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The Release of the Spirit

Greetings All,

     This weeks 'thought' comes from Watchman Nee's book "The Release of the Spirit."  Given the name "Nee To-sheng" at his birth in 1903, Watchman (as he later came to be called) was a Chinese pastor/evangelist/writer who was converted during some revival meetings in 1920 at the young age of 17.  Just two years later, at only 19 years of age, he began the ministry he would carry on for the next thirty years -- traveling throughout China planting churches among the rural communities and holding Christian conferences and training sessions.
     In 1952 he was imprisoned by the communists for his faith and was treated rather harshly for the next 20 years, remaining in prison until his death in 1972. Keep that in mind as your read this thought.
    This particular book was penned during his time in prison.  And while I do take exception to some of his teachings (bordering at times on Gnostic thought in regard to his view of the body/soul/spirit) he has much
 good to say!  In fact, his book "The Normal Christian Life," was instrumental in in the hands of God in bringing about my own conversion back in 1980 (the last quote comes from that book).  I offer this thought as one I found helpful at that time.  In fact, the yellow marker I used to outline this section at that time, though barely visible, is still there some 32 years later!  I trust you will find his words helpful. Enjoy.

     "If the outward man (the carnal, proud, stubborn, earthy self) remains unbroken, we can never be a blessing to His Church... The 
Alabaster Box must be broken. The Bible tells of the pure spikenard (an herb whose root is highly prized for its beautiful fragrance).  God purposely used this term 'pure' in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the fragrance of the pure spikenard will not flow forth.
     Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment.  Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes a problem in the Church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself as an important person; others highly regard themselves, feeling they are better than others because their eloquence surpasses that of others, their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth.
    However, we are not antique collectors; we are not vase admirers; we are those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Yet without the breaking of the outward, the inward will not come forth...  Why then should we hold our outward selves as so precious, if our outward contains, instead of releases, the fragrance?
    The Holy Spirit does not cease working. One event after another, one thing after another, come to us.  Each disciplinary working of the Holy Spirit has but one purpose: To break our outward man so that our inward man may come through. Yet here is our difficulty: We fret over trifles, we murmur at small losses.  The Lord is preparing a way to use us, yet scarcely has His hand touched us when we feel unhappy, even to the extent of quarreling with God and becoming negative in our attitude.  Since being saved, we have been touched many times in various ways by the Lord, all with the purpose of breaking our outward man. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the aim of the Lord is to destroy this outward man.  The Treasure (the Spirit) is in the earthen vessel, but if the earthen vessel is not broken, who can see the Treasure within? 
What is the final objective of the Lord's working in our lives?  It is to break this earthen vessel, to break our alabaster box, to crack open our shell.  The Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him. Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness, but it is also a path sprinkled with blood.  Yes, there is blood from many wounds.  When we offer ourselves to the Lord to be at His service we cannot afford to be lenient, to spare ourselves.  We must allow the Lord to utterly crack our outward man so that He may find a way for His outworking...
      How much we need for the Lord to open our eyes to see that everything which comes into our lives can be meaningful.  The Lord has not wasted even one thing.  To understand the Lord's purpose is to see very clearly that He is aiming at a single objective -- the destroying or breaking of the outward man... We must realize that all the experiences, troubles, and trials which the Lord sends us are for our highest good.  We cannot expect the Lord to give better things, for these are His best.  Should one approach the Lord and pray saying: 'Oh, Lord, please let me choose the best',  I believe the Lord would tell him, 'What I have given you is the best; your daily trials are for your greatest profit.'
     So the motive behind all the orderings of God is to destroy our outward man.  Once this occurs and the spirit can come forth, we begin to be able to exercise our spirit. The Lord employs two different ways to destroy our outward man -- one is gradual, the other is sudden. To some, the Lord gives a sudden destruction followed by a gradual one. With others, the Lord arranges that they have constant, daily trials, until one day He brings about large-scale destruction.  If it is not the sudden first and then the gradual, then it is the gradual followed by the sudden. It would seem the Lord usually spends years upon us before He can accomplish this work of destruction, but the timing is in His hand. We cannot shorten the time, though we can prolong it. In some lives the Lord is able to accomplish this work after only a few years of dealing; in others it is evident that after ten or twenty years the work is still far from finished.  This is most serious!  Nothing is worse than wasting God's time and hindering the work of the Church.
     We can preach by using our mind, we can stir people using our emotions, yet if we do not know how to use our spirit, the Spirit of God cannot touch people through us... Therefore, if we have never before wholly and intelligently consecrated ourselves to the Lord, let us do so now, saying: "Lord, for the future of the Church, for the future of the Gospel, for Your way, and also for my own life, I offer myself without
condition, without reservation, into Your hands Lord. I delight to offer myself unto You and are willing to let You have Your full way through me."

      There is a sense in which one can't help but wonder that if Watchman Nee is right in regard to the need for our outward man to be broken that the fragrance and beauty of the Spirit's indwelling power and presence may flow out, that our continual pursuit of comfort, and our desire to escape from all trials and hardships and pain, must actually stem from a worldly (rather than Christian) attempt to thwart the breaking of this outward man.  It's a self-protective ploy that also goes a long way to explain the lack of power in people's lives, and in the Church at large today.  Instead of seeing our difficulties as God's intent to give us the best gift (the breaking of the outward
man so the fragrance of the Spirit can flow out) we often prefer an easy life that leaves us safe and sound -- and still unbroken -- valuing the box, and seeking to keep the ointment God wants unleashed to remain contained within.
      As Nee says elsewhere:
"A day must come in our lives, as definite as the day of our conversion, when we give up all right to ourselves and submit to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ...There must be a day when, without reservation, we surrender everything to Him -- ourselves, our families, our possessions, our business, and our time.  All we are and all we have becomes His, to be held henceforth entirely at His disposal.  From that day on we are no longer our own masters, but only stewards. Not until the Lordship of Christ in our hearts is a settled thing can the Spirit really operate effectively in us."

            To the end that that issue might be settled once and for all, Pastor Jeff