Watchman Nee

B, Childress
Nov 03 2013

The breaking of the outer man is a basic experience which every servant of the Lord must go through.  God has to
break our outer man before we can render any effective service to Him.

A servant of the Lord faces two possibilities in working for the Lord.  First, his outer man is never broken and his spirit is
never aroused.  His spirit cannot be released, and no power flows out from it.  Only his mind or emotions are active.  If
he is a clever person, his mind is active.  If he is a sentimental person, his emotions are active.  This kind of work does
not bring anyone to God.  Second, it is possible that his outer man is not separated clearly from his inner man.  When
his spirit is released, it is wrapped in his mind or his emotions.  The result is mixture and impurity.  This kind of work
produces mixed and impure experiences in others.  These two conditions frustrate a man from serving the Lord in a
proper way.


If we want to engage ourselves in effective works, we have to have a basic acknowledgment of one thing at least once:
“It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63).  If we do not settle this issue this year, we will have to settle it next year.  If we
do not settle it the first day we believe in the Lord, we will have to settle it sooner or later, even if it is ten years later.  
Many people have to be brought to the end of themselves and realize the vanity of their work before they see the futility
of their many thoughts and feelings.  No matter how many people can be gained through our thoughts and feelings, the
result is vain.  Sooner or later we have to confess, “It is the Spirit who gives life.”  Only the Spirit can give life.  Even our
best thoughts and feelings cannot give life.  A man can have life only through the Spirit.  The Lord’s word is always true.  
What gives life is the Spirit.  Many workers of the Lord have to go through many pains and failures before they see this
fact.  Since the Spirit alone gives life, it is only as the spirit is released that sinners are regenerated and believers are
built up.  Regeneration is a matter of transmission of life resulting in others receiving life, while building up is also a
matter of the transmission of life resulting in believers being built up.  Without the Spirit there can be no regeneration,
and there can be no building up.

The interesting thing is that God has no intention to separate His Spirit from our spirit.  In many places in the Bible it is
impossible to say whether the spirit being spoken of refers to the human spirit or God’s Spirit.  Even many Greek experts
cannot tell the difference.  Throughout the ages Bible translators, from Luther in Germany to the translators of the King
James Version, have been unable to ascertain which of the many references to the spirit in the New Testament denote
the human spirit and which denote God’s Spirit.  

Romans 8 is perhaps the chapter with the most references to the word
spirit.  Who can tell which words refer to the
human spirit and which refer to God’s Spirit?  When Bible translators come to Romans 8, they leave the readers to
decide for themselves which
spirit refers to the human spirit and which refers to God’s Spirit.  When the English versions
come to the word
pneuma, some use an upper-case Spirit, and others use a lower-case spirit.  All versions differ in this
respect, and no one person’s view is authoritative.  The truth is that it is impossible to differentiate between the Holy
Spirit and man’s spirit.  When we received a new spirit, we received God’s Spirit at the same time.  When our human
spirit was revived from its deadened state, we received the Holy Spirit at the same time.  The Holy Spirit resides in our
spirit, but it is difficult to tell which is the Holy Spirit and which is our spirit.  There is a distinction between the Holy Spirit
and our spirit, but the two are not separate.  Hence, the release of the spirit is not merely a release of man’s spirit but a
release of the Holy Spirit through man’s spirit, because the two spirits are one.  We can differentiate the two spirits as
terms but not in fact.  The release of the spirit is the release of the human spirit.  It is also the release of the Holy Spirit.  
When others touch our spirit, they are touching the Holy Spirit at the same time.  If we can provide others the opportunity
to touch our spirit, we should thank the Lord because they are being provided with an opportunity to touch God’s Spirit
at the same time.  In fact, our spirit brings God’s Spirit to men.

When God’s Spirit operates, He has to operate through the human spirit.  This is similar to electricity that runs
household appliances; it cannot travel like the lightning in the air.  It travels through the electrical wires.  Today we not
only have electrical power but electrical wires.  The wire bears the electricity.  In physics there is such a thing as an
electrical charge.  To be charged is to bear a burden.  If we are to carry electricity, we have to carry the charge by
means of electrical wires.  This same principle holds true for God’s Spirit.  He needs the human spirit as a medium to
bear His Spirit.  Through the human spirit the Holy Spirit is conveyed and carried to men.

