Can Christians Become More Spiritual By Suppressing Their Emotions? (Watchman Nee)

Can Christians become more spiritual by suppressing their emotions? Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, addressed this question in his book, The Spiritual Man.

As to the matter of soul, I honestly feel most Christians swing from one extreme to the other. We on the one hand usually consider emotion as soulish; consequently those who are easily moved or excited we normally categorize as soulish. On the other hand we forget that being rational does not at all constitute one as being spiritual. This misjudgment of spiritualizing a rational life must be guarded against equally as much as against that of mistaking a predominantly emotional life for spirituality. Proceeding one step further, we should never reduce the function of our soul to deadly inactivity. Formerly we may never have viewed our soulish feeling and excitement with any degree of concern and thus we walked accordingly. Later, however, and recognizing our former error, we now suppress these emotions altogether. Such an attitude to us may appear to be quite good, but it will not make us a whit more spiritual. If my reader should misunderstand on this point, and no matter how minor may be this misunderstanding, then I know his life is going to become very “dead.” Why? Because his spirit, without any opportunity to express itself; will be imprisoned by a deadened emotion. And beyond this lies a further danger; namely, that in overly-suppressing his emotion, the believer will develop eventually into a rational, not a spiritual, man; and thus, though in another form, he still remains soulish. Yet the excitement of the soul, if it expresses the spirit’s feeling, is extremely valuable; and the thought of the soul, if it reveals the spirit’s mind, can be most instructive.

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Undisciplined Lives Can Provide Access for Demonic Invasion (Frank Hammond)

Some Christians complain of demonic harassment, even though they may have been attending church for a long time. According to the late Christian author and deliverance minister Frank Hammond, one reason could be an undisciplined life. Hammond elaborates on this in his book “Demons and Deliverance In The Ministry Of Jesus”:

Over and over we have discovered that undisciplined lives provide access for demon invasion. Therefore, if one expects to close the door to demons and live above the Old Serpent’s fangs, he must strictly discipline every area of his life.

Undisciplined thought life can be the seed-bed for demonic infestation. When a man is born again his mind is not instantly renewed. Paul exhorted the Christians at Rome, “Be not fashioned according to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind … ” (Romans 12:2). The renewing of the mind comes through programming the mind by the Word of God. Having “this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” is a daily disciplinary process.

Many Christians live defeated, discontent, depressed and discouraged lives simply because their minds are filled with garbage fed to them by the devil. One of the greatest discoveries a believer can make is that he has power over his thought life. He can choose what not to think upon and what to think upon. What is the focus of a proper thought life?

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true … honourable .. .just…pure .. .lovely … of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise. THINK ON THESE THINGS. Philippians 4:8 (Emphasis mine)

The above verse prescribes the choice of godly, edifying thoughts. If the thoughts which fill one’s mind lead down a path of fear, depression, filth, unbelief and things contrary to God’s Word, then one must activate his will and turn his mind-switch to “reject”. Peace of mind is only a few days of self-discipline away. The choice of thoughts is ours!

The battle for the mind is a strategic battle.

Unless the battle in the mind is won, problems of the thought life will filter into the emotions and volition. For example, an unchecked thought of resentment can soon lead to feelings of bitterness and acts of retaliation. Through a lack of discipline Satan is able to build strongholds in our minds which can only be brought down by using “the weapons of our warfare .. . mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Second, the emotions also require discipline. Most of us can readily identify with the Psalmist as he takes us on an emotional roll-a-coaster from the heights of “oh clap your hands, all ye peoples; Shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1) to the depths of “Our soul is bowed down to the dust: Our body cleaveth unto the earth” (Psalm 44:25).

The Pslamist knew that emotional excesses were not of God because they hindered his praise and ministry to the Lord. Therefore, he dealt harshly with his soulish man: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, The help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 43:5 NAS).

Disciplined emotions are healthy emotions; channels through which we express praise, worship, love and joy. Undisciplined emotions are channels filled with the darkness of jealousy, hatred, anger, fear, hopelessness, self-pity and depression.

Third, the human will must be disciplined. At one end of the spectrum the will is flabby and passive, while at the opposite extreme it is rebellious and obstinate. Rebellion is a steep, downward path into the snake pit. Passivity creates a greased slide into the waiting arms of the devil. But, the human will that is compliant to God’s will discovers fellowship with God and victory over the adversary.

Be subject therefore to God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

A fourth priority of disciplined living is the bridling of the tongue.

Every spoken word goes forth in ministry.

Our words either tear down or build up. Truly, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:2).

Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. (James 3:5b-6 NIV)

When the tongue is set on fire by hell it spews forth destructive words which serve the devil’s purposes. The undisciplined tongue keeps a person knee-deep in serpents!

A fifth arena of disciplinary warfare is with the appetites of the flesh. Unrestrained lusts for food, drink and sex have brought many a person to ruin. Paul realized that his years of faithful service to God were no guarantee of continued victory. He must daily guard against disgraceful failure: “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27 NIV).

The highest motivation for curbing sensual appetites and glorifying God in one’s body is the continuous confession that one’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.