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The Normal Christian Life, chapter 3 (Watchman Nee)

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I consider that this chapter, beautiful illustrated and explained will aid as you seek to learn from and understand Romans 1-8:

Our old history ends with the Cross; our new history begins with the

resurrection. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things

are passed away; behold they are become new” (2 Cor 5:17). The Cross

terminates the first creation, and out of death there is brought a new

creation in Christ, the second Man. If we are `in Adam’ all that is in Adam

necessarily devolves upon us; it becomes ours involuntarily, for we have to

do nothing to get it. There is no need to make up our minds to lose our

temper or to commit some other sin; it comes to us freely and despite

ourselves. In a similar way, if we are `in Christ’ all that is in Christ

comes to us by free grace, without effort on our part but on the ground of

simple faith.

But to say that all we need comes to us in Christ by free grace, though

true enough, may seem unpractical. How does it work out in practice? How

does it become real in our experience?

As we study chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Romans we shall discover that the

conditions of living the normal Christian life are fourfold. They are: (a)

Knowing, (b) Reckoning, (c) Presenting ourselves to God, and (d) Walking in

the Spirit, and they are set forth in that order. If we would live that life

we shall have to take all four of these steps; not one nor two nor three,

but all four. As we study each of them we shall trust the Lord by His Holy

Spirit to illumine our understanding; and we shall seek His help now to take

the first big step forward.

Our Death With Christ A Historic Fact

Romans 6:1-11 is the passage before us now. In these verses it is made

clear that the death of the Lord Jesus is representative and inclusive. In

His death we all died. None of us can progress spiritually without seeing

this. Just as we cannot have justification if we have not seen Him bearing

our sins on the Cross, so we cannot have sanctification if we have not seen

Him bearing us on the Cross. Not only have our sins been laid on Him but we

ourselves have been put into Him.

How did you receive forgiveness? You realized that the Lord Jesus died

as your Substitute and bore your sins upon Himself, and that His Blood was

shed to cleanse away your defilement. When you saw your sins all taken away

on the Cross what did you do? Did you say, `Lord Jesus, please come and die

for my sins’? No, you did not pray at all; you only thanked the Lord You did

not beseech Him to come and die for you, for you realized that He had

already done it.

But what is true of your forgiveness is also true of your deliverance.

The work is done. There is no need to pray but only to praise. God has put

us all in Christ, so that when Christ was crucified we were crucified also.

Thus there is no need to pray: `I am a very wicked person; Lord, please

crucify me’. That is all wrong. You did not pray about your sins; why pray

now about yourself? Your sins were dealt with by His Blood, and you were

dealt with by His Cross. It is an accomplished fact. All that is left for

you to do is to praise the Lord that when Christ died you died also; you

died in Him. Praise Him for it and live in the light of it. “Then believed

they his words: they sang his praise” (Psalm 106:12).

Do you believe in the death of Christ? Of course you do. Well, the same

Scripture that says He died for us says also that we died with Him. Look at

it again: “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That is the first statement,

and that is clear enough; but is this any less clear? “Our old man was

crucified with him” (Romans 6:6). “We died with Christ” (Romans 6:8).

When are we crucified with Him? What is the date of our old man’s

crucifixion? Is it tomorrow? Yesterday? Today? In order to answer this it

may help us if for a moment I turn Paul’s statement round and say, `Christ

was crucified with (i.e. at the same time as) our old man’. Some of you came

here in twos. You traveled to this place together. You might say, My friend

came here with me’, but you might just as truly say, `I came here with my

friend’. Had one of you come three days ago and the other only today you

could not possibly say that; but having come together you can make either

statement with equal truth, because both are statements of fact. So also in

historic fact we can say, reverently but with equal accuracy, `I was

crucified when Christ was crucified’ or `Christ was crucified when I was

crucified’, for they are not two historical events, but one. My crucifixion

was “with him”.[3] Has Christ been crucified? Then can I be otherwise? And

if He was crucified nearly two thousand years ago, and I with Him, can my

crucifixion be said to take place tomorrow? Can His be past and mine be

present or future? Praise the Lord, when He died in my stead, but He bore me

with Him to the Cross, so that when He died I died. And if I believe in the

death of the Lord Jesus, then I can believe in my own death just as surely

as I believe in His.

