Book Review: Watchman Nee – The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit

Hello Friends,

Today I’m doing a review of a book that has radically transformed my life. I wasn’t looking for this book, it kind of found me which felt divinely orchestrated. I received this book as a gift from a friend about 8 years ago. When I first read this book, I was fairly still a baby Christian and most of the things in the book went by me. But I read it cover to cover.

Incidentally, at the same time, I entered a season where it felt as if God was determined to kill me. It was so difficult but because I had read this book I somewhat had an idea of what His intentions were.

God has to be ruthless with the things in us that hinder Him, most Christians don’t quite understand this. If God is dealing with you, you are in good company. If whatever is hindering God isn’t removed, God can never take us where He needs to.

I recently picked up this book again, and I cannot tell you what it has reawakened in me.

Watchman Nee in this classic book takes us step by step on what it means to die to the flesh so that the Holy Spirit can have way in our life.

Here are some excerpts:

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.”

He begins with this verse which implies the process of us dying in order for our lives to be fruitful unto God. When we come to Christ we say all sorts of things. We declare He has our lives, We vow we will go anywhere He sends us. We promise to obey Him in all things. As new believers, we are set on being pleasing to the Lord. However, we quickly discover that it is one thing to say these things and another to actually do them.

We realize that whatever God is calling us to, requires death, and our flesh isn’t quite ready to die yet. This is where most believers get stuck. We refuse to submit to God in the things designed to do away with our flesh and therefore never get out of the realm of the flesh into being led and walking in the Spirit.

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.”

The outer man here refers to our flesh which is our soul ( will, mind, and emotion). The inner man refers to our spirit man, (which is often the realm through which God finds expression in us). God can never operate in the flesh, so it’s either the flesh dies, or God never has a way in and through us.

This is how most of us respond to God’s chastisement. We throw pity parties and feel sorry for ourselves. We thoroughly despise His discipline.

I remember in 2015 going through a season where I found myself telling God, I was no longer going to “kick and scream” my way out of difficult seasons. I was going to trust and wait until He removed/promoted me from any circumstance He placed me into. Prior to this, I was determined to remove myself from every uncomfortable situation I found myself in. I was also a crybaby. I realized I was either going to remain a spiritual baby or I was going to grow up and submit to God’s process of breaking me. I never kicked and screamed out of a circumstance again. I chose, still choosing to trust Him. Now looking back I’m so glad I did because I can see the fruit flowing out of my life from those seasons.

“There are two main reasons many people are not broken despite 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. 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.”

He discusses two groups of people who God cannot access or break. One, there are those who never see God’s work in their life, they remain ignorant of his dealings and therefore cannot benefit from it. When this happens continually, God has to let us be.

The second is the self-love group. Self-love can get in the way of God’s work in us. We can never deal with the flesh because we love ourselves too much. Scripture speaks of killing the flesh, putting away the deeds of the flesh( sounds brutal!). We cannot be able to do this if we love ourselves a little too much. We like our unforgiveness, we like our gossip, we like our covetousness, we like our discontentment and grumbling. We sometimes like it too much that God cannot get rid of it. When this happens we become merely Christians without the power or fruit to reveal God in our lives.

“Our will is strong. It is not only strong; it is also stubborn. When our inner man needs the will, it cannot find it, because our will has been moving too independently and has too many things in its hands. God has to give us a heavy blow; He has to smash our will and humble us so much that we are forced to say, with our faces in the dust, “Lord, I dare not think. I dare not ask. I dare not decide. I need You in everything.” This does not mean that the will has to be annihilated. However, it does mean that the “things in the hands,” that is, in the will, have to be stripped so that the will no longer acts independently. “

We are naturally self-willed and stubborn. In the Bible, God often addressed the Israelites as stubborn and stiff-necked. This is also us, when we come to God we have no idea how strong-willed and stubborn we are. I’m a type A person, I’m also strong-willed, and my process for many years has consistently been God dealing with my strong will. He had to take me through some things that broke my desire to lead myself and always thinking I know what is best( some people are God’s counselors, they cannot receive instruction from God). I was this person. God has taken me through some things to make me soft and malleable in His hands… I’m not saying I have arrived, I’m still in the process but I know the work God has had to do in me to get me here.

