The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 3, Part 9 THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL-THE WILL, Ch. 4, by Watchman Nee
IT IS POSSIBLE FOR a consecrated Christian to be deceived into passivity for some years without ever awakening to his dangerous plight. The degree of inactivity will increase in scope until he suffers unspeakable pain in mind, emotion, body and environment. To present the true meaning of consecration to these ones thus becomes vitally important. The knowledge of truth is absolutely necessary for deliverance from passivity, without which freedom is impossible. We know that a believer falls into passivity through deception but this latter in turn is caused by a lack of knowledge.
The very first step to freedom is to know the truth of all things: truth concerning cooperation with God, the operation of evil spirits, consecration, and supernatural manifestations. The child of God must know the truth as to the source and nature of the experiences he may have been having if he expects to be delivered. Since his descent was (1) deception, (2) passivity, (3) entrenchment, and (4) further deception and passivity, then the way to release will be initially the uncovering of deception. Once the early deceit is dissolved, passivity, entrenchment and further deceit will disintegrate. Deception unlatches the gate for the evil spirits to rush in; passivity provides a place for them to stay; and the result of these two is entrenchment. To dispossess them requires an ending of passivity which in turn needs the exposure of deception, and this is brought about by nothing else save the knowledge of truth. Knowledge of truth is therefore the first stage towards freedom. Only the truth can set people free.
We have cautioned our readers repeatedly about the danger of supernatural experience. We are not suggesting that every such manifestation must be categorically resisted, forsaken and opposed: this would be at variance with Biblical teaching since the Scriptures record numerous supernatural acts of God. Our purpose simply has been to remind Christians that there can be more than one source behind supernatural phenomena; God can perform wonders, but so can evil spirits imitate! How crucial for us to distinguish what is of God from what is not of God. If one has not died to his emotional life but earnestly seeks sensational events, he will be easily duped. We do not urge people to resist all supernatural manifestations, but we do exhort them to resist every supernatural occurrence which derives from Satan. So what we have tried to point out throughout this Part of the book has been the basic differences between the operation of the Holy Spirit and that of the evil spirit so as to help God’s children discern which is which.
It can be stated that present day Christians are particularly susceptible to trickery in supernatural matters. Our earnest hope is that in their contact with supernatural phenomena they shall first undertake the task of discriminating lest they be beguiled. They must not overlook the fact that when the supernatural experience is authored by the Holy Spirit they are still able to engage their own mind; it is not required that they be totally or partially passive before they obtain such an experience. And afterwards too they are still able to exercise their conscience freely to distinguish good and evil without the least inhibition. But should the experience be authored by the evil spirit, then the victims must settle into passivity, their mind be blank, and their every action be performed under outside compulsion. Such is the essential difference. The Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 14 various spiritual gifts among which are revelation, prophecy, tongues and other supernatural manifestations. He acknowledges these gifts as flowing from the Holy Spirit, yet he defines the nature of these God-given gifts in these words: “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (v.32). If what the prophets (believers) receive is from the Holy Spirit, then the spirits they receive will be subject to them. This means that the Holy Spirit Who bestows diverse supernatural experiences upon men will not infringe on their rights by manipulating any part of their bodies against their wills. They continue to retain the power of self-control. Only that spirit which is subject to the prophet or believer is from God; any spirit which demands the prophet to be subject to it is not from God. Although we should not oppose all supernatural elements, we nonetheless should judge whether these supernatural spirits require a man’s passive subjection or not. The workings of the Holy Spirit and those of the evil spirit are fundamentally opposite: the Former wishes men to be sovereignly free; the latter requires him to be altogether passive. The believer should judge his experience by this criterion. Learning whether he has been passive or not can be the solution to all his problems.