Why do you believe that the Lord Jesus died? What is your ground for

that belief? Is it that you feel He has died? No, you have never felt it.

You believe it because the Word of God tells you so. When the Lord was

crucified, two thieves were crucified at the same time. You do not doubt

that they were crucified with Him, either, because the Scripture says so

quite plainly.

You believe in the death of the Lord Jesus and you believe in the death

of the thieves with Him. Now what about your own death? Your crucifixion is

more intimate than theirs. They were crucified at the same time as the Lord

but on different crosses, whereas you were crucified on the self same cross

as He, for you were in Him when He died. How can you know? You can know for

the one sufficient reason that God has said so. It does not depend on your

feelings. If you feel that Christ has died, He has died; and if you do not

feel that he died, He has died. If you feel that you have died, you have

died; and if you do not feel that you have died, you have nevertheless just

as surely died. These are Divine facts. That Christ has died is a fact, that

the two thieves have died is a fact, and that you have died is a fact also.

Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The

self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And “he that is dead is freed

from sin” (Romans 6:7, A.V.). This is the Gospel for Christians.

Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but

only be accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross. Our eyes must be

opened to see the finished work of Calvary. Some of you, prior to your

salvation, may have tried to save yourselves. You read the Bible, prayed,

went to Church, gave alms. Then one day your eyes were opened and you saw

that a full salvation had already been provided for you on the Cross. You

just accepted that and thanked God, and peace and joy flowed into your

heart. Now salvation and sanctification are on exactly the same basis. You

receive deliverance from sin in the same way as you receive forgiveness of

sins.

For 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. The idea that, because

failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is

therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the

way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our

inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory

over sin we must have more power. `If only I were stronger’, we say, `I

could overcome my violent outbursts of temper’, and so we plead with the

Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control.

But this is altogether wrong; this 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. That is surely rather a peculiar way of

victory, you say; but it is the Divine way. God sets us free from the

dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not

by helping him to do anything but by removing him from the scene of action.

For years, maybe, you have tried fruitlessly to exercise control over

yourself, and perhaps this is still your experience; but when once you see

the truth you will recognize that you are indeed powerless to do anything,

but that in setting you aside altogether God has done it all. Such a

revelation brings human self-effort to an end.

The First Step: “Knowing This…”

The normal Christian life must begin with a very definite `knowing’,

which is not just knowing something about the truth nor understanding some

important doctrine. It is not intellectual knowledge at all, but an opening

of the eyes of the heart to see what we have in Christ.

How do you know your sins are forgiven? Is it because your pastor told

you so? No, you just know it. If I ask you how you know, you simply answer,

`I know it!’ Such knowledge comes by Divine revelation. It comes from the

Lord Himself. Of course the fact of forgiveness of sins is in the Bible, but

for the written Word of God to become a living Word from God to you He had

to give you “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him”

(Eph. 1:17). What you needed was to know Christ in that way, and it is

always so. So there comes a time, in regard to any new apprehension of

Christ, when you know it in your own heart, you `see’ it in your spirit. A

light has shined into your inner being and you are wholly persuaded of the

fact. What is true of the forgiveness of your sins is no less true of your

deliverance from sin. When once the light of God dawns upon your heart you

see yourself in Christ. It is not now because someone has told you, and not

merely because Romans 6 says so. It is something more even than that. You

know it because God has revealed it to you by His Spirit. You may not feel

it; you may not understand it; but you know it, for you have seen it. Once

you have seen yourself in Christ, nothing can shake your assurance of that

blessed fact.

If you ask a number of believers who have entered upon the normal

Christian life how they came by their experience, some will say in this way

and some will say in that. Each stresses his own particular way of entering

in and produces Scripture to support his experience; and unhappily many

Christians are using their special experiences and their special scriptures

to fight other Christians. The fact of the matter is that, while Christians

may enter into the deeper life by different ways, we need not regard the

experiences or doctrines they stress as mutually exclusive, but rather

complementary. One thing is certain, that any true experience of value in

the sight of God must have been reached by way of a new discovery of the

meaning of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. That is a crucial test and

a safe one.

