“These women are two covenants: one from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar answereth to Jerusalem that now is, for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. With freedom did Christ set us free. Stand fast, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.”  
HE house of Abraham was the Church of God of that age. The division in his house, one son, his own son, but born after the flesh, the other after the promise, was a divinely-ordained manifestation of the division there would be in all ages between the children of the bondwoman, those who served God in the spirit of bondage, and those who were children of the free, and
served Him in the Spirit of His Son. The passage teaches us what the whole Epistle confirms: that the Galatians had become entangled with a yoke of bondage, and were not standing fast in the freedom with which Christ makes free indeed. Instead of living in the New Covenant, in the Jerusalem which is from above, in the liberty which the Holy Spirit gives, their whole walk proved that, though Christians, they were of the Old Covenant, which bringeth forth children unto bondage. The passage teaches us the great truth, which it is of the utmost consequence for us to apprehend thoroughly, that a man, with a measure of the knowledge and experience of the grace of God, may prove, by a legal spirit, that he is yet practically, to a large extent, under the Old Covenant. And it will show us, with wonderful clearness; what the proofs are of the absence of the true New Covenant life.

A careful study of the Epistle shows us that the difference between the two Covenants is seen in three things. The law and its works is contrasted with the hearing of faith, the flesh and its religion with the flesh crucified, the impotence to good with a walk in the liberty and the power of the Spirit. May the Holy Spirit reveal to us this twofold life.

The first antithesis we find in Paul’s words, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or the hearing of faith?” These Galatians had indeed been born into the New Covenant; they had received the Holy Spirit. But they had been led away by Jewish teachers, and, though they had been justified by faith, they were seeking to be sanctified by works; they were looking for the maintenance and the growth of their Christian life to the observance of the law. They had not understood that, equally with the beginning, the progress of the Divine life is alone by faith, day by day receiving its strength from Christ alone; that in Jesus Christ nothing avails but faith working by love.

Almost every believer makes the same mistake as the Galatian Christians. Very few learn at conversion at once that it is only by faith that we stand, and walk, and live. They have no conception of the meaning of Paul’s teaching about being dead to the law, freed from the law– about the freedom with which Christ makes us free. “As many as are led by the Spirit are not under the law.” Regarding the law as a Divine ordinance for our direction, they consider themselves prepared and fitted by conversion to take up the fulfilment of the law as a natural duty. They know not that, in the New Covenant, the law written in the heart needs an unceasing faith in a Divine power, to enable us by a Divine power to keep it. They cannot understand that it is not to the law, but to a Living Person, that we are now bound, and that our obedience and holiness are only possible by the unceasing faith in His power ever working in us. It is only when this is seen, that we are prepared truly to live in the New Covenant.

The second word, that reveals the Old Covenant spirit, is the word “flesh.” Its contrast is, the flesh crucified. Paul asks: “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye made perfect in the flesh?” Flesh means our sinful human nature. At his conversion the Christian has generally no conception of the terrible evil of his nature, and the subtlety with which it offers itself to take part in the service of God. It may be most willing and diligent in God’s service for a time; it may devise numberless observances for making His worship pleasing and attractive; and yet this may be all only what Paul calls “making a fair show in the flesh,” “glorying in the flesh,” in man’s will and man’s efforts. This power of the religious flesh is one of the great marks of the Old Covenant religion; it misses the deep humility and spirituality of the true worship of God–a heart and life entirely dependent upon Him.

The proof that our religion is very much that of the religious flesh, is that the sinful flesh will be found to flourish along with it. It was thus with the Galatians. While they were making a fair show in the flesh, and glorying in it, their daily life was full of bitterness and envy and hatred, and other sins. They were biting and devouring one another. Religious flesh and sinful flesh are one: no wonder that, with a great deal of religion, temper and selfishness and worldliness are so often found side by side. The religion of the flesh cannot conquer sin.

What a contrast to the religion of the New Covenant! What is the place the flesh has there? “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its desires and affections.” Scripture speaks of the will of the flesh, the mind of the flesh, the lust of the flesh; all this the true believer has seen to be condemned and crucified in Christ: he has given it over to the death. He not only accepts the Cross, with its bearing of the curse, and its redemption from it, as his entrance into life; he glories in it as his only power day by day to overcome the flesh and the world. “I am crucified with Christ.” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ, by which I am crucified to the world.” Even as nothing less than the death of Christ was needed to inaugurate the New Covenant, and the resurrection life that animates it, there is no entrance into the true New Covenant life other than by a partaking of that death.

“Fallen from grace.” This is a third word that describes the condition of these Galatians in that bondage in which they were really impotent to all true good. Paul is not speaking of a final falling away here, for he still addresses them as Christians, but of their having wandered from that walk in the way of enabling and sanctifying grace, in which a Christian can get the victory over sin. As long as grace is principally connected with pardon and the entrance to the Christian life, the flesh is the only power in which to serve and work. But when we know what exceeding abundance of grace has been provided, and how God “makes all grace abound, that we may abound to all good works,” we know that, as it is by faith, so too it is by grace alone that we stand a single moment or take a single step.

The contrast to this life of impotence and failure is found in the one word, “the Spirit.” “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law,” with its demand on your own strength. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not”–a definite, certain promise–”ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” The Spirit gives liberty from the law, from the flesh, from sin. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy.” Of the New Covenant promise, “I will put My Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments,” the Spirit is the center and the sum. He is the power of the supernatural life of true obedience and holiness.

And what would have been the course that the Galatians would have taken if they had accepted this teaching of St. Paul? As they hear his question, “Now that ye have come to know God, how turn ye back again into the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage again?” they would have felt that there was but one course. Nothing else could help them but at once to turn back again to the path they had left. At the point where they had left it, they could enter again. With any one of them who wished to do so, this turning away from the Old Covenant legal spirit, and the renewed surrender to the Mediator of the New Covenant, could be the act of a moment–one single step. As the light of the New Covenant promise dawned upon him, and he saw how Christ was to be all, and faith all, and the Holy Spirit in the heart all, and the faithfulness of a Covenant-keeping God all in all, he would feel that he had but one thing to do–in utter impotence to yield himself to God, and in simple faith to count upon Him to perform what He had spoken. In Christian experience there may be still the Old Covenant life of bondage and failure. In Christian experience there may be a life that gives way entirely to the New Covenant grace and spirit. In Christian experience, when the true vision has been received of what the New Covenant means, a faith that rests fully on the Mediator of the New Covenant can enter at once into the life which the Covenant secures.

I cannot too earnestly beg all believers who long to know to the utmost what the grace of God can work in them, to study carefully the question as to whether the acknowledgment that our being in the bondage of the Old Covenant is the reason of our failure, and whether a clear insight into the possibility of an entire change in our relation to God, is not what is needed to give us the help we seek. We may be seeking for our growth in a more diligent use of the means of grace, and a more earnest striving to live in accordance with God’s will, and yet entirely fail. The reason is, that there is a secret root of evil which must be removed. That root is the spirit of bondage, the legal spirit of self-effort, which hinders that humble faith that knows that God will work all, and yields to Him to do it. That spirit may be found amidst very great zeal for God’s service, and very earnest prayer for His grace; it does not enjoy the rest of faith, and cannot overcome sin, because it does not stand in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and does not know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. There the soul can say: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus bath made me free from the law of sin and death.” When once we admit heartily, not only that there are failings in our life, but that there is something radically wrong that can be changed, we shall turn with a new interest, with a deeper confession of ignorance and impotence, with a hope that looks to God alone for teaching and strength, to find that in the New Covenant there is an actual provision for every need.

Andrew Murray

God’s Rules For Service

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). 

  The Israelites limited what God could do for them, because of their selfishness and their lack of faith. It wasn’t that God wasn’t powerful enough but that the Almighty, omnipotent God was limited by the creatures He had redeemed. God could have done so much more for them. It wasn’t God’s idea to wander in a desert; He had Canaan all ready but they refused to enter in.

   Truly this is a type of many of God’s people today. We have been redeemed from bondage, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but, like the Israelites, so many wander in a desert of their own choosing.