Should the child of God desire freedom his folly must be removed. In other words, he must know the truth. He needs to appreciate the real nature of affairs. Satanic lies bind, but God’s truth unshackles. Naturally the knowledge of truth is going to be costly, for it will shatter the vainglory one has assumed due to his past experiences. He looks upon himself as far more advanced than others, as being spiritual and infallible. How hard hit he will be if he confesses the possibility of his being invaded or if he is shown to have been so invaded! Unless God’s child sincerely adheres to all the truth of God, it becomes very rough for him to accept this kind of painful and humiliating truth. One encounters no difficulty in accepting that truth which is agreeable; but it is not easy at all to take in a truth which blasts one’s ego. To acknowledge himself as liable to deception is relatively easy; whereas to confess that he is entrenched by the enemy already is most difficult. May God be gracious, for even after a person has known the truth he may yet resist it. The acceptance of truth is thus the first step to salvation. The child of God must be willing to know all the truth concerning himself. This requires humility and sincerity. Therefore let him who vehemently opposes such truth beware lest unknowingly he actually be enslaved.
The roads to truth are many and various. Some are awakened to their true state upon discovering that they have lost their liberty in all respects through their protracted and serious satanic bondage; others whose experiences may be ninety per cent of God and only ten per cent impurity come to know the truth when they begin to doubt their experience; still others are brought to a knowledge of their condition through the truth given them by other believers. In any event, the Christian should not refuse the first ray of light which shines upon him.
Doubting is the prelude to truth. By this is not meant to doubt the Holy Spirit or God or His Word but to doubt one’s own past experience. Such doubt is both necessary and scriptural because God commands us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4.1). Believers often embrace a wrong idea: they are afraid to examine the spirits lest they sin against the Holy Spirit. But it is He Himself Who desires us to make the test. Now if it turns out to be the Holy Spirit He can stand the test; if however it is the evil spirit its true nature will accordingly be exposed. Is it God Who has in fact caused you to fall into today’s position? Does the Holy Spirit ever work contrary to His law? Are you really infallible in all matters?
Having received some light as to the truth, the believer next can readily admit that he is susceptible to deception. And this affords the truth a working opportunity. The worst fallacy one can ever commit is to reckon oneself infallible. To maintain that others may be wrong but never he is to be duped to the very end. Only after he is self-abased will he be able to see that he is genuinely deceived. By comparing the principle of divine working against the conditions of satanic working, he concludes that his past experiences were obtained through passivity. He had fulfilled the requirements for the working of the evil spirits, hence was given those many strange manifestations which made him happy initially but which pained him ultimately. He had not cooperated actively with God but had instead passively followed that will which he had taken for granted must be God’s. Both his happy and painful experiences must have originated with evil spirits. He consequently now admits how deceived he has been. The child of God not only must accept the truth but in addition must admit his condition in the light of that truth. In this way the lie of the enemy shall be annulled. Thus one’s experience here is to (a) acknowledge that a believer is open to deception; (b) admit that he too is subject to duplicity; (c) confess that he is deceived; and next (d) further inquire as to why he was beguiled.
We may now infer that ground must have been furnished the evil spirit. But what is the ground which a believer supplies? Before he considers what ground he has given, let him first review exactly what ground is.
The believer ought to realize that besides sin there are other elements which can afford ground to evil spirits: the acceptance of a counterfeit, passivity of will, and assent to the enemy’s flashing thought. For the present we focus our attention on passivity, that is, on allowing our mind or body to sink into a coma-like state, ceasing to exercise conscious control over the mind, and inactivating the proper functions of the will, conscience and memory. Passivity, though there are various gradations of it, forms the principal ground. The scope of the enemy’s penetration is determined by the degree of passivity. As soon as the person becomes aware of an inert condition—whatever its degree—he must recover that ground at once. Firmly, intently and persistently he should oppose the enemy’s attempt to maintain any footing in him, especially in the areas where he has been deceived. It is indispensable that he know the ground and recover it.
Upon realizing he has been deceived, the believer should next seek light concerning the ground he has lost and try to recover it. Since evil spirits maintain their position on the territory surrendered to them, they shall leave once that area is cleared away.
