As those who want to cooperate with the Lord and be one with Him in the direction of His move on earth today, we need to exercise the keys of denying the self, taking up the cross, and losing the soul-life, so that we may close the gates of Hades and live a life for the building up of the church, the kingdom of God on earth.
The Lord Jesus, the heavenly King who came in to bring in the kingdom of God, has come into us as the seed of the kingdom, and as believers in Christ today we are citizens of the kingdom of God, learning to live the kingdom life in the church life.
As we live the kingdom life in the church life, we need to exercise to practice the three keys given to us by the Lord to lock the gates of Hades for the building up of the church: we need to deny the self, take up and bear the cross, and lose the soul-life.
First, we need to see what the self is; the self is the soul declaring independence from God, the soul doing things and saying things apart from God. The origin of the self is Satan injecting his evil nature into man, and the self today is the embodiment of Satan.
Whenever we live in the self – which, sadly to say, is most of the time for most of the believers – we open the gate of Hades for death to operate in the church.
We may do many good things for the Lord and in the church life, but if we don’t depend on the Lord, we are in the self. We need to exercise the key of denying the self to lock up the self and build up the church.
If we exercise to depend on the Lord and on the saints in the Body, the self will be denied, and our living and being will be for the building up of the church.
What does it mean to take up the cross, and what is the cross in a practical way? To take up the cross means to take up the will of God willingly, for the cross is God’s will. We shouldn’t be complaining believers, those who complain of how much we suffer under the cross; rather, we should gladly pick up the cross (the will of God) and follow the Lord.
Our spouse, children, and the saints in the church life are God’s will for us; we need to take up the cross, carry our cross, and remain on the cross, keeping our old man under the termination of the cross daily. This is to exercise the key of taking up the cross for the building up of the church.
Learning to Exercise the Key of Losing the Soul-Life, the Enjoyment of the Soul in this Age
The Lord Jesus said that, if we want to follow Him, we need to learn to exercise the key of losing the soul-life (Matt. 16:25).
What does it mean to lose the soul, or to lose the soul-life? Does it mean that we need to “let go of our mind, emotion, and will” and thus live as mindless, emotionless, and will-less people?
No, the Lord doesn’t tell us to give up the faculties of our soul (our mind, emotion, and will), but the life of the soul, particularly the desire for pleasure and enjoyment. Losing the soul-life doesn’t mean that we don’t have to study anymore and that we shouldn’t have any feelings toward others; rather, the more we lose our soul, the more we are full of feelings for the saints and the more our mind is renewed.
To save the soul-life is to please the self by allowing the soul to have its enjoyment; to lose the soul-life is to lose the enjoyment of the soul in this age so that we may gain it in the next.
God created us as tripartite beings, and our soul in particular needs enjoyment and pleasure; this is why God placed man in the garden of Eden, which translated is, Pleasure. God knows that man as a soul needs a proper enjoyment to sustain him.
However, after the fall of man, the enjoyment of man has become mixed, defiled, and even sinful; a lot of what the world calls “pleasure” and enjoyment, all the entertainment, is not pure, and it doesn’t help us to gain the Lord – rather, these pleasures are channels for Satan to come in and defile us.
Therefore, today we need to lose our soul life, that is, let go the enjoyment of the soul in this age. Receiving God into our spirit and expressing God through our soul should be our joy and amusement (see Neh. 8:10; Rom. 14:17).
The Lord Jesus took the lead in this: He lost the enjoyment of His soul in this age so that He might find His soul-life in the coming age (see John 10:11; Isa. 53:12); we today must do the same (John 12:24-26). Because of the joy set before Him – the enjoyment in the coming age – the Lord endured the cross and the shame.
We need to realize that today is not the time for us to entertain and indulge in the pleasures of the soul. Today is the day of the suffering in the soul, learning to lose our soul life; it is in the next age, the kingdom age, that we will have the super-enjoyment in the soul.
We want to gain our soul in that age! If we lose our soul today, we will gain it in that day; if we preserve it today, we will lose it in that day.
The Lord told us that, if we save our soul-life in this age, even if we gain the whole world, we will lose it in the next age; but if we lose our soul-life for His sake in this age, we will find it in the coming age (Matt. 16:25).
