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Lesson 126 of 225
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Wasting Our Strength

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Emotional Stability No. 2

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

In our evening services we’re studying Watchman Nee’s “The Release of the Spirit”. And we’re doing it very slowly — because it seems so easy in this subject to know it in your heart, and therefore make it a burden, an unbearable burden in the spirit. So I know that the first time I read Nee’s Release of the Spirit maybe 24 years ago, I read it very slowly and have continued over the years to read it slowly, and yet still feel I don’t read it slowly enough.

It deals with some of the subjects that the book The Spiritual Man deals with – the spiritual life that we talked about in the evening services for many years. I think it is very easy to take it into your head and not into your spirit, or to mistake mental knowledge for spiritual possession — and to profess what we don’t posses. So I would just counsel all of us that this is the very growing of age — what Christian Corps is about. If anybody wants to know how do we differ from other Christians that go into business: we differ in this very ministry of Jesus’ life — through not only a person whose selfish will has been crucified with Christ, but a person whose independent soul powers are being broken by the daily working of the cross, and allowing the Spirit of Jesus to come through that person.

That’s why we don’t think we have to give out tracts — though I think we will use the tracts that we’re beginning to produce now. But we don’t have to give out tracts and we don’t need to engage in a “four spiritual laws” conversation with a store owner in order to minister Jesus’ life. We believe that Jesus himself is, through his spirit, able to touch a person through us. But what we’ve shared so often is that he cannot do it as we would like him to do — directly from heaven.

Jesus has committed the ministry of his life to his Holy Spirit, and his Holy Spirit has no body. His Holy Spirit can only contact other people here on earth through a body — and he depends on our bodies. That’s why Jesus said through Paul, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” And if we do not carry the Holy Spirit around with us and allow him to express himself through us to other people, the Holy Spirit is not able to touch people with Christ himself.

What men and women need nowadays is not a knowledge of Jesus Christ, though in some places like Thailand and China they do need that. But usually in the western world what they need most of all is to meet Christ, to touch his spirit. The only way they can do that is if his spirit comes through us. That’s why Jesus said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.” He will not do it directly from above — which is the way we would like. He will do it through reproducing Jesus in us. Then as people contact the very Spirit of Jesus, they will become convicted of their sin.

So even while we say so often there’s not a great deal of conviction of sin around today, and we’d like to attribute it to the preachers — and no doubt we can attribute part of it to the preachers, and we can attribute part of it to the men-pleasing religious leaders, and the popular churches. Yet, the real reason why there’s not conviction of sin around is there are not as many Christs around. There are not many people in whom the Spirit of Christ not only dwells, but through whom the Holy Spirit flows.

And you remember, Nee said in another place, “There is no such thing as the Holy Spirit being in you. The Holy Spirit flows through you. He is constantly flowing.” That’s what we’re talking

about here. In Release of the Spirit, Nee points out that the spirit cannot be released if there is a dam in its way. If there is a blockage in its way, if there is an obstacle in its way, the Holy Spirit cannot be released. That explains why many of us can be born of the spirit, and indeed many of us can enter into an experience of the fullness of the spirit — and then we seem gradually to lose it or to go dead.

Some people explain it “sanctified and petrified.” It seems some people appear to enter into the second work of grace, or the first work — whatever one wants to call the complete crucifixion of Christ and resurrection. But they seem not to be fruitful. And usually it is because they have thought, “All is done. I’m now crucified with Christ. I have died to everything that I know. I’m willing to be nothing for him. I’m willing to be a failure for him. I’m willing to obey him instantly.” And they’ve thought that is it. That’s all that is needed. That’s the whole work of grace done. I’m sanctified now. I just go on and I do what I think God wants me to do.

And what Nee points out is: that’s only the beginning — because that spirit, that full clean Spirit of Jesus within you, has now to get out — and the only way he can get out is through your soul. Through your outward man, the bible calls it — through your soul, your mind, emotions, and your will. Thinking it gets out on its own without our willing it out has sometimes been called pseudo-mysticism.

There’s a real mysticism, it seems, in Paul’s epistles. But pseudo-mysticism is a belief that, “If I get into, as it were, the third heaven in my prayer life. If I get into this place that even Bernard of Clairvaux talks about in that beautiful hymn, that goes in part, ‘My heart hath also passed from me, that were he is there it may be.’” I think that is it. Many of us believe that if we get to a place where my heart almost passes from me — into the third heaven in prayer — then somehow we will get such a hold of God, and the Holy Spirit will intercede through us so strongly, that he will be able to come directly down from heaven and touch the person for whom we’re praying.