Because the Christian has fallen into passivity and deception by not using his will in self-control, he now must exercise his will actively to resist through the power of God the powers of darkness in every temptation and suffering and to cancel his earlier promises to them. Since passivity came in gradually, it will be eliminated gradually. The measure of one’s detection of his inertia is the measure of that one’s emancipation. If the duration of his inactivity has been long, the longer will it take to be delivered. To descend a mountain is always easier than to ascend it; in like manner, to become passive is easy but to regain freedom is painstaking. It requires the cooperation of the total man to retake all forfeited ground.
The child of God definitely should ask God to show him where he has been deceived. He must sincerely desire to have all the truth about himself revealed. Generally speaking, whatever the believer fears to hear will probably pertain to the ground given the enemy. What he is afraid to deal with is the very item he should dispense with, for nine out of ten times the enemy has established his footing right there. How necessary that the Christian beseech God to shed light on his symptoms and their causes so that he may recapture the lost territory. Enlightenment is a “must”; without it the believer tends to interpret the supernatural as being something natural, the spiritual (of the evil spirits) as being something physical. And so he provides ground for the enemy.
One common principle underlies the way all ground is relinquished to evil spirits: it is through passivity, the inactivity of the will. If lost ground is ever to be recovered it is mandatory that the volition be reactivated. The Christian “henceforth must learn (a) to obey God’s will, (b) to resist the devil’s will, and (c) to exercise his own will in collaboration with the will of the other saints. Responsibility for recovering ceded territory rests chiefly on the will. It is the volition which became passive, hence it must be the volition which dispels passivity.
The first measure the will undertakes is to resolve, that is, to set itself towards a definite direction. Having suffered much at the Bands of evil spirits but now enlightened by the truth and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the child of God is led naturally to a new position of abhorring those wicked spirits. He accordingly resolves against all their works. He is determined to regain his freedom, be his own master, and drive off his enemy. The Spirit of God so works in him that his fury against the evil spirits gathers momentum. The more he suffers the more he hates; the more he ponders his plight the more furious he becomes. He resolves to experience a complete emancipation from the powers of darkness. Such a resolve is the first step towards the recovery of lost ground. If this resolution is real he will press on towards the goal no matter how fierce a fight the enemy may put up. The entire man supports his resolve to henceforth oppose the adversary.
The Christian also should engage his will to choose, that is to decide the future he desires. In days of spiritual battle this choice can be very effective. He should ever and anon declare: I choose freedom; I want liberty; I refuse to be passive; I will use my own talents; I insist on knowing the wiles of the evil spirits; I wish for their defeat; I will sever every relationship with the powers of darkness; I oppose all their lies and excuses. Such a declaration of the will is highly beneficial in warfare. It expresses his choice, not simply his resolve, on these particular matters. The powers of darkness pay no attention to one’s resolve, but should he choose with his will to oppose them through the power of God then they most certainly shall flee. All this is related to the principle of the freedom of man’s will. Just as in the beginning the believer permitted the evil spirits to enter, so now he chooses the very opposite, the undercutting of any footing of the enemy.
During this period of conflict the Christian’s will must be engaged actively in various operations. Beyond resolving and choosing, he also ought to resist. That is to say, his will must exert its force to contend with the evil spirits. He moreover should refuse—shut the door against—the entry of the enemy. By resisting he prohibits the evil spirits from further working; by refusing he cancels the former permission he had granted them. Refusal in addition to resistance practically immobilizes all the perpetrations of the enemy. Resisting is our attitude regarding what lies ahead of us; refusing is our position regarding what lies behind. For instance: by proclaiming that “I will to have my freedom” we are refusing the evil spirits; yet we need as well to resist, that is, to exert strength in combating the enemy so that we may keep the freedom we have just obtained through refusal. Both refusal and resistance must be continued until complete emancipation is won.