   They wander and limit God, limit all that He could do for them in the way of peace, comfort, assurance and confidence in Christ. The wilderness was a place of murmurings and mistakes. So often they were rebellious (just as we are), and God had to chasten them. So many of God’s people are in a desert of their own making. They murmur and cry, “Why should God do this to me?” yet so often it is not what God has done, but what they have chosen. If I put my finger into a fire, I must not blame God if I get burned!

   The wilderness was a place of fruitlessness. They were constantly looking back to Egypt and thinking of the “pleasures” of Egypt — they had refused to enter into the land flowing with milk and honey. It was not God’s plan that they should wander in a fruitless place. A wilderness experience in the Christian life can be just as fruitless, just as unsatisfying. Many of God’s people have nothing to show for years of being on the Christian pathway. Many churches are composed of groups of wilderness Christians so that the witness of the church is fruitless, joyless and dead.

   Limiting God in what He can do for us is bad enough, but then there is the other side which is so much worse. We limit God in what He can do through us. When God called us to Himself, and cleansed us from our sins, and gave us the gift of eternal life it was for a definite purpose: “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). The Amplified Bible uses the phrase “implements of righteousness.” We are saved for a very definite purpose — that we, our whole, entire selves, might be instruments, or weapons, or implements, in the hand of God.

   Now, think how much we must hinder what God can do through us. All true Christians are the means whereby God fulfills His purpose, fights His battles and feeds the spiritually hungry. Weakness and failure on our part lead to God being limited in what He can do through us. Perhaps God wants to do a mighty work in your school, in your store, in your church, in your family or wherever it may be, but He cannot, because you are fearful, in spite of all His promises. “He who is in you is greater that he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

   You and I are wonderfully equipped, we are invincibly strong, because Christ lives in us in the power of His Holy Spirit. But in spite of this, we still limit what God can do through us. We are useless instruments, idle implements, and frightened weapons. If every Christian was available to God and served Him as fearlessly as the Communists serve their masters, what a different story there would be. A true Communist considers himself expendable for the cause, no sacrifice is too great to ask, or too difficult to perform. No wonder the power of communism is spreading — they never turn back, no matter how great the problems.

Often, too, we hinder God’s work through sheer selfishness. Remember that God doesn’t want our money, or our support, or our patronage — He wants you. “Yield yourselves. . .and your members” — all that you are and all that you have. Many Christians think this is carrying things a bit too far. “To hand over your whole life to Christ! That’s a bit too much! You must be reasonable in all things!” Through our sheer selfishness we hinder God: “The godly man ceases. . .the faithful disappear” (Psalm 12:1). Why do they cease and disappear? Verse 4 has the answer: “Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

   This is true today in our churches. People who once were godly are ceasing, and those who once were faithful are disappearing. The reason is the same — sheer selfishness. They say — “My time is my own! Who is going to tell me what I have to do?”

   I have a glorious inheritance in Christ. “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians 1:11). He is the source of all my cleansing, my comfort and my joy. How gladly we go to our Lord Jesus and tell Him our sorrows and expect Him to comfort us. How willingly He meets all our need. He, Himself, is our rich inheritance. But look at verse 18 of the same chapter: “His inheritance in the saints.” It works both ways. I am His inheritance; all that He needs He should be able to find in me. But we are selfish — we say to God, “Give, give, give, and forgive!” But our own personal relationship is “Get, get, get — and forget.” Thus we hinder God’s work in all the many wonderful things He could do through us. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).

   In God’s dealings with His people He gave them many warnings, but eventually the end came. 2 Chronicles 36:16 states: “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” How tragic are those last words — “till there was no remedy.” We must realize that today we are the messengers sent with a warning. How much more fruitful could we be if we did not hinder God’s work because we go our own way, work out our own plans, and are unwilling to get off the throne of our heart and let Christ have full control.

   “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in him, And He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

   “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23). God wants us to enjoy not only what Christ has done for us, not only His work, but His very Person. He is our peace — He is our life. If we can come to the place where we commit all that we are, and hope to be, into His hands — and then rest there, thanking Him for what He has done — not asking Him over and over again to do what He has already done — then we can find peace and enjoy what God has for us.

   “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (I Corinthians 2:9-10). So often verse 9 is quoted by itself as being heaven to come, but verse 10 distinctly says: “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” All these previous things are ours to enjoy now, as we enter into all that Christ is now.

   Living the Christ-filled life is thus a joyous experience of being totally involved with the living victorious Christ. It is the outcome of willing obedience. It is the delight of daily discipline. It is what God intended the Christian life to be. It is yours for the taking, the trusting and the triumphing.

John Hunter

Believers today very much lack knowledge as to the existence and operation of the human spirit. Many are unaware that in addition to their mind, emotion and will they also have a spirit. Even when they have heard of the spirit, many Christians either consider their mind, emotion or will as the spirit or else plainly confess they know not where their spirit is. Such ignorance enormously affects cooperation with God, control over self, and war against Satan, the performance of which in all cases requires the operation of the spirit.

It is imperative that believers recognize a spirit exists within them, something extra to thought, knowledge and imagination of the mind, something beyond affection, sensation and pleasure of the emotion, something additional to desire, decision and action of the will. This component is far more profound than these faculties. God’s people not only must know they possess a spirit; they also must understand how this organ operates—its sensitivity, its work, its power, its laws. Only in this way can they walk according to their spirit and not the soul or body of their flesh.

The spirit and soul of the unregenerate have become fused into one; therefore they do not know at all the presence of the deadened spirit; on the other hand, they are very well aware of strong soulical sensation. This foolishness continues even after being saved. That is why believers sometimes walk after the spirit and sometimes after the flesh even though they have received spiritual life and have experienced to some degree victory over the things of the flesh. To be unaware of the demand, movement, supply, sense, and direction of the spirit naturally curtails the life of the spirit and allows the natural life of the soul to go unchallenged as the living principle of one’s walk. The magnitude of this ignorance far exceeds common admission of it among believers. Because of their ignorance concerning the spirit’s operation, those who honestly desire deeper experience upon having overcome sin may all too easily be led astray into seeking so-called “spiritual” Bible knowledge with their minds, or a burning sensation of the Lord’s presence in their physical members, or a life and labor emanating from their will power. They are deceived into overly esteeming their soul experiences and thus fall into conceiving themselves as ever so spiritual. Their soul life is inordinately nourished. They become so subjective as to assess their experience as unquestionably spiritual. Accordingly, they are hindered from making any genuine spiritual progress. For this reason God’s children must be very humble before Him and seek to know the teaching of the Bible and the functioning of the spirit through the Holy Spirit in order that they may walk by the spirit.

The Regeneration of Man

Why must a sinner be born anew? Why must he be born from above? Why must there be a regeneration of the spirit? Because man is a fallen spirit. A fallen spirit needs to be reborn that it may become a new one. Just as Satan is a fallen spirit, so is man; only he has a body. Satan’s fall came before man’s; we therefore can learn about our fallen state from Satan’s plunge. Satan was created as a spirit that he might have direct communion with God. But he fell away and became the head of the powers of darkness. He now is separated from God and from every godly virtue. This, however, does not signify that Satan is non-existent. His fall only took away his right relationship with God. Similarly, man in his fall also sank into darkness and separation from God. Man’s spirit still exists but is separated from God, powerless to commune with Him and incapable of ruling. Spiritually speaking, man’s spirit is dead. Nonetheless, as the spirit of the sinful archangel exists forever so the spirit of sinful man continues too. Because he has a body his fall rendered him a man of the flesh (Gen. 6.3). No religion of this world, no ethics, culture or law can improve this fallen human spirit. Man has degenerated into a fleshly position; nothing from himself can return him to a spiritual state. Wherefore regeneration or regeneration of the spirit is absolutely necessary. The Son of God alone can restore us to God, for He shed His blood to cleanse our sins and give us a new life.

