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Challenged to Change

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Lesson 123 of 225
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Our Outward Personality

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Emotional Stability No. 1

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

We’ve been reading these Sunday evenings Watchman Nee’s “The Release of the Spirit”. And you remember, it’s really concerned with the process work in sanctification, which concerns the breaking of the outward man — or the soul, the mind, the emotions, and the will. The breaking of their habits, or the ruts they have got into for years, and the releasing of the inward Spirit of Jesus within us.

It’s maybe good to see that you did not inherit your emotions just from your mum or your dad, nor did I. But we inherited not only from their fathers’ mothers, but from THEIR fathers’ mothers — and right down back to Adam. So what we have here is something in a sense as solid and as unmanageable as our selfish wills — because they are souls that have been bred into the human race for generations.

And just as it’s very difficult to train an animal not to swing around when it hears the crack of a twig in the forest, so it’s just as difficult and probably more difficult to train us not to respond the way our mind, emotions, and will have been trained for generations. That’s why such a strong word is used as “breaking” — because it’s not just a matter of seeing what we do and how we react — but we know that it takes something miraculous from God to destroy those powers — because we repeatedly have tried to bring them under control. And all we succeed in doing is making the soul in some way imitate the spirit — but still the Spirit of Jesus is somehow not able to come forth.

Unless the Spirit of Jesus comes forth from us, no spiritual work will be done in anybody’s hearts. It was striking to us when we saw last week that when our spirit comes forth, the Spirit of Jesus comes forth. And if our spirit does not come forth the Spirit of Jesus doesn’t come forth. You remember how Nee says that though the Bible often distinguishes between the human spirit and God’s Spirit, yet in many parts of the Bible they are not distinguished. Because what happens is the Holy Spirit comes into your spirit and mixes with your spirit.

So we like to think, “Oh, Holy Spirit. You do it. You get out to others.” He says, “I cannot. If your spirit does not come forth, I do not come forth.” So we can see how a person can be born of the spirit, and yet can be absolutely useless in bringing anybody into the new birth, or in allowing the Spirit of God to bring somebody into the new birth.

I think there often is what we think is a humility in us — but it’s a false humility. We say, “I could not bring anybody into the kingdom.” You’re right. But we think the Holy Spirit has to do it direct from heaven. The Holy Spirit says, “I refuse to operate that way. The only way I can touch somebody and regenerate them is by your spirit coming forth.”

As we say, there is so little lack of conviction of sin in our society. It could well be that the responsibility is not in the law makers. And who knows? It might not even be in the preachers. It might well be that the Spirit of Jesus is not able to come forth from many of us who have the Spirit of Jesus within us, because we have not allowed God to break our outward man and let the Spirit of Jesus come forth.

So it is good, because it somehow makes sense to you, doesn’t it? It makes sense. It shows us the depth of the imaginary story that’s told of Jesus going back after his ascension into heaven, and

Gabriel asking him, “What arrangements have you made to continue the work on earth?” And he said, “I’ve appointed 12 men.” Gabriel said, “What if they fail?” Jesus said, “I have made no other arrangements.”

Of course it’s just an imaginary story. But you can see the reality of it in the way the Bible continues to depict the working of the Holy Spirit — that he works through men and women and cannot work any other way. So I’ll just begin by reading the last paragraph of that little section in Nee’s The Release of the Spirit: “Everyone who has received grace has the Holy Spirit dwelling in his spirit. Whether he can be used by the Lord depends not on his spirit.” It’s interesting isn’t it? “Depends not on his spirit, but rather on his outward man. The difficulty with many is that their outward man has not been broken. There is not evident that blood-marked path, those wounds or scars. So God’s Spirit is imprisoned within man’s spirit and is not able to break forth.”

I certainly used to think that if I had the Spirit of Jesus within me, then my personality, which was semi-intelligent, which had some personality in it, would be used somehow by Jesus to impress himself upon other people. So I thought you don’t change your personality — it’s just that now your personality contains Christ, whereas before it didn’t — and it’s Christ of course that will make the difference to other people. I thought somehow Christ will jump out of me apart from my personality, and will like a spark leap over the wall and into somebody else’s heart.