To resist is truly a battle. It requires all the strength of the spirit, soul and body. Nevertheless, the main force is the will. To resolve, choose and refuse are primarily questions of attitude; but to resist is a matter of overt practice. It is a conduct expressive of an attitude. It is wrestling in the spirit, which is to say, that the will through the strength of the spirit pushes the evil spirits off the ground they presently occupy. It is an assault against the enemy line. In resisting, one employs one’s will power to drive, push and chase off. The enemy spirits, even should they perceive the believer’s hostile attitude against them, will not budge an inch from the ground they occupy. They must be driven out with real force. The child of God must mobilize spiritual power to immobilize and remove the enemy. He must exercise his will to chase them away. A mere declaration of intention is insufficient. It needs to be coupled with practical measures. Resistance without refusal is similarly ineffective, because the ground originally promised to the enemy must be recovered.
In retaking surrendered territory the believer must use his will on the one side to resolve, choose and refuse and on the other to resist. He should resolve to fight, choose freedom, refuse ground, and resist the enemy. He must contend for his sovereignty. This element of free will should never be lost sight of. God has granted us an unhampered volition that we may be our own masters, but today the evil spirits have usurped our members and talents. They have become man’s master; he has lost his sovereign rights. To oppose this the believer enters the fray. He continually declares: I am not willing to let the evil spirits encroach on my sovereign rights; I will not allow them to invade my personality; I will not permit them to possess me; I will not follow them blindly; I will not consent to their manipulating me; I will not, I verily am unwilling; I intend to be my own master; I know what I do; I resolve to control myself; I prefer to have my entire being subject to myself; I resist all the works of the wicked ones as well as their right to work on me. In resolving, choosing and refusing with our will we arrest any further working of the enemy. Thereafter we must resist with our will.
The believer commences his life anew following the recovery of his ground. The past is over, and now marks a new beginning. What was offered to the evil spirits has all been reclaimed. The spirit, soul and body of the whole person are retrieved from the enemy’s hand and are rededicated to God. Every inch of the territory surrendered through ignorance has today, one upon another, been recovered. The sovereign power of man is once again returned to him. And how is this done? By rejecting what once was accepted; disbelieving what once was believed; withdrawing from what once he drew nigh to before; destroying what once was erected; canceling what once was covenanted; retrieving what once was promised; dissolving what once was joined; resisting what once was obeyed; uttering what once went unspoken; opposing what once was cooperated with; and denying what once was given. Every past consideration, counsel, and permission must be overthrown; even past prayers and answers must be denied.
Without a doubt every one of these dealings runs directly against the evil spirits. Formerly an intimate association had been formed with these spirits through mistaking them for the Holy Spirit; presently, with the newly added knowledge, all which was yielded to them in ignorance must be retrieved. Just as each ground one after another was ceded, so now all must be reclaimed specifically. The greatest hindrance to complete liberty is the believer’s unwillingness to recover all territory carefully: point by point, one after another. He tends to exercise his will in a general, vague and inclusive way to retake all ground. Such general opposition merely indicates the correctness of the believer’s attitude. To be set free he must restore everything specifically. This may seem laborious but if he genuinely wills to be released and prays for God’s light, the Holy Spirit gradually shall reveal the past to him. By resisting them one by one, all eventually shall be dissolved. By patiently pressing forward he shall experience deliverance in one area after another. He is on his way to freedom. To resist in a general way shows we do really oppose the evil spirits; but only resisting in specific fashion can force them to desert the ground they occupy.
Step by step the will of the Christian had descended downhill till it became totally passive. Now he must reverse the process and step by step ascend to freedom. He must retrace all the stages by which he descended, only this time his direction will be upward. Previously he was deceived into passivity by degrees; he now needs to reactivate his will in the same manner. All his earlier passivity must be restored one by one. Each movement upward bespeaks some regaining of ground. Whatever was most recently lost to the evil spirits is usually the first ground to be recovered, just as in climbing stairs we ascend the last step of our descent first.
The child of God must reclaim all footholds until he arrives at the freedom he first enjoyed. He should know from where he has fallen since it is to that place that he must be restored. He ought to understand what was hitherto normal for him—how active his will and how clear his mind were in the beginning—as well as what his current condition is. By comparing these two states he will be able to ascertain how far he has descended into passivity. Whatever his normal state was, that must he now set before himself as the minimum standard or goal of his ascent. He should not be satisfied until his will is restored to its original state, that is, until it actively controls every part of his being. He should never deem himself free before his normalcy has once more been regained.
