Watchman Nee

B. Childress
Jan 28 2014

God uses many ways to break our outer man, and these ways vary from person to person.  This is the reason the Holy
Spirit directs different kinds of disciplining works to different persons.  With some people, God deals specifically with their
self-love.  Again and again God orders environments that deal with their self-love.  With other people, God deals with
their pride.  Again and again God orders environments that break their pride.  With still others, God deals with their
wisdom.  He tears down their trust in their kind of walk which has its source in their own wisdom.  He allows them to
blunder and fail in everything they lay hold of around them.  God allows them to fail again and again in order that they
learn not to trust in their own wisdom, until they say, “I live not by man’s wisdom but by the mercy of God.”  With some
people, the Holy Spirit may order yet another kind of discipline; He may use the environment to shatter their subjectivity.  
Many people are very opinionated.  They are full of ideas and methods.  The Bible says, “I am Jehovah…is there
anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27, Darby).  With some brothers, it seems that there is nothing too hard for
them.  They never find one thing which prompts them to bow down and confess their ignorance and inability.  The Lord’s
Spirit has to deal with them through all kinds of environments; He has to strike again and again.  These ones will find that
in spite of their boasting about everything, they cannot accomplish anything.  Things they consider to be easy turn out to
be the causes of failure and embarrassment.  The Holy Spirit chooses to humble them through this way.  Simply put, the
Spirit strikes different men at different points.

The Spirit also deals with everyone at different speeds.  With some, the Lord’s rod visits them in a relentless, rapid
sequence.  With others, the Lord deals with them for a while and then gives them a period of respite.  But one thing is
unchanging: He always scourges those whom He loves.  We should find many bruised spots among God’s children.  
These are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.  When chastisement comes, it may hit different spots, but the goal is
the same.  Whatever outward form the chastisement takes,  inwardly these chastisements always wound the person
himself.  God may choose to deal with our self-love.  He may choose to deal with our pride, our wisdom, or our
subjectivity.  Whatever point He touches, the result of every dealing is to make us weaker than before.  He deals with us
repeatedly until our self is wounded and we are weakened.  Some are touched in a particular way in their emotion.  
Others are touched in a particular way in their mind.  Whatever area a man is touched in, the end result is the breaking
of the will.  He may be hit in one area, but the breaking is always applied to the self and the will.  We are all stubborn.  
Our will is stubborn.  Our stubborn will is boosted by our mind, our proposals, our self-love, our emotion, and our
wisdom.  The things that sustain our stubborn will may be different, but in every case there is a hardness of the will.  The
smiting, dealing, and breaking work of the Holy Spirit may be different, but the final and intrinsic cutting work is the same
– it deals with the self and strikes at the will.

Therefore, everyone who is subdued, either by revelation or by discipline, shows one characteristic – pliableness.  
Pliableness is a mark of a broken man.  Those who are broken by God are pliable before Him.  Our outward shell is hard
and closed because there are many things which prop up these hard things in us.  We are like a house that is supported
by many pillars.  These pillars keep the house from collapsing.  When God removes the pillars one by one, the house
collapses.  Once the outward supporting structure is dismantled, the inward self collapses.  We should not think that
those who speak softly are free from any stubbornness in the will.  We should not think that those who are subdued in
their voice are pliable in their will.  Many soft-spoken ones are very hard within.  Hardness has to do with our nature, not
with our voice.  Many people seem to be outwardly milder than others; they appear to be not as quick and loud.  But
before God they are just as stubborn, hard, selfish, and self-confident.  The supporting elements which prop up our
inner structure may be different, but the inner structure is the same.  The self, the will, is just as strong.  The Lord has to
remove these supporting elements one by one.  He has to break them one by one.  This is the reason He deals with us
once, twice, and repeatedly.  By the grace of God, something will be knocked off of us through these repeated dealings.  
Such a severe chastisement will produce a fear in us when we try to do the same thing again.  We will know that if we do
the same thing again, the Lord will smite us again.  If we say the same thing again, the Lord will chastise us again.  We
no longer will be so free to act.  It seems as if God has only touched something outward.  But actually, our very being
has become softened; we no longer can stand in the area in which we are touched.  At least in that particular area we
will not dare to disobey the Lord or insist on our ideas anymore.  Out of fear of the Lord’s chastisement, we no longer
dare to move.  We fear God, and we become mellowed in that particular area.  The more we experience God’s dealing,
the more pliable we will become.  The more God carries out the breaking work in us and the wider the scope of this
breaking becomes, the quicker we will be mellowed.  Pliableness is a result of breaking.  

