Posted by: Nathan | July 13, 2008

Nee’s The Normal Christian Life

I confess that I have not read nearly as much Christian literature as secular lit (though the latter can also be the former), so I’m no expert in this genre. I’m positive there are scores of superb Christian books, but I’ve encountered only a few. These are not books that are simply “good,” i.e. I’m pleased that I read them; they are life-altering volumes: The Complete Green Letters, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Ragamuffin Gospel, and now The Normal Christian Life. I first encountered Nee’s name in Stanford’s Green Letters in a few citations. Nee also came recommended from Dan, at whose house I first perused it. I am thankful to have it touch my life.

The Normal Christian Life

The title of the book warrants its own discussion because it seems slightly misleading. The normal Christian life as Nee describes it is mostly different than the lives of fellow believers and my own. This, however, is not due to unsound doctrine or thinking on Nee’s part, but rather due to the failure of Christians to enter fully into the life to which God has called us. The life of the believer as Nee writes it is full of joy, power, faith, and extraordinary circumstances, and it’s all a part of the Lord’s plan for our lives (cf. John 10:10).

The Normal Christian Life takes the reader through what God has done for every Christian and what it means in practice. Like Stanford, Nee goes over the ground upon which the believer stands in order to enable spiritual growth, and that ground is always and only Christ: “It will help us greatly, and save us from much confusion, if we keep constantly before us this fact, that God will answer all our questions in one way and one way only, namely, by showing us more of his Son” (12). Also like Stanford, Nee uses Romans as his touchstone for the walk of faith: knowing the truth, the failure of the flesh to carry out God’s will, the work of the cross, and the progressive formation of the Christ-life in every believer. Amazing stuff.

There are many things that make Nee a special writer. First, he has an uncanny ability to give illustrative points. He is a master of parables. The stories he tells always get at a deeper truth while making that truth accessible. I valued his different viewpoint also. Watchman Nee is from China, and I found his Eastern life and heritage to be invaluable assets to this book. I’ve read countless books for Westerners by Westerners; reading the work of a man from a different side of the world showed me how God is the same God for everyone, yet he also relates to us as individuals. Third, Nee is committed to the Lord’s work and knows the Bible. I see it on every page. Additionally, Nee writes unfailingly lucid prose about subjects that are mysterious and sometimes baffling.

The Normal Christian Life also helped me understand many Biblical tenets that I had previously been puzzled by. Nee has the best explanation of the following ideas that I’ve encountered: original sin, the Garden of Eden, being grafted into Judaism, the Holy Spirit’s work, speaking in tongues, what purpose the Law serves, how the flesh is set against the spirit, the Church as the body of Christ, and many others I’m forgetting. Looking at the pages in my copy, there are few pages that aren’t marked. I almost began it again immediately after finishing.

Once again I feel unable to summarize such a powerful and insightful work that addresses so many aspects of life in the Spirit. I could cite any number of passages that opened my eyes, helped me understand spiritual principles, and provided a deeper understanding of the Lord. I’ll settle for these random few:

“The common conception of sanctification is that every item of the life should be holy; but that is not holiness, it is the fruit of holiness. Holiness is Christ” (182).

“The sooner we too 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” (166).

“Do you know, there are resources enough in your own heart to meet the demand of every circumstance in which you will ever find yourself? Do you know there is power enough there to move the city in which you live? Do you know there is power enough to shake the universe? Let me tell you once more […] You who have been born again of the Spirit of God–you carry God in your heart!” (142).

“‘You do not need to pray to the Lord for anything; you merely need your eyes opened to see that he has done it all'” (59).

“Never look at yourself as though you were not in Christ. Look at Christ, and see yourself in him” (85).

This is a moving and profound volume in which my Creator and Savior spoke to me almost every time I opened the cover. I can give no better recommendation than that. I hope you find it to be as valuable for you if you read it.

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Responses

  1. Thanks so much for the review! I couldn’t agree more with your assessments of The Normal Christian Life. It’s a great and challenging work. I’m so glad you have been encouraged by it!

  2. I’d really like to read this book…

  3. I’m glad you liked the book. Thanks for the review. I’ve not read it yet, but perhaps someday.

  4. Amen. I read this book while in Germany, attending a torchbearer bible school. It was required reading that year. It changed my life too.


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