So this chapter sort of threw me for a loop.
After I read it but before we discussed in our study I was sure I understood it just fine.
In fact I felt like it cleared up some problems from the last study. In our study of Ch#2 we talked about the cross as the means God uses to deal with our sinful nature (the chapter before we discussed the blood as the means to deal with our sins). We were crucified with Christ therefore we are dead to sin. But that is confusing since we still continue to commit sins. Again. And again.
This chapter presented the premise that just as we sin without effort because we were born ‘in Adam’ we can have all that is in Christ the same way by grace, through faith.
If we are “in Adam all that is in Adam necessarily devolves upon us; it becomes our involuntarily, for we have to do nothing to get it. There is no need to make up our minds to lose our temper or to commit some other sin; sin comes freely and despite ourselves. In a similar way, if we are “in Christ” all that is in Christ comes to us by free grace, without effort on our part but on the ground of simple faith.
– Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life.
Christ died and lived for us. Therefore we are justified and sanctified in Christ.
And now the good news is that sanctification is made possible for you on exactly the same basis as the initial salvation. You are offered deliverance from sin as no less a gift of God’s grace than the forgiveness of your sins.
Doesn’t that make sense? And isn’t it such a relief that we don’t have to try to be holy when we are in Christ?
That’s what I thought.
Once we got to the study and we were talking about it together. My Oma (My mom’s mom) pointed out that we can thoroughly accept the grace of God’s sacrifice and his forgiveness and know we have been forgiven wihtout a doubt. But the assumption that we can understand our sanctification in exactly the same light is much harder to accept. Especially since we can feel like we “know” but then keep on doing the wrong thing.
Because we can know that he has forgiven us and our lives are covered perfectly by Jesus’ perfect one, but we are left with the usual questions:
why do we still sin, how can we sin less, how does this belief look as lived out in our lives, how do we live out of the knowledge of grace while still desiring to live better…etc.
One option would be to say that since Jesus lived a perfect life for us, what we do doesn’t matter. But it does matter.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
We died to sin. We cannot continue to live in it.
Another option seems to be to try harder and do better. Even though this isn’t really in line with the message of grace.
And Nee says that’s not the way either:
If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power.
So being stronger isn’t the answer. The more we try to be better the more we become aware of our need for a Savior and our inability to do right on out own. It just creates an endless cycle sin, trying harder, and knowledge of our failure.
God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker.
– Watchman Nee
So how can we do better while still resting in Jesus? What do we do?
I suggested that we quit trying and pray about the situation instead. More realizing that we can’t do anything and the only way to change is through Jesus. Because I have found that to be helpful in changing actions and attitudes in my own life.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
But as we were reading through chapter three we found evidence that says we should not be praying in that way. I don’t think I can really agree with that. But here is what Watchman Nee says:
Oh, it is a great thing to see that we arein Christ! Think of thr bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are! Think of the absurdity of asking to be put in! If we recognize the fact thatwe are in, we make no effort to enter. If we had more revelation, we should have fewer prayers and more praises. We spend so much time praying for ourselves just because we are blind to what God has done.
He is saying that we just need to know. That is the first step. We must know it.
The finished work of Christ really has gone to the root of our problem and dealt with it. There are no half measures with God. He has made full provision for sin’s rule to be utterly broken.
Maybe we are so confused because we still think we need to do something and we still think we can. We just need to know that he has done it all already.
But how come we still sin and feel like we are such bad people still?
I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with this passage:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
It could be that the next chapter will clear things up a bit more for us. I hope so.
What do you think? How do we understand our sanctification through Jesus in the context of our propensity to keep sinning? How do we understand that we can do nothing for our own salvation?
4 thoughts on “The Normal Christian Life (Ch#3)”
I do think, though we don’t have any part in EARNING our salvation, Paul in Colossians is pretty clear that we do have a part to PLAY in it. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel.” To me, that says clearly that yes, God saves by grace, but not irregardless of us on our behalf. We must continue in our faith and our foundation in the Gospel. Grace is still grace, but we are willing participants in it. Plus, when we are called to faith, it’s never without the charge of repentance. I think in a lot of ways, the attempt to avoid legalism at all costs often goes hand-in-hand with throwing sanctification out the window. Just because we cannot do anything to earn salvation, does not mean that we have nothing to do with it at all.
(I am a frequent reader, not-frequent commenter who has popped over from your mom’s blog more than once. I’m in the trenches with littles just like you and I LOVE your take on things.) :-)
That is a good distinction to point out! Thanks Amanda. We do need to live out of our knowledge of what is holy. And yes, that is a part to play. But couldn’t one also argue that the only reason we can accomplish anything is by God’s grace as well?
I’m not, of course, trying to saying that we mustn’t try at all, but just redirecting our seeming success back to the author of that success..
I definitely get what you are saying thought!
Thanks for de-lurking :) i lovelovelove hearing from people on things like this :)
I think being in the sinful world has a lot to do with it. I’m not sure that I can fully understand the completeness of my sanctification until I am up there with Jesus. I might have to reread this chapter…
Yes, I think that we are just stuck with an imperfect understanding of what God has done. Won’t heaven be mind-boggling?