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.”

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