Hence the child of God needs to recover completely every function of his being which has toppled from normalcy into passivity—whether that function be to think, to recall, to imagine, to discern right from wrong, to resolve, to choose, to refuse, to resist, to love, or whatever. Everything over which he has relinquished control must be restored to his personal sovereignty. He should exercise his volition to oppose inertia as well as to make use of all these functions of man. When he tumbled into passivity the evil spirits seized upon his passive organs and used them instead of him. The attempt to reclaim lost areas and regain personal use of his organs may be exceedingly difficult for the believer. This is due to the facts that (a) his own will is necessarily weak yet and hence powerless to direct every portion of his being; and (b) the evil spirits contend against him with their full strength. If for example he has been passive in the matter of decision he will now cancel the ground given and forbid the evil spirits to work any more. He is determined to decide for himself without any of their interference. But he finds (a) that he cannot decide and (b) that the evil spirits do not let him decide and act. When the believer refuses them permission to control him, they will not allow their captive to act without their permission.
Right here must the believer choose: is he going to be forever passive, is he going to let the evil spirits act forever for him? He of course will not permit them to manipulate him any longer. Though temporarily he is unable to decide anything, he nonetheless will not allow the evil spirits to control his power of decision. The battle for freedom has now been joined. This is a contest of the will, for it is through its passivity that all the parts of the man have fallen into the hands of the evil spirits. Hereafter the will must rise up to (a) oppose the rule of the evil spirits, (b) recover all lost ground, and (c) work actively with God for the use of every part of his person. Everything hinges on the volition. The evil spirits will withdraw if the believer’s volition withstands them and forbids them to occupy his organs any further.
Every foot of surrendered territory must be recaptured; each bit of deception must be uncovered. The child of God needs to contend patiently with the enemy over each and every matter. He must “fight through.” All ground is not necessarily removed at the moment of refusal. The evil spirits will yet mount their last struggle; the children of God must be strengthened through many battles. “The refusing must therefore be reasserted, and the believer refuse persistently, until each point of ground is detected and refused, and the faculties are gradually released to act freely under the will of the man. The faculties let go into passivity should regain their normal working condition, such as the operation of the mind kept to true and pure thinking so that any subject being dealt with is mastered, and does not dominate beyond control. So with the memory, the will, the imagination, and the actions of the body, such as singing, praying, speaking, reading, etc.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS, 193)* The will must be engaged as the master of the entire man. All talents must be able to function properly according to one’s normal condition.
*See Part Nine, Chapter 2 for full bibliographical citation.
In addition to refusing any ground to the powers of darkness, the child of God will have to refuse all their operations. If by his volition he maintains this antagonistic attitude the endeavors of the enemy will be spoiled. He should ask God for light on the enemy’s exertions so as to resist them one by one. Since the operation of the evil spirits in the child of God is (a) to act in place of him and (b) to influence him to act according to their will, he must (a) refuse to let them act for him and (b) resist their influence on him. He needs to refuse to let in the enemy spirits as well as refuse any ground that will maintain them in him. As he resists, the foe shall contend in every way. He must therefore battle with all his strength until he is restored to his normalcy and freedom. When he first begins to fight he may find himself temporarily incapacitated; but if he struggles on with all his might, his volition will turn from passivity to activity and control his whole being. Thus shall passivity and the enemy’s entrenchment be destroyed in battle.
“The ‘fighting through’ period is a very painful time. There are bad moments of acute suffering, and intense struggle, arising out of the consciousness of the resistance of the powers of darkness in their contest for what the believer endeavors to reclaim.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS, 194) In exercising his volition to (a) resist the rule of the evil spirits and (b) reinstate his own office, the Christian shall meet stiff opposition from his enemy. Initially he may not be aware of the depth to which he has fallen; but once he commences, point by point, to fight his way back to a normal state, then does he discover how far he has plunged. Because of the resistance of the enemy he may find at the initial stage of combat that his symptoms grow worse than before, as though the more he fights the less strength his will has and the more confused becomes the particular area over which the engagement is being fought. Such a phenomenon is nonetheless the sign of victory! Though the believer does feel worse, in reality he is better. For it demonstrates that the resistance has had its effect: the enemy has felt the pressure and is consequently making his last stand. If one continues to exert the pressure the evil spirits will depart.
