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Thread: The Spiritual Man-Spiritual Life and Spiritual Warfare

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    Default The Spiritual Man-Spiritual Life and Spiritual Warfare

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    Objective salvation deals with the sinner: (a) substitution for sins (the products) through the atoning death by the provision of the blood (represented by the passover blood), (b) non-atoning identification with Christ placing our old man (the factory) on the cross. Subjective salvation deals with the man: (c) positively releasing God's life in Christ's flesh (represented by the passover flesh), (d) bearing our crosses daily, negatively, unto loss of man's common, natural life.

    This forum is for brothers and sisters to study and discuss the Scriptures (Isaiah 28.13) in the same spirit of osas arminian (Rom. 8.29), "interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit " (1 Cor. 2.13 RSV) otherwise known as Biblical psychology. God's way of salvation is to predestinate by foreknowing (Rom. 8.29) our free-choice (John 3.16,18) made in His image (Gen. 1.26,27): by conditional election, unlimited atonement, resistible grace, for the preservation of the saints.

    Discuss the dividing of spirit, soul, and body (Heb. 4.12, 1 Thess. 5.23) to walk after the spirit. Understand the latent power of the soul (pdf) which should be read immediately following The Spiritual Man. Overcoming and deliverance from sin is the goal, from the natural ("good" self and petty self) and supernatural. The "kingdom of God" (an inner spiritual condition) is in us which "is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14.17).

    Since man's relationship with God begins at regeneration and is carried on completely in the spirit (whereas the soul merely agrees), it is evident that all our work must have its center there. To court apparent success by merely whipping up people's enthusiasm results in a work without God. Once having learned the central place of the spirit, our efforts should undergo a drastic change. We do not labor without objective, simply follow what we think is good; we have a distinctive aim, that of building up man's inner depths. Spiritual service is our working by our spirit for the quickening of the spirits of others. It is the spiritual food of a believer, nothing more nor less than accomplishing God's work (John 4.34). When we cease depending on ourselves and using what we have we will see indeed how very weak we are. Not until then will we learn how much power our inner man has and it is God Who pours out His life through our spirit. Since we usually rely so heavily on the soul by which to live, we naturally do not appreciate how weak our spirit is.

    Aside from the Bible, I know of no book on the planet that will change your inner man or inner woman as effectively than The Spiritual Man (CFP) that fits the Bible like a glove to express the redemptive design. Do not take my word for it, see for yourself by letting the Holy Spirit with the Word show you as you read deeply.

    Spiritual Warfare

    Broadly speaking, a Christian who has not yet experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit is rather vague about the reality of the spiritual realm. He is like the servant of Elisha whose eyes were closed to that sphere. He may receive instructions from the Bible, yet his understanding is confined to the mind because he still lacks revelation in his spirit. But upon experiencing the baptism his intuition becomes acutely sensitive and he discovers in his spirit a spiritual world opening before him. By the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit he not only touches the supernatural power of God but contacts God’s Person as well.

    Now it is just there that spiritual warfare begins. This is the period when the power of darkness disguises himself as an angel of light and even attempts to counterfeit the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also the moment when the intuition is made aware of the existence of a spiritual domain and of the reality of Satan and his evil spirits. The Apostles were taught in the Scriptures by the Lord after Calvary; but they were made conscious of the real existence of a spiritual realm following Pentecost. Spirit-baptism marks the starting point of spiritual warfare.

    Once a believer has contacted the Person of God via the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he then has his own spirit released. He now senses the reality of the things and beings in the spiritual domain. With such knowledge (and let us call to mind that the knowledge of a spiritual man does not accrue to him all at once; some of it may, and usually does, come through many trials), he encounters Satan. Only those who are spiritual perceive the reality of the spiritual foe and hence engage in battle (Eph. 6.12). Such warfare is not fought with arms of the flesh (2 Cor. 10.4). Because the conflict is spiritual so must the weapons. It is a struggle between the spirit of man and that of the enemy—an engagement of spirit with spirit.

    Before he arrives at such a juncture in his spiritual walk, the child of God neither understands, nor can he engage in, the battle of the spirits. Only after his inner man has been strengthened by the Holy Spirit does he know how to wrestle with the adversary in his spirit. As he spiritually advances he begins to discover the reality of Satan and his kingdom and then it is that he is given to understand how to resist and attack the foe with his spirit.

    The reasons for such conflict are many, with the enemy’s tactic of attack and blocking constituting the greatest. Satan frequently either unsettles the emotions of the physical bodies of spiritual believers, or he blocks the works of the spiritual ones, or he may disturb their environments. The need to fight for God forms still another reason for this warfare. As Satan plots in the air and works on earth against God, so His people fight back with spiritual power, destroying the enemy’s plots and plans through their prayers. Though at times saints do not know for sure what Satan’s scheme is nor what he is doing at the moment, they nevertheless continue to press the fight with no let up, for they understand who their antagonist is.