Immediately the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus he is born anew. God grants him His uncreated life that the sinner’s spirit may be made alive. The regeneration of a sinner occurs inhis spiritGod’s work begins without exception within the man, from the center to the circumference. How unlike Satan’s pattern of work! He operates from the outer to the inner. God aims first to renew man’s darkened spirit by imparting life to it, because it is this spirit which God originally designed to receive His life and to commune with Him. God’s intent after that is to work out from the spirit to permeate man’s soul and body.

This regeneration gives man a new spirit as well as quickens his old one. “A new spirit I will put within you”—“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Ezek. 36.26; John 3.6). The “spirit” in these passages has God’s life in view, for it is not what we originally possessed; it is accorded us by God at our regeneration. This new life or spirit belongs to God (2 Peter 1.4) and “cannot sin” (1 John 3.9) ; but our spirit, though quickened, may yet be defiled (2 Cor. 7.1) and in need of being sanctified (1 Thess. 5.23).

When God’s life (which can equally be called His Spirit) enters our human spirit, the latter is quickened out of its coma. What was “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4.18) is now made alive again. Hence “although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness” (Rom. 8.10). What we are given in Adam is a spirit made dead; what we receive in Christ at regeneration is both the dead spirit quickened and the new spirit of God’s life: the latter, something Adam never had.

In the Bible God’s life is often labeled “eternal life.” “Life here is zoe in Greek, denoting the higher life or spirit life. This is what every Christian receives at his regeneration. What is the function of that life? “This is eternal life,” prayed Jesus to His Father, “that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17.3). Eternal life meansmore than mere future blessing to be enjoyed by believers; it is equally a kind of spiritual ability. Without it no one can know God nor the Lord Jesus. Such intuitive knowledge of the Lord comes solely upon receiving God’s life. With the germ of God’s nature within him, an individual can ultimately grow into a spiritual man.

God’s aim in a regenerated man is for that man by his spirit to rid himself of everything belonging to the old creation, because within his regenerated spirit lie all the works of God towards him.

The Holy Spirit and Regeneration

When regenerated, man’s spirit is made alive through the incoming of God’s life. The Holy Spirit is the prime mover in this task. He convinces the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16.8). He prepares human hearts to believe in the Lord Jesus as Savior. The work of the cross has been fulfilled by the Lord Jesus, but it is left to the Holy Spirit to apply this finished work to the sinner’s heart. We ought to know the relationship between the cross of Christ and its application by the Spirit. The cross accomplishes all, but the Holy Spirit administers to man what it has accomplished. The cross grants us position; the Holy Spirit gives us experience. The cross brings in the fact of God; the Holy Spirit brings about the demonstration of that fact. The work of the cross creates a position and achieves a salvation by which sinners can be saved; the task of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to sinners what the cross has created and achieved so that they may in fact receive it and be saved. The Holy Spirit never functions independently of the cross: without the cross the Holy Spirit has no proper ground from which to operate: without the Holy Spirit the work of the cross is dead, that is, it produces no effect upon men even though it is already effective before God.

While it is the cross which achieves the whole work of salvation it is the Holy Spirit Who operates directly upon men for their salvation. Hence the Bible characterizes our regeneration as a work of the Holy Spirit: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3.6). The Lord Jesus explains further on that regenerated man is “every one who is born of the Spirit” (v.8). Believers are born anew because the Holy Spirit brings to bear the work of the cross upon them and communicates God’s life to their spirit. He is none other than the Executor of God’s life. “We live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5.25). If whatever men know comes through their brain without the Holy Spirit regenerating their spirit, then their knowledge will help them not one whit. If their belief rests in man’s wisdom and not in God’s power, they are merely excited in their soul. They will not last long, for they are not yet newly born. Regeneration comes just to those who believe in their heart (Rom.10.10) .

Besides bestowing life to believers at new birth, the Holy Spirit executes a further work of abiding in them. How regrettable for us if we forget this! “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you … and I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek. 36.26-27). Note that immediately after the clause “a new spirit I will put within you” there follows this one of “I will put my Spirit within you.” The first statement signifies that believers shall receive a new spirit through the renewal of their deadened spirit by the incoming of life. The second has reference to the indwelling or the abiding of the Holy Spirit in that renewed spirit of theirs. Believers at new birth obtain not only a new spirit but also the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Is it not sad that many fail to understand the newness of their spirit and the abiding of the Holy Spirit in their new spirit? Christians need not delay many years following regeneration and then suddenly wake up and seek the Holy Spirit; they have His entire personality abiding in them—not just visiting them—at the moment they are saved. The Apostle exhorts us on this wise: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4.30). The use of the word “grieve” here and not “anger” reveals the Holy Spirit’s love. “Grieve” it says and not “cause to depart,” for “he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14.17). While every born-again believer does have the Holy Spirit permanently residing in him, nevertheless the plight of the indwelling Spirit may not be the same in all saints—He may be either grieved or gladdened.

We should understand the relationship between regeneration and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Unless a new spirit is available to Him the Holy Spirit cannot find a place to abide. The holy dove found no place whereon to set her foot in the judged world; she could take up her abode only in the new creation (see Gen. 8). How positively essential regeneration is! Without it the Holy Spirit cannot at all dwell in man. God’s children receive within them the permanent abiding of God’s Spirit. Just as this new spirit emerges through a life-producing relationship with God and is therefore inseparable from Him, so the abiding of the Holy Spirit is eternally unchangeable. Few are those who know they have been born anew and thus possess new life; but fewer still are those who know that from the moment they believed in the Lord Jesus they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them to be their energy, their guide, their Lord. It is for this very reason that many young Christians are slow in spiritual progress and never seem to grow. This sad state reflects either the foolishness of their leaders or their personal faithlessness. Until God’s servants dissolve their prejudice which holds that “the indwelling Holy Spirit is but for the spiritual,” they can hardly lead people on to any degree of spirituality.

The regenerative work of the Spirit of God embraces far more than convincing us of sin and leading us to repentance and faith in the Savior. It verily confers upon us a new nature. The promise of the Holy Spirit indwelling us follows closely the promise of having a new spirit. Actually they form two parts of one promise. In convincing men of sin and leading them to believe in the Lord, the Spirit is just preparing the groundwork for His Own indwelling. The singular glory of this dispensation of grace is that God’s Spirit indwells believers in order to manifest the Father and the Son. God already has imparted to His children His Spirit; they now should faithfully acknowledge the Holy Spirit and loyally submit themselves to Him. Both the Day of Resurrection and that of Pentecost have passed; the Spirit has long since come. But many simply experience new birth without knowing in addition His abiding in them. They are living on the wrong side of Resurrection and Pentecost!

Regardless the dullness of Christians in recognizing the dwelling of the Person of God’s Spirit in them, God nonetheless has given Him to them. This is an immutable fact which no condition of the Christian can gainsay. Because they have been regenerated they automatically have become a holy temple fit for habitation of the Holy Spirit. If only these would claim by faith this part of God’s promise as they did the other part, they would gloriously experience both. But if they should stress new birth and be content merely with possessing a new spirit, they shall forfeit the possibility of experiencing a vigorous and joyful life and miss many blessings which God has provided them in the Lord Jesus. If on the other hand they accept God’s promise in its totality, trusting in the divine fact that at regeneration God has given a new life plus the indwelling of the very Person of the Holy Spirit, then their spiritual life shall advance tremendously.

By faith and obedience believers may experience the abiding presence of the Spirit on the same day they receive their new spirit. The Person Who dwells within shall reveal Christ in them, sanctify them, and lead them on to true spiritual heights. Even so, Christians often do not appreciate the exalted position which this Person occupies, and thus descend to despising His indwelling and to following instead the dictates of their mind. These individuals ought to humble themselves before such light, learn to respect such a Holy Presence, and be willing to allow Him to work. They should tremble before Him for love’s sake, not daring to impose their will in the slightest but always remembering how God has highly exalted them by virtue of His abiding presence. Any who desire to abide in Christ and live a holy life like His must accept by faith and obedience God’s provision for them. The Holy Spirit already is in our spirit. Therefore the question before us now is, are we willing to let Him work from within?

