Nov 29, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 10 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 10: "The sacrament of living"

Editor's note: If you’ve been following along, you know that the editor has taken each chapter of the book The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and published here a short study in the form of articles. Chapter 10 is the final installment of this series. We hope you have found the series helpful to you in your walk with Christ.

Basing his last chapter on the doctrine found in 1 Cor. 10:31, Tozer ends his book on a triumphal note. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” His main point for us to understand is that we cannot have internal peace if we divide our lives into the sacred and the secular.

This false division of life causes inner turmoil and tends “to break up so that we live a divided instead of unified life.”

Merging two worlds

We live in two worlds simultaneously, the fleshly or natural and the spiritual. When we keep them separate, we “are uneasy most of the time ... with a feeling of deep frustration.” This is not the light yoke that Christ promises the repentant believer. But, we subject ourselves to this by trying “to walk a tight rope between two kingdoms and [we] find no peace in either.”

Tozer’s claim is that this dualistic life is not only unhealthy physically and spiritually, it is “wholly unnecessary.” He teaches that a divided life between the sacred and the secular is not founded in the New Testament. Christ Himself is the example, saying He does all things to please the Father.

This example was echoed by Paul who teaches us that we are to do all things to the glory of God. This isn’t just platitudes, this is the genuine way of the Christian walk. Tozer explains it this way, “It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God.”

All things can glorify God

It begs the question, can eating and drinking and the banal things of life be an act of reference? Tozer, as well as the Apostle Paul, teaches that this is the case. “It may be said that every act of life is or can be as truly sacred as prayer or baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

Many may still disagree with this notion. However our author wrote that if we are saved and give ourselves wholly to God, all acts are holy. “By one act of consecration of our total selves to God we can make every subsequent act express that consecration.”

As Christians, we must not make a mental or actual division between the sacred and the secular or we will live divided lives. Once we get past this dilemma, the reality of living in a unified manner for Christ, it will “condition the complexion of our thoughts.”

Our morning meditations must include this training. We must recall to our mind frequently that our daily acts can be acts of worship and can give glory to God. “The knowledge that we are all God’s, that He has received all and rejected nothing, will unify our inner lives and make everything sacred to us.”

Disciplined sacramental living

Tozer explains that the old way of thinking will want to creep back into our lives because Satan doesn’t want the whole of our lives to be about God. He writes, “It will take intelligent thought and a great deal of reverent prayer to escape completely from the sacred-secular psychology.”

Offer every thing we do to God. He will accept them. Remind God in our time of private communion that our intention is to make all our activities for His glory. Or in Tozer’s wonderful style, “Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration.”

A contributing factor to our erroneous belief that we keep things separate is the fact that many Christians believe in sacred places or things.

“It is little short of astonishing that we can read the New Testament and still believe in the inherent sacredness of places as distinguished from other places.” Tozer laments that this false doctrine has been allowed to be perpetuated for centuries.

An omnipresent spirit of worship

When Christ was crucified, many things took place. Not the least of which was the total access of the true believer to God. No longer was God limited to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The veil before the Holy of Holies was torn in two. Remember Christ’s own words, “Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Worshipping God is a spiritual matter, not a matter of place or time or things.

Many denominations have let the sacredness of things creep back into the liberty we enjoy through Christ’s work. And it was from this “bondage reformers and puritans and mystics have labored to free us.”

Tozer also cautions us to understand that the concept of sacramental living doesn’t mean that all things are equal or of equal importance in this world or the next. “One act of a good man’s life may differ widely from another in importance.” He uses the example of Paul’s work as a tentmaker as an example. “Paul’s sewing of tents was not equal to his writing of an epistle to the Romans, but both were accepted of God.”

Why we act is most important

Driving home his point with his best shot, Tozer continues to explain, “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it,” (emphasis added). Lay people should never consider what they do as inferior to that of the act of a preached sermon. It is the motive of the act that is the key to it being a sacred act done for God’s glory or not.

A spiritual condition is required. Tozer tells us that we must, “Sanctify the Lord God in [our] heart.” Upon doing so, except for our sins, nothing we will ever do will be secular. One who lives this way is pleasing to God. “All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a sanctuary.”

The Pursuit of God along with The Knowledge of the Holy are two of Tozer’s most popular and impactful writings. I strongly encourage everyone to read and re-read these important, yet short, books.

Nov 28, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 9 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 9: "Meekness and Rest"

A popular British comedy shown here in America is titled, “Keeping Up Appearances.” Each episode centers around a middle-aged woman who is desperate to ensure everyone in her sphere of influence considers her to be posh and high society.

The fact is, however, she and her whole family are just everyday people. The humor ensues when she goes to great lengths to protect the complex fa├žade she has created for the outside world to admire. She is breathless at every turn and drags her compliant husband through one fiasco after another. This woman is so busy creating a false life that she fails to notice she’s not living at all.

Funny thing is that we’re all like this in some way or another. We have much to hide from the world that we’re afraid to reveal. And it takes a lot of work to hide our faults. In fact, we are never done with the business of considering how we are viewed by others around us. It’s part of our sin pathology. Our core sin, pride, keeps our pathological engines running, sometimes racing, to ensure we do not lapse into revealing our true selves to the world.

Christ addressed this very thing which is the topic of Tozer’s ninth chapter, “Meekness and Rest.”

Tozer helps us understand that the Beatitudes are the “exact opposite of the virtues” that characterize the way humans live their lives. This, to our unrelenting detriment.

The portrait of human society

The opposite of the Beatitudes is what we see today and is the primary reason we experience many trials and tribulations in our lives. “Pride, arrogance, resentfulness, evil imaginings, malice, greed: these are the sources of more human pain than all the diseases that ever afflicted mortal flesh.”

Tozer shows us that it is in this condition that Christ came and spoke godly words when He uttered “blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

In this chapter, the author points out that the word meek is too often misunderstood. He shows us that Christ explained it later when He invited men to take up His yoke and bear a light burden.

Christ’s burden is different from man’s burden. Man’s burden is borne by every human — “it is altogether an interior one.” Our burden is self-love and pride which is at the heart of our sin. We are oppressed by this burden for, “the heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest.”

But, Christ’s burden is different. It is light! And when we are released from the burden of man, we find we are at rest. “The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.”

This is real rest for which many seek. A rest that only following and believing Christ can bring. A rest that comes from seeing oneself from God’s perspective. Tozer encourages us, “come on, humble yourself, and cease to care what men think.”

Meek does not equal weak

Don’t equate a meek godly man with someone who is weak in faculties. “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.”