And that often encourages us simply to seek higher and higher levels of consciousness of oneness with God, because we think that’s the way the Holy Spirit touches people. No — the Holy Spirit cannot touch anybody — unless he has a body, and unless he has a human apparatus through which to express himself.

In other words, we are not spirits. What we will be in heaven we don’t know. We believe we’ll have a body like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ. So we believe that in some sense even there we will not just be like the angels. The angels are spirits. But we believe in heaven we’ll have a spiritual body. But certainly here on earth we have physical bodies, and God has limited himself to these bodies as a means of transmitting the life of Jesus. That’s why Jesus came in a body — to show us that a physical body and physical and ordinary mind, and emotions, and will can be used to minister the life of his spirit to others.

You can see that what that brings forth plainly to all of us is, “Wait a minute! Then in a way the spirit is limited by the ability of this mind, emotions, and will to express it.” That’s right. Now it’s important to see there’s a difference there. You may say, “Now wait a minute. Pastor, are you saying that the spirit has to translate itself into terms of the mind before he can minister himself to another person? Are you saying that the spirit has to cloth himself in thought form before he can administer himself to other people?”

No — I’m not saying that the spirit has to limit himself to mental concepts or to emotional

feelings. But the mind, the emotions, and the will are all crudely operating at this present time, crudely operated by the self and by the spirit that is dependent on the world. So they’re not working anything like the way they were meant to work. But when they work in perfection under the Holy Spirit, they can transmit something higher than themselves. So there’s a unique combination of mind, emotions, and will that is brought about by the Holy Spirit coming through them that actually ministers spirit — ministers something beyond mental concepts.

Often the mind is able to express some thought that in itself may have no spiritual content — but guided by the Holy Spirit it can be used to express him to other people. So unless the mind, emotions, and will are submitted to the spirit, there is no transmission of the spirit.

One of the reasons the Pentecostals will say, “Raise your hands, and praise God and say hallelujah, and speak in tongues,” is because the dear souls have caught that that is the way the Holy Spirit has worked in the past in the New Testament — and does work. The big thing they catch is: in some way, shouldn’t our mind, emotion, will, and our body, reflect what the spirit is doing within us?

Of course, we can go to the other extreme. We can say, “Oh well, that’s pseudo. That’s imitation. That’s devilish. It’s just bluff. That’s pretense.” In many cases it is. In many cases they’re doing what everybody else is doing. It’s purely emotional.

But it’s very dangerous for us to say, “I can sit here, and my mind and emotions can be untouched, but my spirit can be rising up to God.” It’s not really too logical, not if we obey the commandment, “Thou shall love the Lord with all thy heart, and soul, and strength, and mind.” It seems that worship is the cooperative attitude of the whole being — spirit, mind, emotions, will, and body.

So it’s very important for us to see that when the mind, emotions, and will are not taken up by the Holy Spirit, a blockage occurs. And many children of God, it seems to me, are unfruitful because of that. They remain largely untouched in their personality by the Holy Spirit.

They have received the spirit of Jesus. Often, they may even be filled with the Spirit of Jesus — but there is no pouring forth. And of course, if there’s no pouring forth you eventually grieve the Holy Spirit. Then you sink to a lower level. Of course, in a sense you can only be filled as long as you’re moving onto higher ground, as long as you’re moving forward with the will of God. So once you turn back, you’re no longer doing that.

So it seems very important that the mind, emotions, and will are submissive and moldable servants of the spirit. That’s what we talk about in these evenings. Because of course, the heart of it is that unless that is taking place, there is no ministry of life to others. So, that’s where we are in the book, The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee. And Nee is interesting as he talks now about the limited strength of the outward man.

The outward man is the mind, emotions, and will. “Our human strength is limited. If a brother can only carry fifty pounds and you want him to take an additional ten, he simply could not do it. He is a limited person, unable to do unlimited work. The fifty pounds he is already carrying is ‘the thing in hand.’”

You remember, the title of the chapter is: Recognizing “the Thing in Hand.” The little boy is working at something and the father asks him to help him. The little fellow says, “Oh, I have

something in my hand.” Nee says, “Too often we have something in our hand.” He’s saying that often the thing in hand is the limited strength of our mind, emotions, and will.

He goes on to explain this. “As the physical strength of our outermost man is limited, so it is with the strength of our outward man. Many, not realizing this principle, carelessly spend the strength of their outward man. If, for example, one lavished all his love upon his parents, he would have no strength left for loving his brothers, not to mention others. In thus exhausting his (soul) strength, there is nothing left to direct to others.”