The Holy Spirit and Man’s Spirit

Having realized how the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in believers at new birth, we must next observe exactly where He does dwell. By so doing, it is our hope that we shall know better His operation within us.

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3.16) The Apostle Paul implies here that the Holy Spirit dwells in us as God so did in the temple of old. Though the entire temple symbolizes the place of God’s presence and serves as a general picture of God’s habitation, it is nevertheless in the Holy of Holies where God actually dwells, with the Holy Place and the outer court standing for those spheres of divine activity which are in accordance with God’s presence in the Holiest. Answering truly to this typology, God’s Spirit dwells now in our spirit, the antitype in our time of the Holy of Holies.

The dweller and his dwelling must share the same character. Only man’s regenerated spirit—and not the mind, emotion or volition of his soul and not his body either—is fit to be God’s dwelling place.

The Spirit is both a builder and a dweller. He cannot dwell where He has not built: He builds to dwell and dwells only in what He has built.

The holy anointing oil may not be poured on the flesh; accordingly, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit cannot make His home in man’s flesh for it includes everything man had or was before regeneration. He cannot dwell even in the spirit of an unregenerated person, not to mention in the mind, emotion or will of his soul or in his body. Inasmuch as the holy anointing oil is not poured on the flesh, just so the Holy Spirit does not abide in any part of the flesh. He has no connection with the flesh other than striving against it (Gal. 5.17). Unless there is an element within man unlike the flesh, the Holy Spirit finds Himself unable to dwell in man. It is therefore indispensable for the spirit of man to be regenerated so that He may abide in the new spirit.

Why is it so important to understand that the Holy Spirit dwells in man’s innermost depth, deeper within than his organs of thought, feeling and decision? Because unless the child of God perceives this, invariably he shall seek His guidance in his soul. With understanding he shall be delivered from the deception and error of looking to what is outward. The Holy Spirit lives in the remotest recess of our being; there and only there may we expect His working and obtain His guidance. Our prayers are directed to “our Father who art in heaven,” but the heavenly Father guides from within us. If our Counsellor, our Paraclete, resides in our spirit then His guidance must come from within. How tragically deceived we will be if we seek dreams, visions, voices, and sensations in our outer man rather than seeking Him in our inner man!

Frequently many children of God turn within themselves, that is, they look into their soul to determine whether they have peace, grace or spiritual progress. This is most harmful and is not of faith. It diverts them from gazing upon Christ to a looking at themselves.

There is a peering within, however, which is completely different from the above. It is faith’s greatest act. It is a search for guidance by looking to the Holy Spirit Who indwells their spirit. Although a believer’s mind, emotion and will cannot discern the things within, yet he ought to believe, even when in darkness, that God has given him a new spirit in which His Spirit dwells. Just as God dwelling in the darkness behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies was feared though not seen by those in the Holy Place and outer court, even so is the Holy Spirit Who dwells in man’s spirit incomprehensible by the soul and the body.

Thus are we able to recognize what is authentic spiritual life. It is not to be discovered or experienced in the many thoughts and visions of the mind, nor in the many burning and exhilarating feelings of the emotion, nor in the sudden shaking, penetrating and touching of the body by outside force. It is to be found in that life which emanates from the spirit, from the innermost part of man. To walk truly after the Spirit is to understand the movement of this most hidden area and to follow it accordingly. However wonderful may be those experiences which occur through the components of the soul, they are not to be accepted as spiritually valid as long as they remain in the outward and run no deeper than sensations. Only what results from the operation of the Holy Spirit within man’s spirit can be accounted spiritual experience. Hence to live a spiritual life requires faith.

“It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8.16). Man’s spirit is the place where man works together with God. How do we know we have been born anew and are therefore children of God? We know because our inner man has been quickened and the Holy Spirit dwells therein. Our spirit is a regenerated, renewed one, and He Who dwells in, yet is distinct from, this new spirit is the Holy Spirit. And the two of them bear witness together.

The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 2, Part 4 THE SPIRIT, Ch. 1, by Watchman Nee

God’s View of the Flesh

WE CHRISTIANS NEED to be reminded once again of God’s judgment upon the flesh. “The flesh,” says the Lord Jesus, “is of no avail” (John 6.63). Whether it be the sin of the flesh or the righteousness of the flesh, it is futile. That which is born of the flesh, whatever it may be, is flesh, and can never be “unfleshed.” Whether it be the flesh in the pulpit, the flesh in the audience, the flesh in prayers, the flesh in consecration, the flesh in reading the Bible, the flesh in singing hymns, or the flesh in doing good—none of these, asserts God, can avail. However much believers may lust in the flesh, God declares it all to be unprofitable; for neither does the flesh profit the spiritual life nor can it fulfill the righteousness of God. Let us now note a few observations concerning the flesh which the Lord through the Apostle Paul makes in the letter to the Romans.

(1) “To set the mind on the flesh is death” (8.6). According to God’s view there is spiritual death in the flesh. The only escape is to commit the flesh to the cross. Regardless how competent it is to do good or to plan and plot so as to draw down the approval of men, God has pronounced upon the flesh simply one judgment: death.

(2) “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (8.7). The flesh is opposed to God. Not the slightest chance is there of peaceful co-existence. This holds true in regard not only to the sins which issue from the flesh but also to its noblest thoughts and actions. Obviously defiling sins are hostile to God, but let us observe that righteous acts can be done independently of God as well.

(3) “It does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot” (8.7). The better the flesh works the farther away it is from God. How many of the “good” people are willing to believe in the Lord Jesus? Their self-righteousness is not righteousness at all; it is actually unrighteousness. None can ever obey all the teaching of the Holy Bible. Whether a person is good or bad, one thing is certain: he does not submit to God’s law. In being bad he transgresses the law; in being good he establishes another righteousness outside of Christ and thus misses the purpose of the law (“through the law comes knowledge of sin” 3.20).

(4) “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8.8). This is the final verdict. Regardless how good a man may be, if the doing is out from himself it cannot please God. God is pleased with His Son alone; aside from Him and His work no man nor work can delight God. What is performed by the flesh may seem to be quite good; nevertheless, because it derives from self and is done in natural strength it cannot satisfy God. Man may devise many ways to do good, to improve, and to advance, but these are carnal and cannot please Him. This is not only true of the unregenerate; it is likewise true of the regenerated person. However commendable and effective should anything be that is done in his own strength the believer fails to draw down upon himself the approval of God. God’s pleasure or displeasure is not founded upon the principle of good and evil. Rather, God traces the source of all things. An action may be quite correct, yet God inquires, what is its origin?

From these Scripture references we can begin to appreciate how vain and futile are the efforts of the flesh. A believer who is shown precisely God’s estimation of it will not blunder easily. As human beings we distinguish between good works and evil works; God on the other hand goes behind and makes a distinction as to the source of every work. The most excellent deed of the flesh brings down upon it the same displeasure of God as would the most defiled and wicked work, for they all are of the flesh. Just as God hates unrighteousness, so He abhors self-righteousness. The good acts done naturally without the necessity of regeneration or union with Christ or dependence upon the Holy Spirit are no less carnal before God than are immorality, impurity, licentiousness, etc. However beautiful man’s activities may be, if they do not spring from a complete trust in the Holy Spirit they are carnal and are therefore rejected by God. God opposes, rejects and hates everything belonging to the flesh—regardless of outward appearances and regardless whether done by a sinner or a saint. His verdict is: the flesh must die.

The Believer’s Experience

But how can a believer see what God has seen? God is so adamant against the flesh and its every activity; yet the believer appears to reject only its bad features while clinging affectionately to the flesh itself. He does not reject categorically the whole thing: he instead continues to do many things in the flesh: he even assumes a self-confident and proud attitude about it as though he were now rich with God’s grace and qualified to perform righteously. The believer literally is making use of his flesh. Because of such self-deceit the Spirit of God must lead him over the most shameful path in order to make him know his flesh and attain God’s view. God allows that soul to fall, to weaken, and even to sin, that he may understand whether or not any good resides in the flesh. This usually happens to the one who thinks he is progressing spiritually. The Lord tries him in order that he may know himself. Often the Lord so reveals His holiness to such a one that the believer cannot but judge his flesh as defiled. Sometimes He permits Satan to attack him so that, out of his suffering, he may perceive himself. It is altogether a most difficult lesson, and is not learned within a day or night. Only after many years does one gradually come to realize how untrustworthy is his flesh. There is uncleanness even in his best effort. God consequently lets him experience Romans 7 deeply until he is ready to acknowledge with Paul: “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (v.18). How hard to learn to say this genuinely!

