God's method in breaking our outward man varies according to the target. Let us explain the target this way : with some, it is their self-love ; with others, their pride. And there are those whose self-reliance and cleverness need to be destroyed ; such will find themselves in one predicament after another, defeated at every turn, until they learn to say, "We live not in fleshly wisdom but in God's grace." Those whose outstanding feature is subjectivity will find themselves in circumstances peculiar to their need. Again there are those who are always bubbling over with ideas and opinions. While the Bible affirms, "Is any matter too wonderful for Jehovah?" some brothers maintain that nothing is too hard for them! They boast they can do everything, yet strangely they fail in every undertaking. Things that seemed so easy fall apart in their hands. In perplexity they ask, "Why?" This is the way the Holy Spirit invades them to reach the necessary target. Such illustrations show how the target of the Spirit varies with the individual concerned.
There is also a variation in the tempo of the Holy Spirit's dealings. At times the blows may follow one upon another without respite ; or there may be periods of lull. But all whom the Lord loves He scourges. Thus God's children bear wounds inflicted by the Holy Spirit. While the affliction may vary, the consequences are the same: the self within is wounded. So God touches our self-love or pride or cleverness or subjectivity, whichever constitutes His outward target. He intends by each blast at the target to further weaken us, until the day comes when we are crushed and pliable in His hands. Whether the dealing touches our affection or our thoughts, the final result is producing a broken will. We are all naturally obstinate. This stubborn will is supported by our thoughts, opinions, self-love, affection, or cleverness. This explains the variations in the Holy Spirit's dealings with us. In the final analysis, God is after our will, for it is that which represents our self.
Thus a common feature marks those who have been enlightened and disciplined—they become meek. Meekness is the sign of brokenness. All who are broken by God are characterized by meekness. Formerly we could afford to be obstinate because we were like a house well supported by many pillars. As God removes the pillars one after another, the house is bound to collapse. When the outside supports are demolished, self cannot but fall.
But we must learn to recognize true meekness. Do not be deceived into thinking that a soft-spoken voice indicates a gentle will. Often an iron will lies hidden behind the softest voice. Stubbornness is a matter of character, not of voice. Some who appear to be more gentle than others are, before God, just as obstinate and selfish. For such there can only be the severity of His dealing until they dare not act presumptuously. God designs that seemingly outward dealings touch us to the core ; never shall we be able to raise our heads in these particular matters. It is irrevocably settled that in these we cannot disobey the Lord ; we dare not insist upon our opinion. Fear of the hand of the Lord restrains us. It is fear of God that makes us meek. The more we are broken through God's dealings, the meeker we become. To see true meekness is to behold inner brokenness.
Let us illustrate : after contacting a certain brother, you may sense that he is truly gifted yet nonetheless find him to be unbroken. Many are like that—gifted but unbroken. Their unbrokenness can be easily detected. As soon as you meet them, you sense an undertone in them—you can feel their obstinacy. Not so with one who is broken ; there is a Spirit-wrought meekness. In whatever point one has been chastened by God, there he dare not boast. He has learned to fear God in this and is transformed into meekness.
Please notice how the Scripture uses different metaphors to describe the Holy Spirit. He is like fire and like water. Fire speaks of His power, water of His cleansing. But in reference to His character, He is said to be like a dove, meek and gentle. The Spirit of God will incorporate His nature in us little by little until we, too, are characterized by the dove. Meekness, born out of the fear of God, is the Holy Spirit's sign for brokenness.
One broken by the Spirit naturally possesses meekness. His contacts with people are no longer marked by that obstinacy, hardness, and sharpness which are the hallmarks of an unbroken man. He has been brought to the place where his attitude is as meek as his voice is gentle. The fear of God in his heart naturally finds expression in his words and manner.
(1) Approachable : There are several qualities which characterize a person who is meek. He is approachable—so easy to have contact with, to talk to, and to make inquiry of. He confesses his sin readily and sheds tears freely. How difficult it is for some to shed tears. It is not that there is any special value in tears, yet in one whose thought, will, and emotion have been dealt with by God tears often denote his readiness to see and acknowledge his fault. He is easy to talk to, for his outward shell has been broken. Open to the opinions of others, he welcomes instructions and in this new position can be edified in all things.
(2) Highly Sensitive : Again, one who is meek is alert to his environment, since his spirit can easily come forth and touch the spirits within his brethren. The slightest movement in another's spirit does not go unnoticed by him. Almost immediately he can detect the true significance in a situation—whether it is right or wrong. Whatever the circumstance, his spirit readily responds. His actions are thoughtful, nor will he inconsiderately hurt others' feelings.
