Part 2 | Chapter 4: The Boastings of the Flesh

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Note: These are the notes I wrote down as I read through this book. Sometimes the notes are a word-for-word transcription from the book. Other times it’s my paraphrase of what was written. These notes are not intended to fully explain what Watchman Nee wrote. If something is confusing or requires more clarity, you can reference this book for more information.

The Other Side of the Flesh

The flesh is the lusts of the body and works of the soul. The flesh is man’s corrupt nature or life that embraces the soul and the body.

There are two sides of the flesh—the evil side and the good side. There is the unrighteous and the self-righteous. There is the defiling sins and the commendable morals.

God placed the soul between spirit and body, between what is heavenly/spiritual and earthly/physical. The soul is meant to mingle the two, resulting in full spirituality.

The soul part of the flesh is not as defiled as the body. Soul is the life principle of man; it is his very self, comprising the will, mind, and emotions.

From the human viewpoint, the works of the soul may not be all defiled. They merely center upon one’s thought, idea, feeling, and like or dislike. Though focused on self, they are not necessarily defiling sins.

The soul is independent and self-dependent.

The soul is not defiled as they body, but it is nonetheless hostile to the Holy Spirit.

The flesh makes self the center and elevates self-will above God’s will.

It may serve God, but always according to its idea, not according to God’s. It will do what is good in its own eyes.

Self is the principle behind every action. Self may not commit sin. It may try to keep God’s commandments with all its power. Yet self never fails to be at the heart of every activity.

The flesh opposes the spirit not just in sinning, but even in serving and pleasing Him. It opposes and quenches the Holy Spirit by leaning upon its own strength without wholly relying on God’s grace and being led by the Spirit.

The Christian must come to hate the totality of his flesh. What deceives us is that the flesh not only produces sin but can also perform good.

Don’t forget there is an evil side of the tree and a good side of the tree.

An ability to do good reveals that the flesh has not yet died.

The flesh is not only evil but good. The flesh can perform many commendable acts, including kindness, patience, and goodness.

The Galatians began by the Spirit but were being perfected by the flesh—the good side. Doing good by the flesh. They didn’t continue by the Spirit. But by their flesh they wanted to be perfect based on the righteousness of the law.

The righteous acts of the flesh and the works of the Holy Spirit are worlds apart.

What one does by the flesh is done by himself. It can never perfect what the Holy Spirit has begun.

“If I build up again those things I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor” (Galatians 2:18).

We are not justified by the flesh by keeping the commandments. Nor are we sanctified by the flesh by keeping the commandments.

The flesh is flesh, no matter how good or bad.

The good of the flesh is not better than the evil of the flesh, for both are flesh.

Unless the good flesh is dealt with, we can’t be freed from the dominion of the flesh.

If self-righteousness is not destroyed, unrighteousness will surely follow.

The Nature of the Good Works of the Flesh

God opposes the flesh so drastically because He knows its actual condition thoroughly. He desires His children released completely from the old creation and to enter fully into the new creation in experience.

Whether good or bad, the flesh is still flesh.

The difference between the good which proceeds from the flesh and the good which flows from the new life is that the flesh always has self at its center whereas the new always has Christ at its center.

Self can perform and do good without the need of relying upon the Holy Spirit.

Any good of the flesh, which revolves around self, is an abomination in the sight of God, for it does not proceed from the Spirit of the life of the Lord Jesus but is of self and glorifies self.

We can read and preach the Bible, hear and believe the Word, but all can be executed in the power of the soul—in the mind—without the slightest need of the Spirit.

So much of what is done in church is the good-side of the flesh, the good-side of tree. So much is the soul, where the emotions are stirred and the mind stimulated. None of this can impact life.

Self-confidence and self-reliance are the notable traits of the good works of the flesh.

Whenever a heart of utter trust is lacking, there is the labor of the flesh.

The labor of the flesh may be good and godly, such as reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, preaching.  But if not done with complete reliance upon the Spirit, the flesh is the source of all.

The old creation is willing to do anything, even submit to God, if only it is permitted to live and be active.

One may begin well in the Spirit, but not continue well therein.

A new truth is imparted by the Holy Spirit; after a while, this truth has turned into a boasting of the flesh.

At the outset, we rely 100% on the Holy Spirit to obey, to deny ourselves, to have power to save souls. But later, we exchange God’s grace for our own glory.

The same holds true with character. The Holy Spirit transforms us. But self creeps in unaware to claim responsibility. We then begin to live by self-trust/self-reliance rather than by the Spirit.

Never trust in the flesh and try to make perfect by the flesh what began by the Spirit. Never substitute self for the Spirit.

Self wants to lead the way and hopes the Holy Spirit, the Helper, will come along side and assist.

Attempting to follow Him without denying the self is the root of all failures.

The Sins Which Follow

Wherever and whenever the flesh is serving God, there and then the power of sin is strengthened.

Don’t just put to death the sinful side of the flesh. We also have to put to death the “good” side of the flesh also.

Bryan Kessler