So what Nee is saying is the mind, emotions, and will are part of the human life. They are limited. They have only so much strength. The spirit is infinite in strength, but the mind, emotions, and will have certain limitations, and it is possible to so expend their strength by the direction of your own will and your own wishes, that they have no strength left to express what the Holy Spirit wants to express.

So what he is pointing out is: there is a need for restraint — for at times husbanding the emotional resources that you have, or at times the mental energy that you have. There is a case for restraining and husbanding them.

Now the danger of this is that we will enter into a type of Buddhism. We will say, “That’s right. I see. You’re saying that if I expend my emotions in some area, then they will not be available for the spirit to express in another area. Okay. I must husband my emotional strength — show no emotion of any kind. No happiness, no sadness.” And of course, it’s not long before we have our arms folded and have taken the Buddha position, and are in Buddhism — where we begin to annihilate the soul and we begin to control the thing ourselves.

Of course, what it does is lead to a passivity — because Satan deceives you and says, “Yeah, that’s it. Don’t use your mind too much. Don’t use your mind. Husband your mind’s resources so that the Holy Spirit can use your mind.” And of course Nee, you remember, in other places says, “The Holy Spirit will refuse to use your mind.” The Holy Spirit fills your spirit, directs your will, and your will has to direct your mind to think and your emotions to feel. So you cannot take the position, “I’ll manage this. Okay, I’ve got the message. You say that if I expend too much of the energies of my soul, then they won’t be available for the spirit. Alright, I’ll control them. I’ll restrain them.”

No. If you live this way you’ll be deceived by Satan into all kinds of passivity. Into not thinking when you should think, into not feeling when you should feel, into being unnatural and to being Buddhist and into negating the self, and into false mysticism and passivity. You’ll just be a mess. So it’s very important to bow down to the Holy Spirit and say, “Holy Spirit, I catch something of what you’re saying here. But only you can guide me in this.” But what Nee is obviously pointing out is this: that God’s plan for us is that our mind, emotions, and will would be directed according to the Holy Spirit within — that we would not allow our souls to go off in an independent fashion.

Now how would you explain this? A football crowd is the most obvious of course. Football crowd, everybody rah-rah-ing on their feet, and the soul, the corporate soul catches hold, catches your soul, and you’re up on your feet, and you’re rah-rah-ing too — not because the Holy Spirit directs you, but because the corporate soul directs you. What Nee is saying is, that will often unfit you for spiritual expression of your emotions later on. So he’s really bringing before us the need to

bring everything under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the same with our mind. It seems very important that we realize the mind is capable of far more than we use it for at the present time. But still the mind can wear itself out. You go to bed at night. It just boom-boom-boom-booms. The mind is just turning, turning, turning. It’s going over the events of the day. It’s going on, and on, and on — not controlled by the Holy Spirit. You would say not even controlled by you. It’s as if some other spirit of the universe is controlling the mind and it’s just turning, turning, turning. And you waken up in the morning, of course not rested and relaxed, but worn out, because it’s as if you’ve lived a whole day even though you’ve been sleeping.

That’s part of what he’s saying. It unfits the mind. It drains it. It enervates it, so that the mind is not available to the Holy Spirit. In other words, you can see what he’s saying: bring the mind, the emotions, and will to the Holy Spirit. “Holy Spirit, I want my thoughts to cooperate with what you’re revealing to me intuitively. I want my mind to think what you’re telling me is true. I want my emotions to express that.”

It ties up with many, many things. If the Holy Spirit is giving you joy in your spirit, it is important to express that and to let that come right through you. And you say, “Well, I’m in a store as a sales person.” Well, you can smile.

But most of all, allow the spirit to do his integrating work. He wants to integrate our personalities. He wants to bring them into oneness. That’s why often heaviness in a prayer meeting is such a burden, such a weight. That’s why a tense, critical atmosphere in a room is such a burden — because your own spirit is rising, but this weight comes — and actually, the agony is not the battle between you and the external atmosphere — the battle is between your spirit and your emotions. Your emotions are suffocating the spirit. The spirit wants to go out, and you’re suffocating it.

So there’s a real sense in which the energies of the outward man are limited. Now, he ties it up with Matthew 10:37. And these are such crucial and dangerous verses that we have to bow down before God and ask him to give us his understanding, because it’s too easy to be casual about it. Matthew 10:34: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”

And then Verse 37: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Of course Nee makes that plain. He says, “If, for example, one lavished all his love upon his parents, he would have no strength left for loving his brothers, not to mention others.”