After a man is saved, the Holy Spirit resides in his spirit.  Whether or not a man can be used by the Lord depends more
on his outer man than on his spirit.  The problem with some people is that their outer man has never been broken.  
There is not a blood-stained pathway; there is no wound, no scar.  The result is that God’s Spirit is locked up within their
spirit and cannot be released.  Sometimes the outer man moves, but the inner man does not respond.  The outer man is
released, but the inner man is still bound.


Let us consider a few practical matters.  First, in the matter of preaching, we often preach earnestly, persuasively, and
logically.  Yet within us we are ice cold.  We try to convince others, but we cannot even convince ourselves.  The outer
man is working, but the inner man does not join in.  The outer man and the inner man do not match; they are not in
unison.  The outer man is excited, but the inner man remains ice cold.  We tell other how great the Lord’s love is, but we
do not have the slightest feeling within us.  We can tell others of the pain of the cross, but when we return to our room,
we have no problem laughing.  It is a hopeless situation when the outer man and the inner man are not in union.  The
outer man may be working, but the inner man is not moving at all.  This is the first condition: The mind and emotions are
working, but the spirit is not.  The outer man acts, but the inner man does not respond.  It is as if the inner man is a
spectator of the outer man’s performance.  The outer man remains the outer man, and the inner man remains the inner
man.  The two are not in harmony.

At other times, the inner man can be very desperate; it wants to cry out, but it cannot utter anything.  Whatever is said
just beats around the bush.  The more desperate the inner man becomes, the colder the outer man is.  The person may
want to speak, but nothing comes out.  He sees a sinner and wants to cry, but no tears come out.  He has an
earnestness to shout on the platform, but the outer man is nowhere to be found.  This is a great suffering.  This
frustration is the result of the outer man not being broken.  As a result, the inner man is not released.  When the outer
shell remains, the outer man does not take orders from the inner man.  When the inner man weeps, the outer man does
not weep.  When the inner man grieves, the outer man does not grieve.  The inner man may have much to say, but the
outer man does not direct its thoughts to convey them.  The inner man may have many feelings, but they cannot be
expressed.  The spirit cannot break the outer shell.

The above descriptions fit the condition of those whose outer man is not broken.  Either their spirit does not move and
the outer man acts alone, or their spirit moves but the outer man blocks its passage.  Therefore, the breaking of the
outer man is the first lesson confronting everyone who desires to enter the service of the Lord.  
The fundamental
training for every servant of God is to allow his inner man to come out of his outer man
.  Every true servant of
God does not allow his outer thoughts and emotions to act independently.  When his inner man needs to be released,
the outer man affords a channel; the spirit can break out of the outer man to reach others.  If we have not learned this
lesson, our effectiveness in the work is very limited.  May the Lord bring us to the place where our outer man is broken.  
May God show us the way to become broken before the Lord.

Once we are broken, all performances and acts will cease.  We will no longer be excited outwardly and indifferent
inwardly.  When we have proper feelings and utterances inwardly, we will act accordingly outwardly.  Nor will we
experience the embarrassment of the inner man trying to weep while the outer man is unable to shed any tears.  We will
not complain of having things to say inwardly yet going around in circles and not being able to say them outwardly.  
Poverty of thoughts will not occur, and we will not need to use twenty words to utter what can be said in two words.  Our
mind will aid the spirit instead of frustrating it.  Our emotions can be a very strong shell as well.  Many people want to
rejoice but cannot rejoice.  They want to weep but cannot weep.  The outer man will not respond.  But if the Lord renders
a heavy blow to the outer man through the discipline or enlightening of the Holy Spirit, they will be able to rejoice when
they need to rejoice and grieve when they need to grieve.  Their spirit will be released liberally and freely.

The breaking of the outer man leads to the free release of the spirit.  The free release of the spirit is not only necessary
to our work; it is profitable to our personal walk as well.  If the spirit is released, we can constantly abide in God’s
presence.  If the spirit is released, we spontaneously touch the spirit of inspiration that lies behind the Bible.  We
spontaneously receive revelation through the exercise of our spirit.  If the spirit is released, we spontaneously will have
power in our testimony when we deliver God’s word to others as a minister of the word.  Moreover, if our spirit is
released, we will touch others’ spirits with our spirit.  When a person comes and speaks to us, we will be able to
“measure him” with our spirit.  We will know the kind of person he is, the kind of attitude he has, the kind of Christian life
he lives, and the kind of needs he has.  Our spirit will be able to touch his spirit.  If our spirit is free and released, it will
be easy for others to touch our spirit; our spirit will become very touchable.  With some people, we can only touch their
thoughts, emotions, or will; we cannot touch their spirit.  They are Christians, and we are Christians, but after we sit down
and talk for two or three hours, we still cannot touch their inward condition.  When the outer man is broken, the spirit will
be open and free to flow to others, and when the spirit is open and free, others can easily touch it.


