Suppression Versus Expression

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The Consequence—an Expressed Life, Not a Suppressed One.   The consequence of having this life that wins is seen in an expressed, not a suppressed, life. Our so-called victories are always done through suppression. One old lady held in her temper whenever she met unpleasant things. Outwardly she wore a smiling face, but inwardly she was controlling her feelings with great difficulty. After living such a suppressed life for some time, she found the pressure within her had so built up that she began to spit blood. And why?  Simply because the problem had remained with her. Yet true victory in the Christian’s walk is an expressed life, not a suppressed one. An expressed life signifies a showing forth that which has already been obtained. It is what Philippians 2.12 intimates to us, when it declares for us to “work out [our] own salvation.” Previously we tried hard to cover ourselves; now we dare to express the victory of Christ in us. Formerly, the more suppressed the better; today, the more expressed the better. Since Christ lives in me, I want to express Him before the world.  (The Life that Wins, Watchman Nee)

Many years ago when reading the book by Watchman Nee, The Life That Wins, I had been taken up with these thoughts on the above quote and they  have stayed with me.  It represents two opposing Christian concepts upon which our faith is being built.  If one day you are strolling through a forest, and suddenly there are two magnificent trees standing before you; the one on the left is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the one on the right is the Tree of Life.  Eating of the fruit of either tree determines our Christian walk today, a long time since Adam and Eve had that choice in the Garden of Eden.   

To eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil builds its faith upon legalism for the first part and self-determination for the second part.  It consists of a religion based upon obedience to commandments and laws in which you know what you should or should not do, and that you make every effort, using all your “God-given abilities” not only to abstain from what is determined morally bad but also to do what is determined to be morally good.  This is the fruit of our labor.  We may also make self-interpretation of these commandments and laws as to the extent of their true meaning, even questioning, “Did God really mean that or can we assume He meant something lesser?”  


The Old Covenant is a religion based upon this very principle of eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…not with an evil intent, but yet wanting to maintain independence, determining for ourselves what we do, and how and when we do it.   Note the setting forth of this covenant in God’s command to Moses,

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”  Ex. 19.5-6

In this verse we see God demands and expects strict obedience to obey and keep His commandments for blessings, and the loss of those blessing, or even curses, for failure to obey.  If we stress obedience to commandments as our faith, we produce “legalism”—a religion based upon obedience and disobedience, doing good or doing badly according to a set of laws confined to a moral code of right and wrong.  Legalism is based upon the viewpoint that in order for God to maintain some resemblance of His righteousness in creation, His people must obey a set of laws that enforce His standards.

It is impossible for man, in his fallen nature, to be obedient to all the laws of man let alone all the commandments of God. More often than not I drive a little faster than the posted speed limit and frequently do not come to a complete stop at stop signs—both fineable traffic offences. As long as it is confession time, I have also found myself coming up short walking in the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Gal. 5. 22-23  These are offences of a different nature, but still offences of failing to abide by a higher moral code.   In the natural, man fears retribution of society’s legal system, and in faith he fears the loss of Godly blessing and possible curse of failure.  And so he learns to suppress his actions the best he can.

Suppression involves the deliberate inhibiting, to the best of our ability, unfavorable thoughts and behavior.  Suppression’s specific aim is to prevent the free flow of adverse thoughts and the physical displays in an attempt to conceal or act out a predetermined bad feeling.  There is a conscious intentional exclusion from our minds (consciousness) of a thought, or feeling, or the acting out impulsively bad behavior.   Sorry to say, this is the basis of most all religions in the world, including “religious” Christianity.  

Recall that man is a trinity of body, spirit, and soul; the three acting not separately or independently, but in union as one, each part interdependent on one another.  An adverse condition in one part, for instance the body, can affect an emotion in the soul, and vice versa; for example, if one contracts a disease, he can become emotionally distraught as well.  Worry can cause ulcers, and distress can even lead to heart disease. Suppressing our emotions can affect our moods, how we feel about ourselves, even how we relate to others.  Such legalism is not the objective of God for His people, but in all reality was set forth as the Law only to prepare a people to realize in their weakness and failure and the need for a savior.

The apostle Paul was a devout Jew strictly obeying the Law as well as anyone, even more so.  But there came a point in his life that he clearly could see deliverance from legalism to a new life in Christ.  His attempted obedience to the Law given through Moses to the Israelites was wholly good in that it revealed the righteousness of God exposing iniquity and sin, so much so, that the action of sins against the commandments would appear exceedingly sinful.  Without the Law there was no knowledge of sin, but with the Law one can now know he or she has done evil in the eyes of God.  The Law is spiritual, but man is carnal bound in sin and unable to keep the Law.   (See Rm. 7.7-14)  Paul comes to a conclusion in Roman’s 7.15-25:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  Rm. 7.15-25

Paul found his answer to life’s dilemma, that which would solve this inner conflict of wanting to do good and avoid bad but always falling short; that answer was to totally abandon religion and its outward laws for a liberating new life found only in Christ.