If it were not for countless experiences of painful defeat the believer would continue to trust himself and consider himself able. Those hundreds and thousands of defeats bring him to concede that all self-righteousness is totally undependable, that no good abides in his flesh. Such dealing, however, does not terminate here. Self-judgment must continue. For whenever a Christian ceases to judge himself by failing to treat the flesh as useless and utterly detestable but assuming instead even a slightly self-flattering and vainglorious attitude, then God is compelled to run him again through fire in order to consume the dregs. How few are they who humble themselves and acknowledge their uncleanness! Unless such a state is realized God will not withdraw His dealings. Since a believer cannot be freed from the influence of the flesh for a moment, he should never cease exercising the heart to judge himself; otherwise he will step once more into the boasting of the flesh.

Many suppose the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin pertains just to the people of the world, for does He not convict them of their sins into believing the Lord Jesus? But Christians ought to know that such operation of the Holy Spirit is as important in the saints as it is in the sinners. Out of necessity He must convict the saints of their sins, not merely once or twice but daily and incessantly. May we more and more experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that our flesh can be put under judgment unceasingly and never be able to reign. May we not lose, even for a moment, the true picture of our flesh and God’s estimation of it. Let us never believe in ourselves and never trust our flesh again, as though it could ever please God. Let us always trust the Holy Spirit and at no time yield the slightest place to self.

If ever there was one in the world who could boast of his flesh that person must be Paul, for as to righteousness under the law he was blameless. And if any could boast of his flesh following regeneration, it certainly must be Paul again because he has become an apostle who has seen the risen Lord with his own eyes and who is used greatly by the Lord. But Paul dare not boast, for he knows his flesh. His Romans 7 experience enables him to realize fully who he is. God already has opened his eyes to see via his experience that there dwells in his flesh no good, only sin. The self-righteousness of which he boasted in the past he now knows to be refuse and sin. He has learned and learned well this lesson; hence be dare not trust the flesh again. But with this lesson he does not in any wise cease. No, Paul continues to learn. And so the Apostle declares that he can “put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more” (Phil. 3.3-4). Despite the many reasons he can marshal for trusting his flesh (vv. 5-6), Paul realizes how God regards it and well understands how absolutely undependable and untrustworthy it is. If we continue reading Philippians 3 we shall discover how humble Paul is with respect to trusting in himself: “not having a righteousness of my own” (v.9): “that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (v.11) : “not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (v.12). Should a believer aspire to attain spiritual maturity he must preserve forever that attitude which the Apostle Paul maintained throughout his spiritual walk; namely, “not that I have already attained.” The Christian dare not entertain the slightest self-confidence, self-satisfaction or self-joy, as though he could trust his flesh.

If the children of God honestly strive for the life more abundant and are ready to accept God’s assessment of the flesh, they will not esteem themselves stronger and better than others, notwithstanding their extensive spiritual progress. They will not utter such words as “I of course am different from the others.” If these believers are disposed to let the Holy Spirit reveal to them God’s holiness and their corruption and do not fear to be shown too clearly, then hopefully they will come to perceive by the Spirit their corruption at an earlier time, with perhaps a consequent lessening of the painful experience of defeat. How lamentable it is, though, that even when one’s intention may not be to trust the flesh, there may yet lurk beneath the surface some little impurity, for such a one still thinks he has some strength. In view of this, God must permit him to encounter diverse defeats in order to eliminate even that little confidence in himself.

The Cross and the Deeper Work of the Holy Spirit

Because the flesh is grossly deceitful, the believer requires the cross and the Holy Spirit. Once having discerned how his flesh stands before God, he must experience each moment the deeper work of the cross through the Holy Spirit. Just as a Christian must be delivered from the sin of the flesh through the cross, so he must now be delivered from the righteousness of the flesh by the same cross. And just as by walking in the Holy Spirit the Christian will not follow the flesh unto sin, so too by walking in the Holy Spirit he will not follow the flesh unto self-righteousness.

As a fact outside the believer the cross has been accomplished perfectly and entirely: to deepen it is not possible. As a process within the believer the cross is experienced in an ever deepening way: the Holy Spirit will teach and apply the principle of the cross in point after point. If one is faithful and obedient he will be led into continually deeper experiences of what the cross has indeed accomplished for him. The cross objectively is a finished absolute fact to which nothing can be added; but subjectively it is an unending progressive experience that can be realized in an ever more penetrating way.

The reader by this time should know something more of the all-inclusive character of his having been crucified with the Lord Jesus on the cross; for only on this basis can the Holy Spirit work. The Spirit has no instrument other than that cross. The believer by now should have a fresh understanding of Galatians 5.24. It is not “its passions and desires” alone which have been crucified; the flesh itself, including all its righteousnesses as well as its power to do righteously, has been crucified on the cross. The cross is where both passions and desires and the spring of those passions and desires are crucified, however admirable they may be. Except as one sees this and is ready to deny all his flesh, bad or good, can he in fact walk after the Holy Spirit, be pleasing to God, and live a genuinely spiritual life. Such readiness must not be lacking on his part, for though the cross as an accomplished fact is complete in itself its realization in a person’s life is measured by his knowledge and readiness and faith.

Suppose the child of God refuses to deny the good of his flesh. What will be his experience? His flesh may appear to be extremely clever and powerful in undertaking many activities. But however good or strong, the flesh can never answer to God’s demands. Hence when God actually summons him to prepare to go to Calvary and suffer, the Christian soon discovers his only response is to shrink back and to become as weak as water. Why did the disciples fail so miserably in the Garden of Gethsemane? Because “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26.41). Weakness here causes failure there. The flesh can only display its apparently excellent power in matters which suit its taste. That is the reason the flesh draws back at God’s call. Its death is therefore essential, else God’s will can never be done.

Whatever has the intent and desire to develop ourselves that we may be seen and admired by others belongs to the flesh. There is natural good as well as natural bad in this flesh. John 1.13 informs us of “the will of the flesh.” The flesh can will and decide and plan to execute good in order to receive God’s favor. But it still belongs to human flesh and hence must go to the cross. Colossians 2.18 speaks of “the mind of his flesh” (Darby). The self-confidence of a Christian is nothing but trusting in his wisdom, thinking he knows every teaching of the Scriptures and how to serve God. And 2 Corinthians 1.12 mentions the “wisdom” of the flesh. It is highly dangerous to receive the truths of the Bible with human wisdom, for this is a hidden and subtle method which invariably causes a believer to perfect with his flesh the work of the Holy Spirit. A very precious truth may be stored securely in the memory; however, it is merely in the mind of the flesh! The Spirit alone can quicken, the flesh profits nothing. Unless all truths are enlivened continually by the Lord, they profit neither ourselves nor others. We are not discussing sin here but the inevitable consequence of the natural life in man. Whatever is natural is not spiritual. We must not only deny our righteousness but also our wisdom. This too must be nailed to the cross.

Colossians 2.23 speaks of a “worship” or “devotion” of the flesh. This is “worship” according to our opinion. Each method we devise to stir, seek, and acquire a sense of devotion is worship in the flesh. It is neither worship according to the teaching of Scripture nor worship under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Hence the possibility of walking by the flesh always exists; whether in the matter of worship, or in Christian work, or in Biblical knowledge, or in saving souls.

The Bible frequently mentions the “life” of the flesh. Unless this is yielded to the cross it lives within the saint just as much as in the sinner. The only difference is that in the saint there is spiritual opposition to it. But the possibility remains for him to take that life and draw upon it. The life of the flesh may help him to serve God, to meditate upon truth, to consecrate himself to the Lord. It may motivate him to perform many good acts. Yes, the Christian can take his natural life as true life in such a way as to make him feel he is serving the will of God.