If the outer man is broken, the spirit spontaneously will remain in the Lord all the time.  A brother read Brother Lawrence’
s book
The Practice of the Presence of God the second year after he was saved.  He struggled very much because he
was not able to enjoy God’s presence continually like Brother Lawrence.  He made a pact with a brother to pray once
every hour.  He wanted to follow the biblical teaching of praying unceasingly.  Every time the clock struck the hour, they
would try to kneel down to pray.  Nevertheless, they felt as if they could not maintain God’s presence, and they wrestled
to turn back to God all the time.  It was as if they wandered away from God whenever they went about their own business
or became engaged in their studies so that they had to hurriedly turn back to God.  If they did not turn back, they felt
that they would be gone forever.  They prayed all the time.  On Sundays they prayed the whole day, and on Saturdays
they prayed half of the day.  They did this for two or three years.  But even though they felt His presence when they
turned back to God, they would lose it as soon as they turned away.  The problem of maintaining God’s presence with
human memory is a great frustration to many Christians, not just to these brothers.  To them, the “presence” of God can
only be maintained when their memory is fresh; when their memory fails, the “presence” is gone.  Such attempts to
preserve the divine presence with human memory are foolish.  God’s presence is in the spirit, not in the memory.

In order to deal with God’s presence, we have to first deal with the matter of the breaking of the outer man.  The nature
of our emotion is different from the nature of God; the two can never be joined as one.  The same can be said of our
mind.  John 4 shows us that God’s nature is Spirit.  Only our spirit is of the same nature as God, and only our spirit can
be in harmony with God forever.  If we try to retain God’s presence in our mind, this presence is lost as soon as we are
not in complete control of our mind.  If we try to retain God’s presence in our emotion, the same is true; this presence is
gone as soon as we are not in complete control of our emotion.  Sometimes when we are happy, we think we have God’s
presence.  But this happiness does not stay.  When it goes away, our sense of His presence is gone.  We may think that
we have God’s presence when we weep, but we cannot weep all the time.  Sooner or later our tears will stop, and when
they stop, God’s presence seemingly stops as well.  The function of the mind and the function of the emotion are both
activities, and no activity can go on forever.  If we try to maintain God’s presence with activity, this presence will be gone
as soon as the activity stops.  Two substances will blend together only when they are of the same nature, such as water
with water or air with air.  Things with the same nature can enjoy each other’s presence.  The inner man is of the same
nature as God; therefore, it can realize God’s presence through His Spirit.  The outer man is constantly in the realm of
activity; therefore, it is a frustration to the inner man.  The outer man is not a help but a hindrance.  The inner man will
be free from distractions only when the outer man is broken.

God has installed a spirit within us to respond to Him.  The outer man, however, only responds to outward signals.  A
man loses God’s presence and the enjoyment of it because his outer man is constantly responding to outside activity.  
We cannot eliminate all outward signals, but the outer man can be broken.  We cannot stop all outside activity.  Millions
and billions of things in this world are occurring outside of us.  If the outer man is not broken, we will react whenever
something happens outside of us.  We cannot enjoy God’s presence calmly and continually because the outer man is
constantly reacting.  God’s presence is based on the breaking of the outer man.

If God grants us mercy and breaks our outer man, we will manifest the following traits: Our old curiosity will be dead; we
will no longer be curious.  Formerly, we were very strong in our emotion; we were easily stirred up in the tender
sentiment of love or in the raw sentiment of anger whenever something happened.  We reacted as soon as something
happened around us, and we were caught up in those things.  As a result, we lost God’s presence.  But if God is merciful
to us, He will break our outer man, and our inner man will no longer be touched when many things happen to us.  We will
remain calm, and God’s presence will abide with us.  