So what about this inherit the earth promise? That’s a good question and should be answered by what we value compared to what God values. The meek Christian understands that the world will not understand godly values and he has stopped worrying about it. The meek Christian is at rest in knowing that the things God values are eternal and he will one day inherit the earth. “He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father.”

When we put ego and pride aside and take up Christ’s burden, we find we “will have attained a place of soul rest.” We have God as our public defender and are at peace.

Like Lucifer, pride is our sin

Our desire to shine and stand apart from others for our own ego is not any different than that of the great angel Lucifer. Did not he want to shine brighter for others to see? Did not he want to be something he really was not? For his sin of pride, Lucifer lost his position with God and will spend eternity in turmoil. What did Lucifer gain for his pride?

What do we gain in our pride? We gain a tumultuous life filled with constantly defending ourselves against the world. We gain heartache and pain. We gain cruelty and corruption. We gain quarrelling and mistreatment. We gain the consequences of our sin, which are the opposite of the Beatitudes Christ so eloquently articulated on the Mount of Olives.

Our pride is a heavy burden. It is breaking us under its pressure, according to Tozer. He writes, “There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ.”

Rest at the foot of the throne

In a prayer at the end of this chapter, Tozer asks God to help him take God’s “easy yoke of self-forgetfulness.” This is the condition when Christ is on the throne and the other elements of our life are aligned with Jesus. When we place ourselves on the throne of our life, we bear a burden that is impossible in order to keep ourselves on that throne.

Christ calls us, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” Are we experiencing a life of rest or a life of tumult? Are we defeated by trials or do we allow God to defend us?

Or better put by our author:

The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when
we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend. It will take some
courage at first, but the needed grace will come as we learn that we are
sharing the new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God Himself. He calls
it “my yoke” and He walks at one end while we walk at the other.”

Nov 27, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 8 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 8: "Restoring the Creator-creature relationship"

This chapter takes a simple look at our relationship with God because our relationship is a simple one. If we feel it’s complicated, then it is we who have clouded it and mixed it up. It’s this mix up that Tozer addresses in Chapter 8 — the dealing with a properly ordered relationship between man and God.

The author indicates that justification is the “restoration of a right relation between man and his Creator, a bringing back to normal of the Creator-creature relation.” This is, of course, a reference to being born again and all that means regarding our sin, Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

God is the reference point

But, to better understand the relationship, Tozer backs us up to defining a fixed point, which is the I AM, from which we have established our relationship as a human. God is the center, so to speak, but our “difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him.”

In a succinct paragraph, Tozer sums it up:
As the self-existent One, He gave being to all things, and all things exist
out of Him and for Him. Every soul belongs to God and exists by His
pleasure. God being Who and What He is, and we being who and what we are,
the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and
complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that it is in our power to
give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.
As humans, in our search for the true post-justification relationship with God, we will gladly accept the challenges and failures of “bringing our total personality into conformity to His.” Yet, Tozer doesn’t let us rest with the intellectual reality of this, he pushes us to understand that being rightly aligned with God means a “voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.”

According to Tozer, this will change us as children of God. We will see things differently and the way we think will be transformed. The transformation, Tozer writes, “will begin to surprise us by its upsurgings and its outgoings.”

We gain in our submission

When we acknowledge God’s actual position, we become willing worshippers without shame or worry. Our sense of purpose becomes evident to us. “Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to God. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld.”

Among many other biblical accounts of God’s people, Tozer points to Christ as our ultimate example. He indicates that Christ did not seek His own honor, but the honor of God, the Father who sent Him. This is worth considering as Christ is fully God Himself. Tozer references Christ who explains that self-honor is nothing, but only honor from the Father is desirable and eternal.

The self can get in the way

Does Tozer believe this is an easy position to take, this total sell out to God? No. He explains that a “God-above-all” position is challenging — especially when self will gets in the way. “The mind may approve it while not having the consent of the will to put it into effect.” As written in earlier chapters, man must tear the self out and replace the vacancy with God and ascribe to Him all that He is deserving to receive.

What is the result? Simply this, if a man will glorify and consider God above all things in life, including the self, then God will unveil Himself more to the believer and place all His resources at their use. For God knows that “His honor is safe in such consecrated hands.”

Nov 25, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 7 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter 7: "The Gaze of the Soul"

Tozer takes the complex concept of faith and expands on our understanding by writing that “faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”

High-sounding words, certainly. But, the metaphor is referring to that inward eye that “looks at” or contemplates the natural and supernatural.

This chapter is more practical advice about true faith than an exercise to define it. Therefore, Tozer encourages us to gaze with our inward eye at God. He uses a short illustration to help us understand this idea of faith and “looking”. He writes of the snakes biting the Hebrews in the wilderness and they were to only “look” with their eyes and be healed. This is an indication of the heart of the one doing the looking.

Christ is always our best example and Tozer points us to Christ for this, too. He wrote, “Indeed Jesus taught that He wrought His works by always keeping His inward eyes upon His Father. His power lay in His continuous look at God (John 5:19-21).”

More than a one-time act

According to the author, faith is summarized in Hebrews. It tells us that we are to be, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” According to Tozer, we gain understanding that “faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

He teaches in this chapter that faith and believing and looking are synonymous and the scriptures do bear him out. This makes believing that inward attention focused on God and His Son.

Can we do this continually? It would be to our benefit and Christ’s joy if we did. But, we fail at times. Tozer explains that “God takes [intended belief] for our choice and makes what allowances He must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world.”

Where is consideration of ourselves? This is a dangerous consideration as it distracts us from God and may demonstrate that our faith wasn’t genuine. According to Tozer, the very idea of faith in God is the “least selfregarding of the virtues.”

This inward looking to our Creator is what will assure us of a successful walk with Him. If we find we don’t experience the joy and peace we are promised in life, there is only the self to examine. Tozer put it this way:
The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him.

Does faith save us?

This is an intriguing question to which many Christians would answer yes. Tozer answers it this way, “Faith is not in itself a meritorious act; the merit is in the One toward Whom it is directed.”

Again, faith is a focusing of our gaze on Christ and the installation of blinders to our own desires. More eloquently that most can put it, Tozer tells us that when lifting our inward eyes to gaze upon God, He will respond in a joy-giving way. “When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.”

Gazing at God is simple

Contemplating God and believing who He is will not require a theologian’s knowledge. It is a simple thing. And this simplicity, according to the author, is easy enough for the least of all of mankind.

This believing (a.k.a. looking) requires nothing more than a willing heart. No religion or special items or special time or special place is required. This is God ensuring that “the one life-and-death essential can never be subject to the caprice of accident.”

