The Spiritual Christian

On September 10, 1985, I wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society containing one of the most important thoughts on the basis of which Christianity can be understood at all. Jehovah's Witnesses do not know this thought! Therefore, it is important to me to publish this letter here. But anyone who now thinks that the thought was written down by myself is mistaken. Watchman Nee is the author. The letter consists actually only of this one quotation of Watchman Nee. It is taken from his book "The Spiritual Christian". (page 114 to page 118 middle)

To the
Watchtower Bible and Tractate Society
Deutscher Zweig, e.V., P.O. Box 20
6251 Selters/Taunus 1

Ruediger Hentschel
Allensteiner Str. 8
4020 Mettmann

Ladies and Gentlemen Jehovah's Witnesses!

By the grace of God, I recently received a book from Watchman Nee, at exactly the right moment, from my point of view. I would like to send you an excerpt from this. – I associate with this intention the hope and the belief that despite many years of internalization of your theology you are still accessible to arguments and thoughts. Thanks be to the Lord that he has given me the following information:

Watchman Nee:
(From: The Spiritual Christian, page 114 to page 118 Middle)
The attitude of the believer towards the flesh
God's view of the flesh

We Christians must always be reminded of God's judgment on the flesh. "The flesh" Jesus says, "is of no use" (Joh. 6,63). Whether it is sin or the righteousness of the flesh, it is useless. What is born of the flesh is flesh. Whether it is the flesh on the pulpit, the flesh under the pulpit, the flesh in prayers, the flesh in sanctification, the flesh in Bible reading, the flesh in singing spiritual songs, or the flesh in doing good, none of it is good, as God clearly explains.

The flesh neither brings anything to the spiritual life, nor is it able to fulfill the righteousness of God. Let us now point to some remarks about the flesh which the Lord makes through the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans.

1. "Being fleshly is death" (Rom. 8,6). In God's eyes the flesh is spiritually dead. The only way to escape is to give the flesh to the cross. Despite the good works of the flesh, God has only one judgment: death.

2. "Being carnal is enmity against God" (Rom. 8,7). There is not the slightest possibility of peaceful coexistence. This is true not only of the sins that spring from the flesh, but also of its noblest thoughts and actions. It is obvious that shameful sins are hostile to God, but let us note that even righteous works can be done without God. 30 "The flesh is not subject to the law, for it does not fail either" (Rom. 8,7). The better the action of the flesh, the farther it is from God. How many "good" people are ready to believe in the Lord Jesus? Their self-righteousness is in truth unrighteousness. No one can ever be obedient to all the teachings of the Bible. Whether a man is good or evil, one thing is certain: he does not submit to the law of God. If he is evil, he transgresses the law, if he is good, he establishes another righteousness outside Christ and fails in the goal of the law, because "through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3,20).

4. "But those who are carnal cannot please God" (Rom 8:8). This is the final verdict. Regardless of how good a man may be, if his action has its origin in himself, he cannot please God. God is only pleased with his Son; no man and no work can please him except him and his work. What the flesh does may seem good, but because it comes from the ego and is done in natural power, it cannot satisfy God. Man may conceive of many ways to do good, to improve, to progress, but these are carnal ways which do not please God. This is not only the case with those who are not born again, but applies equally to the reborn human being. God's pleasure or displeasure does not follow the principle of good and evil. God asks for the root of all things. An act can be good in itself, but God asks for its origin.

These scriptural passages show us how vain and useless the efforts of the flesh are. A Christian who has become quite clear how God judges the flesh will not easily make mistakes. As human beings, we distinguish between good and evil works; God goes deeper and makes a difference as to the origin of all works. Even the most excellent act of the flesh finds in God the same displeasure as the most shameful, for they are all of the flesh. Just as God hates unrighteousness, he also hates self-righteousness. The good works that are done before being born again and without connection with Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit are not less carnal before God than immorality, impurity, dissipation, etc. No matter how commendable man's works may be, if they do not spring from a complete trust in the Holy Spirit, they are carnal and reprehensible from God. God resists everything and rejects and hates everything that belongs to the flesh, no matter how it appears outwardly and whether it is done by a sinner or a saint. His verdict remains: The flesh must die.

