THE LAW OF PASSIVITY
BY: JESSIE PENN-LEWIS
“I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” (Colossians 1:29).
This is only one of the scriptures which clearly show the necessity for the full active use of the whole outer man in God’s service. God works mightily I work mightily. That is absolutely contrary to the idea many have that God works through a man like water goes through a pipe simply passes power through him while he remains passive!
As Christians, we perhaps know little of spiritists, probably have never read their books or come in contact with them, and it is not always recognized that those who practice spiritism do really have communication with spirits-evil spirits. Although there are failures and deceptions and even quackery in spiritism, these only serve to cover up the real work of Satan. You will find, however, that the one condition and principle which mediums have to fulfill in order to obtain spirit communication and working is this: Every part of the whole being must be perfectly passive and out of action. The brain must be blank, the faculties dormant, the will “let go,” and the body passive. This absolute passivity is the fundamental law for the working of evil spirits through human beings. A minister told me of a girl medium whom he visited with. He asked her how she became one, and she replied that she “sat in a dark room once a day, and gave herself up to the spirits.” They say they are good spirits, but the fact is, there are no good spirits with whom you can obtain any communication. By dismissing these things as “nothing” we have missed understanding the law by which these evil spirits work, the “law of passivity.” There is not one sentence in Paul’s epistles where he tells you to become “passive.” Every time he speaks of the Holy Spirit there is a reference to activity on the part of the believer. “I labour, striving according to His working.” God works “according to law,” and the law for the working of the Holy Spirit is “active co-operation.” The law for the working of evil spirits is passive submission. God desires “fellow workers with Him:” evil spirits want to use you as a passive instrument.
Q. What about yielding ourselves to God?
A. You will not find a single place in the Bible where the command or principle is laid down that your faculties are to be out of use. The Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual understanding: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” Nor are you ever told in God’s Word that your will is to be passive. You are constantly enjoined to have an active will “put on” “put off” “lay hold” “fight”! If then, passivity is the “law” for evil supernatural powers to work, and you as a believer (knowingly or unknowingly) fulfill that law in any degree, they will work.
Passivity will account for much disappointment in the spiritual life. For instance, you wanted to be guided by God, and you thought He would tell you, supernaturally, what to do; but He did not, and you were disappointed, or thought you had sinned in some way. God has not done many things you asked or expected, because you failed to fulfill the law by which He has chosen to work. He manifests His power by working in and through you, not instead of you! Many have supposed that if believers have power from God He will work without their co-operation, and consequently have dropped into a state of passivity, and that is the explanation for so much deception, on the one hand, and powerlessness, on the other. One section of the church is deceived with supernatural workings, and the other is powerless and inactive in God’s service. God does not break His own law of cause and effect. If you touch a “live” wire, you will get an electric shock! As a believer, you must walk according to God’s laws, then He will guard you. But there is a “law of passivity” which, if obeyed, enables evil spirits to work: and if children of God will persist in expecting God to move their bodies without their own volition, they fulfill that law; and all their devotion and claiming the protection of the blood of Christ will not save them from spiritist manifestations as they fulfill the law for producing them. What is true surrender to God? You surrender sin, by dropping it: you surrender yourself – by giving up your whole being to be available in His service. “Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead.” (Romans 6:1 3) Not as a machine or an automaton. Actively obey God. You presented your members to sin once: now present them to God. Stand for Him, actively and fully, with every part of your being. “To whom ye yield yourselves …. his servants ye are” (Romans 6:16). Servants of God! What is a servant for, but to serve? Of what use is a passive servant? “I plead with you present all your faculties to Him as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him” (Romans 12:1, Weymouth)
Q. How do you distinguish between the mind being passive and the mind being “silent” to God?
A. The mind being “passive” means that it is sluggish and heavy, and unable to act and think: while the mind being “silent unto God” is simply an awakened, liberated mind refraining from healthy action in other directions, so as to be quiet before the Lord! The mind should, in its normal condition, be awake, but not full of rushing, uncontrollable thoughts. It should be always keenly alert to see the mind of the Spirit at the moment. By being awake to every duty and to everything in your environment – able to see, to watch, to catch, to think: ready to act as God gives you light, and moves in your spirit to the doing of His will. Briefly, if the mind is purely “quiet” it is ready for action at any moment. When the mind is passive it is NOT FREE TO ACT. There is both a right and a wrong quietness. The first is best described as pliability to every indication of the will of God, so that, with ease, the believer turns, moment by moment, as directed by the Holy Spirit. The second-a wrong “quietness,” or passivity-is allowing the mental and other faculties to lie dormant, which makes the man as one acted upon by an unseen power, rather than one energized by the Holy Spirit intelligently to work with God. This comes about through having a mistaken idea of what being “channels only” or “instruments used by God” means, and this again is often the swinging to another extreme in fear of the activity of the “flesh.”
The believer desiring to be “spiritual” sees clearly how the natural intellect and reason hinders the apprehension of the things of the Spirit, and so he imagines that the intellect must not be called into use, and some even take a pride in saying that they have “not been to college,” and have had no “teaching of man” at all. All this swinging to extremes comes through the lack of teaching concerning the inner meaning of the cross, and the deeper knowledge of the cross which should come to the believer really progressing in the spiritual life. The common idea that the Christian is “done with the cross” when he is justified by faith and has apprehended his judicial death with Christ prevents the Holy Spirit from leading the soul into Philippians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 in their deepest meaning. In other words, the Christian assumes that he has entered a position through his justification-namely judicial “death”-where he only needs to draw upon the life of Christ-forgetting that the negative, or fellowship with the death of Christ, is the necessary complement of the positive inflow of the risen life of the Lord. Consequently, he expects the Lord to add the “new” to the “old” without his progressively yielding the “old” to death to make room for the “new (Romans 8:13).”
What has this to do with wrong passivity? This: that the intellectual powers need to be brought under the death-work of the cross, so that the natural activity of the mind may cease. It is this soulish activity of mind which the spiritual man fears, but the remedy is not passivity-or refusing to use the mind-but the renewing of the mind through the death-power of the cross so that the “mind of Christ” becomes increasingly wrought into the believer, and he receives a “sound mind” – usable by the Holy Spirit to its fullest capacity. Then the reasoning powers will become more acute and alert than in the time of their soulish activity; and wisdom from above will take the place of the natural wisdom. See James 1:5; 3:17.
The outcome of wrong passivity is two-fold: (1) a lack of intellectual power through the habit of not using the mind. Whereas the mental capacity of every child of God should reach its fullest development through the renewing of the Spirit; (2) all passivity of mind gives ground to evil powers to work upon the man, and to use him unknown to himself, for the Holy Spirit does not so much work upon as work with the believer, i.e., He seeks the whole man as a fully developed and intelligent co-worker, not merely a passive machine. The believer is an “instrument,” but not one passively wielded so much as intelligently energized, with every faculty awake and usable. Colossians 1:29 most concisely shows this, and Philippians 3:13. “I labor” means toil, and “stretching forward” speaks of every nerve and muscle-spiritual, mental and physical-at full bent in pressing on in the life of God. You ask if Satan can make an impression when the mind is “silent before God.” Yes, if you allow the “silence” to drop into passivity, or inertness. You must learn to recognize how he makes impressions: first, by suggestions to the mind-thus indirectly influencing the spirit; second, by pressure on your spirit-thus indirectly influencing your mind.
LAW OF PASSIVITY, THE [Jessie Penn-Lewis] 1