Too often we persist in doing things which in others' spirits have already been condemned. Our outward man is not broken. Others. sense it, but we do not. Consider how this may occur in prayer meetings, when the brothers and sisters may feel repugnance toward our prayers. Yet still we drone on and on . Others' spirits come forth and cry out, "Stop praying," but we remain insensitive. There is no response to the feelings of others. Not so with one whose outward man has been broken. Because the Spirit has wrought a deep sensitivity he naturally touches, and can be touched by others' spirits. Such a one will not be dull to others' reactions.
(3) Ready for Corporate Life : Only these broken ones know what the Body of Christ is. Without meekness they are hardly ready for participating in corporate life. They begin to touch the spirit of the Body, even the feelings of other members. If one lacks this Body-feeling, he is like a false member of the body, like an artificial hand, which may move with the body but has no feeling. The whole Body has sensed it, except him. Nor can he meekly receive instruction or correction. But a broken one can touch the conscience of the Church and know the Church's feeling, for his spirit is open to the spirit of the Church to receive any communication therefrom.
How precious is this sensitivity ! Whenever we do anything wrong, immediately we sense it. Though we are not freed from wrong-doing, we nevertheless possess a faculty which will quickly prick us. Brothers and sisters know you are wrong, but even before they open their mouth you are brought to your senses by mere contact with them. You have touched their spirit, and this indicates to you whether they approve or disapprove. It becomes evident that meekness, which is the fruit of brokenness, is a basic requirement, and without it Body-life is impossible.
The Body of Christ lives the same way as our physical body. It does not require the calling of a general council in order to reach decisions. Nor is there need for prolonged discussions ; all the members naturally possess a common feeling and that feeling expresses the mind of the Body. And what is more, it is also the expression of the mind of the Head. Thus the mind of the Head is known through that of the Body. After our outward man is broken, we begin to live in that corporate awareness as related members of His Body and are easily corrected.
(4) Easily Edified : The greatest advantage of brokenness, however, is not in having our wrong corrected but rather in enabling us to receive the supply of all. Our spirit is then released and open to get spiritual help, whatever the source. One who is not broken can hardly be helped. Suppose, for example, a brother has a keen but unbroken intellect. He may come to meetings, but he is untouched. Unless he meets one whose mind is sharper than his, he will not be helped. He will analyze the thoughts of the preacher and reject them as useless and meaningless. Months and years may thus pass by without his being touched. He is walled in by his mind and it would seem he can only be helped through it. In this condition he cannot receive spiritual edification. However, should the Lord come in and shatter this wall, showing him the futility of his own thoughts, he will become attentive as a child to what others may say. He will no longer despise people who seem to be below his capabilities or capacities.
In listening to a message he will use his spirit to contact the spirit of the preacher, rather than focusing upon the pronunciation of words or the presentation of doctrine. When the spirit of the preacher is released with a definite word from the Lord, his spirit is refreshed and edified. If one's spirit is free and open, he receives help whenever his brother's spirit comes forth. But remember, this is not the same as being helped doctrinally. The more a man's spirit has been dealt with by God, the more thoroughly the outward man is broken; accordingly the greater help he can receive. And it is further true that whenever God's Spirit makes a move upon any brother, never again will he judge others merely by doctrine, words, or eloquence. His attitude is entirely changed. It is an invariable law; the measure of anyone being helped depends upon the condition of his spirit.
Now we must clearly understand what is meant by being edified? It cannot mean expanded thoughts, nor improved understanding, nor greater doctrinal accumulation. It simply means that my spirit has once more contacted God's Spirit. It does not matter through whom the Spirit of God moves, whether in the meeting or in individual fellowship, I am nourished and revived. My spirit is much like a mirror, which is polished every time.
Suppose we explain it like this : whatever proceeds from the spirit brightens everything it touches. As individuals we are much like light bulbs—different colored light bulbs. Yet the color does not interfere with the passage of electricity through it.
As soon as the electricity flows into it, it lights up. So is it in our spirit; when there is the flowing of His Spirit we will forget the theology we have learned. All we know is that the Spirit has come. Instead of mere knowledge we have an "inner light." We are revived and nourished in His presence. Once our intellectuality made us impossible, but now we can easily be helped. Now we understand why it is hard for others to receive help. We understand that it requires spending much time in prayer before we can touch them in spirit. There is no other way to help an obstinate person. As we shall see in the next lesson there is a way God has designed for true effectiveness.
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