Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | May 13, 2013

The Impossibility of Trying to Be a Good Christian, by David Bower

Still Trying to Live a Good Christian Life?

You may have heard or said, “Well, I try to be a good Christian,” or “I try to live a good Christian life.” To try is to fail, you can take that to the bank. Ephesians 2:8-9 points out, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” While there is a place for good works as in verse 10 of that chapter, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” A key thought in that verse is we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works; these are the works of Christ through us.

How can that be you may ask? In Galatians 2:20 the reality of our spiritual situation is stated when Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Let us modify Ephesians 2:8-9 to apply to the Christian life: “For it is by grace you live the Christian life, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Do you see the parallel, do you see how that which was commenced by faith must be continued by faith? Trying to live the Christian life would be like trying to save yourself!

In The Nick of Time!

A life-changing development had come just in time; depression and frustration had taken hold of Hudson Taylor before he finally discovered the reality of the exchanged life. Chapter 14 of “The Normal Christian Life” is titled, “The Exchanged Life” and relates the joy Hudson Taylor experienced when he realized he wasn’t supposed to do it himself, it was Christ’s work and Christ wanted to do it in Hudson Taylor.

The staggering reality of Galatians 2:20 finally hit home in his life and by God’s grace and the teaching ministry of God, the Holy Spirit, this monumental truth finally became a part of Hudson Taylor’s life. On his return to Yangchow he exclaimed to a friend, “Oh, Mr. Judd, God has made me a new man! God has made me a new man!” (page 110).

It is a curious thing about human nature how we want to do things our way rather than follow the instructions; I believe it entirely likely that Hudson Taylor had read the entire New Testament many times but somehow this fundamental truth had escaped him. Although we know we cannot save ourselves, we somehow think we can live the Christian life in our own strength! In Galatians 3:3 Paul warns, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

The Mystery Revealed

The world changed forever when on Pentecost of AD 33 the Holy Spirit indwelt believers and each Christian human being became a temple of God. A wondrous mystery that had been hidden from the past ages was now revealed; Paul describes this in Colossians 1:25-27, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

You will recall the beginning of my last blog where I quoted the opening paragraph from Watchman Nee’s “The Normal Christian Life, “What is the normal Christian life? We do well at the outset to ponder this question. The object of these studies is to show that it is something very different from the life of the aver­age Christian. Indeed a consideration of the written Word of God —of the Sermon on the Mount for example—should lead us to ask whether such a life has ever in fact been lived upon the earth, save only by the Son of God Himself But in that last saving clause lies immediately the answer to our question”

As the book progresses one sees the impact of Hudson Taylor all over the ministry of Watchman Nee; the secret had been successfully passed down to succeeding generations of Christians. May God, the Holy Spirit, illumine our understanding to the point we can exchange our lives for the life of Christ.

The Normal Christian Life is the Exchanged Life!


  1. I picked up the Normal Christian Life. I understand Romans better now. I read very slowly but I can read again and this is my first book since last October when I lost vision. Thanks for making me aware of the book and W Née.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m delighted to hear of your progress and hope you find the same great rewards I’ve found when I read that book.


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