And here in our passage Paul makes everything depend upon such a

discovery. “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the

body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to

sin” (Romans 6:6).

Divine Revelation Essential To Knowledge

So our first step is to seek from God a knowledge that comes by

revelation — a revelation, that is to say, not of ourselves but of the

finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. When Hudson Taylor, the

founder of the China Inland Mission, entered into the normal Christian life

it was thus that he did so. You remember how he tells of his long-standing

problem of how to live `in Christ’, how to draw the sap out of the Vine into

himself. For he knew that he must have the life of Christ flowing out

through him and yet felt that he had not got it, and he saw clearly enough

that his need was to be found in Christ. `I knew’, he said, writing to his

sister from Chinkiang in 1869, `that if only I could abide in Christ, all

would be well, but I could not.’

The more he tried to get in the more he found himself slipping out, so

to speak, until one day light dawned, revelation came and he saw.

`Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the Vine

into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine — the root, stem,

branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed.’

Then, in words of a friend that had helped him:

`I have not got to make myself a branch. The Lord Jesus tells me I am a

branch. I am part of Him and I have just to believe it and act upon it. I

have seen it long enough in the Bible, but I believe it now as a living

reality.’

It was as though something which had indeed been true all the time had

now suddenly become true in a new way to him personally, and he writes to

his sister again:

`I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it,

for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful — and yet, all is new! In

a word, “whereas once I was blind, now I see”….I am dead and buried with

Christ — aye, and risen too and ascended….God reckons me so, and tells me

to reckon myself so. He knows best….Oh, the joy of seeing this truth — I

do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may

know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.'[4]

Oh, it is a great thing to see that we are in Christ! Think of the

bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are! Think of

the absurdity of asking to be put in! If we recognize the fact that we are

in, we make no effort to enter. If we had more revelation we should have

fewer prayers and more praises. Much of our praying for ourselves is just

because we are blind to what God has done.

I remember one day in Shanghai I was talking with a brother who was

very exercised concerning his spiritual state. He said, `So many are living

beautiful, saintly lives. I am ashamed of myself. I call myself a Christian

and yet when I compare myself with others I feel I am not one at all. I want

to know this crucified life, this resurrection life, but I do not know it

and see no way of getting there.’ Another brother was with us, and the two

of us had been talking for two hours or so, trying to get the man to see

that he could not have anything apart from Christ, but without success. Said

our friend, `the best thing a man can do is to pray.’ `But if God has

already given you everything, what do you need to pray for?’ we asked. `He

hasn’t’, the man replied, `for I am still losing my temper, still failing

constantly; so I must pray more.’ `Well’, we said, `do you get what you pray

for?’ `I am sorry to say that I do not get anything’, he replied. We tried

to point out that, just as he had done nothing for his justification, so he

need do nothing for his sanctification.

Just then a third brother, much used of the Lord, came in and joined

us. There was a thermos flask on the table, and this brother picked it up

and said, `What is this?’ `A thermos flask.’ `Well, you just imagine for a

moment that this thermos flask can pray, and that it starts praying

something like this: “Lord, I want very much to be a thermos flask. Wilt

Thou make me to be a thermos flask? Lord, give me grace to become a thermos

flask. Do please make me one!” What will you say?’ `I do not think even a

thermos flask would be so silly,’ our friend replied. `It would be nonsense

to pray like that; it is a thermos flask!’ Then my brother said, `You are

doing the same thing. God in times past has already included you in Christ.

When He died, you died; when He lived, you lived. Now today you cannot say,

“I want to die; I want to be crucified; I want to have resurrection life.”

The Lord simply looks at you and says, “You are dead! You have new life!”

All your praying is just as absurd as that of the thermos flask. 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.’

