The Breaking of the Outer Man and Release of the Spirit

Author: Watchman Nee

[Image: The Breaking of the Outer Man and Release of the Spirit]

Every Christian who has believed into Christ and received Him has a desire to grow in Him. The greatest hindrances to the experience of the growth in life are not outward circumstances and environmental hardships; rather, they are a mind in need of renewing, a will in need of submission to God, and emotions in need of stability. In The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit Watchman Nee provides a clear picture of the need for the breaking of the outer man so that the life of Christ in our spirit can flow out as rivers of living water to refresh and build up the people of God. In a new and revised translation of this spiritual classic, Watchman Nee provides crucial insight into the biblical revelation of the necessity of the dividing of our soul from our spirit.

Physical Info: 0.26" H x 8.68" L x 5.54" W (0.33 lbs) Pages: 116
Carton Quantity: 120
Publisher: Living Stream Ministry
US SRP: 9.00 US
Pub Date: July 1997




Scripture Reading: John 12:24; Heb. 4:12-13; 1 Cor. 2:11-14; 2 Cor. 3:6; Rom. 1:9; 7:6; 8:4-8; Gal. 5:16, 22-23, 25

Sooner or later a servant of God discovers that he himself is the greatest frustration to his work. Sooner or later he finds that his outer man does not match his inner man. The inner man heads in one direction, while the outer man heads in another direction. He discovers that his outer man cannot be subject to the rule of the spirit and cannot walk according to God's highest demands. He discovers that the greatest hindrance to his work is his outer man and that this outer man frustrates him from exercising his spirit. Every servant of God should be able to exercise his spirit, to secure God's presence in his spirit, to know God's word through his spirit, to touch men's condition by his spirit, to convey God's word through his spirit, and to sense and receive divine revelation with his spirit. Yet the frustration of the outer man makes it impossible for him to use his spirit. Many servants of the Lord are fundamentally unfit for the Lord's work because they have never been dealt with by the Lord in a fundamental way. Without this dealing, they are basically unqualified for any work. All excitement, zeal, and earnest pleading is vain. This kind of fundamental dealing is the only way for us to become a useful vessel to the Lord.


Romans 7:22 says, "For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man." Our inner man delights in the law of God. Ephesians 3:16 also tells us "to be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner man." In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul also said, "Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." The Bible divides our being into the outer man and the inner man. God resides in the inner man, and the man outside this God-occupied inner man is the outer man. In other words, our spirit is the inner man, while the person that others contact is the outer man. Our inner man puts on our outer man like a garment. God has placed Himself, His Spirit, His life, and His power in us, that is, in our inner man. Outside of our inner man is our mind, emotion, and will. Outside of all these is our body, our flesh.

In order for a man to work for God, his inner man must be released. The fundamental problem with many servants of God is that their inner man cannot break out of their outer man. In order for the inner man to be released, it must break out of the outer man. We have to be clear that the first obstacle to our work is ourselves, not other things. If our inner man is an imprisoned, confined man, our spirit is shrouded and not easily released. If we have never learned to break through our outer man with our spirit, we cannot work for the Lord. Nothing frustrates us like the outer man. Whether or not our work will be effective depends on whether the Lord has broken down our outer man and whether the inner man can be released through our broken, outer man. This is a very fundamental issue. The Lord has to dismantle our outer man in order to make way for our inner man. As soon as the inner man is released, many sinners will be blessed and many Christians will receive grace.


In John 12:24 the Lord Jesus said, "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Life is in the grain. However, there is a shell outside of the grain, a very powerful shell. As long as this shell does not break open, the grain cannot grow. "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies." What is this death? It is the action of the temperature and moisture of the earth upon the grain which results in the breaking of the shell. When the shell breaks, the grain grows. Therefore, it is not a matter of whether or not the grain has life, but whether the outer shell is broken. The very next verse says, "He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life" (v. 25). According to the Lord the outer shell is our own life, and the inner life is the eternal life that He dispenses. In order for the inner life to be released, the outer life must suffer loss. If that which is outward is not broken, that which is inward cannot be released.

Among all the people in the world, some have the Lord's life within them. Among those who have the Lord's life, we find two different kinds of conditions. With the first, the life is bound, surrounded, and locked up. With the second, the Lord has opened up a way and the life can be released. The problem with us today is not how we can have life, but how we can allow this life to flow out of us. When we say that the Lord has to break us, this is not a figure of speech or a doctrine. Our very being has to be broken by the Lord. The Lord's life is well able to spread over the whole earth. However, it is locked up within us! The Lord is well able to bless the church, yet His life is imprisoned, contained, and blocked in us! If the outer man is not broken, we can never become a blessing to the church, nor can we expect the world to receive God's grace through us!


