kw: book summaries, watchman nee, christian ministry
With the "Overcomer Conferences" of 1929-32, which formed the subject of many earlier issues of The Present Testimony, Watchman Nee laid a solid foundation for Christian life and practice in our understanding of God's covenant and the reality of the indwelling Christ, who alone can carry out God's will in our lives and in the church.
Fifteen verses in the New Testament speak of "him who overcomes" or similar language; seven of these are in the conclusions of the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3. It is primarily due to Watchman Nee's written ministry that many Christians have come to know a phrase that arose about the time of his death in 1972, "An overcomer is a normal Christian."
The current volume, Volume 10 of The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, contains Issues 24 to 31 of The Present Testimony. Several subjects based on the earlier foundation are presented, and three issues (26 to 28) are devoted to the messages that became the book The Latent Power of the Soul. I'll hold comment on that book until I read its updated version in a later volume of CWWN.
Two messages were particularly helpful to me, to remind me of the balance in God's ways: "The Two Sides of the Truth—Objective and Subjective" from Issue 29 and "Faith and Obedience" from Issue 30. These two are really two treatments of the same subject. For example, the redemption of Christ, accomplished on the cross, is an objective fact, a historical fact with a tremendous spiritual meaning because it forms the foundation of our relationship with God. To such a fact, we can respond in one of two ways, to believe or to disbelieve. There is no "obedience" involved in gaining the benefits of redemption, because they are like a bank deposit and faith is the only key to open it.
The promise of the Holy Spirit, both internal for our life and external for our work—this is the difference between the Spirit received as "breath" by the disciples on the day Jesus was resurrected, and the Spirit poured out on the disciples praying in the upper room at Pentecost—, this promise is another fact, which we obtain by faith. But the working out of our living in spirit day by day is through obedience, and our carrying out the work to which God has called us is also through obedience.
Jesus spoke of some who would stand before the Lord to say, "Lord, Lord, we did many great things in Your name," but that He would refuse to recognize their work, calling it "lawless". Why? No obedience. Such workers do things they want to do "for God" without being at all clear what God actually wants them to do. But this has a more day-to-day aspect. When we pray, do we treat God like a "sugar daddy" or "magician" who exists to fulfill our desires? Or do we love and enjoy Him and seek His desire, trusting that we will be the most fully fulfilled in the daily tasks and life work that He has chosen?
Nee was concerned that many Christians get things backward. They ask God to do something for them that He has already done. In the extreme, some might ask Jesus to die again on their behalf! This cannot be, and forms a large subject in Hebrews. Seeing that we have been redeemed, we simply believe it, and this is the foundation of our obedience. But others try to obey "what the Bible says" without first having faith on the One who redeemed them. In effect, they want to walk about God's kingdom without first entering its gate. Had Israel never crossed the Jordan River, they could walk about all they wished, and never gain a single inch of Canaan. This is the sad condition of many "good" people, many "well behaved" people, who have sidestepped the cross of Christ but try to live a "Christian" life anyway.
It takes a certain exercise to partake of powerful ministry such as this book contains. If I read in a lazy way or let myself get in a querulous mood, I gain nothing. Watchman Nee had the gift to repeat a truth in several ways and from several angles, to get around our fleshly defenses, to induce us to wake up and actively take in spiritual truths with a spiritual mind. And to this end, a pair of messages on "The Renewing of the Mind", also from issues 29 and 30, are particularly helpful.