We must recognize two very different ways of help before us. First, "there is a way that seemeth right" in which help is received from the outside—through the mind—by doctrine and its exposition. Many will even profess to have been greatly helped through this way. Yet it is a "help" so very different from that help which God really intends.
Second, we must see that God's way is the way of spirit touching spirit. Instead of having our mentality developed or acquiring a storehouse of knowledge it is by this contact that our spiritual life is built up. Let no one be deceived; until we have found this way we have not found true Christianity. This alone is the way of having our spirit edified or built up.
Let us explain it like this: if you are accustomed to sermons, no doubt it would annoy you to hear the same message from the same preacher twice. You feel sure it is enough to hear that message once. This is because your conception of Christianity is simply doctrine—the storing of correct knowledge in your mind. Do you not realize that edification is not a question of doctrine, but of spirit? If your brother speaks through the spirit, you will be washed and cleansed each time his spirit comes out and touches you, no matter how familiar the subject or how many times you have heard that particular theme. Any teaching or doctrine which does not result in reviving the spirit can only be considered as dead letter.
Again, there is something quite remarkable about one who is broken. You are not only able to give help, but in the giving you also are helped. You are asked a question, and in answering it you are helped. You are praying with a sinner who is seeking the Lord, and again you are inwardly strengthened. You may be led to speak sternly with a brother who has slipped; not only is his spirit thereby revived, but you too are inwardly built up. You are able to receive help from every spiritual contact. You marvel that the whole Body is supplying you as a member. Any member of the Body can supply your need, and you are helped. You become the recipient of the supply of the whole Body. How rich it must be! You can truly rejoice : "The wealth of the Head is the Body's, and the Body's is mine." How greatly this differs from the mere increase of mental knowledge!
This ability to receive help—allowing another's spirit to touch our spirit—is proof that one is broken. Cleverness does not make it hard to be helped; rather, it is evidence that the outer shell is harder than others. In the Lord's mercy, a clever person must be drastically dealt with, broken many times and in many ways until one day he is able to receive the supply of the whole Church. Let us ask ourselves, "Are we able to receive this supply from others?" If we cannot receive, it is likely that our hard shell hinders meeting the spirit of our brother when it is released. But if we are broken, as soon as his spirit moves, we are helped. The question then, is not, how powerful is the spirit, but have the spirits touched each other? It is this touching of spirits which revives and builds one up. What a necessity then for the outward man to be destroyed. There can be no question but that this constitutes the basic requirement for our being helped and for helping others.
While there are many different kinds of fellowship, there is spiritual fellowship which is much more than the exchange of ideas and opinions. It is the interaction of spirits. This kind of fellowship is possible only after our outward man is shattered, and our spirit is thus released to touch the spirit of others. In this sharing of spirit we experience the fellowship of the saints and understand what the Scriptures mean by "fellowship in the spirit." It truly is a fellowship in the spirit, and not an interflow of ideas. By this fellowship in the spirit we can pray with one accord. Because many pray through their mind, independent of their spirit, it is hard for them to find another with the same mind who can pray in accord with them.
Anyone who is born anew and has the indwelling Holy Spirit can have fellowship with us. This is possible because our spirit is open for fellowship, ready to receive, and be received by our brother's spirit. And thus we can touch the Body of Christ, for we are the Body. Can we comprehend it when we say that our spirits are the Body of Christ? Indeed, "deep calleth unto deep" (Ps. 42:7). The depth of your being is calling for a touch of my depth; and I am calling for a touch of the depth of the whole Church. Here is the fellowship of the deeps, the calling and the answering of one another. This is the one thing most necessary if we are to be useful before the Lord and properly touch the spirit of the Church.
When we suggest that we must be meek, we are not trying to persuade you to act meek. If you do, you will soon find that even this man-made meekness needs to be destroyed. We must learn once and for all that human striving to imitate meekness is futile. All must be of the Holy Spirit, for He alone knows our need and will arrange circumstances leading to the destroying of our outward man.
