The Renewing of the Mind, by Watchman Nee


How is the nous related to a Christian’s living, work, service to God, walk, etc.? Those who believe in the Lord Jesus have a new spirit and a new heart. This is a fact and cannot be overthrown. No matter how weak or strong a believer is, he is born of God, and he has a new spirit and new heart. That is why he can love someone, serve God, and do everything from his heart. But even though the heart may be a new heart, the part in the heart which belongs to the nous is not renewed. According to human reasoning, one would think that since the heart has been made new, the conscience and the mind, which are included in the heart, must also have been renewed. This is not so. For instance, the part of the conscience in the heart was new when we were saved, but it is not necessarily always new afterwards, nor is it necessarily new every day. When a dress is bought, it is new, but it is not going to stay new forever. One must put in a certain amount of work for it to stay new. When you were saved, your mind was new. But it is not necessarily true that it will remain new after a while. This is an experience common to many believers. Let me tell you that once a man believes in the Lord and is saved, his conscience is new. The function of his conscience is recovered to its original state, so that he now hates sins and dislikes sinning. But can the conscience always remain so new? No, it cannot. If one sins, or if he tolerates sins over and over again and does not listen to his conscience, after repeated sins the conscience will no longer rebuke; it will lose its function. Just as the conscience can lose its feeling or be renewed, the same is true of the mind. Therefore, I want to speak concerning the matter of the nous because this has a crucial relationship to the believer’s position and living.


What exactly is the nous as spoken of in the New Testament? We can see it from three aspects. Human beings have a brain. This speaks of the physiological aspect. We also have a nous, which speaks of the psychological aspect. Moreover, we have an intuition, which speaks of the spiritual aspect. Everything that is related to the physical aspect has to do with the brain. Everything that is related to the intellectual aspect has to do with the nous. However, I dare not say that the nous is the mind, even though a big portion of the mind is the nous. Our spirit receives its feeling from God through the intuition. At this time our soul, through the nous, translates the intuition so that we understand what is conveyed to us. Although we know the will of God through the intuition, this intuition is without reason and order. Therefore, we need the nous in order to express what the intuition knows.

Let me say this more accurately. Man has three faculties with which he gains knowledge: (1) with the body, it is the brain; (2) with the spirit, it is the intuition; (3) with the soul, it is the nous. However, the nous is also controlled by the intuition. We all know that when a brain is being surgically dissected, no more than some gray and white matter can be seen. This is the brain. How about the intuition? Sometimes we feel we have it; sometimes we feel we do not have it. It seems that sometimes something urges us and sometimes it stops us. This is the intuition within us. Our nous falls between our brain and our intuition. The nous expresses what the intuition wants to say and facilitates the brain in thinking and expressing. No matter how strong the intuition of a believer is and how good his brain is, if something is wrong with his nous, he will live without any principle from morning until night. Even in his preaching, he will not be able to express what is within him. From morning until night he will live foolishly. This condition is due to his nous not being renewed.

(The Renewing of the Mind, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)