The experiences of the believer

But how can a Christian see through this as God sees through it? God is relentlessly hard on the flesh and all his works; but the believer seems only his bad side, while lovingly hanging from the flesh itself. Instead of categorically rejecting the flesh, he continues to do much of himself and thus comes to a self-conscious and proud posture. He thinks he is rich in God's grace and easily able to do the right thing. The believer literally makes use of his flesh. Since he deceives himself with this, the Spirit of God must often guide him in humiliating ways so that he learns what his flesh is and how God sees it. God allows this Christian to fall, become weak and even sin, so that he may come to the insight that nothing good dwells in the flesh. This usually happens to those who believe they are making spiritual progress. The Lord tests them to get to know themselves. Often the Lord reveals His glory to such an extent that the believer cannot help but condemn His flesh as defiled.

Sometimes God allows attacks of the devil to lead him through his sufferings to self-knowledge. This is a very difficult lesson that cannot be learned in one day or night. During many years one gradually realizes how unworthy our flesh is. Even in his best effort there is still impurity. God therefore lets us experience Romans 7 until we are ready to acknowledge with Paul: "There is nothing good in my flesh."It is hard for us to say this in all sincerity. Without the countless experiences of painful defeats, the believer would continue to trust himself. This hundredfold and thousandfold failure finally leads him to discard all self-righteousness and all trust in his own flesh. But that is not all. Self-righteousness must be continued. When a Christian ceases to judge himself and fails to treat the flesh as useless and utterly despicable and instead adopts a self-flattering attitude, God is compelled to lead him again through fire to purification. How few have learned to humiliate themselves and acknowledge their impurity! But as long as one has not reached this position, God will not stop acting with us. Since a Christian is not freed for a moment from the influence of the flesh, he should never stop testing himself.

Many assume that the Holy Spirit only convicts worldly men of sin. But Christians must know that this work of the Holy Spirit is as important in the believer as it is in the sinner. Because this is so necessary, he convicts the believers of their sins, not just once or twice, but incessantly. Let us experience more and more that the Holy Spirit convicts us so that our flesh may be incessantly subjected to judgment and not prevail.

If a man on earth could ever have boasted in a carnal way, it was Paul, for he was blameless as to the righteousness of the law. And if anyone could have boasted of his flesh after being born again, then again Paul, because he had become an apostle who had seen the risen Lord with his own eyes and was used by the Lord in a special way. But Paul did not dare to boast, for he knew his flesh. His experience let him know who he was. God had already opened his eyes to the fact that nothing good dwells in his flesh. The self-righteousness, of which he once boasted, he now recognized as sin. He had learned the lesson. He did not dare, to trust his flesh. But he did not stop with this lesson. No, Paul continues to learn. And so he explains: "We boast of Christ Jesus and do not rely on the flesh" (Phil. 3,3). When we read on in Philippians 3, we see how humble he has become: "... so that I may not have my own righteousness" (9); "... so that I get to the resurrection from the dead" (11); "Not that I have already grasped it or that I am already perfect, but I chase after it ... after I am seized by Christ Jesus" (12).

When a Christian seeks to attain spiritual maturity, he must forever maintain the attitude that the Apostle Paul adopted throughout his spiritual transformation: "Not that I have already taken it." The believer must not find joy in self-confidence, self-satisfaction, or in himself. He cannot trust his flesh.

When God's children sincerely struggle for an overflowing life, they do not consider themselves stronger and better than others, regardless of their perhaps greater spiritual progress. Words like: "Of course, I differ substantially from others" they will not be heard from. If these believers let the Holy Spirit reveal the holiness of God and their own corruption to them and are not afraid to see themselves in the light of God, then they can hope to recognize their corruption sooner through the Holy Spirit and experience less painful defeats.

The Cross and the Work of the Holy Spirit

Because the flesh is so deceptive, the believer needs the cross and the Holy Spirit. Once he has realized how his flesh is in the eyes of God, he must at every moment, through the Holy Spirit, experience the deeper work of the cross. Just as a Christian is redeemed from the sin of the flesh by the cross, he must now be redeemed from the righteousness of the flesh by the same cross. And just as the Christian does not follow and sin the flesh through the walk in the Holy Spirit, so he will now also be redeemed from the righteousness of the flesh through the walk in the Spirit, not follow the flesh in self-righteousness.

End of the excerpt

In the certainty that she has not added anything to the work of redemption of Jesus, she affectionately greets your

Ruediger Hentschel


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