    Beyond the above two explanations, spiritual combat has for its existence yet another cause: the need to be delivered from Satan’s deception and to deliver deceived souls.* In spite of the fact that their spirit’s intuition becomes sharp and sensitive after they are baptized in the Holy Spirit, believers may nonetheless fall into deception. To preclude their plunging into the wiles of the adversary, they need not only spiritual sensitivity but also spiritual knowledge. Should they be ignorant of the manner in which the Holy Spirit leads, they may assume a passive position and thereby become captives of the enemy. The easiest error Christians can commit at this moment is to follow some irrational feeling or experience rather than the leading in their inner man. Once baptized in the Holy Spirit, they have entered the supernatural realm. Unless believers appreciate their own weakness, that is, know how incompetent they are in themselves to encounter the supernatural, they shall be deceived.

    The Christian’s spirit can be influenced by either of two forces: the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. He commits a fatal blunder who thinks his spirit can be controlled solely by the Holy Spirit and not be so by the evil spirit too. Let it be forever known that aside from the Spirit that is from God, there is additionally “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor. 2.12), which is in fact the spiritual foe of Ephesians 6.12. Except the Christian shuts up his spirit to resist, he may find the evil one usurping his spirit through deceit and counterfeit.

    When a child of God becomes spiritual he is subject to the influence of the supernatural world. At this point it is vital for him to know the difference between “spiritual” and “supernatural,” the confusion of which forms the cause of many deceptions. Spiritual experiences are those which originate with the believer’s spirit, while those of the supernatural may not necessarily come from there. They may arise from physical senses or from the soulical sphere. A Christian ought never interpret a supernatural experience as always being a spiritual one. He should examine his experiences and determine whether they enter through the outer sensual organs or come via the inner spirit. Whatever emanates from outside, however supernatural it may be, is never spiritual.

    The Lord’s saints should not receive everything supernatural unquestioningly, for Satan too can perform supernatural deeds. No matter how the feeling is during the moment of experience nor how the phenomenon appears or declares itself to be, believers should investigate its source. The charge of 1 john 4.1 must be strictly observed: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The counterfeits of the adversary often exceed the believer’s expectation. If the Lord’s people will humble themselves by admitting that deception is quite possible to them, they will be the less deceived. Because of the counterfeits of the enemy, spiritual warfare looms inevitable. Unless with their spirits soldiers of Christ take to the field to meet the foe, they shall find him coming in to suppress their spiritual strength. In spiritual conflict the spirit of the Christian wars against the enemy evil spirit. Now should the Christian be deceived already, then he fights to regain his freedom. If not, then he strives to rescue others and to prevent the foe from attacking. He takes the positive stance of subjugating the enemy by opposing every one of Satan’s plans and works.

    Such battles are fought in the strength of the spirit. It requires power there to wage war. A Christian must understand how to wrestle against the assailant with his spirit. Otherwise he cannot detect how the enemy will attack or discern how God will direct him to fight. But if he walks by the spirit he learns how to pray incessantly therein against the wicked powers. And with each battle his inner man waxes that much stronger. He comes to realize that by applying the law of the spirit he not only can overcome sin but also Satan.

    From that part of the Scriptures in which the Apostle touches on spiritual warfare we can readily estimate how important strength is in such conflict. Before he mentions the problem of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6.11-18), Paul first exhorts his readers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (v.10). Where should there be this strength of which he speaks? Paul tells us in Chapter 3: “strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man” (v.16). The inner man is man’s center, the spirit of man. And right there is where the powers of darkness attack the man. Now if the inner man is weak everything else becomes weak. A frail spirit produces fear in the heart which automatically weakens the believers stand in the day of evil. What he needs pre-eminently is a firm spirit. Except he understands the nature of the conflict a believer is not capable of resisting in his spirit against the principalities and the powers.

    Many Christians find their spirit feathery and free when all is sweetness and light; but just let there be eruptive war, and their spirit becomes disturbed, fearful, and worried, until finally it is submerged. They do not know why they are defeated. Satan’s aim is victory, and to this end he attempts to remove believers from their ascension position by causing their spirit to sink so that he can ascend. Position is a primary factor in battle. When the saint’s spirit tumbles, he loses his heavenly position. Christians must consequently maintain a strong spirit and yield no ground to the enemy.

    Upon realizing how his inner man is strengthened with might through God’s Holy Spirit, a spiritual child of God learns the absolute necessity of overcoming the enemy. His inner man grows sturdier as he attacks the foe with prayer and wrestling. In the same manner that the muscles of the wrestler develop in physical combat, just so the strength of the believer’s spirit increases as he battles the adversary. The latter mounts an assault in order to depress the believer’s inner man and thus to afflict his soul. If the child of God has come to appreciate the wiles of his assailant, he will not surrender at any point but will instead resist; and his emotional soul is thereby protected. Resistance in the inner man forces the enemy to go on the defensive.