Lord Jesus, we want to learn to exercise the key of losing the soul-life, the enjoyment of the soul, in this age so that we may gain it in the next age. Lord, we want to just enjoy You, be filled with You, and allow You to be expressed through our soul. Show us and impress all the saints that the enjoyment and pleasures in this age are impure, defiling, and evil. May we learn day by day to lose our soul-life, the enjoyment and pleasure in the soul, for Your sake, so that we may gain it at Your return in the next age!
Being Willing to Lose our Present Soulish Enjoyment so that Others may be Nourished and Built Up
Again and again the Lord Jesus told us – and the apostles lived it out – that we need to love Him and hate and deny our soul-life, not loving our soul-life even unto death (see 1 Cor. 16:22; 2:9; Luke 14:26; 9:23; Rev. 12:11).
We need to remember that today is not the day for our enjoyment in the soul: next age is the age of enjoyment! Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have no enjoyment and we choose to be miserable “for the Lord”; we delight ourselves in the Lord and in His word, and we enjoy Him with the saints; in the church life we have the best and highest amusement, the purest entertainment, and it is here that we enjoy the Lord with the saints in a pure way.
Even more, if we are willing to lose our present soulish enjoyment for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of all the saints, others will be nourished by us and will be built up through us; this is not a suffering but a joy.
This is confirmed by the Lord’s experience, the apostles’ experience and our experience: if we are willing to lose our soul in a practical way, others will be nourished by us and will be built up in the church through us.
Losing the soul life is a basic factor in our being built up together. It’s not only a matter of denying the self or of bearing the cross, but of losing the soul life. We all need to learn to lose our soul life for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of all the saints.
If you are willing to lose your soul-life for the sake of others, those with you will be enlightened, nourished, and filled. This is the way the church is built. If all the saints are willing to lose the soul, what a wonderful situation there will be among us. There will be no offenses and even no need for forgiveness. If we are like this, we shall be rewarded with a prevailing transfiguration. Witness Lee, The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building of the Church, p. 105
If we are willing to lose our soul-life, the present enjoyment in the soul, for the Lord’s sake, our soul will be transformed, and we will save our soul at the Lord’s return. If we lose our soul life now for the Lord’s sake, we will save it, and it will be saved – or gained – at the Lord’s coming back (see 1 Pet. 1:9; Heb. 10:35).
We already have the salvation of our spirit when the Lord regenerated us, but our soul still needs to be saved; if we lose our soul today, we will be gaining it, we will be saving it, in the next age.
We want to enter into the joy of our Master by doing business for Him for the increase of His kingdom on earth today. The kingdom reward of sharing the King’s joy in ruling over the earth in the manifestation of the kingdom depends upon whether we save our soul life in this age or we lose it (Matt. 16:25-28; 25:21, 23).
When the Lord returns, some believers will enter into the joy of the Lord, and some will suffer in weeping and gnashing of teeth; to enter into the Lord’s joy is the salvation of our souls (Matt. 24:45-46).
If we do not deny the self, take up the cross, and lose the soul-life in this age, when the Lord returns we will not enter into His joy but rather we will be disciplined for 1000 years, so that we may be matured to be one with Him in the New Jerusalem. Oh Lord Jesus!
May we be those who learn to exercise the three keys of denying the self, bearing the cross, and losing the soul-life, so that we may lock up the gates of Hades, giving Satan no room to come out, so that the building of the church can be realized, and the kingdom would be brought in, and this age can be consummated.
Lord Jesus, make us willing to lose our present soulish enjoyment for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of all the saints, so that others may be nourished by us and be built up through us! Amen, Lord, may we be those who lose our soul-life now for the Lord’s sake so that we will save our soul and have it gained at the Lord’s coming back! Oh Lord, grant us to be Your faithful and useful slaves who enter into Your joy at Your return, enjoying the salvation of our souls!
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. 4, 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. (Hymns #866)
# Our soul gained for the kingdom’s age— / For this we lose our soul life here; / If we lay down our soul life now, / We’ll save it for Christ’s kingdom there. / We all must learn to pay the price, / Christ must be worked into our soul; / ’Tis thus our soul is gained by Him, / This is our aim and this our goal. (Hymns #1298)
# Lord, teach us to discern the spirit, / The soul-life ever to deny, / And ever follow Thee in spirit, / Thyself, the Spirit, to apply. (Hymns #746)