Our teacher lets us know that he understands that we must attend to the things of daily living. Most humans cannot spend their waking moments in continual contemplation of God and His word. Tozer indicates that solid Christians do focus their attention to earthly affairs, but also have “within them a secret communion always going on.” Our attention can be drawn to focus on a responsibility, but following that, our attention must fly “at once to God again.”

Perfecting the gaze

This “looking” is very much like a spiritual discipline. Some view it as a combination of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, Bible study, stillness.

Enhancing these practices to perfect and sharpen our gaze on God are living and serving in a body of believers. But, our personal relationship, our one-on-one walk with God, will be most impacted by our inward gaze of Him.

What does that really mean? Leave it to Tozer to give the answer to that question. He writes, “When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward becomes fixed within us we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life.”

Himself pointing to a favorite Christian writer, Tozer was a student of Nicholas of Cusa. He quotes Nicholas in this chapter to further illustrate his point. As complex as the words may be, they are worth the effort to understanding the gaze of our soul toward the Author and Perfector of our faith. Nicholas of Cusa wrote of when God’s gaze meets ours:

There is the source of all delights that can be desired; not only can nought
better be thought out by men and angels, but nought better can exist in any mode
of being! For it is the absolute maximum of every rational desire, than which a
greater cannot be.

Nov 21, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 6 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God - Chapter Six: The Speaking Voice

In this sublime chapter, Tozer arrests our attention on the reason why we often find it difficult to find God when we pursue him. We don’t realize that God will manifest Himself by speaking His will. If we’re to pursue God, we had better listen to what He says.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The depth and breadth of John 1:1, its cosmic complexity, is at the heart of what Tozer is teaching in this chapter. It is God’s word in the universe, His creating voice, that we seek. The author writes, “God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe.” The voice of God is not limited to ink and paper but is inseparable from God — “... and the Word was God.”

The objective then, for those who honestly pursue God, is to listen as they seek. At no time does Tozer discount the scriptures. On the contrary, God uses the Bible to reveal Himself as the “inevitable outcome” of His voice. Yet, our author writes that God did not send us a book by messenger to be read by unaided minds. “He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years.”

God spoke and creation was. This voice has been speaking since and God wants us to find the same voice of creation that is speaking to each one of us today. Just think of having communion with the same voice that spoke the universe into existence. It is what He wants for us. “The order and life of the world depends upon that voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” This is a quote more than 40-years old. Wasn’t life simpler then? Aren’t we more busy today than when Tozer was writing. I’m guessing that God sees us as just as neglectful at spending time with Him today as in the years of wilderness wandering.

Listening is not popular. We have fallen into a cult of busyness and even let ‘church work’ get in the way of listening to the creating voice. God directs us in the scriptures to be still as if to “tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.”
Being still and quiet requires solitude, preferably with our Bibles open. According to Tozer, it’s then we draw near to God in stillness and often hear Him speak to our hearts.

Never forget that God is spirit and seeks those who connect with Him in spirit. That spirit can walk in Presence with us as in the garden and illuminate the Bible for us. With dedication to being still, God’s voice will become an “intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend.” It is Tozer’s belief that a fresh existence, “a new world will arise ... when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.”

Tozer admits that some, even those in pulpits, believe that God was once in a speaking period and that time has passed. This is not the truth. The fact is that God is “not silent, has never been silent” because it is in His nature to speak. In fact, the second Person of the Trinity is called the Word.

A very picturesque quote from the author paints a picture of God’s word in the universe. “The universal Voice of God was by the ancient Hebrews often called Wisdom, and was said to be everywhere sounding and searching throughout the earth, seeking some response from the sons of men.”

Are we waiting for some word from God? According to Tozer, if you’re not hearing God, you’re not listening. He goes on to explain that the “Voice is a friendly voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it.”

Tozer goes so far as to discuss his belief that we often hear the Voice and not recognize it as God’s. Sometimes we have a sudden feeling of wonder or awe or realize our universal smallness. Or we experience a “fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world. We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves ... the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind.”

Finally, of the words of the Bible, Tozer encourages us to approach them with the same reverence that we do the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient God. He concludes, “If [we] would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to [us]. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which [we] may push around at [our] convenience. It is more than a thing, it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.”

Nov 20, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 5 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God: Chapter 5 - The Universal Presence

Tozer, in this fifth chapter, does not let the sleepy Christian rest on a simplistic understanding of the omnipresence of God or, to use his words, the divine immanence. His observation is that Christians really don’t think deeply about this or they would see much more than the simple idea that God is everywhere. Instead, Tozer points out that if God’s immanence or omnipresence were deeply rooted in our thinking, we would live a different life.

He spends needed space explaining, often in very poetic terms, that God simply is “here” and there can be no place that He is not. If this weren’t true, according to Tozer, God couldn’t be the Cause of all that is and worthy of the lives we give Him.

But, there seems to be an intellectual hurdle that most Christians don’t clear when it comes to this all-important fact about God. Tozer writes, “These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow within us.” It’s clear that the author felt we are not glowing with this knowledge.

“If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world?”

So, we’re prompted to ask why do we not “universally” glow with this knowledge. The answer can be found in the words of Jacob who cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” Tozer writes that Jacob, and all mankind, have never been without the ever-present immanence of the Creator. But, somehow, through our unwillingness, our hardheartedness or imperception, we miss God in our presence. According to the writer, “Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.”

Key to unlock our closed hearts

In the chapter, Tozer explains that there is a difference between the reality of the Presence and the manifestation of the Presence. In other words, God is always there. But, when we take note of Him, He is manifest to us. If we want to continually have the manifestation of our God, keep ourselves fully aware of God’s presence, then we must “surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.” Tozer writes that if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this way, God will “manifest Himself to us” and that is the difference between a luke-warm life and a life on fire for God filled with the joy of glorifying Him.

If we are truly in pursuit of God, we will meet Him because God seeks to reveal Himself to us. It’s not that God isn’t present and we need to find Him. We first must deeply contemplate that God is ever-present and wants to make Himself manifest to us in our daily endeavors. Tozer puts it more eloquently:

Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance…to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man's soul. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.
Differences of experience

If God is ever-present, for all Christians, why is it that some people seem to have a closer experience than others? God’s desire is to manifest Himself to all without prejudice or favoritism. So what’s the difference? “All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us.”

The difference, according to Tozer, is our “spiritual receptivity”. Some cultivate and feed and foster their spiritual awareness so they experience God, or better said, God makes Himself manifest to them. King David put it aptly, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

Tozer calls it receptivity. Simply, it’s the sensitivity to always know and feel that God is with us, in our presence. Our pursuit of God is dependent on this receptivity, which he writes can vary in intensity based upon our own true desire to see God’s face — not a desire of the mind, but one that is lived out in action. This receptivity can “be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect.”