During the battle it is positively essential that the believer stand on Romans 6.11, acknowledging himself as one with the Lord: the Lord’s death is his death. Such faith releases him from the authority of the evil spirits since they can have no power over the dead. This position must be firmly taken. In conjunction with such a stand as this there must be the use of God’s Word against all the lies of the enemy, because at this juncture the adversary will lie to the saint by suggesting that he has fallen beyond any hope of restoration. If he listens to this guile he will surely tumble into the greatest peril of all. He should remind himself that Calvary has destroyed Satan and his evil hosts already (Heb. 2.14; Col. 2.14-15). The work of salvation is finished that all may experience deliverance out of the powers of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Col. 1.13). Suffering for the sake of recovering ground assures a person of that which the enemy is afraid of, and how urgent that the ground be recovered. Consequently, whenever the wicked powers inflict new and greater afflictions upon the believer, let him perceive that these are from the enemy and then let him refuse and disregard them, neither worrying nor talking about them.
If the Christian patiently endures temporary discomforts and courageously exercises his volition to recapture surrendered territory, he shall find himself progressively being freed. Little by little as the ground is refused to the enemy and restored to the believer the degree of penetration will correspondingly decrease. If he does not cede any new ground to the enemy the latter’s power to harass him shall diminish as the ground dwindles. While it may require some time before he is set free completely, even so he is now on. the road to liberation. He begins to be conscious of himself, his need for food, his appearance, and other such elements of awareness which were relinquished through the enemy’s attack. But he must not misconstrue these to be a retrogression in his spiritual life. On the contrary, the restoration of consciousness is evidence that the former invader has departed from his senses. Thus at this stage he should proceed faithfully until full freedom has been restored. He should be wary of contentment with a little gain; he should not stop until his normalcy is recovered entirely.
We need to comprehend the true way by which God leads man, and the relationship between man’s will and the will of God.
The obedience of the Christian to God ought to be unconditional. When his spiritual life reaches the summit his will shall be perfectly one with God’s. This does not imply, however, that he has no more volition of his own. It is still there; only the fleshly control of it is gone. God always requires man’s volition to cooperate with Him in fulfilling His will. By beholding the example of our Lord Jesus we can be assured that the volition of anyone fully united with God is still very much with him. “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me”; “not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me”; “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (John 5.30, 6.38; Luke 22.42). Here do we see the Lord Jesus Who, though one with the Father, yet possesses His Own personal will apart from that of the Father. He has His Own will but neither seeks nor does that will. The implication is obvious that all who truly are united with God should place their will alongside His. They should not annihilate their organ of volition.
In true guidance the Christian is not obligated to obey God mechanically; instead he must execute God’s will actively. God takes no pleasure in demanding His own to follow blindly; He wants them to do His will in full and conscious exercise of their total beings. A lazy person would like God to act for him so that he can simply follow passively. But God does not desire His child to be lazy. He wishes him to prepare his members actively and obey actively after he has spent time in examining the will of God. Wherefore in the practice of obedience the believer goes through the following steps: (a) willingness to do God’s will (John 7.17); (b) revelation of that will to his intuition by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5.17) ; (c) strengthening by God to will His will (Phil. 2.13) ; and (d) strengthening by God to do His will (Phil. 2.13). God never substitutes Himself for the believer in carrying out His will; consequently, upon knowing the will of God he must will to do it and then draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to work it out.
Why must the Christian. draw on the power of the Holy Spirit? Because standing alone his will is very weak. How true are those words of Paul: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it” (Rom. 7.18). One must be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man before he can practically obey God. Hence God first works in us to will and then works in us to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).