When we contact certain brothers, we can say that they are gifted, but we have the feeling that they are not yet broken.  
This is the condition of many people: They are gifted, but they are not broken.  Others can sense this.  As soon as they
touch these ones, they can sense the hardness in them.  Once they are broken, they become soft.  If a man is never
broken, he will surely remain hard.  In whatever area a man experiences God’s chastisement, he will be purged from
boasting, pride, carelessness, and lawlessness in that same area.  He will fear God with respect to that area, and he will
become pliable in that area.

The Bible uses many symbols for the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is symbolized by fire as well as by water.  Fire speaks of the
power of the Spirit, whereas water speaks of His purity.  In symbolizing the Spirit’s nature, the dove is used.  The Spirit’s
nature is a dove’s nature – pliable, peaceful, and meek.  It is not hard.  As the Spirit of God works His nature into us step
by step, we acquire a dove’s nature.  The pliableness that comes as a result of a godly fear is a mark of the Spirit’s
breaking work.


Once a man is broken by the Holy Spirit, he will manifest a pliableness that comes from a fear of God.  When others
contact him, they no longer will find him as hard, fierce, and severe as before.  Having been dealt with by the Lord, his
voice becomes subdued, and his attitude becomes softened.  He begins to fear God inwardly, and this fear
spontaneously flows out through his attitude and words.  Spontaneously, he becomes a pliable man.

Easy to Be Dealt With

What is a pliable person?  A pliable person is one who is easy to be dealt with.  It is easy for him to speak to others and
easy for him to ask from others.  When a man is broken before God, it becomes easy even for him to make confessions
and to weep.  It is very hard for some people to weep.  This does not mean that weeping has any merit in itself.  But it
does mean that when a man has passed through God’s dealing, his outward disposition, thoughts, emotion, and will are
shattered, and it becomes easy for him to see his mistakes and to make confessions.   It will not be difficult for others to
talk to him.  The shell in him is broken, and his emotion and mind will have the capacity to accept others’ opinions and to
allow others to speak to him and teach him.  He will be brought into a new realm, and he will be able to receive help
anytime and anywhere.

Easy to Have Feelings

A pliable man is one who has sensitive feelings.  Because his outer man is broken, it is easy for his spirit to be released,
and it is easy for him to touch the brothers’ and sisters’ spirits.  As soon as their spirits move, he will sense it.  His
feelings become very sensitive.  He immediately knows whether something is right or wrong. As soon as others’ spirits
move, he will respond.  He will not do anything foolish or insensitive, and he will not do anything that offends others’
feelings.  We often carry on with things that others’ spirits disapprove of.  We behave this way because our outer man is
not broken.  Others’ spirits are sensitive about what we are doing, but we have no feeling.  Some brothers and sisters
often offer such tiresome prayers in the meetings that others wish they would stop, yet they keep on going.  The spirits
of the others speak out and plead for them to stop, but they do not have any feeling in themselves.  The feelings of
others do not produce any response in them.  This is because their outer man is not broken.  If a man is broken, it is
easy for his spirit to touch the spirits of others, and it is easy for him to feel what others feel.  He does not act like an
insensitive person who is ignorant of things that others are clear about.

