This is a continuation of my study and chapter by chapter summary of The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. And chapter 9 just happens to be an excellent example of Nee’s niche and the whole idea of the book. For an intro to Nee read this post. Click here to read the rest of the chapter summaries/thoughts. Or here to find the book on Amazon.
And on with it!
Chapter 9: The Meaning and Value of Romans 7
In this chapter Nee discusses Romans 7 and how even though we know we cannot live a good christian life by striving we always return to striving. Such as in Romans 7 where the infamous “what I would do I do not, and what I would not I do” (in my own paraphrase/faulty memory) passage comes up. Because as soon as we return to trying to do it ourselves we fail.
“The trouble in Romans 7 is that the man in the flesh tried to do something for God. As soon as you try to please God in that way, then you place yourself under law, and the experience of Romans 7 begins to be yours.” – Nee
We somehow think we are capable.
“God knows who I am; he knows that head to foot I am full of sin; he knows that I am weakness incarnate; that I can do nothing. The trouble is I do not know it.” – Nee
Even though God doesn’t require anything of us.
“We are so bad that he asks no favor and makes no demands.” – Nee
He gave us the law to break it, so that we would know we are incapable.
“No, the law was not given in expectation that we would keep it, it was given in the full knowledge that we would break it; and when we have broken it so completely as to be convinced of our utter need, then the Law has served its purpose.” – Nee
So we would give up.
“The sooner we give up trying the better, for if we monopolize the task, there is left no room for the Holy Spirit. But if we say: “I’ll not do it; I’ll trust thee to do it for me,” then we shall find that a Power stronger than ourselves is carrying us through.” – Nee
And let God do it.
Because we can’t.
And this is where I think Nee’s niche comes through. He writes this book in an idealistic, yet practical way. He has come to realize God’s power in sanctification and what it is to live more surrendered to God than I find very possible. He is adamant that in the same way we can trust God for our justification, we can trust Him for our sanctification. We can stop trying. Nee is idealistic in that he writes about what is in the Bible concerning our status before God. And then, instead of conceding that this is an ideal and not attainable reality, he encourages us towards the ideal. Not because we need to strive for it, but because it already is. And he is convinced that it is precisely attainable because it already is, even though it’s not our experience.
It’s an example of our experience vs reality. What we think and what actually is.
You need to read this book. Very slowy.
Here are a few more quotes to close:
“You cannot do anything which relates to God’s will. There is something in this body that does not harmonize with the will of God.”
“Have you despaired yourself, or do you hope that if you read and pray more you will be a better Christian? Bible reading and prayer are not wrong, and God forbid that we should suggest that they are, but it is wrong to trust even in them for victory. Our help is in him who is the object of that reading and prayer. Our trust must be in Christ alone.”
“In the matter of forgiveness we look to Christ on the Cross; in the matter of deliverance from sin and doing the will of God we look to Christ in our hearts. For one we depend on what he has done; for the other we depend on what he will do in us; but in regard to both, our dependence is on him alone. From start to finish, he is the One who does it all.”
“We know that justification is ours through the Lord Jesus and requires no work on our part, but we think sanctification is dependent on our own effort. […] We fear that if we do nothing, nothing will happen.”
“All who truly live [the Christian life] know it to be a matter of very positive and active faith in Christ and in an altogether new principle of life — the law of the Spirit of life.”
– Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
Do you think God requires anything of us?
How much of our salvation is actually under our control?
Do you think we decide when we “get saved” or is it a gradual process we cannot even know?
What do you think about the quote that talks about how Bible reading and prayer are not what we should trust for victory?