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.”

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