08/04/2008

Not I but Christ (by Watchman Nee)

Watchman Nee was a fairly well-known Chinese Christian during the early part of the 20th century. He was quite a prolific writer, and his work has been translated into English.

I've only read one of his books - read one of his 'Let us Pray' - prior to this, and wasn't very impressed. It seemed stilted, and had an over-emphasis on spiritual warfare.

But I found 'Not I but Christ' on a second-hand bookstall, and thought I'd see what it was like. I've read a chapter a day in the past week, and finished it today.

It is apparently part of a series of 'Basic lessons on practical Christian living', although it's complete in itself. The theme of this book overall is to do with forgiveness, restitution, restoration, and living for Jesus. Each chapter looks at a different aspect.

The earlier chapters were very basic, looking at how we receive forgiveness, both on first becoming a believer, and also when we sin afterwards. They talk about confession, and how Jesus paid the price, and what we should do to restore relationships.

The writing is quite interesting, but my main problem was that it was very, very repetitive. Some paragraphs seemed to say the same thing in two or three ways. Other sections kept emphasising the same points, putting them in slightly different ways. It meant I could easily skim, though I tried not to.

However, I was unexpectedly struck by the sixth chapter on living the Christian life; the point was clearly made that we really shouldn't keep striving towards holiness, or that will become as much a burden as sin was beforehand. We need to stop relying on our own efforts and will, and allow Christ to take over. This wasn't new to me, of course, but the way it was presented struck me quite forcibly, along with the statement that:

'Your temptation is not to sin; rather, your temptation is to act on your own.'

So true!

The last chapter, too, was encouraging and useful, describing how to discern God's will in standard ways, but also making the point that if God wants us to do his will, then he will reveal it to us. If he hasn't revealed anything, there's no point worrying about what it might be - we just need to continue where we are, since one of the important forms of guidance is through circumstances.

These last two chapters were as repetitive as the early ones - the whole book could probably have been condensed into under half its size without losing anything - but what they said was so good that I didn't mind so much.

Recommended to anyone thinking through these questions, or anyone who hasn't understood how Christian forgiveness works.

Not currently in print, but available inexpensively for the Kindle, as well as sometimes being found second-hand. 

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