Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A.W. Tozer

I ended my last blog entry wondering what in the world could be said to those among us who go by the name of Christian, yet apparently feel free to pick and choose which aspects of Christianity apply to them, which qualities of God's character they choose to acknowledge and which of His law they choose to obey. Well, what should actually be said remains a dicey topic, requiring a social finesse beyond my abilities. But I believe I have come to a more enlightened perspective of the root of the issue, thanks to A. W. Tozer and the very book #1-son recommended two posts ago, The Knowledge of the Holy.

Tozer's words are distressing because their truth is undeniable. I don't want to admit that his words apply to me, but they do. When we gloss over our own wretchedness, when we refuse to take the time to wallow in our desperate state without Christ, we become cavalier in our attitude toward God. But our culture cannot even grasp its desperate state because we have lost the basis for comparison; we no longer have any sense of God's greatness and the awe He should inspire. So, too often in our culture being Christian means giving intellectual assent to one's plight (the need for a Savior), accepting the cure (faith in Christ), and then running on ahead with bold familiarity and entitlement.

These are some excerpts from the Preface of Tozer's book.

The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, "Be still, and know that I am God," mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains… …it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.

Tozer says so much that is worthy of our attention just in this excerpt, which I'm sure he'll explore in more detail in the upcoming chapters. But the part that grabbed my attention right off was, "We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit." In part this caught my eye because of our erring friend, whom I have mentioned in the past couple posts. I believe that if her walk with the Lord consisted of private worship of this nature, surely she would have been prevented from taking such a deviant path.

But in addition, that passage caught my eye because I have mourned over how few Christian friends I've known who seek to experience the life in the Spirit. I'm nobody; I do not consider myself even remotely to be one whose spiritual life should be emulated. If you met me you'd agree with my assessment! "Right," you'd say to yourself, "she's not impressive." But I do long to know God, to be still in His Presence and to hear His voice. I do love to meet God alone in adoring silence. I don't adore Him as much as He deserves; He is so much better than I can give Him credit for. And as much as the next busy mom, I'm inclined to get caught up in the maelstrom of family life and not spend as much time alone with Him as I should. But I know that that is where my life is, with Him. I know that in the quiet of His presence and in His Word my answers will be found – not in the consolations or advice of friends.

So over the years, in my quest for Christian fellowship among women, I've made the mistake of assuming that the other Christian women I'm rubbing shoulders with have the same perspective. And many do, certainly. But, oh, how it breaks my heart, so many don't. I have to say it: most do not.

From what I have observed, there are many church-goers today, even those attending evangelical Bible-based churches, who agree with the gospel, but their excitement over church has to do more with the pleasant social interaction they find there, or with the satisfaction that they are bringing their children up under Christian principles, or with being thought by others as having certain elements of personal righteousness, but not really because they want to take the time to seek His face themselves. Church can be an all-consuming enterprise for anyone – often in the name of that quintessential Christian virtue: fellowship. But being all-consumed with the frenzy of church activity and friendships has very little to do with knowing God.

Do I sound like a jerk? I'm so sorry. Part of me feels like a jerk for writing these things. But it is my blog, and though I wouldn't dare utter these things anywhere else, on my own blog I have to call it like I see it.

I have been blessed to be a singularly unsocial person. I have ached to be social, to be in on all the fun, to be sought after, to be popular. I have grieved more than I care to admit that easy intimacy with women has always eluded me. God has blessed me with great sisters who have been my closest friends and confidantes, but not a passel of girlfriends. As a result, when heartaches and troubles have assailed me over the years, God has perforce been my mainstay. And now, from the vantage point of years, I see that what was always a source of shame for me has actually been a great blessing.

Because if I had had a gaggle of giggling geese with whom to ensconce myself all these years, even Christian geese, believe me, I would have. How often would I have loved to pour out all my troubles to multiple sets of compassionate ears, to receive their unmitigated assurance that my perspective was the only right and reasonable one, to have my indignation supported unquestioningly, my grievances given full air! Instead, I have been left with God, who always knows the end from the beginning, who insists on exposing my own guilt and false motives in a situation, who calls for repentance and death to self, who insists that I forgive as He forgives me, that I trust Him, that I remember His faithfulness and lovingkindness, who doesn't approve of giving way to fear, and whose comfort and correction so often come in the same stroke. I have been blessed, indeed.

Tozer has so much more to say. This was only an excerpt from the preface! I've cheated and read ahead, so I know that the upcoming chapters provide a veritable feast of ideas to digest, all still painfully relevant though they were penned more than half a century ago. I plan to hitch my wagon to Tozer's star and draw closer to the Savior through his words. Maybe you'll join me.

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