Result of a lack of receptivity

Failure to seek and perceive God’s presence, according to the author, causes a breakdown in our churches. A deliberate and disciplined link with God requires a commitment of our lives, not just our time. It is often slow. Too slow for many Christians who, according to Tozer, are impatient to work for something they desire. He writes, “We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy.”

As lamentable as this sounds, there is hope if we return to the ways of the Bible. Tozer points to times in the past when great movements led people back to the Bible. But, it’s not the momentous events Tozer speaks of in his book, The Pursuit of God. It’s about the individual seeking the face of God. What this chapter and the book is trying to help us understand is simply this:

Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.
In summary, the unprecedented fact of God’s universal presence is unquestionable. And He is there and willing to reveal Himself to us. We are created to be receptive to Him if we will only genuinely seek Him. This is what Tozer refers to as the pursuit of God. The perception and realization of God will only increase with our practice of the pursuit.

Nov 19, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 4 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God: Chapter Four - Apprehending God

It’s clear from this chapter why some who read Tozer’s works call him a mystic — in the true and Christian sense of the word. For he has delved into and helped us understand the mystical elements of our relationship with God. It is apparent that he has experienced a close and profound connection with God and explains how that is available for every human in this fourth chapter.

As he has already demonstrated in the first three chapters, Tozer helps us understand a close personal relationship with the Creator of the universe is possible, and in fact, the Creator desires this. But, man fails to detect God and sense Him in a profound and spiritual way. Many acknowledge God’s existence, but “He remains personally unknown to the individual.” While man mostly admits God is somewhere, many do not believe in Him as knowable as we come to know our friends and loved ones or even our possessions.

Tozer does not leave this with the secular. He points out that many who claim Christ as Savior “go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.”

The scriptural doctrine, however, points out that God is waiting to be known by man in a real and a personal experience. Tozer writes about God, “Always a living Person is present, speaking, pleading, loving, working and manifesting Himself whenever and wherever His people have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestations.”

Tozer teaches that the words of the Bible assume a “self-evident fact that men can know God” with the same veracity and tangibility as any person or object that our senses detect.

How do we apprehend God?

The first thing to understand, according to Tozer, is that we are just as equipped to sense God as we are to sense the physical world. He writes, “We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for the purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.”

We’re born with these faculties, but sin clouds them and tarnishes them over to make us spiritually deaf, mute and blind. These faculties can be resuscitated by regeneration and by repentance. According to the author, this is one of the most precious gifts to come to us through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Tozer’s lament and hope for the church

In the author’s mind, he finds it difficult to understand why a believer would not want to stay in close contact with God in the spiritual realm through scriptures and in quiet communion. He acknowledges that it is the case, however. He explains that faith is what enables our spiritual senses. Therefore, Tozer writes, when faith is weak “the result will be inward insensibility and numbness” toward our spiritual walk with God.

The key, then, is for believers to humble themselves before God, acknowledge who He is and cease our self-reliant tendencies. Upon this repentance lay on a deep study of the word of God and our ability to commune with God in the spiritual realm will come alive again.

How do I know the realm is there?

Consider this. Tozer eloquently makes his point of chapter four this way. “A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.”

What is real?

This is a question that has been pondered for centuries by uncommon minds. However, the true believer understands the answer to this question and is assured of the answer more so than some of the most famous philosophers in history. To use Tozer’s words, “God is real. All other reality is contingent upon His.” This chapter teaches us that God has objective existence independent of any thought we may have of Him. Our teacher writes, “The worshipping heart does not create its Object. It finds Him here when it wakes from its moral slumber in the morning of its regeneration.”

The author teaches in this chapter that we can reckon on the spiritual realm with as much assurance as we do the physical. “Spiritual things are there (or rather we should say here) inviting our attention.” But it is sin, Tozer indicates, that has made detecting spiritual things so difficult for us. To repeat Tozer’s metaphor, “Sin has so clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that other reality, the City of God, shining around us.”

No distinction between spiritual and real

Tozer helps us understand that another part of our difficulties is that we often separate what we know as real from what is spiritual. He writes that there is no such distinction The spiritual realm is reality. It should be considered with as much confidence as the chair, the wind, a spouse or the color red.

What the author does distinguish between is the real and the imaginary. God is real, but unseen. There are unseen created beings in spiritual reality. The Holy Spirit communes with us in an unseen reality. Imagination builds images and assigns reality to them out of the mind. Faith, however, “simply reckons upon that which is already there.”

The corrective course of action is to shift our focus to the unseen reality. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “...for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Since God is the ultimate reality and all other realities are a result of God, then the spiritual realm is the object of “our holiest longing."

The spiritual realm is now

Tozer points out that Christians often think of the spiritual realm as something in their future. He writes, “It is not future, but present. It parallels our familiar physical world.” He quotes a text from Hebrews that Tozer points out is clearly in the present tense.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

This passage is making positive contrasts between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Tozer uses it to point to the fact that the reality of Zion is around us and can “be grasped by the soul.” He adds, that our souls have eyes and ears, regardless of how out of use they may have become, that can see and hear this spiritual realm where God is the ultimate reality.

Life application

The author in this chapter has awakened the sleeping believer who trusts in the blood of Christ to redeem sins. Awakened to renew their focus upon God. The result of which will be an awareness of the things of the spirit. He paraphrases a text in the Gospel of John by writing, “Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead.”

The scriptures promise that those who seek Him will find God in His unseen reality. Tozer’s lesson says if we focus anew upon God, we will gain a more acute perception of God. “A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all.”

If believers only delve deeply into the scriptures, spend daily intimate time with the Lord, our ability to detect His presence, and understand His will for our lives, will be enhanced to a degree that is beyond description.

It sounds metaphysical. And it is. Our prejudice to deny things we cannot directly experience is a hindrance to our relationship with God. But those who repent of their sins, and seek God in the spiritual realm will find “More and more, as our faculties grow sharper and more sure, God will become to us the great All, and His Presence the glory and wonder of our lives.”

Nov 18, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 3 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God, Chapter Three: Removing the Veil

Tozer begins his third chapter with one of the most famous quotes in the history of man. He does this to ensure that there is no ambiguity about what he believes is the purpose of created man. Tozer quotes Augustine, “Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

He explains this as the origin of our kind because it’s critical to our understanding of our relationship with God. He echoes it in his own words, “God made us for Himself: that is the only explanation that satisfies the heart of a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may say.”

All this is preamble to the point that we are created to be in a right relationship with God, but are guilty of sin. Our “foul revolt” broke this communion and man now lives alone outside of the “manifest Presence” of our heavenly Father. Or more metaphorically, a veil has been erected between us and our Lord because of our sin.