We must understand that within man two different life principles exist. Many of us live a mixed life, obeying one and then the other of these two different principles. Sometimes we entirely depend on the Spirit’s energy; at other times we mix in our own strength. Nothing seems to be stable and steadfast. “Do I make my plans like a worldly man, ready to say Yes and No at once?” (2 Cor.1.17) A characteristic of the flesh is its fickleness: it alternates between Yes and No and vice versa. But the will of God is: “Walk not according to the flesh (not even for a moment) but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8.4). We ought to accept God’s will.

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2.11). We should be willing to allow the cross, like a knife in circumcision, to cut off completely everything which pertains to the flesh. Such incision must be deep and clean so that nothing of the flesh is left concealed or can remain. The cross and the curse are inextricable (Gal. 3.13). When we consign our flesh to the cross we hand it over to the curse, acknowledging that in the flesh abides no good thing and that it deserves nothing but the curse of God. Without this heart attitude it is exceedingly difficult for us to accept the circumcision of the flesh. Every affection, desire, thought, knowledge, intent, worship and work of the flesh must go to the cross.

To be crucified with Christ means to accept the curse our Lord accepted. It was not a glorious moment for Christ to be crucified on Calvary (Heb. 12.2). His being hanged on the tree meant His being accursed of God (Deut. 21.23). Consequently, for the flesh to be crucified with the Lord simply implies being accursed with the Lord. As we must receive the finished work of Christ on the cross, so must we enter into the fellowship of the cross. The believer needs to acknowledge that his flesh deserves nothing else than the curse of death. His practical fellowship with the cross begins after he sees the flesh as God sees it. Before the Holy Spirit can take full charge over a person there first must be the complete committal of his flesh to the cross. Let us pray that we may know what the flesh exactly is and how it must be crucified.

Brethren, we are not humble enough to accept willingly the cross of Christ! We refuse to concede we are so helpless, useless, and utterly corrupt that we deserve nothing but death. What is lacking today is not a better living but a better dying! We need to die a good death, a thorough death. We have talked enough about life, power, holiness, righteousness; let us now take a look at death! Oh that the Holy Spirit would penetrate our flesh deeply by the cross of Christ that it might become a valid experience in our life! If we die correctly we shall live correctly. If we are united with Him in a death like His we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. May we ask the Lord to open our eyes to behold the absolute imperative of death. Are you prepared for this? Are you willing to let the Lord point out your weaknesses? Are you ready to be crucified openly outside the gate? Will you let the Spirit of the cross work within you? Oh, may we know more of His death! May we completely die!

We should be clear that the death of the cross is continuous in its operation. We can never enter upon a resurrection stage which leaves death entirely out, for the experience of resurrection is measured by the experience of death. A peril among those who pursue the ascension life is that they forget the categorical necessity of continuously putting to nought the flesh. They forsake the position of death and proceed to resurrection. This results in either treating lightly as of no serious hazard to their spiritual growth the works of the flesh, or in spiritualising them, that is, assuming the things of the flesh to be of the spirit. How essential to see that death is the foundation for everything. You may proceed to build but you should never destroy the foundation. The so-called risen and ascended realm will be unreal if the death of the flesh is not maintained continuously. Let us not be deceived into thinking we are so spiritually advanced that the flesh has no more power to entice us. This is merely the enemy’s attempt to remove us from the basis of the cross in order to render us outwardly spiritual but inwardly carnal. Many such prayers as: “I thank you Lord, for I am no longer such and such but am now so and so” are simply echoes of the unacceptable prayer recorded in Luke 18.11-12. We are most susceptible to deception by the flesh when we are on the verge of being delivered from it. We must abide constantly in the Lord’s death.

Our security is in the Holy Spirit. The safe way lies in our readiness to be taught, fearful lest we yield any ground to the flesh. We must submit ourselves cheerfully to Christ and trust the Holy Spirit to apply the dying of Jesus to us that the life of Jesus may be exhibited. Just as formerly we were filled with the flesh, so now we shall be filled with the Holy Spirit. When He is in complete control He will overthrow the power of the flesh and manifest Christ as our life. We shall be able then to say that the “life I now live in the flesh is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Yet the foundation of that life is and always will be that “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2.20)!

If we live by faith and obedience we can expect the Spirit to do a most holy and wonderful work in us. “If we live by the Spirit”—this is our faith, for we believe that the Holy Spirit abides in us; then “let us also walk by the Spirit”—this is our obedience (Gal. 5.25). We ought to believe simply and restfully that our Lord has given us His Spirit, now abiding in us. Believe in His gift and trust that the Holy Spirit indwells you. Take this as the secret of Christ’s life in you: His Spirit dwells in your innermost spirit. Meditate on it, believe in it, and remember it until this glorious truth produces within you a holy fear and wonderment that the Holy Spirit indeed abides in you! Now learn to follow His leading. Such guidance emerges not from the mind or thoughts; it is something of life. We must yield to God and let His Spirit govern everything. He will manifest the Lord Jesus in our life because this is His task.

Words of Exhortation

If we allow the Spirit of God to do a deeper work by the cross our circumcision will become increasingly real. “We are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3.3). That confidence in the flesh is relinquished through the circumcision performed without hands. The Apostle makes glorying in Christ Jesus the center of everything. He explains to us that there is danger on the one side yet security on the other. Putting confidence in the flesh tends to destroy glorying in Christ Jesus, but worship in spirit gives us the blessed joy of life and truth. The Holy Spirit uplifts the Lord Jesus but humbles the flesh. If we genuinely desire to glory in Christ and to let Him secure glory in us, we must receive the circumcision of the cross and learn to worship in the Holy Spirit. Do not be impatient for impatience is of the flesh. Do not try different methods because they are useful solely in helping the flesh. We must distrust the flesh entirely, however good or able it may be. We should trust instead the Holy Spirit and submit to Him alone. With such trust and obedience the flesh will be humbly kept in its proper place of curse and accordingly lose all its power. May God be gracious to us that we may put no confidence in the flesh—yea, that we may look down upon ourselves and acknowledge how unreliable and utterly fruitless is our flesh. This is a very real death. Without it there can be no life.

“Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5.13). We have obtained freedom in the Lord; let us not therefore give any opportunity to the flesh, for its rightful place is death. Do not unconsciously construe the activity of the Holy Spirit to be your own, but forever be on guard lest the flesh should be revived. Do not usurp the glory of His triumph and thereby afford the flesh a chance to resume operation. Do not grow overconfident following a few victories; if so, your fall cannot be far away. When you have learned how to overcome and the flesh has long lost its power, never imagine that thereafter you are altogether triumphant over it. Should you not rely upon the Holy Spirit you will soon be thrown once more into a distressing experience. With holy diligence you must cultivate an attitude of dependency, else you will be the target of the flesh’s attack. The least pride will supply the flesh an opportunity. Do not be fearful over the possibility you may lose face before others. The Apostle, immediately after his teaching on the crucifixion of the flesh and walking in the Spirit, said: “Let us not become vainglorious” (Gal. 5.26 Darby ). If you humbly recognize how worthless you are before God, then you will not attempt to vaunt yourself before men. Suppose you hide the weakness of your flesh before men in order to receive glory. Are you not unwittingly giving occasion to the flesh for its activity? The Holy Spirit can help and strengthen us, but He Himself will not supplant us in performing what is our responsibility. Therefore to fulfill that responsibility we on the one hand must maintain the attitude of rendering no occasion to the flesh; but on the other hand we must put that attitude into actual practice when called upon to deny the flesh in all the daily realities of our walk.

