Self-Knowledge and God's Lightby Watchman Nee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Today, I believe that God wants me to give a message on how to know ourselves. A Christian never progresses in spirituality if he does not know himself. And a Christian can never spiritually progress further than what he knows. Whatever light (not knowledge) he receives, he expresses life to that degree. No Christian can progress further than the light which God has given him. If a Christian does not know his faults or his real condition, he will not pursue after what is new or go on in the way ahead.
The most important thing in a Christian's life is to judge himself. He must consider his own flesh as not trustworthy and himself as absolutely useless. Only in this way will he utterly trust God. And only then can he walk according to the Holy Spirit and not according to the flesh. Without self-judgment, spiritual living is impossible. I have already spoken on this matter in another place; therefore, I shall not expand on it here. If one does not know himself, he will not judge himself and he will not have the spiritual blessings that come from self-judgment. God wants us to know how corrupt and how unable our flesh is to satisfy His demand. Because we do not know this, we fail to have the living which is purely in the Holy Spirit. Unconsciously we are filled with a heart of self-approval and self-confidence because of the shortage of self-knowledge. We consider ourselves trustworthy and fail to understand the meaning of the Lord's word, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Although the Holy Spirit is given to help our weaknesses, ignorance of our own weaknesses blinds us from looking for His help, and so we remain weak. If we do not know ourselves, we will not only be self-confident and self-approving, but we will also be full of self-content, thinking marvelously of ourselves and being full of a pride that is most displeasing to God. Because we do not know ourselves, our daily living will have many shortcomings. We will have no feeling about unfulfilled duties, unrighteousnesses toward others, instances of lack of love, and instances of being angry, anxious, and unmerciful. Although the situation gets worse and worse, we feel at ease and content. Because we do not know ourselves, we do not know how great is our lack and how complete and precious is the salvation in Christ. As a result we miss so many spiritual blessings. Self-knowledge is the first condition toward betterment, because only those who know themselves desire for the better—yes, even God's best. Those who do not know themselves will not have a hungry and thirsty heart, and they will not have the filling of the Holy Spirit. Self-knowledge is absolutely indispensable to a Christian.
How do worldly people know their mistakes? They know by the method of introspection. They examine their own deeds and think back on their past. They "turn inward" to examine their motives and deeds. Introspection is commonly described as self-examination and evaluation. If worldly people do not examine themselves, they have no way of knowing themselves. I often hear many Christians say that they must examine themselves to see if they have committed any mistake. But let me tell you: self-examination is not the duty of a Christian. Self-examination is a big deception; many Christians are damaged by self-examination. We need to ask, (1) Does the Bible teach self-examination? (2) Can self-examination enable us to know ourselves? (3) Is self-examination profitable? From these we will prove that self-examination is really not the duty of a Christian.
Does the Bible command Christians to examine themselves? No! Griffith Thomas said that in the whole Bible there are only two places which mention self- examination, but both refer to something specific. Let us look at these two instances.
"But let a man prove himself, and in this way let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11:28). The proving in this verse is not an examination which Christians have in the pursuit of holiness; rather, it speaks of coming before the Lord to eat the bread and drink the cup. We should examine ourselves to see if we confess that the bread and the cup are the Lord's body and the Lord's blood. Eating the bread and drinking the cup is a testimony. Therefore, we must examine ourselves to see if we remember its spiritual significance; otherwise, it will become a ritual. Self-examination in this verse concerns whether or not we come to the Lord's table to remember the Lord. It does not ask us to turn inward to search for wrongs so that we can pursue after spiritual progress.
"Test yourselves whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5). This verse, even more than the first, does not tell us to examine our inward condition. This portion indicates something specific. At that time in Corinth, there were many who slandered Paul by saying that Paul was not an apostle. Therefore Paul asked them, "Examine yourselves, whether you have faith or not. If you have faith, then that is the proof of my being an apostle. If God had not called me to be the apostle to the Gentiles, then how could you be saved? God called me to preach the gospel to you, Corinthians. Your salvation proves that I am a true apostle. If you have no faith, then I am a false apostle." The self-examination mentioned here is not a self-examination during our pursuit of holiness. Rather, it is a particular case of a particular condition existing in Corinth—a self-examination of whether or not there was faith.
In the Old Testament in the Chinese Bible, there is at least one more place which mentions examining oneself. "Examine your ways" (Hag. 1:5, 7). First, please take notice that it does not say that you must consider yourselves; rather, it says that you must examine your ways. This is outward. Second, the word examine in the original language means "to consider." It says that you must consider your outward behavior. It does not say that you should examine your inward condition.
When we read the context of the three portions mentioned above, we should realize that they are not talking about introspection. Rather, they talk about the examination of a particular matter. Therefore, we have the confidence to conclude that the Bible does not teach Christians to examine themselves.
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