Reading #64 – Functions of the Spirit – Part 6

God’s Way of Guiding

As at the beginning a believer acquires his first knowledge of God in his spirit, even so must he continue to know God in his spirit. In a Christian life nothing is of any spiritual benefit unless it flows from revelation in the intuition. Whatever does not issue from the spirit is not of God’s will. Whatever we think or feel or decide, if not preceded by revelation in the spirit, is reckoned as dead in the eyes of God. Should a believer follow his sudden thought, the “burning fire” in his heart, his natural inclination, his perfect reason, or his rationalization, he is but activating his old man again. God’s will is not to be so known; He reveals Himself solely to man’s spirit. What is not revealed there is purely human activity.

The head is where God’s will is understood, but it is never the source of His will. The will of God originates in Himself, Who by His Holy Spirit reveals it to the spirit of man. In turn the latter causes the outward man to understand through the mind what the inner man has known. Thus the Christian is able to practice God’s will. Now if instead of seeking His purpose in the spirit a Christian should daily search his mind, he will be confused, since thoughts often change. He who follows his mind is not capable of saying at any moment, “I truly know this is the will of God.” Such deep faith and assurance emerges only when one has received revelation in his spirit.

The revelation of God in our spirit is of two kinds: the direct and the sought. By direct revelation we mean that God, having a particular wish for the believer to do, draws nigh and reveals it to the latter’s spirit. Upon receiving such a revelation in his intuition the believer acts accordingly. By sought revelation we mean that a believer, having a special need, approaches God with that need and seeks and waits for an answer through God’s movement in his spirit. The revelation young believers receive is mostly the sought type; that of the more matured ones is chiefly the direct kind. We should quickly add, however, that these are not exclusively so, only predominantly so. There lies the difficulty with the young believer. While he ought to wait before the Lord, denying his thought, feeling and desire, he often becomes impatient waiting for His revelation and substitutes his own disguised will for that of God. As a consequence he falls under the accusation of his conscience. Granted that he genuinely has a heart to follow God’s intent, he nonetheless unwittingly follows the thought of his mind because he lacks spiritual knowledge. Who can avoid mistakes if he walks without revelation?

Now we find true spiritual knowledge in this: only what is appropriated in the spirit is spiritual knowledge; the rest is wholly the mental kind. Let us inquire a moment, how does God know things? How does He make His judgment? By what knowledge does He control the universe? Does He ascertain with His mind like man? Does He need to think carefully before He understands? Does God depend upon philosophy, logic and comparison to know a matter? Must He search and investigate before He hits upon the solution? Is the Almighty compelled to rely upon His brain? Decidedly not. God has no necessity to indulge in such sweating exercises. His knowledge and judgment is intuitive. As a matter of fact intuition is the common faculty of all spiritual beings. The angels obey what they know as God’s will intuitively; they do not arrive at a conclusion by way of argument, reason or contemplation. The difference between knowing intuitively and knowing mentally is immeasurable. Upon this very distinction hangs the outcome of spiritual success or defeat. If it had been intended that a believer’s action or service was to be governed by rationalization and common sense, no one would ever have attempted to carry out those many glorious spiritual works of the past and the present, because all of them supersede human reasoning. Who would have dared do them if he had not first known God’s will intuitively?

Everyone who walks intimately with God, enjoying secret communion and spiritual union, will receive God’s revelation in his intuition and know unmistakably what he should do. His actions obviously will attract no sympathy from men, for they know not what he has seen. According to worldly wisdom, his actions are utterly meaningless. Do not spiritual believers suffer many oppositions of this kind? Have not the worldly-wise labeled them as mad? Even their fleshly brethren pass similar judgment on them. And the reason? Because the old created life in worldly people or in believers cannot understand the way of the Holy Spirit. How the more rational believers do in fact criticize their less rational brethren as “blindly zealous,” not realizing that these “blindly zealous” are the truly spiritual ones, walking by the revelation they intuitively have received.

We should be careful not to confuse intuition with emotion. In their zeal emotional Christians may display many phenomena similar to those of spiritual Christians, but the origin of these phenomena cannot be traced to intuition. Likewise in discernment rational Christians may act in many ways like those who are spiritual, yet once again no revelation in intuition is involved. As emotional believers are soulical, so are the rational. The spirit possesses a zeal which surpasses the emotional kind. The spiritual are “justified in the spirit” (1 Tim. 3.16 ASV), not approved by the affections or reasons of the flesh. Should we drop from the exalted position of the spirit into following the feeling and reasoning of the flesh, we shall lose ground instantly and shall retreat, like Abraham of old, into the visible and tangible Egypt for help. The spirit and the soul move independently. As long as the spirit has not yet ascended to hold sway over the total man, the soul shall never cease to strive against it.

When a person’s spirit has been quickened and subsequently strengthened by the power and discipline of the Holy Spirit, his soul cedes its usurped place and returns to submission. Increasingly the soul becomes the spirit’s servant; similarly, the body, once subdued, becomes the soul’s servant. The spirit receives revelation of God in its faculty of intuition, while the soul and the body unitedly execute the will of the spirit. There is no end to such progress. Some of the Lord’s people may have more to deny than others, for their spirit is not as pure because they have been far too long saturated with mental knowledge and affections. Many are so full of prejudice that they do not enjoy an open spirit to accept God’s truth. What they need are those requisite dealings which can free their intuition to receive everything from God.