    Resistance is one of the indispensable elements in spiritual combat. The best defense is a continuous offense. Oppose with the will as well as with the strength in the spirit. Giving opposition means struggling free from the power of suppression. The opponent will be routed if one fights his way out by the spirit. But should one allow the enemy to attack and not resist in return, then that one’s spirit will surely be depressed, sink very low, and may require many days before it regains its ascendancy. The spirit that does not withstand the enemy is often a suppressed one.

    How shall we resist? With the Word of God which is the Sword of the Holy Spirit. As a believer receives God’s Word it becomes “spirit and life” to him. Hence he can employ this as his weapon of resistance. A heavenly believer knows how to use the Word of God advantageously to break down the enemy’s lie. Even now a battle is raging in the world of the spirit. Though unobserved by the eyes of the flesh, it is sensed and proven by those who are seeking heavenly progress. Many who are deceived and bound by the enemy need to be released. Not only is there need for release from sin and selfrighteousness; many who are bound as well by supernatural experience need release also. Due to curiosity and the prospect of pleasant sensations, Christians gladly welcome these supernatural phenomena, not recognizing that these merely puff up their pride without producing any real or lasting result in terms of a holy and righteous life or spiritual work. When the evil spirits succeed in their deceptions they gain a footing in the believer. From this ground the enemy gradually enlarges his frontiers until finally he renders the believer as one who walks in the flesh.

    Now obviously he who himself is bound cannot possibly set others free. Only when wholly freed experientially from the powers of darkness can the believer himself overcome the foe and rescue others. The incidence of the danger of deception increases in proportion to the number of those who experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The need today is for a company of overcoming saints who know how to wage war for the release of those under the enemy’s deception. The church of God shall be defeated if she lacks members who know how to walk by the spirit and how to fight therewith against the enemy. May God raise up such!

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    The Other Side of the Flesh

    Do the works of the flesh include only what we hitherto mentioned? Or are there other fleshly works? Is the flesh now inactivated under the power of the cross?

    Up to this point what we have stressed has been the sins of the flesh which are the lusts of the human body. But our attention now needs to be drawn to another side of the flesh. You will recall we stated earlier that the flesh comprises the works of the soul as well as the lusts of the body. Thus far we have touched upon the body side only, leaving the soul side nearly unscathed. The believer, it is quite true, must rid himself of the defiling sins of the body, but he also needs to resist the works of his soul; for these are no less corrupt in the eyes of God than the sins of the body.

    According to the Bible the works of the "flesh" are of two kinds (though both are of the flesh) : the unrighteous and the self-righteous. The flesh can produce not only defiling sins but also commendable morals: not only the base and the ignoble but the high and noble as well: not only sinful lust but good intention too. It is this latter side to which we must address ourselves now.

    The Scriptures employ the word "flesh" to describe man’s corrupt nature or life which embraces soul and body. In the creative act of God soul is placed between spirit and body, that is, between what is heavenly or spiritual and what is earthly or physical. Its duty is to mingle these two, according each its proper place yet making them intercommunicative, that through such perfect harmony man ultimately may attain full spirituality. Unfortunately the soul yielded to temptation which arose from the physical organs, thus releasing itself from the authority of the spirit and embracing instead the control of the body. Soul and body accordingly were joined together to be flesh. Not only is the flesh "devoid of the spirit"; it also is directly opposed to the spirit. The Bible consequently asserts that the "flesh lusts against the spirit" (Gal. 5.17 literal).

    The opposition manifested by the flesh against the spirit and against the Holy Spirit is two-fold: (1) by way of committing sin—rebelling against God and breaking the law of God; and (2) by way of performing good—obeying God and following the will of God. The body element of the flesh, full of sin and lust, naturally cannot but express itself in many sins, much to the grief of the Holy Spirit. The soul part of the flesh, however, is not as defiled as the body. Soul is the life principle of man; it is his very self, comprising the faculties of will, mind and emotion. From the human viewpoint the works of the soul may not be all defiled. They merely center upon one’s thought, idea, feeling, and like or dislike. Though these all are focused upon self, they are not necessarily defiling sins. The basic characteristic of the works of the soul is independence or self-dependence. Even though the soul side is therefore not as defiled as the body side, it nonetheless is hostile to the Holy Spirit. The flesh makes self the center and elevates self-will above God’s will. It may serve God, but always according to its idea, not according to God’s. It will do what is good in its own eyes. Self is the principle behind every action. It may not commit what man considers sin: it may even try to keep God’s commandments with all its power: yet "self" never fails to be at the heart of every activity. Who can fathom the deceitfulness and vitality of this self? The flesh opposes the spirit not just in sinning against God, but now even in the matter of serving Him and pleasing Him. It opposes and quenches the Holy Spirit by leaning upon its own strength without wholly relying upon God’s grace and simply being led by the Spirit.