Tozer explains that the redemptive work of God is to “undo the tragic effects of that foul revolt and bring us back again into right and eternal relationship with Himself.”
Why is the veil there?

The veil was what separated the inner chamber of the tabernacle from the holy of holies where the very Presence of God above the mercy seat atop the arc of the covenant. The children of Israel did not have direct access to the holy of holies. They annually sent in the high priest to seek the atonement of his own sins and those of Israel from God. According to Tozer, this was the “beating heart of the Levitical order.” He helps us understand our condition by using the holy of holies and the separating veil and the Flame of the Presence of God as an identical description for us.

He writes, “At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence.”

Tozer encourages us to remove the veil so that we can know of His Presence not only intellectually, but, more importantly in our hearts, leading to a personal relationship with the Creator.

What will we find when we push through the veil? Tozer answers that God will uncover Himself in “ravishing fullness to the humble of soul and the pure in heart.”

It’s because we don’t push through as believers, that Tozer says we are at a serious loss in the world. “The world is perishing for a lack of the knowledge of God, and the church is famishing for want of His Presence.”

Yes, God is omnipresent. People can understand that intellectually. But, it’s the manifast Presence that we have fled like Adam or Peter after their great sins. However, it is the manifast Presence for which we should seek. This is a spiritual communion — man can know Him really in a “deep spirit” where his “fire must glow or his love is not the true love of God.”

The reason for pushing through

There is something expected when we remove the veil between ourselves and God. It is that communion with a God “so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.”

This is the love of God to which Tozer refers. Our relationship with God is an ever overflowing satisfaction of our nature to the point of our hearts being fit to break with love for our God. He writes that it is believers with such breaking hearts who have looked with open eye and lived within the Presence.

The point here is that this level of access and relationship with God is available to us. Every believer has the same access to the Presence as the high priests did and the prophet who reports what he sees.

Sadly, Tozer writes that the church is at a loss for want of those who have removed the veil and entered into the company of the Creator. He tells us that “the church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with an inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience in the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.”

Do we have access today?

As Tozer has already expressed, the joyous report is that every believer has access to God in the holy of holies. It was through the work of Christ on Calvary. Now there is nothing to keep us from His Presence. Nothing except our pride and sinful nature. Tozer asks, “Why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all of our days just outside the holy of holies and never enter at all to look upon God?”

Scripture records for us that at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, the actual veil in the temple in Jerusalem was torn completely in two, forever revealing the holy of holies to all men. Why did God do this? Was it just to send a message to the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees? No, it is a clear message to all men, forever, that Christ has opened the way to the Father because of His shed blood, the atonement secured forever.

But why do we not all take this free gift from God? Tozer explains that it’s more than a cold heart, it is a veil over our own hearts. It’s a veil we must all tear from ourselves so that we do not hide the face of God from our own hearts. Tozer explains this as the veil of the self-life that hides our hearts from the joyous life that could be ours should we remove the veil once and for all. “Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction.”

To remove this veil will be painful as it is part of our fleshly life. It will tear living spiritual tissue to rend it from our hearts. But, as Tozer writes, “Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the selflife, and then reckon it crucified.”

When this is done, like labor pains, it will be a faint memory. “After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered, in actual spiritual experience, the Presence of the living God.”

Nov 17, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 2 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

The Pursuit of God: Chapter 2 - The blessedness of possessing nothing

In our pursuit of God, it’s obvious that we can be interrupted. In the second chapter of his book, Tozer illustrates the most common obstacles to a closer union with God are things — even those things God gives us. Things were “always meant to be external to the man, and subservient to him.” However, man has allowed things to replace God on the internal throne of man.

The throne metaphor is accurate because we were created by God to have a place within our inner self to be an eternal shrine for God. When we let other priorities push God out of that place, we end up with what’s known as a God-shaped vacuum. When it’s empty, “men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer.”

Is “mine” part of the old-sin nature?

Our sinful nature now has an unnatural desire to possess, according to Tozer. It covets things. Don’t fool yourself to believe things are just material possessions. Things also include our children, our jobs, our homes. We use possessive pronouns, such as my and our, simply enough, but they should be stricken from the vocabulary of every true believer because nothing is ours. These words demonstrate “the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do.”

We have let things become necessary, but this was not God’s intent for His creation. Tozer teaches that God’s gifts now take the place of God. Similar to the Beatitudes, Christ tried to help us understand this by describing what we have to do to follow Him.

"…let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes
to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall
find it."
(Matt. 16:24-25)
Our pursuit of God, according to Tozer, must have at its beginning a “soul poverty and abnegation of all things.” We’re taught in this chapter that because of our covetous nature, we experience a tyranny of things. The poor — the internally poor — are “no longer slaves to the tyranny of things.” Though they are not bound by the sense of possessing, Christ teaches they have all things because they have the kingdom of heaven.

What may God do with the things?

What if the “things” this chapter is talking about is a child or a job? Tozer helps us understand what the scriptures illustrate through the story of Abraham and young Isaac. According to Tozer, the story is a “dramatic picture of the surrendered life as well as an excellent commentary on the first Beatitude.”

It’s clear that Isaac became the idol of Abraham’s heart. Any true parent or grandparent can understand this. Tozer describes that as the boy grew to a young adult it would be fair to characterize that the “relationship bordered on perilous,” spiritually speaking. It’s at this point that God intervenes to point the fact out to Abraham.

We may think it a difficult thing to wrest free the things in our life that interrupt our relationship with God. But, what must have that night before he was supposed to slay Isaac been like for Abraham? What agony was he going through? But, Abraham did not fail this trial even though it must have torn a significant piece of him, tendrils and all, from his heart.

Abraham was the living example of Christ’s words, “...whoever will lose...for my sake will find.” Finally, God stayed Abraham’s hand and allowed him to free his son; saying, in effect, “I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.”

Examine the whole of Abraham’s life. Can we say that he had nothing? Quite the contrary. He was a wealthy man with flocks and herds. He had his family and his clan. He even had his son preserved by his side. Didn’t he have everything? In fact, Tozer helps us to understand that Abraham actually had everything, but possessed none of these things. “There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation,” Tozer writes. In short, when we learn the true lesson in our hearts, we learn peacefulness of life and the joy of a union with the Creator.

Tozer poses the question that prompts us to ask if “my” and “our” ever held the same meaning for Abraham again. Can we use Abraham’s pain for our own gain and ensure that we not let things usurp the throne of our lives that is rightfully God’s?

Like Abraham, can we free our inner selves from the desire to posses? Maybe the world around Abraham said, “he is rich.” But, Tozer believes that Abraham was tolerant of these because, “he could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing.”