The Bible speaks of ointment of pure nard (John 12:3). God's Word purposely uses the adjective pure. It is ointment of pure nard, something truly spiritual. Unless the alabaster flask is broken, however, the ointment of pure nard cannot be released. It is strange that many people appreciate the alabaster flask. They think that the flask is more precious than the ointment. Many people think that their outer man is more precious than their inner man. This is the problem facing the church today. We may treasure our own wisdom and think that we are quite superior. Another person may treasure his emotions and also think that he is quite outstanding. Many people treasure themselves; they think that they are much better than others. They think their eloquence, their ability, their discernment, and their judgment are better. But we are not antique collectors; we are not admirers of alabaster flasks. We are those who are after the aroma of the ointment. If the outer part is not broken, the inner part will not be released. We will have no way to go on, and the church will have no way to go on. We no longer should be so protective of ourselves.

The Holy Spirit has never stopped working. Many people can testify that this work has never stopped in them. They face one trial after another, encounter one incident after another. The Holy Spirit has only one goal in all of His disciplining work: To break and dismantle the outer man so that the inner man can break forth. But the trouble with us is that we murmur as soon as we suffer a little hardship, and we complain as soon as we suffer a little defeat. The Lord has prepared a way for us. He is ready to use us. As soon as His hand is upon us, however, we become unhappy. Either we argue with Him, or we complain about everything to Him. From the day we were saved, the Lord has been working on us in many different ways for the purpose of breaking the self. We may or may not know it, but the Lord's goal is always to break our outer man.

The treasure is in the earthen vessel. Who needs to see your earthen vessel? The church lacks the treasure, not the earthen vessels. The world lacks the treasure, not the earthen vessels. If the earthen vessel is not broken, who will find the treasure within? The Lord works in us in so many different ways for the purpose of breaking the earthen vessel, the alabaster flask, the outer shell. The Lord wants to prepare a way to bring His blessing to the world through those who belong to Him. This is a way of blessing, but it is also a way stained with blood. Blood must be shed, and wounds are unavoidable. How crucial the breaking of this outer man is! Unless the outer man is broken, there cannot be any spiritual work. If we are consecrated to the Lord for His service, we have to be prepared to be broken by Him. We cannot excuse ourselves or preserve ourselves. We have to allow the Lord to break our outer man completely so that He can have a free way through us.

We all have to find out God's intention for us. It is unfortunate that many people do not know what the Lord is doing in them or what the Lord intends for them. May every one of us know the Lord's intention for us. When the Lord opens our eyes, we will see that everything that has happened to us throughout our lives is meaningful. The Lord never does anything in vain. After we realize that the Lord's goal is to break our outer man, we will realize that everything that has happened to us is significant. The Lord is trying to achieve one goal: To break and dismantle our outer man.

The trouble with many is that before the Lord is able to move even a finger, they show signs of displeasure already. We must realize that all the experiences, difficulties, and trials from the Lord are for our highest good. We cannot ask for anything better; they are the best. If anyone goes to the Lord and says, "Lord, please let me choose the best," I believe the Lord will tell him, "I have given you the best. What you are facing every day is for your highest good." The Lord has arranged everything for us for the purpose of breaking our outer man. We can put our spirit to full use only as our outer man is broken and our spirit is released.


The Lord breaks our outer man in two ways. First, He breaks it in a cumulative way, and second, He breaks it in a sudden way. The Lord gives some people a sudden breaking first, followed by more gradual breakings; the sudden work comes first and the cumulative work follows. Other people face situations and problems every day. Then one day, they suddenly receive one great blow from the Lord; the cumulative work comes first and the sudden work follows. These are different patterns of breaking that we ordinarily experience. Either the sudden breaking comes, followed by the cumulative breaking, or it is the other way around. Generally speaking, even with those who have not deviated and detoured, the Lord has to spend a few years before He can complete this breaking work.

We cannot reduce the time this breaking takes, but we can extend this time. The Lord completes the work in some in a few years. However, with others, the work is not completed after ten or twenty years. This is a very solemn matter! Nothing is more pitiful than wasting God's time. Too often the church is deprived of blessing because of us! We can preach with our mind and incite people with our emotion, but we cannot exercise our spirit. God cannot use His Spirit to touch others through us. When we delay the work, we incur great loss.

If we have never consecrated ourselves to the Lord in a thorough way in the past, we have to do it now. We have to say, "Lord, for the sake of the church, for the going on of the gospel, for You to have a way, and for the sake of my going on in my own life, I commit myself unreservedly and unconditionally to Your hand. Lord, I gladly put myself in Your hand. I am willing to let You find a way to release Yourself through me."


We have heard about the cross for a long time. We may be very familiar with it already, but what is the cross? The meaning of the cross is the breaking of the outer man. The cross puts the outer man to death and breaks open the shell. The cross destroys everything of the outer man. It destroys our opinions, methods, wisdom, self-love, and everything. Once the outer man is broken, the inner man is released, and the spirit is able to function. The way before us is very clear indeed.

