Brief Notes

God Gives
the Growth (9):
Dealing with
the Old Man,
the Flesh
and the Self

16 April 2024

Only when we present
ourselves fully to Christ
can we deal with all
that frustrates our
union with Him

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
— 1 Corinthians 3:6

After Ruth offered herself to Boaz, he did not claim her as his wife right away. Instead, he told her,

“Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning.”
— Ruth 3:12-13

If Ruth’s history is a picture of our consecration to Christ, then what does this “close relative” represent? Who could be closer to us than Christ, even after we have known the Lord for some time?

This can only refer to our “old man,” which is expressed through our flesh and our self-life. As we all know, while this old man has in reality already been crucified with Christ (R0m. 6:6), even after we are saved, he still struggles to “claim possession” of us, so to speak, like the close relative in the book of Ruth, through our flesh and our self-life. These things often frustrate our following of Christ, and really do come between us and the Lord.

And of course, we will not be free from them so long as we live in these fleshly bodies. A basic turn, however, takes place when we fully offer ourselves to Christ. Before that time, we will never be able to deal with the flesh and the self as we should, because we will not be able to draw upon the indwelling Christ as our resource when we have to confront them. But when we have really given ourselves to the Lord, then through the cross and by the Spirit we can deal with these negative things in our being.

In other words, the “root,” which is the old man, must be dealt with first; only then can the “fruit,” which is the flesh and the self life, be taken care of.

In this regard, for many years I have appreciated the statement below from Witness Lee, and found it quite convicting. He is referring to 2 Corinthians 2:14, in which Paul speaks of himself as a captive of Christ. He is saying that, like Paul, we also need to become such captives, so that we may also be led in the triumph of the Christ:

Day by day there are many struggles, not between you and the world, but between you and the Lord. Day by day there are many battles, not between you and sins, but between you and the Lord. Do not focus on the world or sins, but take care of the battle between you and the Lord. If you would only be willing to be defeated by the Lord, all the world and all the sins would be under your feet.
Why are you defeated by the world? Because you defeated Christ. Why are you defeated by any besetting sin? Because you are defeating Christ all the time. I hope you would concentrate your prayer on this one thing – “Lord, make me Your captive. Never let me win. Defeat me all the time.” After praying in this way, you will see what will happen to you.
All the self will, self desire, self emotion, self thoughts, and so many things of the self are still existing with you, and day by day, hour after hour, Christ has been defeated by you. This is the problem.
— Witness Lee,
An Autobiography of a Person in the Spirit, page 27

When we still hold on to our life, by living as we feel best, then, even though in a sense we may be pursuing Christ, we are, practically speaking, living in the old man. If this is our situation, the flesh and the self-life will necessarily gain the victory over us. If, however, our old man is defeated by Christ to the extent that we become His captive, then we will gain the victory in Him.

And that is why the dealing with the “close relative” in the book of Ruth takes place only after Ruth has offered herself fully to Boaz. Only then could Boaz deal with him, and in the same way, it is only when we fully present ourselves to Christ, so that we give up our own life, our old man, that we will be able, as those who are in Christ, to deal with the flesh and the self in our being, and all the things that seek to prevent us from being fully joined to Christ in every way.

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— 16 April 2024 —