Collective Writings from the Books of A.W. Tozer
Updated: 1 hour 22 min ago
Much of the secularism and rationalism of our times dismisses the Christian view and teaching about heaven as "nothing more than hopeful thinking." But the Christian's promised hope of future blessedness is founded upon the fullest and plainest revelations of the Old and New Testaments. That it accords with the most sacred yearnings of the human breast does not weaken it, but serves rather to confirm the truth of it, since the One who made the heart might be expected also to make provision for the fulfillment of its deepest longings. God's promises are made to the Christian believer, who generally has difficulty picturing himself as inheriting such bliss as the Scriptures describe. The reason is not hard to discover, for the most godly Christian is the one who knows himself best, and no one who knows himself will believe that he deserves anything better than hell. But even justice is on his side, for it is written, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
A person once called me to ask this question: "Mr. Tozer, do you think a person who is really a Christian can hurt another Christian?" There is no easy answer, but I had to reply, "Yes, I think so." Why is it that a man can be on his knees one day, praying earnestly, and the next day be guilty of offending or injuring another Christian? I think it is because we are halfway between heaven and hell. It is because the light—and the shadow—fall upon us. The best answer is that we are being saved out of all these contradictions we find in our lifetime. Perhaps on this earth, we will never be able to comprehend fully the awful, terrible price the Lord of all beauty paid to gain our redemption; to save His people from the ugliness of sin. If you do not know Him and worship Him, if you do not long to reside where He is, if you have never known wonder and ecstasy in your soul because of His crucifixion and resurrection, your claim of Christianity has little foundation!
Do you realize that most men play at religion as they play at games? Religion itself being of all games the one most universally played. The Church has its "fields" and its "rules" and its equipment for playing the game of pious words. It has its devotees, both laymen and professionals, who support the game with their money and encourage it with their presence, but who are no different in life or character from many who take no interest in religion at all. As an athlete uses a ball so do many of us use words: words spoken and words sung, words written and words uttered in prayer. We throw them swiftly across the field; we learn to handle them with dexterity and grace—and gain as our reward the applause of those who have enjoyed the game. In the games men play, there are no moral roots. It is a pleasant activity which changes nothing and settles nothing, at last. Sadly, in the religious game of pious words, after the pleasant meeting, no one is basically any different from what he had been before!
I believe that everything in the Bible is true, but to attempt to make the Bible a textbook for science is to misunderstand it completely and tragically! It has become a fairly popular practice for Bible teachers to claim to find in the Scriptures confirmation of almost every recent discovery made by science. Apparently, no one noticed that the scientist had to find it before the Bible teacher could, and it never seemed to occur to anyone to wonder why, if it was there in the Bible in such plain sight, it took several thousand years and the help of science before anyone saw it. In recent years, the Bible has been "recommended" for many other purposes from the one for which it was written. The purpose of the Bible is to bring men to Christ, to make them holy and prepare them for heaven. Any manipulation of the Scriptures to make them speak peace to the natural man is evil and can only lead to ruin!
It is my experience that the totality of our Christian lives — our entire attitude as persons — must be towards the worship of God! If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory, your home then God is not in the church you attend, either! I became a Christian when I was a young man working in a tire factory in Akron, Ohio. I remember my work there — but I remember my worship there, too! I had plenty of worshipful tears in my eyes. No one ever asked me about them, but I would not have hesitated to explain them. You can learn to use certain skills until they are automatic. I became so skillful that I could do my work and then I could worship God even while my hands were busy. If the love of God is in us and the Spirit of God is breathing praise within us, all the musical instruments in heaven are suddenly playing in full support! Even our thoughts become a sanctuary in which God can dwell.
Wherever faith has proved itself to be real, it has inevitably had upon it a sense of the "present" God. The holy Scriptures possess in marked degree this feeling of actual encounter with a real Person. The men and women of the Bible talked with God. They spoke to Him and heard Him speak in words they could understand. With Him they held person-to-person converse, and a sense of shining reality is upon their words and deeds. This sense of "Someone there" filled the members of the early Christian church with abiding wonder. The solemn delight which those early disciples knew sprang straight from the conviction that there was One in the midst of them — they were in the very Presence of God! This sense of "Someone" there makes religion invulnerable to critical attack. It secures the mind against collapse under the battering of the enemy. Those who worship the God who is present may ignore the objection of unbelieving men!