Once our outer man is broken, it becomes easy to release our spirit. One brother has a good mind; those who know him all acknowledge this. His will is strong and his emotions are reserved and deep. Yet when others meet him, they realize that they are touching his spirit, not his strong will, good mind, or reserved and deep emotions. Every time others fellowship with him, they touch a spirit, a pure spirit because this man is broken. Another sister is quick. Everyone who knows her realizes this. She is quick in thoughts, quick in words, quick to confess, quick to write, and quick to throw away what she has written. But when others meet her, they do not touch her quickness but her spirit. Her very person has been broken. The breaking of the outer man is a very fundamental issue. We cannot hold on to our weaknesses all the time. We cannot have the same flavor after the Lord has dealt with us for five or ten years. We must allow the Lord to have a way through us. This is the Lord's basic requirement of us.


Why do so many people remain unchanged after being dealt with for years? Others have a strong will, strong emotions, or a strong mind, yet the Lord can still break them. There are two main reasons that many people are not broken in spite of the passing of years.

First, these ones are living in darkness. They do not see God's hand. God is working and breaking, yet they do not know that God is doing the work. They are short of light, and they are not living in the light. They only see men, thinking that men are opposing them. Or they only see the environment, complaining that it is too harsh. They put all the blame on the environment. May the Lord grant us the revelation to see God's hand. May we kneel down and say, "This is You. This is You. I accept it." At a minimum we have to know whose hand is dealing with us. At a minimum we have to know that hand and see that it is not the world, our family, or the brothers and sisters in the church who are dealing with us. We have to see God's hand. God is the One who is dealing with us. We have to learn from Madam Guyon, who would kiss such a hand and treasure such a hand. We must have this light. We have to accept and believe everything that the Lord has done. He can never be wrong in what He does.

Second, a person is not broken because he loves himself too much. Self-love is a great obstacle to breaking. We have to ask God to remove all self-love from us. When God plucks this self-love from us, we have to worship Him, saying, "Lord! If this is Your hand, I accept it from my heart." We have to remember that all misunderstandings, complaints, and dissatisfactions arise from only one thing-secret self-love. Because we love ourselves secretly, we try to save ourselves. This is a big problem. Many times problems arise because we try to save ourselves.

Those who know the Lord go to the cross without taking the vinegar mingled with gall! Many go to the cross reluctantly. They try to taste the vinegar mingled with gall in an attempt to relieve their feelings. Those who say, "The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?", will not take a cup that is filled with vinegar mingled with gall. They only take one cup, not both cups. These ones do not have any self-love in them. Self-love is the root of our problem. May the Lord speak within us today, and may we pray, "My God! I now see that everything comes from You. My experiences of the past five, ten, or twenty years have all come from You. All of these things were done with only one purpose in mind-that Your life would be expressed through me. I have been foolish. I did not see this. Through self-love I have done many things to save myself, and I have wasted much of Your time. Today I see Your hand, and I willingly consecrate myself to You. I commit myself to Your hand once again."


No person expresses more charm than one who has passed through such a breaking process. A stubborn and self-loving person becomes charming after he is broken by God. Consider Jacob in the Old Testament. He wrestled with his brother from the time they were in their mother's womb. He was a naughty, cunning, and conniving person. Yet he went through many sufferings throughout his lifetime. In his youth he ran away from home and was cheated by Laban for twenty years. His beloved wife Rachel died on the way home, and his cherished son Joseph was sold. Many years later Benjamin was detained in Egypt. Jacob was dealt with by God again and again, and he met with numerous misfortunes. He was smitten by God time after time. Jacob's history is a history of God's smiting. After repeated dealings by God, he changed. During his final years, he became a truly transparent person. How dignified he was in Egypt when he stood before Pharaoh and spoke to him! At his deathbed he worshipped God leaning on his staff. How beautiful this picture is! How clear his blessing to his children and grandchildren was! In reading the last part of his history, we cannot help but bow down and worship God. Here was a matured person, one who knew God. After being dealt with for decades, Jacob's outward man was broken. In his old age we see a beautiful picture. All of us have something of Jacob in us. Perhaps more than a little! Hopefully the Lord will find a way through us. May our outer man be broken to such an extent that the inner man can be released and expressed. This is precious, and this is the way of the servants of the Lord. We can only serve when we have reached this point, and we can only lead others to the Lord and to the knowledge of God when we have reached this point. Nothing else will work. Doctrines and theology will not work. Mere Bible knowledge will not profit us. The only thing that is useful is for God to come out of us.

When our outer man is smitten, dealt with, and humbled by all kinds of misfortune, the scars and wounds that are left behind will be the very places from which the spirit flows out from within. I am afraid that some brothers and sisters are too whole; they have never suffered any dealings and have never changed in any way. May the Lord be merciful to us and set a straight course before us. May we see that this is the only way. May we see that all of the dealings that we have received from the Lord during the past ten or twenty years are for achieving this one goal. Therefore, we should not despise the Lord's work in us. May the Lord truly show us the meaning of the breaking of the outer man. Unless the outer man is broken, everything we have is in the mind and in the realm of knowledge and is useless. May the Lord grant us a thorough dealing.

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The Breaking of the Outer Man and Release of the Spirit
Author: Watchman Nee




isbn - 10 

9781575939551 Paperback 157593955X $ 7.95
Fernando Segovia & Mary Tolbert







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