THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There are many believers who have fallen into passivity and possession because of their ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit. There are several very common misunderstandings:
A. Waiting for the Holy Spirit
The church today is indeed very ignorant of the Holy Spirit in experience! Many well-intentioned believers in many places stress teachings concerning the Holy Spirit. Among these teachings, the most common ones are that one should "wait for the filling of the Holy Spirit," "wait for the descending of the Holy Spirit," and "wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit." In practice, some pray through the night in their house and fast for a long time, "waiting to receive their personal Pentecost." Some meetings change to "waiting meetings" as soon as the sermon is over, so that those who want to seek for the Holy Spirit can wait. Consequently, many actually receive unusual experiences and experience supernatural spirits descending upon them that cause them to have unusually wonderful sensations, see visions and strange light, hear voices, speak in tongues, shake, and have other phenomena. After this the Lord Jesus becomes more precious to them, and many obvious sins are cast away. They become more joyful and enthusiastic, thinking that they have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. These actions are based upon the following verses: "And behold, I send forth the promise of My Father upon you; but as for you, stay in the city until you put on power from on high" (Luke 24:49). "He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4).
We should pay attention to a few important points. Truly the Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to be upon them. After Pentecost, however, we do not find anywhere in the Acts or the Epistles where the apostles commanded the believers to "wait" to receive the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, "receive" is used instead of "wait" (Acts 19:2).
Furthermore, when the disciples were waiting for ten days, the Holy Spirit did not say they were "waiting" passively. Rather, they were praying and petitioning in one accord. The passive and nightlong waiting of today (some even more than ten days) is different from the disciples’ experience.
Furthermore, after Pentecost, whenever we read about the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit, they were filled immediately. They did not have to wait like the apostles did in the beginning (cf. Acts 4:31, 9:17, 10:44).
The Holy Spirit cannot be called on directly. Neither does He come through our beseeching, because He is a gift (cf. Luke 11:13; John 14:16). Furthermore, He descended at Pentecost. In the whole New Testament, no one ever called on the Holy Spirit directly. There is not a case in the Bible where men asked for the descension and baptism of the Holy Spirit directly. Instead, the Bible says that the Lord Jesus "will baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 3:11).
In addition, as we mentioned before, the Holy Spirit only comes upon the "new man," that is, the inner man. Expecting the Holy Spirit to come upon the physical body, demanding a feeling, and prescribing a certain sensation as the verification of the descension of the Holy Spirit are the source of deception.
Therefore, today’s practice of "waiting for the Holy Spirit" is not scriptural, because this practice is entirely passive. Much of this kind of waiting occurs late at night when the body is already very tired. In addition, there is usually a long period of fasting and numerous days of waiting. The mind of the believer naturally becomes very confused. Moreover, prolonged praying, either sitting or kneeling, "waiting" for the descension of the Holy Spirit upon the body, puts the will very easily into complete passivity. The believer does not resist, discern, or choose anything. He just passively waits for a spirit to come upon him, knock him down on the floor, or use his tongue and mouth to give him a strange sensation. Such waiting affords a way for evil spirits to come. It is no wonder that in this condition the believer receives supernatural experiences. The supernatural ones have to wait for man to become very passive before they can manifest themselves. The Holy Spirit, however, will not do any work, because it would go against the principle of His working. Evil spirits take advantage of the opportunity and become very active. They perform many counterfeit works on the believer. At this time, all the prayers, promises, and faith offered to the Holy Spirit are actually offered to evil spirits. Even though a pleasant atmosphere seems to fill the house in this kind of meeting with everyone feeling peaceful and happy, and even though there may be many consecrations and works as a result of such a meeting, the natural life still has not been dealt with.
B. Obeying the Holy Spirit
The believers, in accordance with the word in Acts 5:32, "the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him," think that they ought to "obey the Holy Spirit." Because they do not follow the commandment in the Bible to examine and discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, they consider every spirit that comes upon them as the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they passively obey the spirit that is upon them. Their entire being merely becomes a machine. Whatever the spirit upon them instructs them to do, they obey accordingly. Whenever they do anything, they first turn to their bodies to wait for a commandment. As time goes on, this passive state gradually worsens, and the spirit upon them is able to directly take over their members, such as their mouths and their hands. The believers think that this kind of obeying the Holy Spirit is pleasing to God. Little do they realize that this verse never tells us to obey the Holy Spirit. Rather, it says that we should obey God the Father through the Holy Spirit. The apostle told us in a preceding verse (v. 29) that we should "obey God." If the believer takes the Holy Spirit as his object of obedience and forgets God the Father, he will be led to follow a spirit within him or around him and not obey the Father in heaven through the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of passivity, and this affords evil spirits an opportunity to practice falsehood. Once a person goes a little beyond the Bible, he faces many dangers!
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)