwardly, we have to know that the Holy Spirit is not co-working with him. The Holy Spirit is not behind his words and is not working with him through His authority and power. The audience only listens to his words; there is no change at all in their lives. Although they sometimes make vows and resolutions, these are only excitements in their soul. There is no life behind his words. As a result, there is no power for them to gain what they have not yet gained. Where there is life, there is power. In spiritual matters, there is no power if there is no life. Therefore, if you do not let the Holy Spirit pour out His life through your life to others’ spirits, others will not have the life of the Holy Spirit and will not have the power to practice what you preach. What we desire is not eloquence but the power of the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit of God make us realize that thoughts can only reach man’s soul, and only life can flow to man’s spirit.
The life we are speaking of here refers to the experience of the word of God in our lives and the experience of the message we preach. The life of the cross is the life of the Lord Jesus. We should first test our message through our experience. The doctrine we understand is only a doctrine. We should let the doctrine work in us first so that the doctrine we understand becomes part of our life and part of the vital elements of our daily living and no longer just a doctrine, but the life of our life. It is like the food we eat becoming the flesh of our flesh and the bone of our bones. Thus, we become a living doctrine. In this way, the word we preach is no longer just a theory we know but our own true life. This is what the Bible means by "doers of the word" (James 1:22). Often we misunderstand the word "doer." We think "doers" are those who try their best to follow the word they hear and understand. But this is not the "doing" in the Bible. It is true that we should resolve to practice what we hear, but the "doing" in the Bible is not a "doing" with one’s own strength. Rather, it is to allow the Holy Spirit to live out from one’s life the word he knows. This is a kind of living, not a kind of work. If there is the living, there will spontaneously be the work. To have some sporadic works is not the "doing" described in the Bible. We should cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our life through our will so that we can experientially live out what we know. In this way we will be able to dispense life to others.
We will know what to follow if we will look to the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "So must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15) and, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He said this signifying by what kind of death He was about to die" (12:32-33). The Lord Jesus had to be crucified before He could draw all men to Himself and dispense spiritual life to others. He Himself had to die first, experience the cross first, and have the working of the cross within and without, making Him a crucified man in reality first, before He could have the power to draw all men to Himself. The disciple is not over his master. If our Lord had to be lifted up before He could draw all men to Himself, should not we who lift up the lifted-up Lord Jesus be lifted up ourselves and be crucified before we can draw men to the Lord? In order for the Lord Jesus to dispense spiritual life to others, He had to be lifted up on the cross. In the same way, if we desire to dispense spiritual life to others, we must also be lifted up on the cross. Only then will the Holy Spirit pour out His life through us. The source of life dispenses life to others through the cross. Should not the channel of life also dispense life to others through the cross?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)