OUR OLD, DEAD SELF

(Post by: Michelle Hobbs)

Well, I am back at it, wrestling with the teachings of Watchman Nee. At the beginning of the year, I picked back up on my reading of The Normal Christian Life and began slowly working my way through the Scofield Bible Correspondence Course. (A gem of a six-volume course that was published in the 1950s and used by missionaries who were out in the mission field. We ran across a set in a used bookstore last year. I love finding treasures like that!) But I digress.

Anyway, prompted by a New Year’s Resolution, I was devoting some of my morning hours to Bible study and the Lord did one of my favorite things that He sometimes does. He coordinated the subject matter I was reading in The Normal Christian Life with the subject matter of the Scofield lesson I was completing that day. He does those kinds of things to let us know He is with each and every one of us; providing just what we need. But friends, when He does do that, you had better be paying attention. He is definitely trying to tell you something!

So, what was He trying to tell me, that I now want to share with you?

He was answering a question that I have wrestled with for several years. Why do Christians continue to accept sin as a normal part of our lives after we have been saved, forgiven, and transformed by the Lord?

I have to be honest; I cringe a little inside when I hear my brothers and sisters in Christ declare that they are sinners. You have all heard someone say, “We are all sinners saved by grace. We are still human and will always make mistakes. That’s just the way it is.” Just yesterday, I read a post on social media that said, “The one thing I am really good at is sinning… so praise the Lord I’m in Christ and when I do sin, I can go to Jesus and He forgives me.”

While I, regrettably, do still make mistakes and sin, I make considerably less mistakes and sin much less than I did before my salvation, and I pray that with each passing year, I look more and more like Christ, whose image I bear. I refuse to accept that I am stuck in my sin.

I believe that continuing to see ourselves as sinners after we are saved is wrong, and that wrong view of ourselves has a hugely negative impact on our growth as Christians. It keeps us right where the enemy wants us; not living in the fullness of Christ!

I pray that the Lord will grant us a fresh knowledge, a deep understanding, that what is true of the forgiveness of our sins is also true of our deliverance from sin.

In Romans 4:25 we see, “Jesus our Lord…was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Our “justification” is talking about our standing before God. God looks upon the precious blood of Christ and sees that Jesus has paid the price for the sins of us who believe in Jesus as our personal Savior. The blood deals with what we have done. We need the blood for forgiveness. The blood shed by Jesus, as our substitute, secures for us forgiveness, justification, and reconciliation with God.

Most Christians have no trouble believing that fact, but we tend to stop there. We, rather flippantly, continue on in our sin when Jesus tells us to “Be holy, as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). We fail to understand the greatness of the Cross of Christ! While we need the blood for forgiveness, we also need the cross for deliverance!

Nee asks, “How could a holy God be satisfied to have unholy, sin-fettered children?” If He has provided a way to be forgiven of sin, surely He has provided a way for His children to be delivered from sin. The cross, precisely our death on the cross, is that provision.

You see, humans are born with a sin nature. Romans 5:19 says, “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…” Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, all who have come after them have been born sinners. It is our constitution. We are not sinners because of our behavior. Our behavior, or sin, is merely evidence of the fact that we are born sinners.

Thankfully, God knew this about His creation and had a plan to deal with it (even before the beginning of time). That plan can be found in the conclusion of Romans 5:19, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One shall the many be made righteous.”

Christians must understand this and grow in their faith past being only concerned with our behavior, on to accepting the crucifixion of our old, dead self. The blood cannot take away our sin nature. “There is only one way. Since we came in by birth, we must go out by death. Bondage to sin came by birth; deliverance from sin comes by death” (Nee, 1957).

“All we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). The blood deals with what we have done. The cross deals with what we are. We must have the cross to crucify our old selves. The cross provides our deliverance from what we used to be. “The cross is thus the mighty act of God which translates us from Adam to Christ” (Nee, 1957).

Christian, stop living in your old, dead self with Adam and start living in your new identity in Christ. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Do you see? You are supposed to be a new creation, not a spruced-up version of your old self! This new, divine nature is Christ’s own.

