I’ve been having the ever increasing urge to have a group of friends with which to talk about books. Not a book CLUB, mind you, just a bunch of friends that get around and talk about one book that they all read the past month and how it affects our lives. Maybe have some tea and celebrate the moments…ok its a book club. That is why I instituted what we affectionately call the Appalachian Intellectual Society (or AIN’TS). I don’t have a logo as of yet, but it may be forthcoming. Below is the first entry...
The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
I bought this book after a friend suggested it and told me that Nee taught the basic foundational truths that most Christians never get to hear. Two things might jump out at you from that. First would be when someone says “foundational” you might think “I already know that” or “this is going to be boring” or even “Aren’t we a little too old for Sunday school stuff?”. The second is that “most Christians never get to hear” these truths. I think that’s a failure of discipleship as opposed to a failure of God’s Word or sometimes even teaching from the pulpit. I grew up in a culture of “bringing in the sheaves” kind of evangelistic approach. There’s actually merit to this, as I have to call upon it just to get my non-confrontational self to even share Jesus with someone. Where it falls well short is once we’ve harvested those sheaves, how do they become the Bread of Life to those around them as we are supposed to be?
Nee covers what Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome. What Christ’s blood covers, what the cross kills, and what his resurrection carries with it. I always tread carefully when I read a new book with eternal teaching in it. I try to be guarded to what I know to be true in the Bible, but also open to something I haven’t seen of God yet. Nee tells you the purpose of the book within the first few paragraphs.
“God makes it quite clear in his Word that he has only one answer to every human need - his Son, Jesus Christ. In all his dealings with us, he works by taking us out of the way and substituting Christ in our place” pg 2
That would pretty much sum up the first half of the book, and I’ve heard this teaching before. I just have one problem with it - it is unbalanced. You might hear someone say that we don’t need to worry anymore about leading a holy life because Christ has taken our place and lived that life for us. Its true, but only half way, I believe. What a big truth, though! It frees us from working anything out on our own, it levels the playing field and makes no one unreachable to God but it doesn’t it make God reachable to us. Except through Christ.
That’s why I was scratching my head through half of it. It was biblical, but I was waiting to hear the other half. There were some cool quotes from this first half, though.
” ‘If only I were stronger’ we say, ‘I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper,’ and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control. But this is altogether a fallacy; it is not Christianity. God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker.” pg 47
I would go so far as to say that we are already so weak, just not realizing it, continue in our own strength. But I have to ask, how’s that working for you?
This post is long, and so I will say this and leave you with a couple more quotes. As for reading it, this is one you will have to chew on, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t fly through it like you would a more contemporary author. He repeats and emphasizes himself, so if you don’t really grasp it on the first go around, you’ll eventually get it. Also, my personal favorite is the last two chapters. God has really grown me, specifically in my prayer life. To ask for more of Him instead of more patience or love or strength.
“He is not a retailer dispensing grace to us in packets, measuring out some patience to the impatient, some love to the unloving, some meekness to the proud, in quantaties that we take and work on as a kind of capital. He has given only one gift to meet all our need: his Son Jesus Christ.” pg 185
“We would like to have death and resurrection put together within one hour of each other. We cannot face the thought that God will keep us aside for so long a time; we cannot bear to wait…there will be a definite period when he will keep you there…There confronts you a blank wall with no door in it. Seemingly everyone else is being blessed and used, while you yourself have been passed by and are losing out. Lie quiet. All is in darkness, but is only for a night…Afterwards, you will find that all is given back to you in glorious resurrection; and nothing can measure the difference between what was before and what now is!” pg 273