Only those whose outer man is broken will know the meaning of the Body of Christ.  Only they can touch the spirit of the
Body, the feeling of the other members.  They will no longer act or feel independently.  If a man is void of feelings, he will
be like an artificial limb, perhaps a mechanical arm in a body.  A mechanical arm can move with the body, but it is short
of one thing – feelings.  Some people are members without feelings.  The whole Body feels something, yet they do not
feel anything.  Once the outer man is broken, a man will touch the conscience and feelings of the church.  His spirit will
be open, and the church will easily touch his spirit and communicate its feelings to his spirit.  This is a precious thing.  
However, the breaking of the outer man does not guarantee that we no longer will be wrong.  It merely provides us with a
faculty that tells us when we are wrong.  The brothers and sisters may realize that we are wrong without opening their
mouth to point this out.  Yet as soon as we touch them, we realize that we are wrong.  As soon as we touch their spirit,
we know whether they are for or against the matter in question.  This is a basic requirement of the Body life.  Without
this, there is no possibility of having the Body life.  The Body of Christ does not arrive at a consensus through discussion
and debates, just as there is no need for discussion in our own bodies.  Every member spontaneously feels the same
thing.  This common feeling is the will of the Body; it is also the will of the Head.  The will of the Head is expressed
through the will of the Body.  As our outer man is broken, it will be easy for us to be adjusted, and it will be easy for us to
have the feeling of the Body.

Easy to Receive Edification

The greatest help that we can receive does not come simply from the correction of our mistakes.  The greatest help
comes as our outer man is broken and our spirit becomes open and free.  When this happens, we will receive supply
from others’ spirits.  Our spirit will not only be released; it also will receive spiritual help wherever we go.  If our outer man
is not broken, it will be hard for us to receive any help from anyone.  Suppose a brother is not broken in the outer man
because is mind his too strong.  When this brother comes to the meeting, it will be hard for him to receive any
edification.  Unless a head-strong person is confronted with another strong mind, he will not receive any help from
anyone.  While other brothers are speaking, he will despise various thoughts, finding them too dull and dry.  Others will
not be able to render him any help.  He may go on in the same way for a month, two months, a year, or two years without
receiving any help at all.  He has a shell in his mentality, and he can only receive help in the mental realm; he cannot
receive any spiritual edification.  But if the Lord steps into his situation and works on him repeatedly for one, two, or a
few years, the shell of his mentality will be broken.  He will realize the futility of his mentality.  He will become like a child,
and it will be very easy for him to listen to others.  He will no longer dare despise others.  When he listens to another
brother, he will no longer try to catch flaws in his pronunciation, mistakes in his teaching, or ambiguities in meaning.  He
will instead touch the speaker’s spirit with his own spirit.  As soon as the Lord moves a little in the speaker and his spirit
is activated, the brother’s spirit will be revived, and he will receive the edification.  If a person’s spirit is broken, whenever
others release their spirit, he will receive edification.  He does not receive edification in doctrine only – that is altogether
a different matter.  The more dealings a man’s spirit receives from God, the more thorough will be the breaking of the
outer man, and the more help he will receive.  Whenever the Spirit of God moves in a brother or sister, he will receive
the help.  He will no longer criticize others according to his doctrines or measure others according to the letter.   He will
no longer pay attention to the nicety of the sermon, the eloquence of the speech, or the soundness of the
interpretation.  His entire attitude will change.  The degree to which we can be helped by others depends on the
condition of our spirit.  Men often pass by us, but we cannot touch their spirit and cannot receive any edification from
them because our shell is too thick.