    We can find many believers around us who are by nature good and patient and loving. Now what the believer hates is sin; therefore if he can be delivered from it and from the works of the flesh as described in Galatians 5, verses 19 through 21, then is he content. But what the believer admires is righteousness; therefore he will try hard to act righteously, longing to possess the fruits of Galatians 5, verses 22 and 23. Yet, just here lies the danger. For the Christian has not come to learn how to hate the totality of his flesh. He merely desires to be liberated from the sins which spring from it. He knows how to resist somewhat the deeds of the flesh, but he does not realize that the entire flesh itself needs to be destroyed. What deceives him is that the flesh not only can produce sin but can also perform good. If it is still doing good it is evident it is yet alive. Had the flesh definitely died the believer’s ability both to do good and to do evil would have perished with it. An ability to undertake good manifests that the flesh has not yet died.

    We know that men originally belong to the flesh. The Bible distinctly teaches that there is no one in the world who is not of the flesh, for every sinner is born of the flesh. But we additionally recognize that many, before they are born anew, and even many who in their lifetime never believe in the Lord, have performed and continue to perform many commendable acts. Some seem to be naturally born with kindness, patience or goodness. Notice what the Lord Jesus says to Nicodemus (John 3.6); though the latter man is so good naturally, he is nonetheless regarded as of the flesh. This confirms that the flesh can indeed do good.

    From the letter of Paul to the Galatians, we once more can see that the flesh is capable of doing good. "Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (3.3). God’s children in Galatia had descended into the error of doing good by the flesh. They had begun in the Holy Spirit; they did not continue therein to be made perfect. They wanted instead to be perfected through their righteousness, even the righteousness according to law. Hence it was that the Apostle put such a question to them. If the flesh in the Galatian believers could only do evil, Paul would not have needed to pose such a question, because they themselves would have known only too well that the sins of the flesh could not possibly perfect what was begun in the Holy Spirit. That they desired to perfect with their flesh what the Holy Spirit had initiated proves that to arrive at a perfect position they were depending upon the ability of their flesh to do good. They had truly made an arduous attempt to do good, but the Apostle shows us here that the righteous acts of the flesh and the works of the Holy Spirit are worlds apart. What one does by the flesh is done by himself. It can never perfect what the Holy Spirit has begun.

    In the preceding chapter the Apostle can be found uttering another weighty word on this: "But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor" (2.18). He was pointing at those who, having been saved and having received the Holy Spirit, still insisted on gaining righteousness according to law (vv.16,17,21) through their own flesh. We have been saved through faith in the Lord and not through our works: these are what Paul meant by the things torn down. We know that he always had thrown down the works of sinners, treating such deeds as absolutely valueless in anyone’s salvation. Now if by doing righteously we try to "build up again those things" which we have destroyed, then, Paul concludes, "we prove ourselves a transgressor." The Apostle is hence telling us that inasmuch as sinners cannot be saved through their efforts, so we who have been regenerated likewise cannot be perfected through any righteous acts of our flesh. How vain do such righteous deeds continue to be!

    Romans 8 maintains that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (v.8). It implies that the fleshly have tried, but unsuccessfully, to please God. This of course refers specifically to the righteous acts of the flesh which utterly fail to please God. Let us become profoundly informed here of precisely what the flesh is able to do: it is able to perform righteous deeds, and to do them expertly. We often conceive of the flesh in terms of lust; we consequently consider it strictly defiled, not realizing that it includes more than the lust side.

    The activities of the various faculties of the soul may not be as defiled as lust. Furthermore, "lust" as sometimes used in the Bible has no connotation of defilement, as for example, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" in Galatians 5.17 (Darby). We see that the Spirit also lusts—against the flesh. Lust in this instance simply conveys the idea of an intense desire.

    All which one does or is able to do before regeneration is but the efforts of the flesh. Thus it can do good as well as evil. The error the believer makes lies right here in that he only knows that the evil of the flesh must be destroyed without appreciating that the good of the flesh needs to be done away with as well. He is unaware of the fact that the righteousness of the flesh belongs as much to the flesh as its evil. The flesh remains flesh, no matter how good or how bad. What imperils a Christian is his ignorance of, or his reluctance to face up to, the necessity of ridding himself of everything of the flesh, including what is good. He must positively recognize that the good of the flesh is not one bit more presentable than its evil, for both pertain to the flesh. Unless the good flesh is dealt with no Christian can ever hope to be freed from the dominion of the flesh. For by letting his flesh do good he will soon find it working evil. If its self-righteousness is not destroyed, unrighteousness shall surely follow.