“Make no provision,” exhorts Paul, “for the flesh” (Rom. 13.14). For the flesh to operate it needs a harbinger. That is why no provision ought to be made for it. If the flesh is to be kept confined to the place of curse, we must be watchful always. We must examine our thoughts continually to see whether or not we harbor the least self-conceit, for certainly such an attitude will give great opportunity to the flesh. Our thoughts are most important here because what is provided for in the secrecy of our thought life will come forth openly in words and deeds. The flesh must never be offered any ground. Even when conversing with others we need to be on the alert lest in many words the flesh is equipped to perform its work. We may love to say many things, but if these are not uttered in the Holy Spirit it is better to say nothing. The same applies to our deeds. The flesh can conjure up many plans and methods and be full of expectations. It has its opinions, power and ability. To others and even to ourselves, these may appear to be quite commendable and acceptable. But let us be reckless enough to destroy even the best of them for fear of violating the Lord’s commandment. The best the flesh has to offer must be delivered mercilessly to death for the simple reason that it belongs to the flesh. The righteousness of the flesh is as abhorrent as is its sin. Its good acts should be repented of just as much and as humbly as its sinful deeds. We must always maintain God’s view of the flesh.

In case we fail, we must examine ourselves, confess our sin, and resort to the cleansing of the precious blood. “Let us purify ourselves from every pollution of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7.1 Darby). Not only must there be the work of the Holy Spirit and that of the precious blood; we ourselves must work towards cleansing too. We must search out all the uncleannesses of the flesh and consign them to the cross of our Lord. Even the best that is done—though it may not be sinful according to man—is nevertheless condemned by God as unclean. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” This covers both the person and his deeds. God is not so much interested in the form or shape as in the source. Hence we must be purified not only from our sins but also from every deed of the flesh. “Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh” (1 Peter 2.11)  

The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 1, Part 2 THE FLESH, Ch. 5, by Watchman Nee

By T. A. Sparks

Reading: Acts 13:27, 15; II Corinthians 3:14-18; Isaiah 53:1.

The prophets were read, as Paul points out here, every Sabbath. It was the fixed custom to read the law and the prophets every Sabbath, and it may be pointed out that it was not just at one particular time in the day that this was done, but all through the Sabbath day the law and the prophets were being read in the synagogues. And yet it says that although the very rulers themselves, as well as the dwellers in Jerusalem who attended the temple, heard that reading of the prophets so continuously, they never heard the voices of the prophets. And because they failed to hear that inner something, which was more than just the audible reading of what the prophets had said, they lost everything that was intended for them, as this thirteenth chapter of Acts shows. The Apostles left them and turned to the Gentiles, who had an ear ready to hear.

That is a matter of no small consequence and seriousness. It is evident that it behoves us to seek to hear the voices of the prophets, really to know what the prophets were saying. Let us again look at the statement: “…because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets.” Why did they not know? Why did they not hear? There is one basic answer to that enquiry which is going to occupy us just now, and which brings us down to foundations, really to the root of things.

THE OFFENCE OF THE CROSS

(a) A Suffering Messiah

The answer to that enquiry is this – because they were not willing to accept the Cross. That is what went to the root of the whole matter. Firstly, they were not willing to admit of a suffering Messiah. They had their own minds well made up, both as to what kind of Messiah their Messiah would be, and as to what He would do, and as to the results of His advent; and anything that ran counter to that fixed mentality was not only not accepted – it was an offence. They could not admit into the realm of their contemplation that their coming Messiah would be a suffering Messiah. Yet the prophets were always speaking about the suffering Messiah. Isaiah, at that point in his prophecies which we know as chapter 53, presents the classic on the suffering Messiah, and yet he opens by saying: “Who hath believed our message?”

I think we need not stay to gather further evidence that that was their attitude. Right the way through it was just that. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, was dealing with that very thing. Towards the end of the letter he spoke about the offence of the Cross, and he set that over against the Judaizers, who were dogging his steps everywhere and seeking to prejudice his ministry, and at whose hands he was suffering. He ‘bore branded on his body the marks of the Lord Jesus’ (Galatians 6:17). Why? Because of his message of the Cross. He said, ‘If I were willing to drop that, I could escape all this suffering; it is the offence of the Cross which is the cause of all the trouble’ (Galatians 5:11). And all the way through we see the Jews’ unwillingness to admit of a suffering Messiah.

(b) The Way of Self-Emptying

But then it went further than that. It became not only a national issue but a personal one. They would not accept the principle of the Cross in themselves. You find that representative individuals of the nation, who came to the Lord Jesus from time to time, were presented with the offence of the Cross – and off they went again, not prepared to accept it. Nicodemus was very interested in the kingdom which the Messiah was going to set up, which he was expecting and anticipating, but it became a personal matter of the Cross. Before the Lord was through with Nicodemus, He had brought into his full view the serpent lifted up in the wilderness. That was an offence.

Another man, who has become known to us as the rich young ruler, went away very sorrowful because of the offence of the Cross. It was no use for the Lord, at that time, before the Cross had actually taken place, to speak in precise terms about it to other than His disciples, but He applied the principle, which is the same thing. He applied the principle to this young man. ‘If, as you say, you are interested in the Kingdom and in eternal life, this is the way: the way of emptying – utter self emptying.’ “He went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). The Lord said, “How hardly (with what difficulty) shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24). The offence of the Cross finds them out.

Now here, with the Jews as a whole, they were making the kingdom of God an earthly thing on the principles of this world – and do not let us blame them without blaming ourselves. This is our battle right up to date. It is a matter that finds us all out at heart. Oh, you may not be expecting that through your preaching of Christ a temporal kingdom will be set up and you will get a literal crown to wear and a throne to sit upon – that may not be your outlook or mentality; but are we not, almost every day of our lives, in trouble because the Lord hides from us everything that He is doing and starves our souls of their ambition to see things, to have things? Is that not the basis of a great deal of our trouble? We want to see, we want to have, we want the proofs and the evidences. We do really, after all, want a kingdom that can be appraised by our senses of sight and hearing and feeling – a palpable kingdom, the answer in tangible form to all our efforts and labours; and the opposite of that is a tremendous strain upon faith, and sometimes even brings us to a serious crisis.

Why does not the Lord do this and that, which we think He ought to do? It is simply this soul-craving to have proof and demonstration; and this is why, if there is anything built up in Christian work which is obvious, big, impressive, where there is a great thing being organized and a great movement on foot and all is in the realm of something that can be seen, crowds of Christians flock after it; or if there are manifestations, things that seem to be clear proofs, the crowds will be found there. The enemy can carry away multitudes by imitation works of the Holy Ghost in the realm of demonstrations and proofs. We are so impressionable, we must possess; and that is exactly the same principle as that which governed the rulers. They were not prepared for the principle of the Cross to be applied in this way – an utter self-emptying, being brought to an end of everything but the Lord Himself.

The True Vine

Posted: September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Every Branch That Beareth Fruit, He Cleanseth It, That It May Bear More Fruit–John 15.2

      There are two remarkable things about the vine. There is not a plant of which the fruit has so much spirit in it, of which spirit can be so abundantly distilled as the vine. And there is not a plant which so soon runs into wild wood, that hinders its fruit, and therefore needs the most merciless pruning. I look out of my window here on large vineyards: the chief care of the vinedresser is the pruning. You may have a trellis vine rooting so deep in good soil that it needs neither digging, nor manuring, nor watering: pruning it cannot dispense with, if it is to bear good fruit. Some tree needs occasional pruning; others bear perfect fruit without any: the vine must have it. And so our Lord tells us, here at the very outset of the parable, that the one work the Father does to the branch that bears fruit is: He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.

      Consider a moment what this pruning or cleansing is. It is not the removal of weeds or thorns, or anything from without that may hinder the growth. No; it is the cutting off of the long shoots of the previous year, the removal of something that comes from within, that has been produced by the life of the vine itself. It is the removal of something that is a proof of the vigor of its life; the more vigorous the growth has been, the greater the need for the pruning. It is the honest, healthy wood of the vine that has to be cut away. And why? Because it would consume too much of the sap to fill all the long shoots of last year’s growth: the sap must be saved up and used for fruit alone. The branches, sometimes eight and ten feet long, are cut down close to the stem, and nothing is left but just one or two inches of wood, enough to bear the grapes. It is when everything that is not needful for fruit-bearing has been relentlessly cut down, and just as little of the branches as possible has been left, that full, rich fruit may be expected.