Of course, what Nee says is the truth — that no way will that happen. That our personality has to be completely remolded and has to be a picture of Jesus as he is. I think that’s where some of us make a mistake. We think, “Oh yes. You mean I’ve to copy Jesus. I’ve to make my emotions like Jesus’ emotions.” No — Jesus is in you and is going to create a new personality for himself in you that is different from the personality that you understand he had in the New Testament times.

I agree with you — it will be consistent with that personality but it will be different. And that’s why it’s so vital to see that only the Holy Spirit can mold your personality so that Jesus can come forth in you as he is meant to. That’s why it’s such a mistake to try and copy each other — because Jesus’ Spirit is going to show himself differently through you from the way he shows himself through other people.

So it’s vital to lean on the Holy Spirit and confide in him, and allow him to utterly rearrange your personality, and to break it of its old ways. I think that what Nee says is true — that often many of us don’t do that because we are proud. We don’t want our personality to be changed, and we don’t want it to be broken. Or it’s too painful, or we’re afraid if we let it be changed – it’s a big thing, like throwing yourself into the arms of an invisible person. So some of us don’t like the idea of abandoning ourselves to a spirit. Yet, unless we depend on the Holy Spirit of Jesus within us, we’ll never enter into that ministry of life and into that freedom.

“There is not evident that blood-marked character, those wounds or scars.” You don’t need me to outline to you. We have all devised our own self-defense mechanisms to keep people away. We all have them to defend ourselves, and to swipe back at anybody who seems to be either coming too close or seems to be about to destroy us. We have all those self-defensive reactions.

God wants to break you of those powers, the powers that would cry for 10,000 angels to come and deliver him from the cross. So God’s Spirit is imprisoned within man’s spirit and is not able to break forth. It’s not that Jesus’ Spirit isn’t within you — but it’s that he’s imprisoned within you and not able to break forth.

You can see this is what we’re talking about all the time in ministering Jesus’ life through business. It’s possible to go into a store and for the person to say, “I’ll have 10 of those,” and they don’t realize that it’s going to cost them this much. You could just put it down on your order form knowing that they don’t really know how much it’s going to cost them. You can put it down and take advantage of their ignorance. Or, you can say, “You know I know you quite well, and I know your store. I wonder — do you see that this is going to cost you that much?”

But do you see when you say that, that can impress them with your honesty? Maybe it can even impress them with your friendliness. But it’s not necessarily ministering Christ. Christ ministering himself to that lady or that gentleman, comes when your outward personality is so broken and molded by Jesus’ Spirit that – he just pours forth and his whole spirit fills the store. Not in some holy way — I’m not talking about like Carvosso, where he got into the stagecoach and they were slain in the Spirit — they were converted immediately.

I’m not talking about something dramatic. I’m just saying that where your outward man is broken, where your mind, emotions, and will are broken of their ways — then the person is impressed not with the personality that your mom knew, or your dad, or your friends, but they are impressed by something they don’t know what it is. I think they might not even say, “Oh, this is the Spirit of Christ.” They just sense – you can’t even put adjectives to it, or nouns — the beauty of Christ, or the patience of Christ. It’s not that it’s just a Christ-likeness. Rudolf Otto wrote The Idea of the Holy. He used a word that means transcendence — “the numinous.” There can be a sense of the numinous — the sense of something supernatural, of something beyond man.

Now, it’s possible in a store that a person will sense that. Not a sense of falling down worshiping, but a sense that there’s something different here. That’s part of what we mean by ministering the Spirit of Jesus, as opposed to the kind of ethical impression that you make if you’re just honest with customers. This is part of what Nee is talking about.

“Sometimes our outward man is active, but the inward man remains inactive. The outward man has gone forth while the inward man lags behind.” A very clear example is of course, “Hello, how are you?” “Fine.” That’s a very obvious example. Outward man goes out in the old conventional phrases and you don’t care how the person is, and they know you don’t care. That’s a crude example. But often too, it can happen that you go in with your patter organized. You go into the store, “Good morning. Here we are again.” You just go through it, your little patter, and nothing comes forth from your spirit — nothing.

Now do you see that when we talk about something coming forth from your spirit, we don’t mean you going in and saying, “Bless you my brother, on this beautiful day that the Lord has made.” You don’t do that. But there is a difference between coming in with your patter, patter, patter that you’ve planned, and coming in with the quietness of Jesus’ Spirit. When I say quietness of Jesus’ Spirit I don’t mean that you need to come through quietly. You might come in blasting through the door — but you come in with the Spirit of Jesus alive and active in you.

