The Normal Christian Life

by Watchman Nee
1903-1972


Raised and educated in the providence of Southern China in a town called Foochow, Watchman Nee prospered as a young man. He excelled his peers, and his academic achievements frequently placed him at the top of his class. However, his life was forever changed when, at the age of seventeen, he gave himself completely to Christ.

Speaking of his conversion Nee says, “I was alone in my room, struggling to decide whether or not to believe in the Lord. At first I was reluctant, but as I tried to pray I saw the magnitude of my sins, and the reality and efficacy of Jesus as the Savior. As I visualized the Lord’s hands stretched out on the cross, they seemed to be welcoming me, and the Lord was saying, ‘I am waiting here to receive you.’ Realizing the effectiveness of Christ’s blood in cleansing my sins, and being overwhelmed by such love, I accepted Him there. Previously, I had laughed at people who had accepted Jesus, but that evening the experience became real for me, and I wept and confessed my sins, seeking the Lord’s forgiveness. As I made my first prayer, I knew joy and peace such as I had never known before. Light seemed to flood the room and I said to the Lord, ‘Oh Lord, You have indeed been gracious to me.’”

Nee kept this grateful attitude throughout his life. Immediately following his conversion he began witnessing to his classmates and countrymen. In 1923, following a time of personal growth and persistent prayer, a revival broke out in his hometown where hundreds were saved, including 69 of his 70 classmates from school.

Following his conversion, Nee felt a clear calling from God to preach the gospel full-time. Nee poured himself into study. He studied the Bible, the lives of spiritual men, church history, and other godly books. He never attained a formal theological education, but he allowed himself to be shaped and molded by the school of Christ, in the spiritual battlefield of early 20th century China.

Living a life of tireless devotion, he became weakened in the flesh by tuberculosis and chest pains related to a weak heart. However, he still pressed on, all the while trusting in God for provisions and health. In 1949 persecution broke out in his city of Shanghai. After much prayer, he felt that because of the need in the mainland for the witness of Christ, he was to stay and continue to minister in that area. As was expected, in 1952, he was arrested for his faith and taken to prison, where he stayed until his death in 1972. Still grateful in spite of persecution, on the last day of his life he wrote a letter about his thankfulness to Christ. Under his pillow was found a scratch of paper with the following words feebly written, “Christ is the Son of God, who died for the redemption of sinners, and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ.”

Because of the faithful brethren he left behind, nearly the entirety of Nee’s ministry has been transcribed and preserved in periodicals and books, leaving literally hundreds of books and spiritual works. Of all of his books, The Normal Christian Life is probably the most well known.

The presuming title of this book incites a challenge, right from the start. Nee’s desire in this book is not to advocate a super standard for an elite class of Christians, but to present what should be the expected inheritance of each child of God. From start to finish the book is completely Christ-focused. He says in the beginning, “…God will answer all our questions in one way and one way only, namely, by showing us more of His Son.” The book deals with deep issues such as sin, our sin nature, condemnation, and walking victoriously in the Spirit.

Nee has a wonderful way of getting to the core of an issue. In dealing with the death of self and our victory over sin he wrote, “…God’s way of deliverance is altogether different from man’s way. Man’s way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God’s way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. But that is altogether false; it is not Christianity. God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. ”

Speaking of the law of sin and death, he brings out the truth that these laws act similarly to the law of gravity, as something constantly working on us. He gives an insightful example, that if he drops his handkerchief, he needs to do nothing, and the law of gravity will naturally draw it to the ground. But, if with his other hand he reaches out and catches it, the law of gravity is overcome by another law superior to it, namely the law of life. He says that it is in just this way that the law of life in Christ has triumphed over death in all its forms. He says that if we allow God to have His clear way with us, we shall find His new law of life. Superseding that of the old, the new law allows us to live in Him, in holiness and with victory over sin.

On finding God’s will for our lives, he expounds on Psalm 36:9, ”In thy light shall we see light.” He explains that when we enter into God’ s light, He illuminates our path, and only then can we see His will for our lives. Further, he says that light has only one law: it shines wherever it is admitted. We may shut it out ourselves, but it is better for us to say with the Psalmist, “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me.” (Ps 43:3)

I must admit that at times his persistent emphasis on resting in Christ and allowing Christ to do all the work really challenged me. In some ways, it resembled the vocabulary of “easy believism” that many of us came from. However, when I considered his life and followed his theme to the end, I realized that he wasn’t at all preaching inactivity, but rather action that was completely void of our old self, and entirely motivated by God.

This whole message really comes together in the last chapter. In this chapter, he speaks of Mary’s anointing the feet of Jesus with the ointment of spikenard. He wrote that the final achievement of the gospel is for us to completely “waste” our lives on Jesus. In speaking of Mary’s anointing he wrote “…in approving Mary’s action at Bethany, the Lord Jesus was laying down one thing as a basis of all service: that you pour out all you have, your very self, unto Him; and if that should be all He allows you to do, that is enough.” A life emptied of self like this will be a beautiful fragrance to the Lord. Nee further exhorted that the aroma that filled the house that day in Bethany, still fills the Church today, when saints of God, like the broken bottle of spikenard, allow themselves to be broken, wasted, and consumed on the Lord Jesus Christ.


“The Normal Christian Life” can be ordered from most Christian bookstores. Or, read it online at www.ccel.org/index/classics.html

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