The consequence of a suppressed life.   The church of Galatia reverted back from the grace of God in Christ Jesus to the Jewish religion of keeping the Law.  It is written,

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched youthat you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?   Gal. 3.1-3

Paul continues is Gal. 3.10-12 that the Law brings a curse:

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”  Gal 3.10-12  (See also Deut. 27.26)

The Law and its legalism required what no man on earth could perform, namely, perfect and perpetual obedience to the whole of the Law.  And, those who pursue attempting to suppress their emotions and lusts in obedience to it will continue to fail in their attempt; and failing even one point in the Law breaks the whole of the Law. Failure means they are under the curse of the Law.  They are under its sentence of condemnation and death.  They are equally liable to the second death, namely eternal death.

The Law and legalism require strict obedience and doing it; it is not content holding it as a mere faith without the practice of doing it.  It is not enough to just know it, or hear it, or simply preach it; it must be done, executed to its fullest extent.  Suppression of one’s emotions and desires contrary to the Law is the final attempt to bring to open display man’s own righteousness.  In trusting what their righteous works can do for them they are trusting in the strength of carnal man; and in doing so he is rejecting the righteousness of Christ found only by grace and faith in Him.  As the Law is outwardly imposed upon man for strict obedience, the life of Christ is found inwardly to openly express itself—a stark contrast.

Furthermore these Galatians suffer in this life the guilt of failure bringing even self-condemnation.  It affects them emotionally as well as in their relationship with others.  The only good that can come out of the Law is the realization of total inadequacy in the ability to keep the Law and the absolute need for the Savior Jesus Christ.  Their sacrifices could only cover their sins as a temporary measure as they are sure to happen again and again.  The foundational truth of the Gospel of Christ is bound up with Jesus’ words,

”I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  Jn. 15.5

Obviously, the church of Galatia was deceived into thinking the cross of Christ had accomplished little for them.  They felt the need to further the work of the cross in legalism and boast that they can suppress and control themselves as a guarantee of salvation.  Such suppression of ourselves does not constitute victory.  The goal of victory in Christ is to overcome sin and to destroy it completely by the regeneration of a new life in Christ. 


Following is a most potent passage taken from Watchman’s Nee’s book, The Life that Wins:

‘First of all, please notice that victory is an exchanged life, not a changed life. Victory is not that I have changed, but rather that I have been exchanged. One verse which is most familiar to us is Galatians 2.20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God.” What is meant by this verse? It has only one meaning: the life spoken of is an exchanged life. Basically, it is no longer I, for it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is not that the bad I has become the good I, or the unclean I has changed to be the clean I. It is simply “not I.” Today people make a serious mistake in thinking that victory is that if a person is able to control his temper or maintain an intimate fellowship with God, then he is victorious. Not so. Let us ever keep in mind that victory has basically no relation to one’s own self. One brother confessed with crying that he could not overcome. I frankly told him that he indeed could not overcome. He continued to say he could not overcome. How could I help him? I said to this brother: “God has never demanded that you overcome. He has never asked you to change your bad temper to a good temper, your hardness to gentleness, or your sorrow to joy. The way of God is simply to exchange your life for Another Life, which therefore has absolutely nothing to do with you.”

The fact must be realized that by faith in God’s grace to us through Christ that our spirits have become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit bringing us into union with Himself.  This spiritual bond is to govern our souls, and furthermore find its expression through our bodies.   Spirituality is not a life of suppression.  That is negative and binding to the spirit.  Spiritually is positive and freedom to the spirit; it is an altogether new life, not the old life striving to get mastery of itself.  The power of understanding the following verse is overwhelming:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Cor. 5.17

Think on it, contemplate on it, examine it, then take and receive it by faith.  You are a new creature, a new species, having a new life, in Christ.  The old life has passed away, behold all has become new. This life must find its expression, rising up from within, not imposed from without as a law.  Note,

“Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive;  Jn. 7.37-39

This new life is as a spring of living water having its source within us, rising up from within, even as a spiritual resurrection to newness of life.  In all actuality this is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the body will follow in the second resurrection.  And so today, in this hour of our lives, the focus of God is in the overcoming salvation of our souls.  It is the soul of man that is to be regenerated, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Rm. 12.2   This is the intent of Phil. 2.12-13,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  Phil. 2.12-13

It is in the realm of the soul that the indwelling Christ manifests Himself and makes the body an instrument for its expression.  Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Phil. 1.21.  It is learning to live by the life of Another, the Other being Christ, who has become my moral compass and the way of righteousness.  Once this is learned I am free, at liberty, to live my life in relationship with our Lord and Father and with one another, being led of the Spirit and not the carnal nature…  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  Rm. 8.14

In conclusion, consider the following, that we, our old nature, has died, and there has been the resurrection of a new life in Christ, that anticipates eternity,

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Col. 3.1-4

This has become our hope and our glory.  We cannot boast before God or give an account of our accomplishments, nor should we feel the guilt of failure.  Our overcoming victory in Christ has come, is still coming, and will come again in fullness. In Him we find our rest and our peace.

Picture of Daniel DeVitis

Daniel DeVitis

Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.
Picture of Daniel DeVitis

Daniel DeVitis

Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.

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