We need to appreciate how fundamental is the difference between spiritual and soulical experiences: spiritual experience is so designated because it begins with God and is known in our spirit: soulical experience arises from the man himself and does not emerge through the spirit. It is therefore quite possible for an unregenerated man to know fully the Bible, to grasp accurately and expertly the essential doctrines of Christianity, to apply zealously all his talents to service, and to sway his audience with wonderful eloquence, and yet remain within the realm of the soul without so much as having crossed over one step, his spirit as dead as ever. People shall never enter the kingdom of God through our encouragement, persuasion, argument, inducement, excitement, or attraction; entrance can be gained only by new birth, by nothing less than the resurrection of the spirit. The new life which invades us at regeneration brings with it many inherent abilities, not the least of which is the intuitive power of knowing God.

Does it hence mean that man’s mind or brain is totally useless? Of course not. It obviously has its part to play. But we need to remember that intellect is of secondary, not of primary, importance. We do not sense God and the realities of God by our intellect; else eternal life would be meaningless. This eternal life or new life is the spirit mentioned in John 3. We apprehend God through this newly obtained eternal life or spirit. The mind’s role is to explain to our outward man what we know in our spirit and additionally to form it into words for others to understand. Paul stresses most emphatically in his letters that the gospel he preaches does not originate with man: it is not acquired wholesale from one man’s mind and retailed to the mind of others but is discovered through revelation. Although a believing man may have the best of minds, his teaching is nevertheless not to be derived from his thinking, whether sudden or progressive. His mind merely cooperates with his spirit in communicating to others the revelation his intuition has received. The brain is but the transmitting, not the receiving, mechanism of spiritual knowledge.

God communes with us entirely in the spirit. Save by its intuition there is no way of knowing God. In his spirit man soars into the eternal unseen realm of God. Intuition may be characterized as the brain of the inner sanctuary. When we say man’s spirit is dead, we are indicating his intuition is insensitive to God and His realities. When we say the spirit controls the whole man, we mean the various parts of the soul and all the members of the body adhere closely to God’s intuitively known will. We wish to underscore our point that regeneration is totally indispensable. Man’s soulical faculties cannot perceive God: nothing else can be a substitute for intuition. Except a man receives a new life from God and has his intuition resurrected, he is eternally separated from God. How fundamental new birth is. It is not just a term, nor is it purely a moral alteration, but the life of God actually enters our spirit and quickens its intuition. How utterly impossible for man to please God with his good deeds: they are simply the operations of the soul: his intuition is dead to God. Equally impossible is it for man to beget himself anew, because there is nothing in him which can produce new life. Unless God generates him he is not able to beget himself. Also worthless in the work of God is man’s understanding of teachings, for the work must be done by God. What then can man do other than deliver himself into the hands of God for Him to work? His spirit shall remain forever dead unless he confesses that everything pertaining to man is useless and unless he stands in the place of death with the Lord Jesus and accepts His life.

Man’s way cannot envisage acceptance of the Lord Jesus as Savior and a quickening of his spirit’s intuition, but insists on substituting his mind for intuition. He thinks and cogitates until he creates many philosophies, ethics, or religions. But what is God’s pronouncement? “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55.9). However intensively man may contemplate, his thoughts are earthly and not heavenly. After regeneration, God enables our intuition to know His thought and to apprehend His way so that we may follow Him. Yet how forgetful believers are! We forget what we learned at regeneration. Countless are those saints who daily walk by their head and heart. In service we still attempt to move people’s mind, emotion and will by our intellect, zeal and effort. God desires to teach us the fact that in service the soul, ours and everyone else’s, is void of any spiritual value or worth. He actually allows us to be defeated in spiritual work and to become despondent, cold and fruitless in order that He may destroy our natural life with its wisdom, fervor, and ability. Such a lesson as this cannot be learned in one or two days. God must instruct us throughout our lifetime in order to make us realize that apart from following the spirit’s intuition everything else is vain.

Now comes the crisis. Which will we follow when intuition and soul clash in their opinions? This will determine who is to rule over our life and which way we shall go. Our outer man and our inner man—the man of the flesh and the man of the spirit—are struggling for supremacy. In the early days of our Christian walk our spirit fought with the lusts of our flesh; today it is a battle between our spirit and our soul. Formerly the engagement was over the issue of sin; presently it is not a matter of good and evil but of natural good versus God’s goodness. We contended for the quality of things before, but now we are concerned with the source of things. It is a conflict of the inward against the outward man, a war between God’s will and man’s good intention. To learn how to walk after the spirit is a lifetime’s occupation for the new man. If one wholly follows the spirit, he shall overcome the man of the flesh completely. Through the strengthening by the Holy Spirit of the spirit in the new man, the believer shall be able to destroy totally his minding of the flesh so as to mind the things of the spirit. This is life and peace.

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