Watchman Nee asked one of the the most poignant question ever considered by man, when he asked – “What is the Normal Christian Life?“.
Well, what is it my brethren, this thing called the Christian life? What does it look like, and would you recognize it if it stood square out in front of you? I ask again, what does the real Christian life look like? Is it this earth-bound life being lived out by most western Christians all over this world? Is it expressed in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Is it the manifest life being lived out by you and I?
What does a real Christian live for? What is the passion and pursuit of his heart? What is his first and last thought at the beginning and end of each day? What is his place and purpose in this world, in the short life he lives on this earth? What is the preoccupation and focus of his heart? What lights his eyes, and informs his soul, and compels him from one moment to the next?
What are his expectations and ideals? What is the living dynamic that enables and energizes him? What is His first love? Do you know my friends; I mean really know, as only the inner piercing of the Holy Spirit can allow you to know? Do you ever even contemplate such questions?
Be careful now. There are many counterfiets and shadows in circulation. There are countless notions and assumptions about what real Christianity is and is not. Indeed, every sect and division in the faith each has their own institutional and theological answers to all these essential questions; a creed, a statement, a formalized and inviolable doctrinal affirmation. Often they are printed on a card and handed out to new converts as the beginning and the end.
Yet I am not asking your church or your pastor, but you personally. Do you know? If you met a real Christian on the street tomorrow would you know it? What would give them away? Good works or a kind heart perhaps? Selfless charity? Manifest piety or devotion to the cause of Christ?
We say we are Christians; all well and good. Yet are we really living the essential and authentic Christian life? Is the Living Christ being formed in us? I am not asking if you are a Christian, no not that at all, please don’t misunderstand. For that is far easier to determine. Many have said “the prayer” and claimed the blood, then maybe gone forward to some altar in the presence of the saints; perhaps even been immersed in the baptism and death of the old man. Yet this new birth, this wondrous beginning, may or may not have any bearing on how one lives and walks afterward. It is a sad reality brethren, and one that grieves the Father terribly, that so many who have received the fullness of eternal life in His Son, at so great a cost to Himself, have failed to walk in this life.
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— (Gal. 4:18, Emphasis Livingwalk)
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister….
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Col. 1:9-23; 25-28, Emphasis Livingwalk)
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (Col. 2:6-7, Emphasis Livingwalk)
Oh dear ones, is He being formed in us? Are we walking in Him every moment of every day? Are we being made complete in Him such that He might fill all of the Creation with Himself? Are we walking in a manner worthy of our Lord in other words?
Or does each day just bring with it more of ourselves? More of our personality? More of our opinions? More self-interest? More of our best efforts and failures? More of our soul? More of our carnal appetites? More of our blood, sweat and toil? More of us seeking a place and a future in this cursed world? More religious idols that we allow to supplant Him, and eclipse Him, and shun Him in the inner sanctuary of our hearts? Oh dear ones, this must not be so, for He willingly and graciously poured out all of His life and His love for us, that we might take it up, and walk in it, and grow in it, and become something else; something new; something heavenly and mysterious, that even the angels rub their eyes to glimpse more perfectly?
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)
“Filled up to all the fullness of God.” Oh dear saints, does this sound anything like our Father in Heaven is trying to improve you or make you a better man; with all that you are still in tact, alive and well? No and never! Rather He is in intent on filling you with all the fullness of His Perfect and Beloved Son! Oh that you might see this with spiritual eyes, and that it might shatter everything that religion and self-help and humanism has wrought over 6,000 years! No, the first lie is still the only lie! You shall not be as God! Only God shall be as God! And only God; only His Son being formed in you shall put a smile on the face of the Father and blessing to His heart! And so – Is He being increased in us or are we?
“He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)
Oh my brethren, my heart yearns that you would see this once and for all as did John the Baptist, and put aside all and anything that confounds this wonderful and mysterious purpose. Oh that you would stop being so impressed and so compromised with religious things and religious men and religious buildings and religious formalities, and that you might see with eyes wide open in the spirit what the Father wants us to see – the beauty and the majesty, and the glory, and the absolute and universe-filling perfection that is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Light of All the Universe! He, my friends, and He alone, is the real thing. In point of fact, He is the only thing! And His Mystic Body, what Paul reveals in his letter to the Ephesians, is what we are in the process of becoming, individually joined to Him one to one another, onward to the fullness of Christ Jesus!
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:11-24)
Oh little ones; so many in this hour, at the end of this age, are so easily deceiving you and distracting you and diverting you from the Real Thing, from He who is our beginning and end, our very life and reason for life. Oh how this grieves me terribly and brings the Holy Spirit’s tears to my eyes and my heart. So many idols set up to perpetuate man on this earth; all dressed up in his Sunday best, keeping rules and rituals, day after day and year after year, on and on and on…
Gracious Father, forgive us Lord, every single one of us, for falling prey to every lesser thing, every earthly, man-inspired thing. Oh Lord, grant us just such a heart to love Thee Father, and to allow all that it takes for Your Beloved Son to be formed in us, such that His fullness might fill everything in every way. Oh Lord, there are many out there still pretending and still patronizing groups and following men and cardboard creeds, who have utterly no idea at all what the Christian life is all about. Even worse, Lord, so many are using the name of your Precious Son as a means of worldly gain and enrichment. Oh fierce and terrible Lord, I pray not for such wolves but for your precious sheep, for whom the blood of the Lamb was spilled. I pray you will save those just as you called Noah out of the world, and Lot out of Sodom, and Israel out from Egypt prior to Your terrible wrath being poured down. Oh Lord, turn our hearts to Thee, and open our eyes that we might see such wonderful things. Save us Father, please save us in Your great mercy and long-suffering! In Jesus’ Glorious Name, we pray, Amen.
Further Reading -
The Meaning of the Christian Life (T. Austin-Sparks)
The Meaning of Divine Life (T. Austin-Sparks)
What is a Christian? (T. Austin-Sparks)
The Normal Christian Life (Watchmen Nee)