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.
God’s View of the Flesh
If the flesh in whole, not just in part, is truly under the power of the death of the Lord, Satan will be totally unemployed.
The flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).
Whether it be the sin of the flesh or the righteousness of the flesh, it is futile.
Flesh in the pulpit, flesh in the audience, flesh in prayers, flesh in consecration, flesh in Bible reading, flesh in singing hymns, flesh in doing good—none can profit anything.
Here’s four things concerning the flesh:
- The mind set on the flesh is death (Romans 8:6).
- The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Romans 8:7).
- The flesh does not submit to God’s law, indeed it can’t (Romans 8:7).
- Those in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).
Sins and noble actions are still the flesh.
In being bad, we transgress the law. In being good, we establish another righteousness outside of Christ.
God is pleased with His Son alone. Aside from Him and His work, no man nor work can delight God.
What is performed by the flesh may seem quite good. But because it derives from self and is done in natural strength it cannot satisfy God.
Man may devise many ways to do good, to improve, and to advance, but these are carnal and can’t please Him.
God’s pleasure or displeasure is not founded upon the principle of good and evil. Rather, God traces the source of all things. An action may be quite correct, yet God inquires, what is its origin?
As human beings, we distinguish between good works and evil works. God, on the other hand, probes deeper and makes a distinction as to the source of every work.
Just as God hates unrighteousness, so He abhors self-righteousness.
The good acts done naturally without the necessity of regeneration, union with Christ, or dependence upon the Holy Spirit are no less carnal than immorality, idolatry, etc.
However beautiful man’s activities may be, if they do not spring from a complete trust in the Holy Spirit, they are carnal and are therefore rejected by God.
God opposes, rejects, and hates everything belonging to the flesh. Regardless of outward appearances and regardless if it’s done by a sinner or a saint.
God’s verdict: The flesh must die.
The Believer’s Experience
God is so adamant against the flesh and its every activity. Yet the believer only rejects its bad features while clinging affectionately to the flesh and the “good” side of the flesh.
We must reject all of the flesh—the good and the evil.
Only after many years do we gradually come to realize how untrustworthy is his flesh.
Romans 7:18 states, “No good thing dwells in my flesh.”
The flesh is useless and utterly detestable—even the “good” side.
Since the flesh will be with us until we die, we must always judge ourselves, so that we don’t give our flesh any opportunity.
May we not lose, even for a moment, the true picture of our flesh and God’s estimation of it.
Paul knew his flesh, even the “good” of his flesh, and he put no confidence in his flesh.
To live by Christ’s indwelling life, we need a revelation of our spirits and of the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us. We also need a revelation of the flesh, which is utterly corrupt, beyond repair, and evil.
The Cross and the Deeper Work of the Holy Spirit
Because the flesh is grossly deceitful, the believer requires the cross and the Holy Spirit.
Having discerned how the flesh stands before God, he must experience, each moment, the deeper work of the cross through the Holy Spirit.
The finished work of the cross has been accomplished perfectly and entirely. As a process within the believer, the cross is experienced in an ever-deepening way. The Holy Spirit will apply the principle of the cross in point after point.
We will continually be led into deeper experiences of what the cross has already accomplished for us.
The cross objectively is a finished, absolute fact, to which nothing can be added. But subjectively, it is an unending, progressive experience that can be realized in an ever more penetrating way.
The only basis from which the Holy Spirit can work is our co-crucifixion with Jesus on the cross.
The cross is the Spirit’s main instrument.
Until we are ready to deny all our flesh, bad and good, we can’t walk after the Holy Spirit. If we deny all our flesh, then we can please God and be spiritual.
The experience of the cross is realized by our measure of knowledge, readiness, and faith.