The building up of the church depends on the shutting of the gates of Hades through the exercise of the three keys, the first of which is denying the self; the self is nothing else but the embodiment of Satan – the self is one with Satan and is expressed through our opinionated mind.
Matthew 16 puts the church and the kingdom together, and in this chapter we see the way to build up the church, what the enemy of the church is, and how can we deal with the enemy so that the church may be built up and the kingdom of God would come on.
Christ and the revelation of Christ is the rock on which the church is built, and the believers as transformed persons are the stones which compose God’s building and are built up together in the church. We need to see a vision of Christ, the Son of the living God; as the Christ, He is the One anointed and appointed by the Father to produce and build up the church, and as the Son of the living God He is the very element with which the church is built.
However, when Christ builds up the church, Satan opposes through what the Lord calls, “the gates of Hades”. We shouldn’t expect that the building up of the church to be God’s kingdom would go smoothly, but we should be aware of the attack of the enemy through the gates of Hades.
At the same time, however, we need to realize that our Lord Jesus has passed through death and entered into resurrection – He has overcome death, He took the keys of death, and He now is in resurrection, where He produced the church and He is building up the church.
The church is an entity in resurrection, and we as believers in Christ and members of the Body of Christ need to experience Christ in His death and resurrection to build up the church. The church exists and is built up only in the realm of resurrection through crucifixion, for the church is an entity completely in resurrection.
However, many times we are like Peter, having a good heart for the Lord and the saints, and Satan uses our mind and opinions as “the gates of Hades” to bring death into the church. The self, the mind, and the soul-life are the main gates through which Satan comes forth to attack and damage the church.
We need to learn to use the keys of denying the self, taking up the cross, and losing the soul-life, to close the gates of Hades and release the building up of the church.
Learning to Exercise the Key of Denying the Self to Shut up the Gates of Hades
The Lord Jesus promised more than 2000 years ago that He will build His church (Matt. 16:18); since He spoke this, how much was the church built up? The whole situation in Christianity is filled with contention, division, and fighting.
By the Lord’s mercy we are in His recovery, apart from any denomination, endeavoring to keep the oneness of the Body and build up the church; in the church life today we are also challenged by the gates of Hades, and we should always be on the alert and exercise the keys to shut these doors.
We should not assume that we are the builded church and we will be the bride; rather, we need to exercise and learn to use the key of denying the self. In living the kingdom life in the church life we need to exercise they key of denying the self to shut up the gates of Hades and release the building up of the church as the kingdom of God.
The main reason the church has not been built up for these past 2000 years is not because of outward influence or persecution; it was not Judaism or Gnosticism that hindered that much the building, neither was it persecution – it was the self.
Martin Luther once said that although he was afraid of the pope, he was more afraid of the stronger pope, the self, within his own heart. Nothing damages and frustrates the building up of the church more than the self. Self is the embodiment of the soul, which is expressed through the mind. Thus the self, the soul, and the mind are three-in-one. Behind these three is Satan, who manipulates the self in order to damage the church life. We all need to heed this word for ourselves. (Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1978, vol. 1, p. 71)
The church has not been built up for all these years because the children of God preserve themselves; they do not deny the self but even promote the self. As long as the self is here, there’s no possibility of the Body to be built up, for the self and the Body stand in opposition.
Where the self is, the Body cannot exist, and if we want to build up the Body, the self needs to be denied. What is the self, why is it in opposition to the Body of Christ, and how can we deny the self?
Due to the fall of man, all the three parts of man were affected and poisoned: the body of man was transmuted to become the flesh (full of lusts, sin, and death), the soul of man was corrupted to become the self (the embodiment of Satan, man declaring independence from God), and the spirit of man was deadened (rendered without function).
God didn’t create the flesh: He created a perfect, beautiful, body for man to bear the image of God, but due to man’s fall, the body of man became the flesh, filled with all kinds of lusts, passions, sins, and death.
God didn’t create the self – He breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul; however, due to man’s fall, the satanic mind entered into man’s soul and the soul became the self.
We need to see what the self is, realize how much it stands in opposition to God’s building, and learn to exercise the key of denying the self to build up the church as the Body of Christ.