What is edification?  It is not the increase of thoughts, ideas, or doctrines.  Edification is when our spirit touches God’s
Spirit.  The Spirit of God can come out of any man.  Whether in the meeting or in private fellowship, we will experience
the feeding and the reviving as soon as God’s Spirit is activated in others.  Our spirit is like a mirror.  Every time we are
edified, it is as if someone has polished our spirit a little and made it shine more.  The meaning of edification is nothing
less than our spirit being touched by others’ spirits or by the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit touches our spirit through
others’ spirits, we receive edification.  What comes out of the spirit ignites us as soon as we touch it.  We are like an
electric lamp that shines as soon as electricity passes through it, without regard to whether the lamp shade is red or
green or whether the wires are white or black.  We do not care what the “lamp shade” is like; our attention is on the
release of “electricity” and the fact that we have been revived, that we have been fed before God.  Thank God!  If we
can do this, we will become persons who can receive help easily.  It is very hard for many people to receive help.  If we
want to help them, we have to exert much energy to pray and work on them before they will allow us to do anything.  A
hard person does not receive help easily.  Only those who are pliable will receive help easily.

There are two entirely different approaches to edification.  One way is outward, involving thoughts, doctrines, and
expositions of the Scriptures.  Some can claim that they have received help in this way.  The other way is entirely
different, involving the touching of spirit with spirit.  When spirits touch, spiritual help is found.  We only touch true
Christianity as we touch the second way.  This is true edification.  If all we know is to listen to sermons, we may hear a
good message today.  If we happen to hear the same brother preaching on the same message the next Sunday, we will
be bored and will want to leave.  We think we need to listen to a message only once.  As far as we are concerned,
Christianity involves doctrines.  We keep doctrines in our head.  However, we must realize that edification has nothing to
do with doctrines; it has to do with the spirit.  If a brother preaches the first time with the release of his spirit, he will touch
and change our entire being; we will be washed and revived.  If we listen to him a second time and he released his spirit
again, we will receive help once again.  The subject may be old and the doctrines may be the same, but we will receive a
cleansing and washing every time his spirit is released.  We have to remember that edification is a contact of spirit with
spirit; it is not the increase of thoughts.  Edification is an exchange between spirits.  It has nothing to do with receiving
some doctrines and teachings from the outer man.  The best that can be said of doctrines and teachings that are not
vitally linked with the spirit is that they are dead.

After our outer man is broken, it will become easy for us to receive edification; in fact, we will receive much edification.  
When others ask us a question, we will receive edification from their asking.  When a sinner comes to us seeking the
Lord, we will receive edification as we pray with him.  A brother may be in gross error, and the Lord may want us to
speak a strong word to him.  When we touch his spirit, we will be edified once again.  We can receive edification and
supply from many directions.  We will feel that the whole Body is supplying us.  Any member, whoever he may be, can
render us supply.  We will always receive help, and we will become persons who are good at receiving.  The whole
church will become our supply.  What riches we will find!  We truly will be able to say that God’s riches have now become
the riches of the Body, and the riches of the Body have now become our riches.  How different is this from the increase
of thoughts and doctrines!  The difference is too great.

The more help a person can receive and the broader the scope of supply he draws, the more we can say that he is a
broken man.  Those who hardly receive any help from anyone are not wiser than others.  It only proves that their outer
shell is harder than others’ and that nothing can arouse them.  If the Lord grants them mercy and deals with them in
strong and multifarious ways, they will receive supply from the whole church.  We have to check with ourselves: Can we
receive help from others?  If we have a hard shell around us, we will not sense the spirit even when the Holy Spirit is
released through other brothers.  If we are broken by God, however, we will receive help whenever others’ spirits move.  
Even though the move may be very small, what matters is not whether the move is big or small but whether or not we
have touched the spirit.  As soon as we touch the spirit, we are revived and edified.  Brothers and sisters, may we all
realize that the breaking of the outer man has a great deal to do with receiving help and edification from God.  It is the
fundamental qualification for working for God.

