I don't think very many people have the Chinese preacher, teacher, writer, Watchman Nee, on their personal radar. When I first heard about him, in my post-high school years, I didn't even understand his name...thought someone was telling me to be careful around their leg joint.
But he was pretty popular among my small group of radical, let's-create-a-Christian-coffeehouse, Jesus People wannabees. He spent the final 20 years of his life in a Chinese prison, dying at the age of 68 in 1972, but before that, he traveled extensively, telling anyone who would listen about Jesus Christ.
I hadn't heard ANYbody quote him or say anything about him for a long, long time until last week, when I heard him referenced two or three times within a couple days. "That tears it," I thought. "I need to dig out my old copy of The Normal Christian Life and read it again."
The Normal Christian Life is based on sermons and lessons originally given by Mr. Nee during and shortly after a visit to Europe in 1938-39. It was compiled and edited while Nee was in prison and first published in 1957. (I own the third revised edition, published in 1961.)
Even as old as it is...even as foreign as Watchman Nee's culture is to we Westerners...there is profound truth here, starting in Chapter One.
In the first section [of Romans 1-8] it is a question of the sins I have committed before God, which are many and can be enumerated, whereas in the second it is a question of sin as a principle working in me. No matter how many sins I commit, it is always the one sin-principle that leads to them. I need forgiveness for my sins, but I need also deliverance from the power of sin. The former touches my conscience, the latter my life. I may receive forgiveness for all my sins, but because of my sin I have, even then, no abiding peace of mind.
When God's light first shines into my heart my one cry is for forgiveness, for I realize I have committed sins before Him; but when once I have received forgiveness of sins I make a new discovery, namely, the discovery of sin, and I realize not only that I have committed sins before God but that there is something wrong within. I discover that I have the nature of a sinner. There is an inward inclination to sin, a power within that draws to sin. When that power breaks out I commit sins. I may seek and receive forgiveness, but then I sin once more. So life goes on in a vicious circle of sinning and being forgiven and then sinning again. I appreciate the blessed fact of God's forgiveness, but I want something more than that: I want deliverance. I need forgiveness for what I have done, but I need also deliverance from what I am.
* * * * * * *
Truth is...While it is accurate to say that I sin and therefore, I am a sinner, it is far more accurate to say that because I am a sinner, I commit sins. And...the greatest truth of all...Jesus both saves from sins and delivers from sin.