Romans 7 is a record of the conflict between the old self and the new creation. In verses 14-24, we read Paul’s struggle with his sin nature. He says what all of us have felt. He states that he feels like a slave to sin. That he wants to do good but ends up doing wrong. Finally, in verse 24, Paul asks the question we all must ask. “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”

“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom. 7:25-8:2). The battle now belongs to the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and will bring it about.

You must believe this and rely on this truth. Stop believing the lie that you are still a slave to sin. The old, dead self, that you should loathe, is on the cross.

“Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only by accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the cross. Our eyes must be open to see the finished work of Calvary” (Nee, 1957).

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= What are you going to do differently?

References

Nee, W. (1957). The Normal Christian Life. CLC Publications.

THE PROBLEM WITH I, ME, AND MY

(Guest Post by: Michelle Hobbs)

I discovered the writings of Watchman Nee about two years ago wandering through a book store’s discount shelves. I had heard of him before but had never read any of his work. So, when I stumbled upon a copy of The Normal Christian Life for $5.00, I snagged it! I am so glad I did! He has easily become one of my favorite authors and teachers.

Watchman Nee was a Bible Teacher and Evangelist in China from approximately 1923 – 1952. He founded over 200 churches and wrote more than 50 books. Starting his ministry while still a university student, Nee gathered small groups in homes and helped them grow into spiritually strong, self-supporting churches. He was arrested for preaching the Gospel in 1952 and was imprisoned until his death in 1972.

Watchman Nee’s books are filled with the forgotten secrets of spiritual strength and power. He pulls no punches in reminding us where we need to step up. I would say, he has much to teach us given his success in living out the Gospel, even under persecution.

Let’s dive into some of the life-changing truth that can be found in just the first chapter of Watchman Nee’s, A Normal Christian Life!

So, what is the “normal” Christian life? Is it the Americanized version of Christianity, where we show up to a church service a couple of times a week, serve on some committees, donate to a few charities?

Oh friends, I for one, am longing for something much deeper and richer than that. My desire, for myself, and for you, is that we would, honestly and for a long while, ponder what Jesus would consider to be the “normal” Christian life.

Considering even a small portion of Jesus’ teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, for example, where He lays out the Beatitudes, can leave us wondering whether it is even possible for a mere human to live up to such expectations. But, that is precisely the point and the good news! It is not possible for a mere human to live up to those expectations.

Our saving grace lies in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I no longer live, but Christ lives His life in me. You no longer live, but Christ lives His life in you.

So simple. Utterly complete. Undeniably clear. Yet, it still eludes us. Why?

Let me speak for myself here. I look at the Beatitudes and think… How can I be more meek, more merciful? I will donate my time and my money to a charity. How can I become more righteous? I will memorize the whole Bible and quote Scripture to my sinner friends! How can I be a peacemaker? I will bite my tongue, even though I really want to tear that person up for offending me!

Do you hear the problem with my questions and my answers? Those little pronouns that trip us up every time. “I” and “me/my”.

Nee reminds us that, “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.”

You see, Jesus died instead of you so you can be forgiven. He must live instead of you so that you can live a “normal” Christian life. Jesus was your substitute on the cross who secures your forgiveness, and He must be your substitute in life to secure your victory.

You can donate your time and money to charitable causes, but those you are serving should see Jesus and not you. You absolutely should memorize Scripture, but it should be for the purpose of knowing God and making Him known; to deepen your relationship with Jesus so that He becomes the love of your life. You definitely should hold your tongue and not respond in anger at an offense, but it should be because you are looking at the other person through Jesus eyes; seeing that they are lost and in need of His saving grace.

We can strive to live a Christian life in our own power. We might even succeed in upholding most of Jesus’ commands for a short time, but it will only be for a short time. If our hearts are not truly and completely substituted with Jesus’ heart, our sinful nature will win out eventually. Have you not found that to be true?

The only way to live a “normal” Christian life is to “keep constantly before us this fact: God will answer all our questions in one way and one way only, namely, by showing us more of His Son.”

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Do you try to be a “good Christian” on your own most of the time?

= In what way did this post encourage/challenge you today?

= What are you going to do differently?