When I say that in the car you praise God, that can be a false practice, because we all know the old outward, “Oh praise the Lord! I’m really praising myself up until I go into that store.” That is just a rousing of the emotions. But the purpose of the prayer time before you leave the motel is using God’s Word to get into the Spirit — that you’re in Jesus’ presence, that you’re touched by the sensitivity of his presence — so that when you go into the store — that’s bubbling out.

I don’t mean it’s bubbling noisily or it’s bubbling obviously. But you’re more aware of his presence within you than you are of the store owner. So that when you come into a store and the buyer has another rep with her, and that’s your time, or she has some customer and they’re blasting back and forth — you’re so filled with Jesus’ presence that that kind of acts like a glow around you or an aurora, so that you’re in a cloud of peace. And when you speak to her you speak out of that. That’s something of it.

It’s where the outward man comes forth shaped, molded, and empowered by the inward man. It’s not just the outward man going forth and the inward man dead, but it’s the inward man coming out. That’s a great ministry. That’s as great a ministry as anybody standing in front of hundreds, or thousands, or millions. That is as great a ministry as any preacher — because this is true proclamation of the word — which is what preaching is.

This is proclamation of the word, because it’s the word coming forth — the word made flesh. That’s preaching. We have such a silly idea of preaching — “Oh, that’s preaching, brother” — when the minister says something the right way. But that is preaching — the proclamation of Jesus’ word — when you go in and what we’ve just mentioned happens. Whereas when you go into a store and the inward man is dead, or sleepy, or half-alive – your outward man comes forth and you’re a robot and an empty shell. We are a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. That’s what we are when we go in there and clang back and forward, “Would you like to buy our products?”

So there’s a great difference between the inward man going forth through the outward man, and the inward man being dead or being supine. And if you say, “Well, I mean, I have do something.” Yes, you do have to. You have to get in. You’re right. So you go in. But it’s not what Jesus has in mind for us. His mind is that we go filled with the Spirit. That’s what they mean when they say, “Stephen was full of the spirit,” {referring to Acts 7:55.} They don’t mean Stephen babbling away in tongues. They don’t mean Stephen even talking a lot. They mean Stephen seeing Jesus at the right hand of God and filled with that sense.

“Let us review this through some practical problems! Take preaching, for instance. How often we can be earnestly preaching — a well-prepared, sound message — but inwardly feel as cold as ice.” And I don’t mean as cold as ice about our products. I’m sure you’re enthusiastic about your products you sell. But you feel as cold as ice as far as Jesus is concerned.

“We long to stir others, yet we ourselves are unmoved. There is a lack of harmony between the outward and the inward man. The outward man is dripping from the heat, but the inward man is shivering from the cold.” And how often have you said something about Jesus, and you’ve said it because it’s right and true and they need to hear it, but it’s not thrilling you. Well, if it’s not thrilling you, it’s not coming forth with Jesus’ Spirit. It’s coming forth just as words.

“We can tell others how great the love of the Lord is, yet we are personally untouched by it. “ That’s the outward man going forth without the inward. “We can tell others how tragic is the suffering of the cross, yet upon returning to our room we can laugh. What can we do about this? Our mind may labor, our emotions may be energized, yet all the time one has the feeling that the inward man is merely observing the proceedings. The outward and inward man are not one.”

It’s very easy to say to ourselves, “Well, I’m just not with it today. I’m just not feeling good.” And then the next day it’s easy to say, “Well, I’m just not in the spirit.” Or, “Satan is really

getting at me today.” Or, “I’m really under it.” We can keep on saying things like this. But time after time it’s the Savior who is being prevented from revealing himself to this person. And I don’t need to tell you, because — Colleen had an example of it — it might be the last time we see them. It might be the last time.

So it seems to me each of us is in the same position as any preacher who just preaches once on Sunday. If he misses it that Sunday and he doesn’t preach as dying men to dying men, there are some there that he will not get the chance to speak to again. It seems to me, we’re each one in the same position, day after day with our customers. And it seems vital that we keep ourselves before Jesus and before the Holy Spirit, and we especially note the little signs of strain and tension that there are in our lives — because those are the key places where God is trying to work the cross into our outward man and trying to break us.