Fellowship in the Spirit

Fellowship is not a communication of the mind with the mind or an exchange of opinions; it is the contact of spirit with
spirit.  When our spirit touches another brother’s spirit, that contact of the spirit is fellowship.  It is only as we receive
mercy from the Lord to break the outer shell and to tear down the outer man that our spirit is released.  Only then will we
touch the spirits of the brothers and sisters, and only then will we understand the meaning of fellowship with the saints.  
From that point forward we will understand what the Bible means when it speaks of the fellowship of the spirit.  We will
realize that fellowship is a matter conducted in the spirit; it is not a fellowship of opinions.  When there is fellowship in the
spirit, there is prayer in one accord.  Many people pray with their mind.  It is hard for them to find like-minded
companions, because they cannot find another mind to match their own even if they searched the whole world.  Actually,
fellowship is carried on in the spirit.  Everyone who is regenerated and who has the Holy Spirit within him can fellowship
with us.  If God removes our barriers and our outer man is dismantled, our spirit will be open to all men.  Our spirit will be
open to receive the spirits of all the brothers; it will touch and be touched by the spirits of all the brothers.  We will touch
the Body of Christ.  We will be the Body of Christ; our spirits will be the Body of Christ.  We will be the Body of Christ.  
Psalm 42:7 says, “Deep calls unto deep.”  The “deep” is indeed calling the “deep.”  The “deep” within us is calling and
yearning to touch the “deep” within others, and our “deep” is calling and yearning to touch the whole church’s “deep.”  
This is the fellowship of deep with deep.  It is the calling and responding between deep and deep.  If our outer man is
broken and our inner man released, we will touch the spirit of the church, and we will be more useful to the Lord.


The breaking of the outer man that we refer to can only be done by the Holy Spirit.  Man cannot imitate this.  No imitation
will work.  When we say that a man must be meek, we are not telling everyone to try to be meek the next day.  If a person
tries to do this, he eventually will find that even his manmade meekness needs to be torn down.  Manmade meekness is
worthless.  The only meekness that will work comes from the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our experience tells us that no
achievement comes through us but through the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit knows our need.  He orders experiences
for us in our environment.  He does the breaking work.  

Our responsibility is to ask for a little light from God so that we will know and acknowledge His hand.  We want to be
humbled under the mighty hand of God to confess that whatever He does is right.  We should not be a senseless mule.  
Rather, we should commit ourselves to His breaking.  We should accept His work.  When we hand ourselves over to His
mighty hand, we will see that this work should have started five or ten years ago.  But nothing has been accomplished
during the past five or ten years.  Today we should commit ourselves into His hand and say, “Lord, I have been a blind
man.  I did not know where You were leading me from and where You were leading me to.  But now I know that You want
to break me, and I offer myself to You.”  Perhaps the fruitlessness of the past five or ten years will end today, and we
can become fruitful.  The Lord will demolish many things in us which we previously were not aware of.  Once these things
are demolished, we will no longer be proud, self-loving, or self-exalting.  This demolition will free and liberate our spirit
and make it useful to the Lord.  Then we will be able to use our spirit.

Here we have to raise two matters.  First, we must know that the breaking of the outer man is a work of the Holy Spirit.  
There is no need for imitation by the self.  But if we know that an activity is of the flesh, should we try to stop it ourselves,
or should we wait for the Holy Spirit to break it?  Should we wait for a great light to come and not try to put any restraint
on it at all?

Our answer to the above questions is: We should cease all activities of the flesh.  This is different from pretension.  If I
have the tendency to become proud, I should deny my pride.  However, I should not pretend to be humble.  If I am about
to lose my temper at someone, I should deny my temper.  But I should not pretend to be meek.  Ceasing doing
something is a negative prevention, while pretending to act a certain way is a positive move.  Pride is something
negative, and we should deal with it.  Humility is something positive, and we cannot imitate it.  Suppose we are very
stubborn with a harsh voice and an unbending attitude.  We have to deny this harshness, but we should not pretend to
be meek.  We have to stop all activities and works of the flesh that we are aware of.  But we should not imitate any of the
positive virtues.  We should offer ourselves to the Lord and say, “Lord, I will not try to imitate anything.  I will look to You
for Your work.”  If we do this, we will find God breaking us and building us up.