      What a solemn, precious lesson! It is not to sin only that the cleansing of the Husbandman here refers. It is to our own religious activity, as it is developed in the very act of bearing fruit. It is this that must be cut down and cleansed away. We have, in working for God, to use our natural gifts of wisdom, or eloquence, or influence, or zeal. And yet they are ever in danger of being unduly developed, and then trusted in. And so, after each season of work, God has to bring us to the end of ourselves, to the consciousness of the helplessness and the danger of all that is of man, to feel that we are nothing. All that is to be left of us is just enough to receive the power of the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit. What is of man must be reduced to its very lowest measure. All that is inconsistent with the most entire devotion to Christ’s service must be removed. The more perfect the cleansing and cutting away of all that is of self, the less of surface over which the Holy Spirit is to be spread, so much the more intense can be the concentration of our whole being, to be entirely at the disposal of the Spirit. This is the true circumcision of the heart, the circumcision of Christ. This is the true crucifixion with Christ, bearing about the dying of the Lord Jesus in the body.

Blessed cleansing, God’s own cleansing! How we may rejoice in the assurance that we shall bring forth more fruit.

   O our holy Husbandman, cleanse and cut away all that there is in us that would make a fair show, or could become a source of self-confidence and glorying. Lord, keep us very low, that no flesh may glory in Thy presence. We do trust Thee to do Thy work.

Andrew Murray

 By Charles Finney

 Seasons of commercial and business depression are peculiarly favorable to the promotion of revivals of religion. Viewed in this light, they are often the greatest of blessings in disguise. The business world dreads them before they come and regrets them when they come. In a business point of view, they are a source of general lamentation. But the spiritual watchmen and women who are waiting prayerfully to reap down the fields as soon as they are white for the harvest see in these so-called calamities the hand of God for good, and hear, as it were within, a voiced saying: “Arise and reap, for the fields are white unto the harvest.”

Such is the state of things in this country at present, and, with your leave, Mr. Editor, I will make some suggestions to the churches on the subject of revivals. If the articles interest your readers, I may, if my health holds out, write more than one. This one I wish to devote to some remarks on the necessity of reviving the churches.

My experience has taught me that the value of a revival to any community depends upon the thoroughness with which the fallow ground is broken up in the hearts of Christians. When the hearts of the membership of the church are hard and blind and they are in a great measure conformed to this world the preacher sows among thorns. They must be revived. Their hearts must be broken up. They must confess their backsliding. They must repent, have their faith renewed, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as a condition of their prevailing either with God or man. If the church is not revived, it will constantly present a false standard to the eyes of the world, and the converts, if conversions there are, can hardly be recognized as such. They will be weak and doubtful and timid, and with the worldliness of the church before them they will not see the necessity of a thorough reformation in all their habits and ways of life. If such converts are gathered into the church, they will be a weakness, instead of a power. They will only swell the number of those over whom the pastor and wakeful members are obliged to weep and groan, and for whom they must travail in birth till Christ be formed in them. The thoroughness with which the church is quickened and reformed will decide the type of the revival, as it regards the conversion of the impenitent. Sometimes but little pains are taken to break up the fallow ground in members of the church. Many professed Christians seem not to know what it is to be in a truly revived spirit. They know not what it is to travail in birth for souls in prayer, with strong crying and tears; and if a revival begins they are apt to get up in their sleep and bustle about, and do more harm than good. Without manifesting any brokenness of heart, they will begin to exhort the impenitent around them, who have known their worldly-mindedness, and produce repellance and disgust, instead of making a saving impression upon them. If they have manifested worldly mindedness, have been in a great measure blind and conformed to the world, they perishingly need, for their own sake, to be thoroughly broken up in heart and reformed in life. The great deep of their affectional and emotional nature needs to be broken up and thawed out, and their whole mind rendered mellow and yielding to the will of God, before they can truly represent the religion of Christ and be safely recognized as Christians by the world around them. For the laborers to strike in for the conversion of the impenitent before the church is quickened and brought to hold up the right standard in their lives is always a dangerous and often a useless experiment. Frequently converts are counted by scores and hundreds: but in such cases it often happens, as it did in the days of Christ, when he said: “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made ye make him two-fold more the child of Hell than yourselves.” In a few short weeks or months, as a general thing, such converts will be found even more conformed to the world than were the members of the church when the converts first indulged a hope. The very idea of a revival implies the quickening and reviving of the church. And a revival that fails to secure this will almost invariably make the pastor a great deal of trouble and in the end deeply wound the cause of Christ.

A worldly-minded church is the greatest hindrance to the success of the Gospel in any place. The more numerous the membership the greater the hindrance. An awakening (I can scarcely call it a revival) that adds to a worldly church a large number of professed converts will inevitably be to the pastor, sooner or later, a great mortification and distress and to the world a great stumbling-block. Hence, it is of indispensable importance that means should be unsparingly used and pressed until a thorough waking up of the church is secured. After this is done the work among the impenitent may be expected to be extensive, rapid, thorough; and the converts will almost universally unite with the church in which this wakefulness and revival exists. I have sometimes labored in churches where it seemed impossible to revive the great mass of the church; and if several churches in the same locality or the same city were making revival efforts at the same time, and Christians enough from the different churches would take hold and enter into the work to secure sound conversions, the Spirit of God would incline the sound converts to unite with the church or churches where the fallow ground had been most thoroughly broken up.

But I must say something upon the manner, as well as the necessity, of breaking up the fallow ground. The first thing to be done is to secure conviction of sin in the church. A revival implies a declension. If a church needs a revival, it is because religion has declined in their lives and hearts. They are backsliders in heart and filled with their own ways. They have fallen into sin. They have grieved the Holy Spirit. They have disobeyed the Golden Rule. They have dishonored and wounded Christ in the house of his friends. They have betrayed the son of man with a kiss. They have held up a false light. They have been a stumbling-block to the world. All this should be dwelt upon and held up before them; and they should be besought to take these points into their closets, and on their knees before God bring their hearts and lives face to face with the Golden Rule, with their professions and church covenants, and in the light of these to look at their misrepresentations of the religion of Jesus, the many instances in which their lives have been a stumbling-block to those around them, and let them also consider what Christ had a right to expect of them, what the church had a right to expect of them, what unsaved sinners had a right to expect of them, and consider upon their knees before God their dreadful shortcomings, and in how many instances they have really betrayed the cause of Christ and given occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme. Let business men consider prayerfully on their knees whether they have obeyed the Golden Rule; let employers consider whether they have obeyed this rule in dealing with the employed; let the employed consider whether they have obeyed the Golden Rule in being faithful to their employers. Let masters and mistresses and servants bring themselves respectively before God at a throne of grace, and inquire whether they have in all respects obeyed the Golden Rule. Let parents inquire into the spirit and manner of their treatment of their children. Let children inquire solemnly, on their knees at the throne of grace, in what temper and manner they have borne themselves in their relation to their parents. Let husbands and wives also examine themselves in the light of the Golden Rule and in the light of their marriage vows and conjugal relations. Let ministers pray and narrowly look over the spirit and manner in which they have discharged their duties to their churches and congregations. Let them inquire whether Christ is satisfied with their ministry; let them inquire whether there is any person in their congregation to whom they have not done their duty. Let ministers’ wives inquire of Christ whether he is satisfied with the influence they have exercised and the example they have set before the church and the world. Let magistrates inquire whether they have met the just expectations of the public and of Christ; whether they have conscientiously obey and enforced the laws of their country. Let all persons in places of public trust carefully and prayerfully face the question, on their knees before God: Have you, in the light of the Gospel, especially of the Golden Rule, done your duty? Let all classes and persons, in all the relations of life, take all these questions solemnly upon their knees before God, and there, in the light of the great law of Christ, settle these questions as in view of the solemn judgment. Let them push these questions to a thorough repentance and breaking down before God. Let them not stop short of a thorough sense of forgiveness and reconciliation with God.