So wherever you sense a little disharmony between yourself and God’s will, look there and ask the Holy Spirit to come and zero in, give you revelation, and bring you into whatever experiences are needed to break the power of that outward man — so that you cease to respond the wrong way there. Why? Because, there is a corresponding beauty of Christ that will come forth via your outward man, when the negative side of the outward man is broken.

It’s like an inside and outside of the outward man. It’s as if you clean the inside and then people can suddenly see right through from the other side — can see Jesus. So you may sometimes think, “Oh, that’s such a fiddling little thing the way my mind does work there. Yeah, it does seem I’m not quite right in my thinking, and I often seem to make that response. But I don’t quite see what that has to do with Jesus coming forth from me.” Don’t you judge. The Holy Spirit never makes you aware of anything in your outward personality that has to be changed, that does not need to be changed — and that he will not use immediately.

Probably the truth is what Nee says in other places: {Paraphrasing Nee} “If you’re not broken on the point of sensitivity to people’s feelings, then you cannot be used by God to give revelation to anybody else in that regard. If you’re not broken in the tendency you have to express yourself in an impatient way, even if you don’t feel impatience, then you cannot be used to break that in someone else. So whenever the Holy Spirit gives you an awareness of anything in your outward man that is not in harmony with God and with Jesus, then you go at that and bring it to God with all your heart.”

It’s always wrong to say, “No, no, that can’t be important. Show me something more important.” The Holy Spirit won’t. He knows the right order and he knows the right things to deal with. In fact, it’s not so much with anybody our immorality, or our gross sin that keeps people from seeing Jesus. It’s this business of our soulishness — our good humanity. The part of us that we think is very noble and is worthwhile.

It’s often what we think of as good human qualities that prevent Christ revealing himself. Why? Because those good qualities have often inbuilt pride and inbuilt self, and most of all because they draw attention to self and not to Christ.

“Consider another situation. The inward man is devoured by zeal. The person wants to shout but he does not find utterance. After speaking for a long time he still seems to be circling around. The more he is burdened within, the colder he becomes without. He longs to speak, but he cannot express himself. When he meets a sinner, his inward man feels like weeping, but he cannot shed a tear.

There is a sense of urgency within him, yet when he ascends the pulpit and tries to shout, he finds himself lost in a maze of words. Such a situation is most trying. The root cause is the same: the outer shell still clings to him. The outward does not obey the dictates of the inward; inwardly crying but outwardly unmoved; inwardly suffering but outwardly untouched; full of thoughts within, but without, the mind a seeming blank. The spirit has yet to find a way to pierce the shell.”

It’s the opposite problem. Here the inward man is wanting to get forth. The inward man isn’t dead or unfeeling. The inward spirit of Jesus is alive to the situation — but, “Well, I’m a quiet person.” Or, “I’m a person who has difficulty finding words to express myself.” Or, “My mind does not work too efficiently.” Or, “I lack discipline in my thought life.” Or, “I’m just a very quiet person.” Or, “I’m a very shy person.” Or, “I’m a very self-conscious person. This is just my nature.”

But it’s just the same plea: my personality is my personality and it cannot be broken or changed — even for Jesus. And Jesus is saying, “Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice. If I want to express myself to this person this way I have only got you to do it.” So if the outward man is not brought under the control of Jesus’ Spirit within us, we are not able to express. That obviously ties up with everything. I can see it certainly ties up with things that we think are our personality.

So I joke about the untidy desk, but it seems to me if we have ways that prevent the order of Jesus’ Spirit filling the rooms that we are in, then we are stopping Christ coming forth. And it seems to apply to any of the things that we think are particularly ours — whether it’s our untidy desks, or our forgetfulness, or some other habit we have in our personalities that we think, “Well, that’s just me.” Well, that’s the outward man that hides the Spirit of Jesus.

And several times, you remember, we’ve thought to ourselves, “Couldn’t it be that one of the reasons that God reduced us here to the number that we are now, is so that,” using the vernacular or the modern way of saying it, “We could get our act together?” So that we ourselves would become transparent pictures of Christ; so that others would follow that and would not follow our outward selves — our outward souls. The only way that’s going to come is if we yield everything to Jesus’ changing through his breaking our outer selves.

Let us pray.


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