The Normal Christian Life is Watchman Nee’s take on the book of Romans, just as Sit, Walk, Stand was his journey through Ephesians. Nee uses these pages to remind his readers that everything depends on our resting in Christ’s completed work. On that basis he calls Christians to live holy and upright lives, not in their own strength, but in the Spirit. And he calls his fellow believers to realize that God is not content to simply undo the results of the fall. There is much more in view.
He does a wonderful job of bringing home theological truth, though I found a few pieces of his thought process difficult to swallow. I must admit I found the last third far better than the first two. But as a whole it is rich in material you will want to go over more than once, and full of imagery that brings the subject to life.
While Sit, Walk, Stand was full of moving personal stories and interactions, The Normal Christian Life stands out for its use of analogies. Simply, they are brilliant and succinct.
Not only am I in Christ, but Christ is in me. And just as, physically, a man cannot live and work in water but only in air, so, spiritually, Christ dwells and manifests himself not in terms of “flesh” but of “spirit.” Therefore, if I live “after the flesh,” I find that what is mine in Christ is, so to say, held in suspense in me. Though in fact I am in Christ, yet if I live in the flesh – that is, in my own strength and under my own direction – then in experience I find to my dismay that it is what is in Adam that manifests in me. If I would know in experience all that is in Christ, then i must learn to live in the Spirit. (p.176)
In this way he presents the difference between what we experience and what is objective reality, and shows that if we are to live as disciples, we can only expect to do so by breathing in the right medium. Or his grappling with the nature of the two “laws”, of sin and death and of life:
If we will let ourselves live in the new law, we shall be less conscious of the old. It is still there, but it is no longer governing and we are no longer in its grip. That is why the Lord says in Matthew 6: “Behold the birds…Consider the lilies.” If we could ask the birds whether they were not afraid of the law of gravity, how would they reply? They would say, “We never heard the name of Newton. We know nothing about this law. We fly because it is the law of our life to fly.” Not only is there in them a life with the power of flight, but that life has a law which enables these living creatures, to overcome the law of gravity. Yet gravity remains. (p.192)
His dealing with the nature of the church and its relation to the creation of Eve out of Adam’s side is beautiful (p.213). As well, his treatment of the normal source of our strength (pp. 230-231) will make you rightly question every spiritual gift inventory you have ever taken, encouraging you to drink from the well of the Spirit.
I did find his treatment of our sinful nature lacking (p.35), as it calls into question how we should take the humanity of Christ (though I don’t think that was his intention). I also think he takes 2 Corinthians 4:11 out of context to prove a point on p.228. And as I already suggested, I found the early parts of the book more tedious than the latter due to his incessant reminders that everything is the work of Christ; nothing is to our credit. I got the point early, and was ready for some balance before he was ready to provide it.
The best way I can think to end this review is with a story involving a biscuit, from near the end of the book:
I was sitting one day at supper with a young brother to whom the Lord had been speaking on this very question of our natural energy. He said to me, “It is a blessed thing when you know the Lord has met you and touched you in that fundamental way, and that disabling touch has been received.” There was a plate of biscuits between us on the table, and I picked one up and broke it in half as though to eat it. Then, fitting the two pieces together again carefully, I said, “It looks all right, but it is never quite the same again, is it? When once your back is broken, you will yield ever after to the slightest touch from God.” (p.265)
I give this book ★★★★☆. Watchman Nee does a good job of peeling back the layers, past sin, past forgiveness, into the new man and the new creation that God envisioned from the start.
The Normal Christian Life
Author: Watchman Nee
Soft Cover, 286 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.