It is our responsibility to ask God for light that we may recognize the mighty hand of the Holy Spirit and willingly submit to it, acknowledging that whatever He does is right. Let us not be horses and mules without understanding. Rather, let us hand ourselves over to the Lord for Him to work in us. As you give yourself to the Lord, you will discover that His work actually began five or ten years before, though it seemingly has not produced any fruit in you. Today a change has come. At last you can pray, "Lord, I was blind, not knowing how Thou wert leading me. Now I see that Thou dost desire to break me. For this I surrender myself to Thee." Then all that was unfruitful for five or ten years begins to bear fruit. We find the Lord skillfully moving in to destroy many things of whose existence we have not even been aware. This is His master work : to deprive us of pride, self-love and self-exaltation, that our spirit may be liberated and exercised unto usefulness.
Two questions arise here for us to consider. The first is : Since the breaking of the outward man is the work of the Holy Spirit defying man's imitation, should we try to stop any fleshly action we recognize, or must we wait passively until greater light comes from the Holy Spirit, the doer of the work?
Surely it is right and proper that we should put a stop to every fleshly activity, but we must see how this is vastly different from imitating the Spirit's work. To illustrate though I am proud, I must refuse all pride, yet I do not feign to be humble. Or, I can lose my temper with people, yet I keep it under control ; this does not make me gentle. So long as the negative is struggling for recognition, I should resist it without letup. Nevertheless, I should not pretend to possess the positive. This is the important distinction: pride is a negative thing, so I must deal with it; humility is something positive; therefore, I cannot imitate it. Though I must put a stop to all fleshly activities known to me, I do not need to imitate the positive virtue. All I need to do is to commit myself to the Lord, saying : "Lord, there is no reason to exert my strength to imitate. I am trusting Thee to do the work."
External imitation is not of God ; it is of man. All who seek the Lord must learn from within, not just, conform outwardly. We must allow God to finish His work within us BEFORE we can expect the evidence of this to be manifest without. Whatever is manufactured externally is unreal and doomed to destruction. One who unwittingly possesses a counterfeit defrauds others as well as himself. As counterfeit behavior multiplies, the person himself comes to believe that such is his real self. Often it is hard to convince him of his unrealness, for he cannot distinguish the true from the false. Therefore, we must not try to imitate outwardly. It is far better to be natural ; this opens the way for God to work in us. Let us be simple and not imitate anything, in the confidence that the Lord Himself will add His virtues to us.
The second question is : Some are naturally endowed with such a virtue as gentleness; is there a difference between natural gentleness and the gentleness that comes through discipline?
There are two points to be considered in answering this question. First, all that is natural is independent of the spirit, while all that comes through the discipline of the Holy Spirit is under the spirit's control, moving only as the spirit moves. Natural gentleness can really become a hindrance to the spirit. One who is habitually gentle is gentle in himself, not "in the Lord." Suppose the Lord wants him to stand up and utter some strong words. His natural gentleness will hinder him from following the Lord. He would say instead, "Ah, this I cannot do. I have never in my life uttered such hard words. Let someone else do it. I simply cannot." You see how his natural gentleness is not under the spirit's control. Anything that is natural has its own will and is independent of the spirit. However that gentleness which comes through brokenness can be used by the spirit, for it does not resist nor offer its own opinion.
Second, a naturally gentle person is gentle only while you are going along with his will. If you force him to do what he does not like, he will change his attitude. In so called human virtues, the element of self-denial is lacking. It is obvious that the purpose of all of them is to build up and establish our self-life. Whenever that self is violated, the virtues all disappear. The virtues which spring from discipline, on the other hand, are only possessed after our ugly self-life has been destroyed. Where God is destroying your self, there true virtue is seen. The more self is wounded, the brighter shines true gentleness. Natural gentleness and spiritual fruit then are basically different.
Having stressed the importance of the outward man being destroyed, let us be careful lest we try to effect this artificially. We must submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God, accepting all the necessary dealings. As the outward man is destroyed, the inward is strengthened. A few may find the inward man still feeble. Do not pray for strength to correct this, for the Bible commands us, "Be strong." Proclaim that it is your goal to be strong. The marvelous thing is that after your outward man is destroyed, you can be strong whenever you want to. The problem of strength is solved with the problem of the outward man. By desiring to be strong, you are strong. None can block your way. The Lord says, "Be strong." In the Lord you also say, "Be strong." And you find you are strong.
The inward man is freed only after the outward man is destroyed. This is the basic road to God's service.
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