LIVING IN THE SPIRIT VERSUS IMPROVING OUR BEHAVIOR
A big mistake made by many in Christianity today is to merely teach people how to improve their behavior or to adjust and correct their conduct. This, however, is not the Bible’s revelation. Before we were regenerated, we lived, walked, and had our being in the soul. When we were regenerated, we received another life into our spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:6; Rom. 8:10). To be regenerated simply means to receive another life. This life is Christ Himself. Now that we have received the divine life, we need to be saved in this life daily (5:10). To be saved does not mean to improve our conduct or adjust our behavior; rather, it means that we must deny our soul. We must give up living in the soul. We must turn absolutely from the soul to the spirit. We must forget about correction or improvement and turn to the spirit. The Christian life is not a matter of loving versus hating or of good versus bad; it is a matter of living in the spirit versus living in the soul.
TWO POSSIBILITIES FOR OUR WALK
Romans 8:1-2 and 4 say, “There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death...That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.” It is difficult to discern the word spirit used in this chapter and in other places in the New Testament, unless it is clearly designated to denote God’s Holy Spirit or our human spirit, as in Romans 8:9 and 16. According to its usage in the New Testament, the word spirit in this verse means our human spirit mingled with God’s Holy Spirit (v. 16). We may also say that Romans 8:4 refers mainly to our own spirit, our human spirit. This is quite logical, since the contrast in verse 4 is between the flesh and the spirit, our human spirit. This contrast is not between the Holy Spirit and the flesh but between our spirit and the flesh.
We as men have three parts: a body, soul, and spirit. Our body was corrupted through the fall of man to become the flesh (Gen. 6:3; Rom. 7:18). Deeper than our body is our soul and spirit. Our soul was also corrupted and became the self (Matt. 16:26; Luke 9:25). Therefore, between our spirit and our flesh is our self. Our self is just our very being. Now, there are two possibilities for our walk. We can walk according to the spirit or according to the flesh.
TO WALK IN CHRIST BEING
TO WALK ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
To live, walk, and have our being in Christ is simply to walk according to the spirit. How do we know that we are in Christ? According to Romans 8, to be in Christ is to walk according to the spirit (v. 4). To walk according to the spirit means to have no condemnation in Christ Jesus (v. 1). Although many brothers say that they are in Christ, they also testify that they have a lot of condemnation within. The reason for this condemnation is that they are walking in the soul according to the flesh and not walking in the spirit according to the spirit.
When you are walking in the spirit, there is no condemnation. To say that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (v. 1) is equal to walking according to the spirit (v. 4). When we are walking in the spirit in reality, it is at that moment that we experience no condemnation. However, if we are out of the spirit, there is condemnation all of the time.
The Normal Christian Life by Brother Watchman Nee has helped many brothers and sisters by opening up chapters 5 through 8 of the book of Romans. However, my burden is that those who were helped by this book would walk in the spirit. How many brothers and sisters walk in the spirit? Christ is the victory; He is the life through which we are being saved from many negative things (5:10). Yet how much do we enjoy Christ day by day? How much did we enjoy such a living salvation from so many negative things today? We have the doctrine and teaching about Romans 5—8, but how much enjoyment of what is taught about Christ in these chapters do we have? We may have the teaching, but we may not have the enjoyment of the teaching. In order to help us enter into the enjoyment of the teaching found in Romans, I will not give any more definitions in this chapter. Rather, I will give some experiences and illustrations.
OVERCOMING SINS BY TURNING TO THE SPIRIT
When I was a young Christian, I was taught by others’ writings and through sermons on Romans 6—8 to overcome sins. Someone would speak about victory over sin or the release from sin. When I heard this, I would pray much, saying, “O Lord, I do long to have the victory over all sins. How much I desire to be released from all of the sinful things!” I prayed, but the more I prayed, the more failures I had. The more I prayed for victory over sin, the more I was defeated by sin. For many years I did not know the reason for this experience. Eventually, I began to understand that my shortcoming was that I was asking the Lord to do something for me while I was a person still living in my soul, not in my spirit. I began to realize that there was no need for me to pray for victory over sin or for release from sin. I simply needed to practice to turn to the spirit, forgetting about victory over sin and release from sin.
I realized that I must turn to the mingled spirit, staying in the spirit to contact the Lord. I practiced to keep my mind away from sin or the victory over sin, and to set my mind upon Christ in my spirit (8:6). In the realm of the mingled spirit, there is no need to strive for victory over sin. We need to learn one thing—not to overcome sin but to walk in the spirit. I found out that whenever I was out of the spirit, immediately I was in another realm. In that realm there was the need to strive for the victory over sin.
(Christ our Portion, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)