Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Deeper Work of the Cross



"When we forsake physical happiness and mundane pleasures we are apt to conclude that the cross has finished its perfect work in us. We do not perceive that in God’s work of annulling the old creation in us there remains a deeper cross awaiting us. God wishes us to die to His joy and live to His will. Even if we feel joyous because of God and His nearness (in contrast to being joyous because of fleshly and earthly things), God’s aim nevertheless is not for us to enjoy His joy but to obey His will. The cross must continue to operate till His will alone is left. If we rejoice in the bliss God dispenses but renounce the suffering He also dispenses, then we have yet to experience the deeper circumcision by the cross."

"This is a practical cross by which the Lord reveals to us whether we are living for Him by faith or living for ourselves by feeling. Frequently have we heard people say, 'I live for Christ.' What does this really convey? Many saints assume that if they labor for the Lord or love the Lord they are living for Christ. This is far from being exactly so. To live for the Lord means to live for His will, for His interest, and for His kingdom. As such, there is nothing for self--not the slightest provision for self-comfort, self-joy, or self-glory. To follow the mind of God because of comfort or joy is strictly forbidden. To recoil from, to cease or delay in, obedience because of feeling depressed, vapid or despondent is positively impermissible. We ought to know that physical suffering alone may not be regarded as enduring for the Lord, for often our bodies will be bearing pain while our hearts are full of joy. If we actually suffer for Him, then not only do our bodies suffer but our hearts feel pained as well. Though there is not the least joyfulness, we yet press on. Let us understand that to live for the Lord is to reserve nothing for self but to deliver it willingly to death. He who is able to accept everything gladly from the Lord—including darkness, dryness, flatness—and completely disregard self is he who lives for Him."

"We should inquire once again as to what the life of faith is. It is one lived by believing God under any circumstance: 'If he slay me,' says job, 'yet would I trust in Him' (13.15 Darby). That is faith. Because I once believed, loved and trusted God I shall believe, love and trust Him wherever He may put me and however my heart and body may suffer. Nowadays the people of God expect to feel peaceful even in the time of physical pain. Who is there who dares to renounce this consolation of heart for the sake of believing God? Who is there who can accept God’s will joyfully and continuously commit himself to Him even though he feels that God hates him and desires to slay him? That is the highest life. Of course God would never treat us like that. Nevertheless in the walk of the most advanced Christians they seem to experience something of this apparent desertion by God. Would we be able to remain unmoved in our faith in God if we felt thus? Observe what John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, proclaimed when men sought to hang him: 'If God does not intervene I shall leap into eternity with blind faith come heaven, come hell!' There was a hero of faith! In the hour of despair can we too say, 'O God, though You desert me yet will I believe You'? Emotion begins to doubt when it senses blackness, whereas faith holds on to God even in the face of death.

"How few have arrived at such a level! How our flesh resists such a walk with God alone! The natural disinclination for cross-bearing has impeded many in their spiritual progress. They tend to reserve a little pleasure for their own enjoyment. To lose everything in the Lord, even self-pleasure, is too thoroughgoing a death, too heavy a cross! They can be fully consecrated to the Lord, they can be suffering untold pain for Him, they can even pay a price for following the will of God, but they cannot forsake that obviously trifling feeling of self-pleasure. Many cherish this momentary comfort; their spiritual life rests on this tiny twinge of feeling. Were they to exercise the courage to sacrifice themselves to God’s fiery furnace, showing no pity or love for self, they would make great strides on their spiritual pathway. But too many of God’s people remain subservient to their natural life, trusting what is seen and felt for safety and security: they have neither the courage nor the faith to exploit the unseen, the unfelt, the untrodden. They have already drawn a circle around themselves; their joy or sorrow hinges upon a little gain here or a little loss there; they accept nothing loftier. Thus are they circumscribed by their own petty self.

"Were the Christian to recognize that God wishes him to live by faith, he would not murmur against God so frequently nor would he conceive these thoughts of discontent. How swiftly would his natural life be cut away by the cross if he could accept the God-given parched feeling and could esteem everything given him by God as excellent. Were it not for his ignorance or unwillingness, such experiences would deal with his soul life most practically, enabling him to live truly in the spirit. How sad that many succeed at nothing greater in their lives than the pursuit of a little feeling of joy. The faithful, however, are brought by God into genuine spiritual life. How godly is their walk! When they examine retrospectively what they have experienced they readily acknowledge that the ordering of the Lord is perfect: for only because of those experiences did they renounce their soul life. Today’s crying need is for believers to hand themselves over completely to God and ignore their feeling.

"This should not at all be misconstrued to signify, however, that henceforth we shall become joyless persons. 'Joy in the Holy Spirit' is the greatest blessing in the kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17). The fruit of the Holy Spirit, moreover, is joy (Gal. 5.22). If this is so, then how can we reconcile this apparent inconsistency? Simply come to see that though we do lose joy in our feeling, nevertheless the joy we gain issues from a pure faith and cannot be destroyed. Joy of this caliber runs far deeper than emotion. In becoming spiritual we abandon the old desire for self-pleasure and hence additionally the former search for bliss; but the peace and joy of the spirit which arises from faith remains forever."

2 comments:

  1. I love reading Watchman Nee. This is where the rubber meets the road in the Christian walk.

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  2. Randy: It is definitely the narrow path. When someone is baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues, this gives that person more power in their Christian witness. When someone continues to die to self--allow a deeper work of the Cross--this gives that person more spiritual depth. Shallow Christians don't like Watchman Nee because his writings convict them of sin.

    You probably already know this, but the last twenty years of Watchman Nee's life he spent in a Chinese prison because of his Christian faith. We know Watchman Nee from his writings and they are a powerful work that glorifies the Lord. But, who knows, maybe his most powerful work (spiritual warfare) was done in prison.

    We know Jesus through the writings of the New Testament and these are very beneficial to Christians. But the great work that Jesus did was dying on the Cross for the sin of the world. As Christians, we need to let the Lord do a deeper work in our lives--the more we die to self, the more Christ is formed within us.

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