What would you dispossess?

Gifts, talents, material things, jobs, loved ones; all are things that can interrupt our relationship with God. Yet, these things are only from God and not from our own doing. “The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady.” If we truly want to pursue God, then what should we do?

Tozer wrote that we must be completely honest with ourselves, because God knows our hearts anyway. The truly pursuing Christian should “trample under foot every slippery trick of his deceitful heart” and only allow an honest and true relationship with the heavenly Father. Tozer continues in pointing out that this is holy business and no lie can be present.

The Christian heart may need to discuss with God the specific things in one’s life that transplant themselves in the heart — naming them by name singularly. “If he will become drastic enough he can shorten the time of his travail ... and enter the good land long before his slower brethren.”

There is a warning here in Tozer’s writing, too. The possessive heart will not go easily or quietly. We must be prepared for the constant knocking at the door of our hearts of this self-pity.

If we are to truly pursue God, we must be ready and make this renunciation because it’s likely that God, sooner or later, may bring us to this test.

Will we be equipped for this fire?

Nov 15, 2008

Tozer Made Easy - Part 1 of 10

by Dan Grubbs

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a chapter-by-chapter study of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God.

Many well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ have found Tozer’s language too elevated for their tastes, then set the work aside. This is a tragedy because Christ’s church today needs to read Pastor Tozer’s words more than ever. Therefore, I will endeavor to bring readers a discussion of, The Pursuit of God, which Tozer penned in the middle of the last century.

One of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, Tozer wrote heart-felt, yet candid books and sermons that have helped many believers to have a better relationship with the Almighty God. Yet, there are those who feel that Tozer was too harsh in his assessment of the modern church.

Chapter One: “Following Hard After God”

As Tozer describes in his own preface, teaching the Bible in a fundamental approach is imperative in Christ’s church. However, explanation of the scriptures is empty without true worship to “nourish the soul” which is only found in a personal experience with God. He writes that God’s word “is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God.”

To understand what Tozer, in this chapter, writes about pursuing God, we must start with an understanding of what theologians call “prevenient grace.” Tozer writes, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within humans that spurs the pursuit.” More simply stated, God created man with something that draws man to Him. An important scripture to support this principle is John 6:44a, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Why did God do this? According to Tozer, this is a key theological principle because it helps people understand the nature of man’s relationship with God. Prevenient grace, or a drawing by God, is a stool with three legs. The three legs are these ideas:
  1. This drawing by God removes all chance for man to take credit for coming to God, thus diminishing God’s glory.

  2. Prevenient graces does not wipe out free will. God’s drawing is not irresistible and still requires man to make a choice whether to follow the urge or not.

  3. In the pursuit of God, man must respond to the drawing in order for man to recognize the experience with God.

Building on the foundation of the idea that God put a desire in humans to pursue Him, it is time to move on to the second principle in the chapter. This is the fact that God is a Personality. As a Personality, believers must actively cultivate a relationship with Him.

According to Tozer, this is not emphasized in today’s church enough because believers put so much focus on someone receiving Christ and neglect helping the new believer to pursue God. Christians often only tell the new believer to study the book of John and find a good church. Tozer asks, where is our teaching of the “loving mental intercourse” with the God who loves us?

As a Personality, God can be known similarly to growing to know other persons. Tozer warns people that knowing God is not achieved by simply and genuinely praying a sinner’s prayer. It is through a personal communion, private and intimate, that believers begin to enter into the Devine experience. This experience with a personality is something that humans are consciously aware of, just as humans are aware of light. Tozer is not teaching that believers must continually seek God for salvation, but for a deep understanding and relationship with Him.

This pursuit of the Creator by the created is not highlighted, according to Tozer, by salvation. He teaches that is only the beginning. In his words, “now begins that glorious pursuit.” This becomes a continual exploration that has no end. Thus, the Divine experience is joyously limitless. Not only limitless, but this pursuit increases in joy the more God reveals Himself to the seeking believer. Tozer teaches that the truly pursuing soul longs after the Creator and is in conflict when not in pursuit. He wrote that the saved human wrestles after God.

The more passionate the pursuit, the deeper the experience with God. There is a cycle that Tozer illustrates with Moses. It is a cycle of pursuit and revelation. Moses wrote that God had revealed Himself to Moses because God found grace in Moses. Moses then asked God to reveal Himself to Moses so that God may find grace in him. Notice the cycle?

In today’s church, believers must guard against letting teachers and pastors do the pursuit for them. Tozer wants the church to never be content with salvation because he teaches that God created in us a craving for further revelation.

So how are believers to engage in this pursuit? Tozer addresses this much as Christ did. In His Earthly ministry, Jesus taught that piety is not what God desires, but humility. God desires His followers to come as children in pursuit of Him. This is important to understand because a child-like pursuit has a singular focus.

Something similar can be observed by watching a small child at play. They have no other thought than what is at hand at the moment. Similarly, God wants His followers undistracted in pursuit of Him. Tozer teaches that God longs for His children to be fully immersed in Him. If believers pursue in this way, the revelation is all fulfilling.

Religion teaches there are things believers should be doing and many get caught up in those things. Tozer, however, teaches that the modern church has created a habit of seeking God and ... The “and …” is all the trappings of religion the church is satisfied with simply because they are church-related. Tozer writes that if believers omit the “and …” they expand their spiritual lives and expand their hearts with an infinite God.

In the all-fulfilling result of our pursuit, God is enough. Tozer points to the example of the tribe of Levi when Israel took possession of the promised land. The Levis were given nothing because God was their part of the possession and their inheritance. If believers today are the priesthood of believers, they have the same sufficient inheritance – God. Believers need no other object of spiritual pursuit.

Tozer writes that the joy experienced in the revelation of God makes the joy in other things seem much less important. However, the joy of others things becomes magnified because of the glorious life of living in God’s presence. Is this what Job felt? Is this how he survived all the human atrocities that happened to him? Was it the fact that when the believer has God, he has all things and “has it all in One and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.”

In the next posting, I will continue with this study of Dr. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God with chapter two, “The blessedness of possessing nothing.”

Nov 13, 2008

Where you stand on evangelism may be where you stand with Christ

by Dan Grubbs

Here’s a provocative question: Is there any danger for us if we are not actively working for the Kingdom of God? Let me ask it another way: Can someone who has truly been justified live a life with no evidence of being in Christ Jesus?

What prompts this inquiry is my effort to understand Christ’s response to the Pharisees who accused Him of casting out demons by the authority of Satan. Recorded in two accounts – one in Matthew 12 and again in Luke 11 – is where the text for this discussion is found. The two verses are identical in the New American Standard Bible.