We must see that the enjoyment of God’s presence is based on the breaking of the outer man.  A man can only enjoy
God’s uninterrupted presence when his outer man is broken.  Brother Lawrence worked in a kitchen.  Many people
would come and demand service from him.  There was noise all around him; plates were shuffled back and forth.  Yet
Brother Lawrence was not affected by all these things.  He had God’s presence when he prayed, and he also had God’s
presence when he was busily working.  How could he maintain God’s presence in the midst of his hectic work?  The
secret is that no outward noise could affect his inward being.  Some people lose God’s presence because they are
inwardly affected as soon as they hear any noise around them.

Some who do not know God try to hold on to God’s presence.  What do they do?  They look for an environment where
there is “no shuffling of plates.”  They think that the farther away they are from people and activities, the closer they will
be to God’s presence.  They are mistaken.  They think that the problem is the “plates,” the human distractions.  No, the
problem is with them.  God is not delivering us from the “plates”; He is delivering us from being influenced by them.  
Everything around us can be in turmoil, but within we can remain untouched.  Everything around us can be clamorous,
but within we can be perfectly still.  Once the Lord breaks our outer man, our inner being will not respond to such things;
we will have a deaf ear to these noises.  Thank God that we can have very sensitive ears.  However, the action of grace
and the operation of His work will break our outer man, and nothing that comes upon our outer man will affect us any
longer.  When the “plates” clamor, we can hide ourselves in God’s presence as much as when we are praying by
ourselves alone.

Once the outer man is broken, a man does not have to come
back to God because he is with God all the time.  There is
no need for a coming
back.  An unbroken man needs to come back to God whenever he goes about with his business
because he has moved away.  This is the reason he has to come back.  A broken man never moves away; therefore, he
does not need to come back.  Many people move away all the time, even while they are working for the Lord.  This is
because their outer man has never been broken.  It is best that they not do anything at all.  As soon as they do
something, they move away.  But those who know God in a genuine way never move away.  Therefore, they never need
to come back.  If they spend the whole day praying to God, they enjoy His presence.  If they spend the whole day busily
scrubbing the floor, they still enjoy His presence.  As soon as our outer man is broken, we will live before God.  We will
not need to come back.  There will not be the feeling nor need to come back.

We usually feel God’s presence only when we come to Him.  Whatever we do, even when we exercise the utmost care,
we feel that we have turned away from God a little.  I am afraid that this is most of our experience.  Although we
conscientiously try to rein ourselves in, we turn away as soon as we engage in some activity.  Many brothers and sisters
feel that they have to drop the things they have in their hands before they can pray.  They somehow feel that there is a
difference between being in God and doing some form of work.  For example, we may be helping a person by preaching
the gospel to him or by edifying him.  Halfway through our conversation, we may feel that we have to pray and come
back to God.  We feel that we have to pray and come back to God.  We feel that we have somehow drifted from God in
talking to others and that by praying we can come back to Him once more.  It seems as if we have moved and are
returning to God.  We have lost His presence, and now we are regaining it.  We may be conducting some daily chores
such as scrubbing the floor or working at some craft.  After we are finished with this work, we feel that we have to come
back before we can pray.  We feel that there is a great distance between where we are and where we want to be.  Any
feeling of coming back is a sign that we have moved.  The breaking of the outer man will bring us to the point where we
will not have to come back any longer.  We will feel as much of God’s presence in talking to others as when we are
kneeling down and praying with them.  We will feel as much of God’s presence in scrubbing the floor and working on our
craft as when we are praying.  These things will not take us away from God’s presence any longer.  As a result, we will
no longer need to come back.

Let me give a more extreme example.  The most raw sentiment a man can have is temper.  The Bible does not say that
we cannot be angry; some forms of anger are unrelated to sin.  The Bible says that we should “be angry, yet do not sin”
(Ephesians 4:26).  This shows that a person can become angry without sinning.  Yet anger is a very raw sentiment.  In
fact, it is close to sinning.  God’s Word never says that we should love yet not sin, because love is far from sin.  Nor does
God’s Word say that we should be patient yet not sin, because patience is also far from sin.  But God’s Word says, “Be
angry, yet do not sin.”  This shows that anger is very close to sin.  Sometimes a brother commits a big mistake, and we
have to rebuke him.  But this is a very hard thing to do.  It is easy to exercise kindness but very hard to exercise anger.  
Once we are careless, we will fall into a different state.  It is not easy to be angry according to God’s will.  If we know the
breaking of the outer man, we can enjoy God’s continual presence without interruption from the outer man, whether we
are rebuking a brother severely or praying in the presence of God.  Putting this a different way, we will not have the
feeling that we are turning back to God when we pray after rebuking a brother severely.  Any feeling of turning back to
God is a proof that we have left God.  I admit that rebuking a brother is a difficult thing to do, but if our outer man is
broken, we can rebuke a brother without the need of turning back to God because God’s presence will be with us all the