    The Nature of the Good Works of the Flesh

    God opposes the flesh so drastically because He knows its actual condition thoroughly. He desires His children to be released completely from the old creation and enter fully upon the new in experience. Whether good or bad, flesh is still flesh. The difference between the good which proceeds from the flesh and the good which flows from the new life is that the flesh always has self at its center. It is my self who can perform and does perform good without the need of trusting in the Holy Spirit, without the necessity of being humble, of waiting on God, or of praying to God. Since it is I who wills and thinks and does without the need of God and who consequently considers how improved I am or how truly a somebody I have now become through my own efforts, is it not inevitable that I shall ascribe glory to myself? Obviously such deeds do not bring people to God; instead they puff up the self. God wants everyone to come to Him in a spirit of utter dependency, completely submissive to His Holy Spirit, and humbly waiting upon Him. Any good of the flesh which revolves around self is an abomination in the sight of God, for it does not proceed from the Spirit of the life of the Lord Jesus but is of self and glorifies self.

    The Apostle protests in his Philippian letter that he "put no confidence in the flesh" (3.3). It tends to be self-confident. Because they themselves are so able, the fleshly do not need to trust in the Holy Spirit. Christ crucified is the wisdom of God, but how much confidence a believer reposes in his own wisdom! He can read and preach the Bible, he can hear and believe the Word, but all are executed in the power of his mind, without experiencing the slightest inner registration of a need to depend absolutely upon the instruction of the Holy Spirit. Many therefore believe they possess all the truth, though what they have comes merely from hearing others or from themselves searching the Scriptures. What is of man far exceeds what is of God. They do not have a heart to receive instruction from Him or to wait upon the Lord to reveal to them His truth in His light.

    Christ crucified is also the power of God. But how much self-reliance obtains in Christian service. More effort is exerted in planning and arranging than in waiting upon the Lord. Double is the time expended on preparing the division and conclusion of a sermon than on receiving the power from on high. Yet not because the truth is unproclaimed or the person and work of Christ is unconfessed or the glory of God is unsought do all these works become dead before God, but because there is so much trust in the flesh. How we stress human wisdom and strive for satisfactory arguments in our messages: how we use appropriate illustrations and diverse other means to stir men’s emotions: how we employ wise exhortations to induce men to make decisions! But where are the practical results? To what degree do we rely upon the Holy Spirit and to what degree upon the flesh? How can the flesh ever impart life to others? Is there actually any power in the old creation which can qualify people to inherit a part in the new creation?

    Self-confidence and self-reliance, as we have said, are the notable traits of the good works of the flesh. It is impossible for the flesh to lean upon God. It is too impatient to tolerate any delay. So long as it deems itself strong it will never depend upon God. Even in a time of desperation the flesh continues to scheme and to search for a loophole. It never has the sense of utter dependency. This alone can be a test whereby a believer may know whether or not a work is of the flesh. Whatever does not issue from waiting upon God, from depending upon the Holy Spirit, is unquestionably of the flesh. Whatever one decides according to his pleasure in lieu of seeking the will of God emanates from the flesh. Whenever a heart of utter trust is lacking, there is the labor of the flesh. Now the things done may not be evil or improper; they in fact may be good and godly (such as reading the Bible, praying, worshiping, preaching); but if they are not undertaken in a spirit of complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit, then the flesh is the source of all. The old creation is willing to do anything—even to submit to God—if only it is permitted to live and to be active! However good the deed of the flesh may appear to be, "I", whether veiled or seen, always looms large on the horizon. The flesh never acknowledges its weakness nor admits to its uselessness; even should it become a laughingstock, the flesh remains unshaken in the belief in its ability.

    "Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" This uncovers a great truth. One may begin well, in the Spirit, but not continue well therein. Our experience bears out the fact of the relative ease with which a thing may begin in the Spirit but end up in the flesh. Often a newly apprehended truth is imparted by the Holy Spirit; after awhile, however, this truth has turned into a boasting of the flesh. The Jews in the early days committed just such an error. How frequently in the matters of obeying the Lord, of denying one’s self afresh, of receiving power to save souls, one genuinely may rely upon the Holy Spirit at the outset; yet not long afterwards that same person changes God’s grace into his own glory, treating what is of God as his possession. The same principle holds true in our conduct. Through the working of the Holy Spirit at the beginning there occurs a mighty transformation in one’s life whereby he loves what he previously hated and hates what he loved before. Gradually, though, "self" begins to creep in unawares. The person increasingly interprets these changes to be of his making and unto his own admiration; or he grows careless and gradually pushes on by self-trust rather than by dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Thousands of matters there are in the experiences of believers which begin well in the Spirit but terminate unfortunately in the flesh.

