Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Normal Christian Life - Watchman Nee

"The Normal Christian Life" is a masterful blend of simple truth and complex analysis.  Nee avoids the "meaningless arguments" that often times become the focus of theological discussion, and instead goes straight to the core of Christianity.  Man is sinful.  God is without sin.  Jesus' death on the cross atoned for our sin.  We accept this, and Christ comes to live in us.  Today we often refer to these truths as "The Romans Road".  These are the truths of real importance, to which all other truths must eventually compare.  To the average Christian the truths found in the "Romans Road" are not exactly new revelation, and yet Nee is able to take the overly familiar and make it fresh, or as he says, " make things simple, and to explain clearly some of the experiences which Christians commonly pass through." 

Nee takes the reader down a trail of thought that he refers to as "The Path of Progress".  This path consists of knowing, reckoning, presenting ourselves to God, and walking in the Spirit.  We "know" many truths of Christianity.  For example, Christ died for my sins.  However, until we "reckon" (or "take into account") that knowledge, then it is really useless in my life.  God requires us to act on what we know.  Unfortunately, being human we are completely unable to act on our knowledge of God's will, because any action we attempt is futile and will eventually fail.  We are sinful.  We can do nothing good apart from God.  Therefore, the next step is to present ourselves to God, and to allow Him to change us.  Nee is quick to point out that this step does not simply mean "accepting Christ".  It is also the declaration that my entire life belongs to Christ, and reckoning that statement as true.  The final step is to walk in the Spirit, or trusting the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself.  This is not a human effort to live out a God given standard.  Instead it is the acceptance that we need God to live His holy standard in us.  Therefore we become free from the sin and condemnation that comes from our humanity. 

As I read this book I was constantly struggling with what I read.  Not because I disagreed with what I was reading, but because my mind was resisting the move from belief to reckoning.  If you are a Christian reading this book, you will find it hard to disagree with the knowledge he presents.  However, if you are like me you may find it extremely challenging to accept the changes he suggests based on that knowledge.  The difficulty is not to accept new truths, but to view those truths from a new angle and to act based on that fresh viewpoint.  Because of the range of biblical truths covered and the action required for each one, this is not a book you simply read once and put on the shelf.  It would be difficult to absorb and acclimate our lives to everything Nee is proposing in just one reading.  This is a book that one should take off the shelf again and again, gleaning new understanding and acceptance of the truths of Christ, and allowing those truths to change you.  With each reading you just might come away with your "normal Christian life" looking a little different than it did before.

1 comment:

  1. Kind of like our discussion about Faith this morning at the coffee house. It's so easy for our perspectives to get off and miss the bigger the picture because we're so wrapped up in self-reliance. I really like how you're taking the time to spell out what it is about these books that resonates with you. I've now got two books to add to my list. Thanks for sharing!