While he puts it that way, I think another way in which you could put it is — if your emotions of affection are driven by your natural self rather than by the Spirit of Jesus within you, then those emotions will not be fitted to express the love of God for all your brothers and sisters. Because, you remember, Jesus said, “Who are my brothers and sisters? Those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”

Why does Jesus lay emphasis on this, and why does Nee follow him? Presumably because personal relationships are the closest challenge to our love of God. Love of God is love of the highest person in the whole universe, and presumably the greatest rival to that is our love for other human beings. So Nee is saying that you have to watch the expenditure of your human emotions on human relationships. If you say, “It doesn’t mean I can’t love my father, does it?” Of course not, but it means you are to love them with the same love as Jesus has for them. You are to love them not as your own, because you yourself are not your own and are no longer alive, and it’s him only. But you are to love them as people he has died for, and that he loves. And finally, that is a higher love than the love of parents.

I remember Dan McCarty saying, “The love that Chinese appear to have for their parents seems very noble — until you really get into the heart of it, and you find it’s really a variation of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ It’s really a selfish love. It’s, ‘I will take care of you now, if you will take care of me when I go into heaven.’” Because, of course, that’s part of the plan — that the children will worship the parents. It seems that finally, parental love and even so much husband and wife love that is untouched by the sanctifying power of Jesus’ Spirit — is a selfish love. It is, “I’m loving me and my own.”

So God has pointed out through Jesus’ words that, “If you love father, or mother, or son, or daughter more than me — you’re not worthy of me. If you expend the affection of your soul on that, you will not have affection to express the way that I want.”

Here’s the interesting thing. It seems to me what he’s saying is, “If you love your father or mother in a purely human selfish way, that is: ‘Well, these people I know really love me. Finally, after everything is said and done, this is where it’s at. This is the only real relationship a person has.’ If you love them with that kind of cloying human love, you won’t be able to love them with the love that Jesus has for them.” So in a strange way it prevents you ministering Jesus’ life to your relatives.

I used to think, “Well, no. You can still love them as a son or daughter, and yet minister Jesus love to them.” You can’t — it’s either / or. It’s either the Holy Spirit of Jesus loving them through you, or it is your cloying selfish love that loves them because they give you a sense of security and a sense of “at least somebody cares for me.”

So, of course, it’s a real transformation that has to take place even for Nathan {son of a married couple listening to this talk}. It’s a real transformation a father has to experience for a son — because he has to cease actually to love him as a son – “my son that I protect, and the carrier of my name, and the one who will continue my image in this world, the one of whom I’m proud.”

In a way he has to die to all that, so that his Savior can begin to love his son through him in a redeeming way. But of course, for us here it’s vital in our home situation that our affection and our emotions are governed by the Holy Spirit, and are restrained and are controlled by him.

This ties up with why excessive grief can be a great weakener to a person’s spirit. When a person dies, there is a grief that is right. You remember, the Bible talks about it as a grief not unto death — a sorrow not unto death. But then there is a grief that is unrestrained and human – that usually ends up selfish, in thinking, “I’m left. They left me. Why did they go and die like this and leave me?” It’s a selfish thing. And an unrestrained grief can drain the emotions so that the

emotions are not fit and able to express the Spirit of Jesus. So you can have that.

You can have excessive exercise of the mind, or misuse of the mind. In certain situations you can get burrowed down into a mental and intellectual discussion that you’re certainly aware has no life in it — and yet you’re so worn out by it. It’s not an upbuilding thing. It’s not a thing that gives you more life. At the end of the discussion, you feel rung out like a wet rag. You don’t feel built up.

So there can be an excessive use of the mind. There’s a point in discussions that you should not pass. There are certain dangerous times in a discussion, even if it’s on what color the product you’re selling should be. There is a certain moment when life ceases to be passed and transmitted, and it’s a dead thing, and what you’re in fact doing is misusing the energies of the soul — so that they’re not fitted to express the Spirit of Jesus within.

So there are all kinds of ways in which it shows itself. Nee has much more in this chapter. I would just express one last one that God brings to my mind, and that is driving in the car. It seems to me as you drive in the car as part of your job, as mile after mile passes, it is important to be in the state of recollection where you’re saying to the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit, this is your time. I trust you to lead me now in my thinking, and even in my feeling during this eight hour drive.”

And there are certain moments when the car radio helps, and certain moments when it’s dreadful. And there are certain moments even when a sermon tape, or particularly I think the Christian music tapes, can be great helps. But sometimes they are really draining you. Sometimes, it pays just to look up to Jesus and spend some time praising him without anything coming through your ears from the situation around you.