The Experience of Life, by Witness Lee

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The passage of the spirit can be summed up as the soul and the body, but when studied minutely it can be divided into the purpose of the heart, the motive, the aim, the intention, the heart, the mood of the heart, the will, and the flesh, etc. The purpose of the heart has something to do with the heart, while the motive and intention, etc., can be either in the heart or in the soul. The flesh has to do with the physical body.

Since all these passages of the spirit surround our spirit, they naturally affect the spirit, which must pass through them in order to be released, and which also brings forth their elements and conditions. Hence, the condition of the spirit reflects the condition of all these passages. If our motive is not pure, the spirit also is not pure when released; if our intention is not clean, the spirit coming forth is also not clean.

We can see this more fully from the illustration we have used concerning preaching when it is used for showing off and for competition. When the brother is preaching, his spirit is released, but with the air of display and competition. This is because there are the elements of display and competition in the purpose of his heart and in his motive. With the purpose of heart for self-glory, the result is a showy and boastful spirit. His competitive motive, moreover, causes others to touch a competing and striving spirit.

Therefore man’s spirit is indeed the most genuine part of man. No matter what a man’s condition is, it is manifested when his spirit comes forth. When we contact others or help others in spiritual matters, we should touch their spirit and know their intention and motive, etc. Thus, we shall know the real condition of man deep within him.

Take for example a brother who comes to see the elders and says, “Brother So-and-so and I engaged in business together, and he has wronged me. I come not to accuse him, but simply to have some fellowship with you, the responsible brothers.” Although he declares that he does not come to accuse his brother, his spirit proves otherwise. His motive and intention in fellowshipping is to accuse his brother. Once we touch his spirit, his motive and intention can never escape our discernment.

The purpose of the heart and the motive in man’s spirit are just like a person’s accent—they are very difficult to disguise. For example, suppose a southerner insists on saying that he is a northerner. If he is silent, he might pass, but the more he argues, the more his accent reveals that he is a southerner. The day Peter was in the court of the high priest, the more he defended himself by saying that he was not one of the Nazarenes, the more his Galilean accent betrayed him (Matt. 26:69-73). Likewise, someone may claim that he is humble, yet his spirit reveals his pride. Someone may declare that he is absolutely honest, yet his spirit causes us to sense his crookedness. Another may say that he would be happy to help if there were only an opportunity; yet you touch in him an unwilling spirit. Still another may say that he really wants to obey, but that because of a certain difficulty he cannot obey; yet from his spirit we can tell that from the very beginning he has never wanted to obey. The situation in a man’s spirit is much more complicated than the outward expression. Therefore, we must judge according to man’s spirit, not according to his words.

All brothers and sisters desiring to serve the Lord in the church must especially learn this lesson. If we merely observe a man’s outward attitude and listen to his words, we can easily be deceived. However, if we learn to touch his spirit, the purpose of his heart, his motive, his aim, and his intention cannot escape our observation. Since these are the passages of the spirit, and the spirit bears these conditions as it is being released, its condition reflects these exact conditions. There is no exception to this.

(The Experience of Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)