A Bit of a Devotion
I woke up with the desire to write this morning, which is something that (and perhaps this is a surprise to some of you who assume that writers just always want to be writing) does not happen often. However, now that I come to it, I realize I've not much to say. Not in the way of originality, anyhow. Perhaps I can share a bit of a book I'm reading with you. Someone who I have not spent vast amounts of time with, though I still consider him a dear friend (you might say that we are kindred spirits, and that refreshing conversation stirred in me a brotherly affection for him), gave this book to me last year, in Minneapolis. He wrote a note inside that read:
This book has been such a blessing to me in making me aware of how I am IN Christ and my old man therefore crucified. My prayer for you is that it will guide you into the scriptures and force you to live in the spirit with the realization that you are a son of the Most High. Thanks for everything, man. It's been a blessing getting to know you."
Here is an excerpt from Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life:
"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 a fallacy; 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. 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 discovery brings human striving and self-effort to an end."
It is always the proclivity of man to err towards religion - that is, to work for favor or merit, to set our rags before Christ that he may somehow be indebted to us. Essentially, I think, it can be summed up in worship of self. I am no stranger to this. Certainly there is nothing wrong with discipline. But I think Nee makes an interesting point to say that it is our weakness, as opposed to our strength, that sets us free.
Besides, does not Christian growth look like abiding in the Vine? Nee uses Hudson Taylor's experience as an example:
"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. I have not 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. 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 - eye, and risen too and ascended… God reckons me 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 in Christ."
In view of this revelation, he goes on to speak of "the bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are."
There are moments when someone voices a thing that you have felt, but never had the words to solidify your understanding. And there are moments when you have understood something for a long while, and someone has the words to reintroduce your feeling.