God reveals His will in our spirit’s intuition and there supplies strength to us both to will and to work out His will when our volition is united to Him. He demands that we be one with Him, but He never uses our will for us. The purpose of God’s creation and redemption is to give man a perfectly free volition. Through the salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus on the cross we Christians now can choose freely to do the will of God. All the charges in the New Testament concerning life and godliness are to be either chosen or rejected as we so wish and will. Such charges would mean nothing if God were to annihilate the operation of our volition.
A spiritual Christian is one who has full authority to exercise his own volition. He always should choose God’s will and reject Satan’s. While at times he is uncertain whether something is from God or from the devil, yet he is able to choose or reject. He can declare: Even though I know not if this is of God or of Satan, yet I choose what is God’s and reject what is Satan’s. He may continue to be uninformed but he can continue to maintain the attitude of wanting what is God’s and rejecting what is the devil’s. A child of God ought to exercise this right of choosing or rejecting in all respects. It does not matter too much if he is unaware, as long as he decides to choose the will of God. He may say: whenever I know what God’s mind is, I shall do it; I always choose God’s will and reject Satan’s. This attitude affords the Spirit of God opportunity to work in him until his will against the devil daily grows stronger and Satan daily loses his influence in him. In this way God secures another faithful servant in the midst of a rebellious world. By persistently maintaining the attitude of rejecting the enemy’s will and continually beseeching God to prove what is of Him, the believer begins before long to appreciate the great effectiveness of such an attitude of will in spiritual life.
The summit of a Christian’s spiritual walk is self-control. What commonly is spoken of as the Holy Spirit ruling in us does not mean that He directly controls any part of man. Any misunderstanding of this can result in either deception or despair. If we know that the aim of the Holy Spirit is to lead man to the place of self-control, we shall not fall into passivity but shall make good progress in spiritual life.
“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control” (Gal. 5.22-23). The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring the believer’s outward man into perfect obedience to his self-control. The Holy Spirit rules the believer through his renewed will. When a child of God walks after the flesh his outward man is rebellious to the spirit and so he becomes a disintegrated person. But when he walks in the spirit and produces spiritual fruit he manifests the power of self-control as well as love, joy, kindness and so forth in his soul. The outward man, once dissipated and confused, is now thoroughly subdued and perfectly submissive to the man’s self-control according to the mind of the Holy Spirit. What the Christian must therefore control by his will are:
(a) his own spirit, maintaining it in its proper state of being neither too hot nor too cold. The spirit needs the control of the will just as do the other parts of man. Only when one’s volition is renewed and is filled with the Holy Spirit is he able to direct his own spirit and keep it in its proper position. All who are experienced agree that they must engage their will to restrain the spirit when it becomes too wild or to uplift it when it sinks too low. Only so can the believer walk daily in his spirit. This is not contradictory to what we mentioned before about man’s spirit ruling over the whole person. For when we say the spirit rules the total man we mean that the spirit, by knowing the mind of God intuitively, governs the whole being (including the volition) according to God’s will. Whereas in stating that the will controls the man we mean the will directly controls the entire man (including the spirit) according to the will of God. In experience these two perfectly agree. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25.28).
(b) his own mind and all the rest of his soul’s abilities. All thoughts need to be subjected fully to the control of the will; wandering thoughts must be checked one by one—“take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10.5). And “set your minds on things that are above” (Col. 3.2).
(c) his own body. It ought to be an instrument to man, not his master by virtue of unrestrained habits and lusts. The Christian should exercise his volition to control, discipline and subdue his body in order that it may be entirely submissive, ready to do God’s will and hindering not. “I pommel my body and subdue it” (1 Cor. 9.27). Once the believer’s volition has achieved a state of perfect self-control he will not be hindered by any part of his being, because the moment he senses God’s will he immediately performs it. Both the Holy Spirit and man’s spirit need a will under self-control by which to execute God’s revelation. Hence on the one hand we must be united with God and on the other hand subdue our whole being so as to render it obedient to us. This is imperative to spiritual life.