    Why is it that many of God’s dear children eagerly seek a wholly consecrated walk and most earnestly desire the more abundant life but nevertheless fail? Often when listening to messages, conversing with people, reading spiritual books, or praying privately, the Lord makes known to them how perfectly possible it is to have a life of fullness in the Lord. They are made to sense the simplicity and sweetness of such a life and they see no obstacle in the way to their securing it. Indeed they experience a blessing with power and glory which they have never before known. Oh, how good it is! But alas, how soon it all vanishes. Why? How? Is it because their faith is imperfect? Or their consecration not absolute? Surely their faith and consecration have been utterly towards the Lord. Then why such a failure? What is the reason for losing the experience and how can it be restored? The answer is simple and definite. They are trusting in the flesh and trying to make perfect by the flesh what was begun in the Spirit. They are substituting self for the Spirit. Self desires to lead the way while hoping that the Holy Spirit will come alongside and assist. The position and work of the Spirit have been replaced by that of the flesh. Absent is that complete reliance upon the Spirit’s leading for accomplishment. Absent also is a necessary waiting upon the Lord. Attempting to follow Him without denying the self is the root of all failures.

    The Sins Which Follow

    Should a believer be so self-confident that he dares to complete the task of the Holy Spirit in the energy of the flesh, he will not come into full spiritual maturity. He will instead drift until the sins he previously had overcome return to him again in power. Do not be surprised by what is said here. It is a spiritual truism that wherever or whenever the flesh is serving God, there and then the power of sin is strengthened. Why did the proud Pharisees become slaves to sin? Was it not because they were too self-righteous and served God too zealously? Why did the Apostle chide the Galatians? Why did they manifest the deeds of the flesh? Was it not because they sought to establish their own righteousness by works and to perfect by the flesh the work which the Holy Spirit had begun? The hazard for young believers is to stop short of the putting to death of the power of the flesh in doing good by only knowing what the cross does for the sinful side of the flesh. In so doing they retreat again into the sins of the flesh. The greatest blunder Christians commit upon experiencing victory over sin lies in not using the way of victory to sustain it; instead they try to perpetuate the victory by their works and determination. It may perhaps succeed for a while. Before long though they shall find themselves sliding back into their former sins, which may differ in form but not in essence. They then either slump into despair by concluding that constant and persistent triumph is impossible to achieve or they try to camouflage their sins without honestly confessing that they have sinned. Now what is it that causes such failure? Just as the flesh gives you strength to do righteously so it also gives you the power to sin. Whether good acts or evil, all are but the expressions of the same flesh. If the flesh is not furnished opportunity to sin, it is willing to do good; and if once the opportunity to perform good is provided, the flesh will soon revert to sin.

    Here Satan deceives God’s children. If believers would habitually maintain the attitude of the flesh being crucified Satan could have no chance; for "the flesh is Satan’s workshop." If the flesh in whole, not just in part, is truly under the power of the death of the Lord, Satan will be totally dis-employed. He is consequently willing to allow the sinful part of our flesh to be offered unto death if he may only deceive us into retaining the good part. Satan is quite aware that should the good side remain intact the life of the flesh will continue to be kept alive. He still has a base from which to operate to recover that side which he has lost. He knows very well that the flesh could win and regain its victory in the realm of sin if the flesh succeeded in squeezing the Holy Spirit out in the matter of serving God. This explains why many Christians fall back into the service of sin after they have been set free. Should the spirit not actually be in complete and continuous control in the matter of worship, it will be unable to maintain dominion in daily life. If I have not yet entirely denied myself before God I cannot deny myself before men, and therefore I cannot overcome my hatred, temper and selfishness. These two are inseparable.

    Through ignorance of this truth, the believers at Galatia fell into "biting and devouring one another" (Gal. 5.15). They attempted to perfect by the flesh what had been begun by the Holy Spirit, for they desired "to make a good showing in the flesh" in order that "they might glory in (their) flesh" (6.12,13). Naturally their successes were very scanty in performing good by the flesh, while their failures in overcoming evil became quite numerous. Little did they realize that as long as they would serve God with their strength and ideas they doubtlessly would serve sin in the flesh. If they did not forbid the flesh to do good they could not prevent it from doing evil. The best way to keep from sinning is not to do any good by one’s self. Being unconscious of the utter corruption of the flesh, the Galatian believers in their foolishness wished to make use of it, not recognizing that the same corruption marked the flesh in boasting of doing good as in following lust. They could not do what God wanted them to do because on the one hand they tried to accomplish what the Holy Spirit had begun and on the other they vainly attempted to rid themselves of the passion and lust of the flesh.

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    Default How Does the Living Word Divide

    How Does the Living Word Divide

    For the Word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is not a creature unapparent before Him; but all things are naked and laid bare to His eyes, with Whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12,13).

    The first thing to notice is that the Word of God is “living.” His Word must surely be living if we acted on it. For if we do not find it living, we simply have failed to contact the life-power of God’s Word. We may have read over the words of the Bible, but if we do not touch something living, we have not contacted God’s Word deeply enough.