Lord Jesus, we want to learn to exercise the key of denying the self to shut up the gates of Hades and release the building up of the church. Oh Lord, shine on us and show us what the self really is and how much it stands in opposition to the building up of the church! Cause us to see the self as You see it so that we may hate it, repudiate it, deny it, and thus contribute to the building up the church. May we aware of what the self is, be in fear to live in the self, and deny the self so that we may live Christ for the building up of the church!
The Self is the Embodiment of Satan, Expressed through the Mind with its Opinions
In Gen. 3:1-6 we see the story of man’s fall; Adam and Eve were very smart and intelligent when they were created by God, but at the same time they were very simple. Satan came to Eve in the form of a serpent, and he approached her to inject his thought into her mind.
This was a three-step-injection: first he asked a question, then he denied, and finally he reasoned. First Satan asked, Did God really say that you can eat of all trees in the garden except this one? Then he denied God and His word by saying, You shall not surely die! – he denied God’s word, after raising a question.
Then he said, God knows that, when you eat of this tree, you will be like God, your eyes will be opened… – he reasoned and injected his thought into Eve’s mind, causing her mind to become the self because of his poison.
Before Eve took the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil into her body, the thought, the mind of Satan was injected into her soul. Before she physically took of the tree, her thought was already poisoned.
Then, her emotion was aroused, and her will was exercised to make a decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. By this time every part of her soul – the mind, the emotion, and the will – had already been poisoned.
This is how the self was produced: Satan injected his thought into our mind and corrupted our mind, thus producing the self.
As seen in the Lord’s word in Matt. 16 to Peter, who expressed such a good feeling for the Lord not to die, the self is the embodiment of the soul-life, which is expressed through the mind.
Whenever our mind is not set on the things of God, when our mind is not set on our spirit, our fallen soul is one with Satan, and we can become a gate of Hades for Satan to be expressed and bring in death.
When Peter spoke of his mind and feeling not set on God’s things, the Lord identified the source immediately: Get behind Me, Satan (Matt. 16:23)! At that time Peter was in the self, in his soulish life, so he was one with Satan and even became the embodiment of Satan.
The self is the embodiment of Satan, and the self expresses itself through the mind with its opinions. When we set our mind on our spirit, minding the things of the Spirit and setting our mind on the things above, our mind becomes life and peace, and our whole being is filled with life (Rom. 8:6).
But when our mind is not set on the things of God, our self becomes a gate of Hades for Satan to express his opinions and feelings, thus bringing in death into the church life.
The self is the embodiment of the soul-life, which is expressed through the mind with its opinions; thus, the self, the soul-life, and the mind, are three-in-one – they are an “evil trinity” in our being. We need to love our Triune God – the Divine Trinity – and hate this evil trinity, for behind all these three is Satan, who manipulates the self in order to damage the church.
Lord Jesus, do shine on us and expose the self as the embodiment of Satan expressed through the mind with its opinions. Save us from questionings and reasonings, and keep us turning to our spirit to set our mind on our spirit. Amen, Lord, we choose to set our mind on the things above, not on the things on the earth. We set our mind on our mingled spirit to enjoy and receive life and peace. Save us from being Satan’s instrument, those manipulated by him to bring in death into the church. Fill us with life, keep us enjoying You as life, and keep us living by the divine life in the church life for the building up of the church!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother James L. for this week, and portions from, Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1978, vol. 1, “The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building of the Church,” ch. 2, as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Direction of the Lord’s Move (2016 Thanksgiving Conference), msg. 6 (week 6), To Bring In the Kingdom of God (2) – The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building Up of the Church.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Exercise the spirit! / Soulish life deny; / Helping one another, / On the Lord rely. / Freed within the spirit / From self-righteousness, / From self-condemnation / And self-consciousness. (Hymns #866)
# By the cross discern the spirit, / Put the soul to death alway; / Bear the cross, deny the self-life, / Walk in spirit day by day. (Hymns #748)
# Lord, teach us to discern the spirit / That subtle self exposed might be, / That by the cross to it applying / We’ll live not by ourselves but Thee. (Hymns #746)