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Matt. 12:30

Meditating on this, I find that I do not have much trouble understanding the principle intellectually. It is when I chew on this and think of application of how this is played out in daily living, I begin to weaken and wonder just how black and white this principle is. I have decided that I am certain this is a black-and-white issue or Christ would not have stated it so.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on the passage also paints a black and white picture of the idea that there is no leeway of degree. He describes it with a metaphor of war: “It is here intimated, that this holy war, which Christ was carrying on with vigour against the devil and his kingdom, was such as would not admit of a neutrality.”

What about in the area of evangelism? Did Christ mean that those who do not answer the Great Commission are “against” Him? How universally do we apply this principle?

My reading of Darby leads me to believe he applied the for-me-against-me principle narrowly, confining it to demonic activity. I might suggest that this was due to the context of the account with the Pharisees.

Yet, Henry eloquently explains, “but in the great quarrel between Christ and the devil, no peace is to be sought, nor any such favourable construction to be made of any indifference in the matter; he that is not hearty for Christ, will be reckoned with as really against him: he that is cold in the cause, is looked upon as an enemy.”

Using Henry’s language, how then do we define “the cause” for Christ? Personally, I gain my answer in the words Christ actually used. To me, the key words to review are “with,” “against,” “gather,” and “scatter.”

Beginning with those who are “with” Christ; the word is translated from the primary preposition “meta”. This carries the idea of accompaniment or to be amid a local presence. In its literary use, “meta” is usually meant to mean to participate with.

For those whom Christ describes as “against” Him, this is translated from the word “kata” which takes on the prepositional understanding of one thing against another, as in physical position. In my mind, I see this as someone being an obstacle. Literary use for this form retains the meaning of “opposition.”

Here is where I begin to see the clarity of Christ’s unequivocal statement. If we are not participating in Christ’s ministry and being obedient to what He’s called us to do, then it seems Christ considers us in opposition to His cause.

Continuing with the short passage, we read the words “gather” and “scatter.” This is where I find a more pragmatic understanding of what Christ was communicating. In metaphorical language, when Christ employed the idea of gathering, He largely was referring to disciple making, which must include Gospel proclamation. I believe that is made clear in the Matthew and Acts versions of the Great Commission.

“Gather” is translated from “sunago” meaning to lead together or to convene or even to assemble. Whether fishing for men or harvesting a ripe field, to me it is clear that Christ is referring to evangelism by using the word gathering.

And, by His either-or approach, Christ teaches that if we’re not gathering by proclamation of the Gospel and making disciples of all men, then we are scattering, “skorpizo”. This wonderful picture word means figuratively to “put to flight” as if running through a plaza full of feeding pigeons causing them all to take off into the air. If we take Christ at His word, unless we are leading others to Him, He sees us as causing other people to flee from Christ.

To call on Henry again, he explains thusly:

Christ expects and requires from those who are with him, that they gather with him; that they not only gather to him themselves, but do all they can in their places to gather others to him, and so to strengthen his interest. Those who will not appear, and act, as furtherers of Christ's kingdom, will be looked upon, and dealt with, as hinderers of it; if we gather not with Christ, we scatter; it is not enough, not to do hurt, but we must do good.

Is this idea unprecedented biblically? I am not saying this is an identical case, but we find in Exodus 32 how God felt about those who were not for Him. Verses 25-28 read:
Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
Certainly, I am not saying we should kill those who are not for God. But, from this passage we may at least glean some understanding of how God considers the opposition of man toward Himself.

There is more to our sanctification than evangelism. Even the strongest advocate of personal evangelism would agree. But, in our application of the Christ-taught principle of for and against, I suggest that personal evangelism is where we might begin. I, for one, do not want Christ to consider me as one who scatters simply because I do not personally gather.

Nov 11, 2008

Worship of the Eternal God - Part 3 of 3

by Paul Fritz

In this final installment of our discussion of worship, we discuss less about what worship is, but how it impacts us. The key text is Hebrews 13:15. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

There are numerous benefits of praise that are overlooked by many. Those who appropriate them are enriched, empowered and enabled by the Spirit of God to experience higher levels of Christlike transformation, fruitfulness and blessings.

1. Lighter Loads and Less Frustration - People who praise God for His power, sovereignty and omnipotence do not have to carry around excess burdens and frustrations. When we praise God during times of distress, disappointment or difficulty we are able to completely give all the weight of adverse circumstances to the Lord’s care. When we praise God for His mighty power we acknowledge that we are weak and He is strong. Praise helps us realize that He is able to take us through dark valleys and bring us through according to His will.

2. Lessened Guilt - Those who praise God are released from the burden of guilt when they experience the freedom of God’s forgiveness and cleansing from all our unrighteousness. Praising God for His ability to free us from the tyranny and power of sin enables us to give up our negativity toward ourselves and others as well. Praising God helps us realize that He purifies, perfects and cleanses us through the blood of Christ.

3. Lessened Judgmentalism - Greater praise helps us realize that we too easily become disappointed with ourselves and others because of our critical sinful nature. When we praise God it helps us realize that judgment is the Lord’s and not our business. Praise helps us remember that if we sin we do so to the Lord and He will repay to each for what they have done. We can leave all judgment to the Lord to recompense everyone justly.

4. Lessened Complaints - When we praise God for who He is and what He has done we reduce the tendency to murmur and complain about our hurt feelings. Praise reinvigorates us with a renewed sense of appreciation for how He helps us overcome evil instead of allowing evil to overcome us. Praise has a way of soothing our hurt feelings and minimizing our self-pity. Paul learned how to be content in every circumstance because He knew that He could praise God for the promise, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)

5. Lessened Stress - People who consistently praise God are less apt to complain about God’s training methods. When we praise God we will be more submissive, content and yielded to His will. When we are suffering from pain we find that praise alleviates our tendency to give in to feelings of bitterness, fear or anger. Praise has a way of releasing us from our sinful desire to take control back from the Lord. By praising God for His sovereignty we are saying, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) Praise alleviates our anxiety as we allow our hearts and minds to remain in Christ.

6. Lessened Weakness - Praising God gives us greater confidence in His ability to be greater than any problem. Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4) Praise gives us greater intimacy with the God who is greater than any person, problem or circumstance we may face.

7. Lessened Uncertainty - When we praise God we have a renewal of all His blessed assurances. Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Praise helps us be reminded of the unlimited resources we have in Christ.