    John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him may not perish, but have life eternal.” Consider how one may hear such a word. He kneels down and prays: “Lord, I thank You and praise You, for You have loved me and saved me!” We immediately know this man has touched the Word of God, for His Word has become a living reality to him. Another man may sit by his side, listening to the very same words, but he did not actually hear the Word of God. There is no living response from him. We can draw but one conclusion—since God’s Word is living, he who listens and does not have a living response is he who has not actually heard the Word of God.

    Not only is the Word of God living; it is also operative. “Living” points to its nature, while “operative” applies to its ability to fulfill its work on man. God’s Word cannot return void. It will prevail and accomplish its purpose. It is not merely a word, but the Word that will so operate until it produces results.

    What, then, does God’s Word do for us? It penetrates and divides. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. Its sharpness is demonstrated in the “penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow.” Note the analogy here: It compares the two-edged sword against joints and marrow with the Word of God against soul and spirit. Joints and marrow are embedded deeply into the human body. To separate the joints outside is to cut across the bones; to divide the marrow inside is to crack open the bones. Only two other things are harder to be divided than the joints and marrow—the soul and spirit. No sword, however sharp, can divide them. Similarly, we are wholly unable to distinguish between what is soul and what is spirit. Yet the Scripture tells us how the living Word of God can do the task, for it is sharper than any two-edged sword. God’s Word is living, operative, and able to penetrate and divide. It is the soul and spirit of man which are to be penetrated and divided.

    Perhaps someone may raise this question: “It doesn’t seem as if the Word of God has done anything special in me. I have often heard God’s Word and have even received its revelation. But I do not know what “penetrating” is. Nor do I understand “division.” As far as I can tell, I am a stranger to both these processes.

    How does the Bible answer this question for us? It says “penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow.” But it also goes on to say that the Word is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” “Thoughts” refers to what we deliberate in our heart, and “intents” have reference to our motives. Thus, the Word of God is able to discern both what we think, what motivates our thinking, and why. 81 82 The Release of the Spirit

    Too often we can easily identify what comes from the outward man. We quite glibly confess, “This was soulish, for it came from self.” But we do not really see what the soul or self is. Then one day, God’s mercy comes to us. His light shines upon us, and His voice announces to us—with severity and solemnity: “What you frequently refer to as your “self’ is your self! You have talked lightly and easily about the flesh. Now you must see how God hates this and will not allow such to continue.”

    Before this seeing, we have been able to talk facetiously about the flesh. However, once we are stricken with light, we shall confess: “Ah, this is it! This is what I have talked so lightly about!” Now, we have more than an intellectual dividing. It is the Word of God that points out and exposes what we conceived and purposed in our heart. We then receive a two-fold enlightenment: How our thoughts originate from the flesh, and how our intentions are entirely selfish.

    To illustrate this, let us consider two unconverted persons. One is aware that he is a sinner. He has been to many meetings and heard many messages on sin. Clear preaching has brought him to acknowledge himself as a sinner. Yet when he accordingly refers to himself as a sinner, he laughs about it, as if it does not really matter.

    The other person hears the same messages, but the light of God shines upon him. The Spirit so convicts him that he prostrates himself on the ground and prays: “Oh, yes, this is what I am—a sinner!” Not only has he heard it by the Word of God, but he has also seen and felt his true sinful condition. He condemns himself. He is stricken to the ground. Thus enlightened, he can confess his sin and receive the salvation of the Lord. He will henceforth never speak lightly or jokingly of the sin he has seen. But the first one, who can jokingly describe himself as a sinner, has not seen and hence is not saved.

    How do you react to this message today—that your outward man seriously interferes with God and must be broken and divided by Him? If you can begin talking about it frivolously and easily, surely it has not touched you. If, on the other hand, you are enlightened by it, you will say, “O Lord, today I begin to know myself. Until now, I have not recognized my outward man.” And as the light of God surrounds you, laying bare your outward man, you will fall to the ground, being no longer able to stand. Instantly, you see what you are.

    Before, you have said that you loved the Lord. But under God’s light, you find it is not so—you really love yourself. This light really divides you and sets you apart. You are inwardly separated, not by your mentality, not by mere teaching, but by God’s light. Once you said you were zealous for the Lord. But now the light of God shows you that your zeal for service was entirely stirred up by your own flesh. Once you thought you loved sinners while preaching the Gospel. But now the light has come, and you discover that your preaching the Gospel stems mainly from your love of action and your love for speaking. These are merely your natural inclinations. The deeper this divine light shines, the more the thoughts and intents of your heart are revealed. Once you assumed that your thoughts and intents were of the Lord. But now in this piercing light, you know they are entirely of yourself. Such light brings you down before God.