That is the point. We need not work to die, we need not wait to die, we

are dead. We only need to recognize what the Lord has already done and to

praise Him for it. Light dawned for that man. With tears in his eyes he

said, `Lord, I praise Thee that Thou hast already included me in Christ. All

that is His is mine!’ Revelation had come and faith had something to lay

hold of; and if you could have met that brother later on, what a change you

would have found!

The Cross Goes To The Root Of Our Problem

Let me remind you again of the fundamental nature of that which the

Lord has done on the Cross. I feel I cannot press this point too much for we

must see it. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the government of

your country should wish to deal drastically with the question of strong

drink and should decide that the whole country was to go `dry’, how could

the decision be carried into effect? How could we help? If we were to search

every shop and house throughout the land and smash all the bottles of wine

or beer or brandy we came across, would that meet the case? Surely not. We

might thereby rid the land of every drop of alcoholic liquor it contains,

but behind those bottles of strong drink are the factories that produce

them, and if we only deal with the bottles and leave the factories

untouched, production will still continue and there is no permanent solution

of the problem. The drink-producing factories, the breweries and

distilleries throughout the land, must be closed down if the drink question

is to be permanently settled.

We are the factory; our actions are the products. The Blood of the Lord

Jesus dealt with the question of the products, namely, our sins. So the

question of what we have done is settled, but would God have stopped there?

What about the question of what we are? Our sins were produced by us. They

have been dealt with, but how are we going to be dealt with? Do you believe

the Lord would cleanse away all our sins and then leave us to get rid of the

sin-producing factory? Do you believe He would put away the goods produced

but leave us to deal with the source of production?

To ask this question is but to answer it. Of course He has not done

half the work and left the other half undone. No, He has done away with the

goods and also made a clean sweep of the factory that produces the goods.

The finished work of Christ really has gone to the root of our problem

and dealt with it. There are no half measures with God. “Knowing this,” says

Paul, “That our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might

be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Rom. 6:6).

“Knowing this”! Yes, but do you know it? “Or are ye ignorant?” (Rom. 6:3).

May the Lord graciously open our eyes.

The Sower Sows the Word (VII)

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Today, we are wrapping up our study on the things that stop us from producing the results promised in the Word happening in our lives. We have looked at the danger of not fighting for the Word, for only listening to the Word on an emotional level, of allowing money and wealth to dictate to us and of the desire for people to like and honour us stopping us being the Christians that we are destined to be.

Now we shall look at the final challenge: the lust for other things.

Mark 4.19 says:

And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

If you have the lust of other things enter into your heart, it will choke the Word of God and the Word of God will not be fruitful in your life. You will most likely blame God and His Word, but it is not God’s fault – it is because of what you have allowed into your heart.

Don’t kick yourself though, make a change. Let’s look at what the lust of other things actually is:

The word used for lust here is the Greek word epithymia. It means a strong desire. It does not always refer to something bad – Jesus uses the word to refer to his desire to share the passover meal with his disciples for example (Luke 22.15) – but generally it is used to refer to a strong desire that your body has.

A good example would be:

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof]. – Romans 13.14

If you allow the desires of your flesh to control what you do, what you think and how you behave you will never see the manifestation of the Word of God in your life.

Romans 6.12 says: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Now this is where many Christians get themselves into trouble and tie themselves into knots. They read a Scripture like Romans 6.12 that tells them not to obey the desires of their body. It might be a sin-desire like using a pornographic website or spreading gossip. It might be a sickness-desire like lying in bed all day and not fighting off the cold. Either way it is a desire of your flesh. Now if you simply try and fight off that desire you will fail.

Sometimes you will succeed but sometimes you will fail. Your Christian life will be a roller-coaster of success and failure. You will lead a generally unfruitful Christian life. I know many Christians that live like this, and I know I have had seasons where I have lived like this too. Struggled to walk in purity, in health, in prosperity, in love – sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, my emotions flowing all over the place. An up and down Christian.

But that is not God’s will – He has redeemed us from this, praise the Lord. To find out how to live free from the strong desires of your body, let’s re-read Romans 6.12, but in context:

6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7For he that is dead is freed from sin.