When the outer man is broken, all outward activities are confined to the outward realm while the inner man continues to
enjoy God’s presence.  The problem with many people is that their outer man and inner man are entangled together.  
Whatever affects the outer man affects the inner man.  Strictly speaking, the outward things can only affect the outer
man; but the outer man, in turn, affects the inner man.  With those who are not yet broken, their outer man can affect
their inner man.  With those who are broken, their outer man cannot affect their inner man.  If God is merciful to us and if
our outer man is broken, it will be separated from our inner man, and outward things will only affect the outer man; they
will not affect the inner man.  When the outer man is separated from the inner man, all distractions are confined to the
outer realm; they cannot enter the inner realm.  A man can converse with others with his outer man while his inner man
is still fellowshipping with God.  The outer man can be conscious of the “shuffling of the plates,” while the inner man
continues to live before God.  He can work and labor with his outer man, interact with the myriads of things in the outer
world, yet confine all the activities to just that realm.  His inner man is not affected, and he can continue to live before
God.  He has never left; therefore, he never needs to return.  Suppose a brother is building a road.  If his outer man is
separated from his inner man, outward things will not affect his inner being.  He can work with his outer man while his
inner man is turned to God continually.  Some parents can laugh and play with their children according to their outer
man, but when the occasion calls for them to take up spiritual work, they can exercise their inner man immediately.  Their
inner man has never left God.  The separation of our outer man from our inner man is very much related to our work and
our life.  This is the only way we can continue in our work without the need to come back to God all the time.

Some people live as one person, one entity.  Others live as two persons.  With some people, the outer man and the
inner man are one person, one entity.  With others, the two are separate.  What happens to those who are one person
in themselves?  When they attend to their affairs, their whole being is involved in the work, and they move away from
God.  When they pray, they have to drop what they are doing and turn their whole being back to God.  They need to
apply their whole being to their work, and they need to apply their whole being to pray to God.  Such ones move away all
the time and need to turn back all the time.  Their outer man has not yet been broken.  Those who are broken by the
Lord will find that their outer man no longer influences their inner man.  They can take care of outward things with their
outer man, while at the same time continue to abide in God and in His presence.  Whenever the need arises for them to
demonstrate their inner man before men, they can do so with ease; they are not cut off from the presence of God.  The
issue, therefore, is whether we are one person or two.  In other words, is our outer man separated from our inner man?  
This difference is very great.

If God is merciful to us and we have such an experience of separation, we will conduct business and move around in our
outer man, but our inner man will be unmoved.  One person moves around, while the other person is still before God.  
The outer man will only mind the outward things, and the outward things will stop with the outer man; they will not get to
the inner man.  Those who know God apply the outer man to outward affairs while their inner man remains in God.  The
two men do not mix.  They are like Brother Lawrence, who was busy with outward affairs, yet who had another person
within him who lived before God.  God’s presence never went away in him.  This can save us much time in our work.  
Many people do not have this separation of the outer man from the inner man.  As a result, their whole being moves
away at one time, and then they move their whole being back later.  Many people face difficulties with their work because
their inner man tags along with their outer man.  If the inner man is separated from the outer man and remains
untouched while the outer man is involved in business, many outward things will be properly handled.  This kind of
exercise will isolate us from the influence of the flesh through outward things; they will no longer touch our inner being.

Simply put, whether or not man’s spirit can be useful to God depends on two kinds of work of the Lord.  One work is the
breaking of our outer man.  The other work is the separating of our spirit from our soul or the dividing of our inner man
from our outer man.  God must accomplish these two things in us before we can put our spirit to use.  The breaking of
the outer man is accomplished through the discipline of the Holy Spirit, and the separation of the outer man from the
inner man is through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.


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