    Too often what we supposed was of the Lord proves out to be of ourselves. Although we had proclaimed that our messages were spoken by the Lord, now the light of heaven compels us to confess that the Lord has not spoken to us. Or, if He has, how little He has said. How much of the Lord’s work, so called, turns out to be nothing but carnal activities! This unveiling of the real nature of things enlightens us to the true knowledge of what is of the self and what is of the Lord, how much is from our soul and how much is from our spirit How wonderful if we can testify: His light has finally 83 84 The Release of the Spirit

    shone! The ‘spirit and soul’ can now be distinguished and divided! And the thoughts and intents of our heart are clearly discerned!

    You who have experienced this know that this is beyond mere teaching. All efforts to distinguish between what is of self and what is of the Lord, to separate what things are of the outward man from what are of the inward man—even to the extent of listing them item by item and then memorizing them—have proven it to be nothing but a waste of time and effort. You continue to behave just as usual, for you cannot get rid of your outward man. You may even be able to condemn the flesh. You may be proud that you are able to identify what belongs to the flesh. But you are still not delivered from it.

    Deliverance comes from the light of God. When the light shines, you immediately see how your denial of the flesh has been superficial and fleshly. You can even see how your criticism of the natural has been natural. But now the Lord has laid bare to your eyes the thoughts and intents of your heart. You fall prostrate before Him and say: “O Lord! Now I know these things are really from my outward man. Only Your light can really divide my outward from my inward.”

    Therefore, our denial of the outward man and our determination to reject it will not help. Yes, even the very confession of our sin is for naught, and our tears of repentance will need to be washed in the blood. How foolish to imagine that we could expose our sin! Only in His Light shall we see and be exposed. It must be His work by the Spirit, not our efforts by the soul. Everything out of our own mind, emotions, and will is excluded. This is something left to only God.

    This is why God says, “My Word is living and effectual! My sword is the sharpest of all! When My Word comes to a man, it is able to divide the soul and spirit, just as a two-edged sword can divide the joints and marrow!”

    How does it divide? It divides by revealing each thought and making bare each intention of our heart. We do not know our own heart. Beloved, only those who are in the light know their own heart. No one else does—not one! Yet when God’s living Word comes, we then can see! We are exposed as one who truly sees his own self-centeredness—seeking only his own gratification, glory, ambition, and position for self. How blessed is that light which causes us to fall down at His feet.

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    The Dividing of Spirit and Soul

    The salient implication of Hebrews 4.12 is whether we are living by intuitive guidance in the spirit or by the naturally good or bad influence of the soul. The Word of God must judge in this particular respect, for only God’s sharp Sword can differentiate the source of our living. As a man’s knife cuts and divides joints and marrow, so God’s Sword too pierces and separates the most intimately linked spirit and soul. Initially such dividing may be simply a matter of knowledge, but it is essential that it enter the realm of experience; otherwise it shall in fact never be understood. Believers should allow the Lord to introduce this cleaving of spirit and soul into their practical walk. Not only must they seek it positively with consecration, prayer, and yieldedness to the operation of the Holy Spirit and the cross, but also they must actually possess such experience. Their spirit needs to be liberated from the soul’s binding enclosure. These two must be parted cleanly even as the spirit and soul of the Lord Jesus were not one bit mixed. The intuitive spirit needs to be freed wholly from any influence which may come from soulical mind and emotion. The spirit must be the sole residence and office of the Holy Spirit. It must be released from every disturbance of the soul.

    The various experiences of having his outer and inner man divided will make a believer spiritual. A spiritual believer differs from others for the simple reason that his entire being is governed by his spirit. Such spirit-control connotes more than the Holy Spirit’s authority over the soul and body of man; it also signifies that man’s own spirit, upon being elevated as head over the whole man through the working of the Holy Spirit and the cross, is no longer ruled by the soul and body but is powerful enough to subject them to its rule.

    The division of these two organs is necessary for entering spiritual life. It is that preparation without which believers shall continue to be affected by the soul and hence shall always pursue a mixed course: sometimes walking according to the spirit life but at other times walking according to the natural life. Their pathway fails to be marked by purity, for both spirit and soul are their life principles. This mixture holds believers fast within a soulish framework which damages their walk as well as hinders the important work of the Spirit.

    Were a believer’s outer and inner life definitely separated so that he walks not according to the former but according to the latter, he would sense instantaneously any movement in his soul and immediately shake off its power and influence as though being defiled. Indeed, everything belonging to the soulish is defiled and can defile the spirit. But upon experiencing the partition of soul and spirit, the latter’s intuitive power becomes most keen. As soon as the soul stirs, the spirit suffers and will resist right away. The spirit may even be grieved at the inordinate stirring of the soul in others. It will in fact repulse a person’s soulish love or natural affection as something unbearable. Only after experiencing such separation do Christians come into possession of a genuine sense of cleanliness. They then know that not sin alone, but all which belongs to the soulish, is defiled and defiling and ought to be resisted. Nay, it is far more than simply knowing, for any contact with what is soulish—whether in themselves or in others—causes their intuitive spirit to feel defiled and to demand instant cleansing.

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