“Everything that comes our way is meaningful and under God’s sovereign arrangement. Nothing accidental happens to a Christian. Nothing is outside God’s ordering. We have to humble ourselves under God’s sovereign arrangements. May the Lord open our eyes to see that God is arranging everything around us; He has a purpose in us. Through everything He is crushing us.”

Something changes in us, when we begin to see our circumstances as God’s sovereign arrangements to make us more like Him. We begin to see our lives in a new light. We become soft and compliant even in things we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves because we know He is doing something greater in us.

A man can learn the lessons of ten years in one year, or he can drag out the lessons of one year for twenty or thirty years. If a man delays his learning, he delays his service. It is impossible for those who have never experienced the discipline of the Holy Spirit and who have never been broken to participate in the service. The amount of discipline by the Spirit and the amount of our breaking determine the amount of service. No one can change this.”

This is the difference between those who submit and those who don’t. Some people can learn a ten-year lesson in less than a year because they are compliant and submitted. While others have been Christians their whole life and still going through the same situation over and over again. They just won’t learn.

God works this way, He can never graduate us until we learn the lessons we need to earn. Either we will learn and move on, or we will keep repeating the same test for years on end without getting it.

We want God to use us, but God can only use a man according to the level of dealings he submits to. If we want to do great things, we will be required to go through great difficulties to prepare us for the work. But If we complain and scream through every test and trial God will have to use us only a little.

“The discipline of the Holy Spirit must be added to our consecration before we can become useful vessels to the Lord. Without consecration, it often will be hard to go on with the discipline of the Holy Spirit. The discipline of the Holy Spirit is too crucial; it is a Christian’s main means of receiving grace throughout his life. Our reading of the Bible cannot replace the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Our prayer cannot replace the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Our meetings cannot replace the discipline of the Holy Spirit. No other means of grace can replace the discipline of the Holy Spirit.”

Watchman Nee emphasizes the importance of the discipline of the Lord. He says nothing else can replace it. Consecration cannot, reading the Bible cannot, and praying ten hours a day cannot. Nothing can replace the dealing of God in a man’s life. Sometimes we try to avoid going through difficulties by using spiritual disciplines. But we quickly learn, even though these things are important in essentially making us mature and spirit-led believers, nothing does the work quite like the discipline of the Lord.

All we have to do is pray and ask God to break us until our outer man( the flesh) is removed and the Holy Spirit has His way in our lives. When we have been broken, people can touch God through us- this is what it means to be broken. When we speak, teach, sing, or serve people can receive from God through us.

I believe this is must a read for every believer who wants to be used by God. It’s a discipleship book. It will bless your life.

Have you read this book or any other book by Watchman Nee? His books are classic reads, and you can never go wrong with a classic!

Let me know in the comment section below. Also, be sure to share with us what you are currently reading that is inspiring and blessing you, I’m always eager to know.

Have a Blessed weekend friends!

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Watchman Nee – The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit

  1. YES!! This is an amazingly powerful book!!! The first time I read it I remember saying, ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to have to read this again!’ There is such a wealth of insight and knowledge! He’s also written several other books that have changed my life: The Normal Chrtian Life and Spiritual Authority are two, but he has many out there. Thank you for your thoughtful review and for putting this book out there. More of our brothers and sisters should read it! 💯🔥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. M.Renee I felt the same way too, I had to read it again and again😀. Haven’t gotten to reading any other by him but adding your suggestions to my reading list this year😁

      It’s my pleasure, I want to share with others the tools that have helped me in my faith journey:) Blessings my sister🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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