8. Lessened Need to Understand - When we praise God we are less insistent on our right to know why certain things happen to us. We are less apt to react with anger, bitterness or worry when we turn all our perplexities over to the Lord. Paul wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing ... always carrying about in the body of the dying Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10) People who praise God do not feel the need to understand why adversity falls on the wicked and righteous alike. Let us praise God that He has the capacity to cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

9. Lessened Need to Depend on Our Own Resources - We can praise God and experience less of a need to rely on ourselves, our resources and our people because we know the promise is true, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19) When we are not feeling confident or self-assured we can praise God that He gives us the wherewithal to accomplish everything He asks of us. You will never lack anything if you praise God for His enabling ability to take you through every trial and make you better for it.

10. Lessened Need to Feel in Control - Praising God helps us gain greater confidence in God’s ability to take us through any dark valley. We do not have to pretend to be such a self-sufficient, rugged individual or stoic. We do not have to plague ourselves with questions like, “What did I do wrong?” Some things are beyond our ability to control. We do not always have to analyze all the reasons why things did not go perfectly. Sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment when we fail to say like Job, “Even though He slay me yet will I praise Him.” Praising God recognizes that He is sovereign, loving and perfectly in control of all our circumstances. We do not have to judge our circumstances knowing that He is sovereign in every situation.

Let us follow the admonition of David who wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boasts in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psa 34:1-4)

Nov 10, 2008

Worship of the Eternal God - Part 2 of 3

by Dan Grubbs

In an essay by Lee Campbell, PhD, he wrote, “substantial arguments could be raised against” the use of the word worship among Christians today. I believe he makes this assertion because our dictionary definition of worship differs from that of the Greek or Hebrew terms; while the generally understood meaning of worship differs substantially from biblical teaching on the topic.

In this second part of the three-part examination of worship, we’ll look at a few definitions before we explore three principles of worship to helps us all gain insight into this element of our relationship with God.

The word worship in English originated from the Old English word “weorthscipe” which we can understand as being worthy or to merit something. This grows problematic because the Hebrew word “aboda” and the Greek work “latreuo” are often translated as worship. According to Campbell, these might be better understood as service or to minister. Additionally, other terms are translated as worship. Often, the Greek “proskyneo” and the Hebrew “shachac” refer to a reverent posture to reflect submission to a higher entity. But, as Campbell asks, do the terms that are usually translated as worship tell us how we are show these attitudes?

But, what do today’s Christians believe worship is? It might be said that many feel it is the liturgical or congregational forms which involve various rituals and corporate and individual praise giving. But is that all?

The Bible teaches that worship is much more inclusive — involving our entire lives and all facets therein. Worship may be thought of as the true believer’s reaction to the Creator of all physical and spiritual existence. Campbell enumerates it this way, “the response of a grateful and humble people to the living God where submission, sacrificial service, praise, profession, testimony and gratitude are freely expressed in innumerable ways.” As Christians, we must ask ourselves if this is what we see in our own local assembly or in our individual lives. If not, what should our response to God look like?

Reality one: worshiping in spirit

Let’s start by going back to John 4 when Christ was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. She wanted to debate rituals and practices and even the location of worship as prescribed under the old covenant. Christ wanted to point her (and us) in a new direction. He told her that it wasn’t on a mountain or in a city or even in a specific building that the Father sought true worship from His faithful. “Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.”

Didn’t that beg the question? Wouldn’t, if you were her, ask Christ “okay, so where are we supposed to worship?” Two verses later He answers her un-posed question.

"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

This is such a challenging message from Christ that many believers just let it go without trying to understand it. However, as we always should, let the Bible interpret the Bible. What may help in understanding of what Christ was teaching is something that Paul wrote to the Roman church. Romans 12:1-2 can go a long way to give us guidance on what Christ meant by worshiping in spirit and in truth. Paul’s inspired words were:
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
In these two verses, we have an entire guidebook of how to live our lives in a godly manner; which, according to these scriptures, is worship. In this guidance from Paul, we see he sacrificial service, submission, testimony and profession that today’s church should ensure is part of individual and corporate worship. In verse two, we even see the accountability and discernment that is so desperately needed in our congregations. To put it even more succinctly, if we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, then we are living Paul’s words.

But, the point not to miss here is that worship is a way of daily living. Worship is not a program or a sequence of events or “a service” to attend. Can true worship happen at our typical weekend gatherings? Let’s pray it is the normative experience in our congregations. But, it could sadly be said that worship is not happening at all our assemblies.

Reality two: worshiping in truth

The typical praise and worship segment of the programmed “worship service” is coming under more frequent attack. Many generalizations are made about this element of the program as becoming entertainment and not worship. This is true for many local churches today. We see experienced praise soloists and ensembles, bands, choirs and even orchestras all produced and packaged together much like what we might see on television. Is this bad in itself? Only if the purpose and intent drifts from glorifying the triune God. This question must be answered by each individual and as a congregation because worshiping in truth means that it must be genuine, it must be sincere.

God wants a right attitude. Therefore, worship is significantly a matter of the heart. We see scores of occurrences in the Old Testament where God was displeased with the worship the Israelites were offering. This was largely because the worship was mechanical, without the sincere attitude of reverence and gratitude behind the offerings. They had the days and practices right, but they had their hearts in the wrong place.

Do we find ourselves going through the motions at our worship gatherings? Do we even know why we do what we do in a “worship service”? Was the heart right at first, but now we feel our worship is flat and cold?

Reality three: a worship and sin conflict

When Israel’s heart was not genuine, a prophet usually came along and pointed out that they were coming to God with sin still in their lives. It can be reasoned that we loose true worship because our hearts are not right with God because we have unconfessed sin.

We see in many cases with the Hebrews that their prayers and praises were not reflective of the truth of their daily lives. At one point, Christ quoted Isaiah saying their worship was in vain. In short, they were worshiping in deceit. Christ said we are to worship the Father in truth, not in deceit. This means we must eliminate the hypocrisy from our lives and our local churches in order to be worshiping in truth.

God knows our hearts and our sins. Therefore, do we still believe that we are worshiping Him in truth if we show up on Sunday morning to sing praises after a week of behavior that we wouldn’t want our pastor to see? True confession and subsequent repentance is vital to a worship relationship with God. We must come to him with a clean heart in order to worship in truth.

As we examine Christ’s church today, let’s be sure that when we discuss worship, that we understand it to be an inclusive term describing the way we are to live our lives as a “response of a grateful and humble people to the living God.” And, that this worship is a response of a sincere heart with a right attitude coming from a confessed and repentant soul. Does this describe the actual activities of worship? Not really. But it does help us understand that any act of worship, whether it be singing, tithing, studying, prayer, testimony, profession, sacrifice or any multitude of things, must be done in spirit and in truth.

Be sure to read our final installment of this series on worship in the next posting.