All outward imitations are not God’s work; they are man’s work.  Therefore, every seeking person should learn the
inward lessons, not the outward imitations.  He should allow God to effect something in him.  It is through this work that
he will derive his outward expressions.  Anything that a person does in an outward way is not genuine.  All manmade
structures have to be demolished.  When a man puts up something false, he will not only cheat others but also cheat
himself.  As we give ourselves to imitations and artificiality, we will gradually be led to believe that we are what we
pretend to be.  Even if others point out that we do not have anything real and that we have to get rid of it, we will still
wonder whether their words are true.  We should never imitate anything in an outward way.  It is better to be a little bit
more natural in the way we conduct ourselves and allow God to build up something in us instead.  We should live in a
simple and unpretentious way.  We should not engage in any outward imitating or copying; rather, we should look to the
Lord to daily add the virtues that we need.  

The second matter is that some people have some virtues in the natural realm.  For example, some are naturally very
meek.  What is the difference between natural meekness and a meekness that comes as a result of discipline?

We should point out two things in reference to this question.  First, everything natural is independent; it does not need to
be joined to the spirit.  Anything that comes from the discipline of the Holy Spirit is controlled by the spirit.  When the
spirit moves, it moves.  When the spirit does not move, it does not move.  Natural meekness sometimes is a hindrance to
the spirit, and anything that hinders the spirit is stubborn in nature.  In other words, even our natural meekness can
become a kind of stubbornness.  If a man is naturally meek, his meekness is independent; he is meek in himself.  If the
Lord wants him to stand up to say a few severe words, his natural meekness will become a hindrance to him.  He will say,
“Oh, I cannot do this. I have never said such a thing in my life.  I must let others say such a word.  I cannot say that.”  In
this instance his natural meekness is not subject to the control of the spirit.  Anything from the natural realm is motivated
by its own will.  It is stubborn, and it follows its own wishes.  The spirit cannot use it in any way.  However, meekness that
comes from brokenness is totally different; it is useful to the spirit.  It offers no resistance, opposition, or opinion but is
fully under the control of the spirit.

Second, a naturally meek person is meek when his will takes the lead.  But when he is asked to do what he does not
want to do, or when something challenges his reluctance, he is meek no longer.  Therefore, all natural virtues do not
lead to self-denial.  All human, natural virtues can only be utilized by man to build up himself.  Not just meekness, but
every kind of natural virtue, is used by man to build up himself.  For this reason, whenever his very self is threatened, all
of his virtues disappear.  As soon as we touch the inner most self of a naturally meek person, his meekness disappears.  
As soon as he comes across something that he is reluctant to do, his humility is gone and his meekness is gone;
everything he has is gone.  Virtues that result from discipline are different.  These virtues are produced only to the
extent that the self is broken.  Whenever God destroys the self, these virtues are made manifest.  The more the self is
wounded, the more the man becomes meek.  There is a fundamental difference between natural virtues and the fruit of
the Spirit.


The outer man must be broken.  We cannot pretend, and we cannot replace it with anything else.  We must humble
ourselves under the mighty hand of God and accept His dealings.  As soon as the outer man is broken, the inner man
becomes strong.  Nevertheless, a few people are not strong in the inner man in spite of the fact that their outer man has
been broken already.  But the inner man should be strong.  If the inner man is not strong when the outer man is broken,
we should not pray for strength.  Instead, we should say, “Be strong.”  The Bible commands us to be strong.  The
wonderful thing is that when the outer man is broken, we can be strong when we want to be strong.  We can be strong
when we have to be strong and are determined to be strong.  Try this.  When we say that we will do it, it will be done.  As
soon as the problem of the outer man is settled, the issue of being strong is also settled.  We can and will be strong
whenever we want to.  From that day forward, no one can stop us.  We only need to say that we will do something or that
we are determined to do something.  A little willing and determination will bring about wonderful things.  The Lord says,
“Be strong.”  When we say that we will be strong in the Lord, we will become strong.

The outer man must be broken before the inner man can find freedom.  This is the fundamental path that a servant of
the Lord must learn to take.


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