8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

17But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6.6-18)

Romans is one of the most powerful books in the Bible because it deals with the most important topic in the New Testament: righteousness. I sincerely believe that righteousness is the most misunderstood topic in the Bible and that if Christians truly understood it, there would be a revival across the world that has never been seen before in any generation.

It was a revelation of what righteousness really is that started the Protestant Reformation. It was a revelation of what righteousness really is that started the charismatic move. These are the two most influential revivals that have ever happened in history.

Righteousness is the state of right standing with God. A synonym for righteousness is just. To make someone righteous is to justify them. It means you can stand in the presence of God and not be afraid, not feel inferior, not be condemned. It means you are right with God. A righteous person is as bold as a lion. A righteous person has their prayers answered. They have joy, they have peace. Understanding what righteousness is and how to receive it is the key to life.

Romans 1 tells us that the nations are not righteous. Romans 2 tells us that the nation of Israel and people who obey the law are not righteous. Romans 3 tells us no-one is righteous because of their actions., but that you can only receive righteousness by faith. Romans 4 shows how the remarkable individual Abraham did not even have righteousness by his actions, but was made righteous (justified) by faith. Romans 5 tells us the benefits of being righteous by faith.

Romans 6 then deals with a wonderful question: if I am righteous and have the benefits of righteousness because of faith in the complete work of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ, then why should I even bother living right?

(If you read Romans 6.1-2 you will find that Paul was accused of teaching you can live however you like if you are a Christian. The technical name for such a belief is libertarianism. It means a Christian can act as selfish as they like and there is no problem.

Now that is clearly not true – but if in your preaching of the Word no-one has managed to accuse you of this, you do need to ask yourself are you preaching righteousness by grace through faith as powerfully as Paul was?)

In Romans 6, Paul gives 2 reasons why we should live a holy and loving life, and not just do what our body feels like. He also gives us 2 ways in which we can live holy.

The two reasons why we should live holy are:

1. Because it is our nature. You are holy, so living holy should be natural to you. Like a bird flying or a tree producing fruit, it shouldn’t be difficult. Verse 7 of Romans 6 says that we are dead to sin. If you are dead to something, it should not tempt you. The more time we spend meditating on Bible verses that tell us our true nature, the easier it is to resist sin.

Once you realize that you are righteous, then it becomes natural to act righteous. Lots of people are trying to act righteous to convince themselves they are righteous – this is the wrong way round! Have a read of 2 Cor. 5.21 and see what you are because of the work of Jesus Christ.

2. We should live holy because living in sin brings death into your life. This concept is addressed in v.17 and in Romans 6.23 which says that the wages of sin is death. If you sin, then you will become trapped by that sin and that sin will bring death into your life. If you lie, you will be tempted to lie more, and the lies will bring sickness, stress, broken relationships and poverty into your life. It will not stop God loving you but it will not allow you to enjoy His love.

Sin won’t keep you from heaven, but it will keep others from heaven. They will fail to see the life of God inside you and will not be attracted to the wonderful news of redemption. Sin makes you miserable – holiness is for your own good.

Why is it so important that we are holy because of these reasons and not to make God love us? Does the motive matter – or just the fact that we are striving to be holy. The answer is that if you are just trying to live right to please God and to become righteous then you will always fail. You will always feel God is against you and you will be defeated.

If you realize you are right, then you can live right. You can enjoy fellowship with the Holy Spirit, you can have confidence when you pray, you can go and lay hands on the sick and know it is not because of you that they are healed but because of Jesus.

The lust for other things can be lorded over if you realize that God has already lifted you above that.

Romans 7 goes on to tell of the futility of still trying to live by the law of God. Romans 8 tells of the wonders of living by the Spirit, aware of your righteousness. If you realize that you are righteous and realize that sin always leads to death, you will find that there is a power inside you – the power of the reborn, righteous spirit, the power of the new creation that you became on the day you became a Christian – and that this power is more powerful than the lust for other things.

If you deal with the lust for other things, then the Word of God will start to spring up in your life. Healing, peace, prosperity, wholeness will no longer be in seed form, planted deep in your life with no evidence they are there, but they will spring up in your life and transform not just your life, but the whole world.

Blessings,
Ben

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