In Christian circles today, the church that can show an impressive quantitative growth is frankly envied and imitated by other ambitious churches. Numbers, size, and amounts seem to be very nearly all that matter—with a corresponding lack of emphasis on quality! This is the age of the Laodiceans. The great goddess, Numbers, is worshiped with fervent devotion and all things religious are brought before her for examination. Her Old Testament is the financial report and her New Testament is the membership roll. To these she appeals as the test of spiritual growth and the proof of success or failure in most Christian endeavors. A little acquaintance with the Bible should show this up for the heresy it is. To judge anything spiritual by statistics is to judge by another than scriptural judgment. Yet this is being done every day by ministers, church boards, and denominational leaders. And hardly anyone seems to notice the deep and dangerous error!
Millions of men and women refuse to face up to the fact that religion, in and of itself, is not enough for the sinner's need. It is amazing how many things religious people want to do to you. They can start with infant baptism and end up with the last rites when you are 108 years old—and all of that time they will manipulate you, maul you, and sweet-message your soul. When it is all done, you are, just what you were. You are just a decorated and massaged sinner—a sinner who did not eat meat, or on the other hand, a sinner who did eat fish! When religion has done all it can, you are still a sinner who either went to church or did not go to church. Religion can put us on the roll and educate us and train us and instruct us. But after all that, there is still something within our beings that cries, "Eternity is in my heart, and I have not found anything to satisfy it!" Only our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to satisfy the eternal longing in our souls.
Much of Christianity overlooks the fact that if we are led by the Spirit of God and if we show forth the love of God this world needs, we become the "winsome saints." The strange and wonderful thing about it is that truly winsome and loving saints do not even know about their attractiveness. The great saints of the past did not know they were great saints. If someone had told them, they would not have believed it; but those around then knew that Jesus was living His life in them. I think we join the winsome saints when God's purposes in Christ become clear to us. We join them when we begin to worship God because He is who He is! Brethren, God is not a charity case—He is not some frustrated foreman who cannot find enough help. Let us remember that God has never actually needed any of us—not one! But we pretend that He does and we make a big thing of it when someone agrees "to work for the Lord." God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us—to worship and to enjoy Him forever!
It is one of the devil's oldest tricks to discourage Christian believers by causing them to look back at what they once were. It is indeed the enemy of our souls who makes us forget that we are never at the end of God's love. No one will make progress with God until the eyes are lifted to the faithfulness of God and we stop looking at ourselves! Our instructions in the New Testament all add up to the necessity of looking forward in faith and not spending our time looking back or just looking within. Brethren, our Lord is more than able to take care of our past. He pardons instantly and forgives completely, and his blood makes us worthy! The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful than we will ever be able to comprehend. If the "root of the matter" is in you and you are born again, God is prepared to start with you where you are!
I am being very frank about this, and I hope I am being helpful: do not ever say you are not right with God because you like some people better than others! I believe you can be right with God and still not like the way some people behave. It is easy to love those who are the friendly; others rub us the wrong way or perhaps they cut us down. The writer to the Hebrews has appealed to us as Christian believers to "let brotherly love continue"—in other words, "never stop loving one another in the Lord." Here is what I have found: it is possible to love people in the Lord even though you may not like their boorish or distasteful human traits. We still love them for Jesus' sake! Yes, I believe you can be right with God and still not like the way some people behave. Our admonition is to love them in a larger and more comprehensive way because we are all one in Christ Jesus. This kind of love is indeed a Christian virtue!
I know there are people who hear me preach regularly, who will never consider changing their way of living. They will go "underground" before they will do that! Our situation is not an isolated case. There are millions of men and women with an understanding of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, who are still not willing to receive and commit themselves to Him whom the very angels and stars and rivers receive. They hesitate and they delay because they know God is asking the abdication of their own selfish little kingdom and interests. This is the tragedy of mankind, my brethren! We have rejected Him from our lives, because we must have our own way. But until Jesus Christ is sincerely received, there can be no knowledge of salvation nor any understanding of the things of God. The little, selfish, sinful man rejects the Son of God. While he is still enumerating the things he deserves, the Son of God stands outside. My brethren, I repeat: this is the great tragedy of mankind!
The Spirit-filled walk demands, for instance, that we live in the Word of God as a fish lives in the sea. By this I do not mean that we study the Bible merely, nor that we take a "course" in Bible doctrine. I mean that we should "meditate day and night" in the sacred Word, that we should love it and feast upon it and digest it every hour of the day and night. When the business of life compels our attention we may yet, by a kind of blessed mental reflex, keep the Word of Truth ever before our minds. Then if we would please the in-dwelling Spirit we must be all taken up with Christ. The Spirit's present work is to honor Him, and everything He does has this for its ultimate purpose. And we must make our thoughts a clean sanctuary for His holy habitation. He dwells in our thoughts, and soiled thoughts are as repugnant to Him as soiled linen to a king. Above all we must have a cheerful faith that will keep on believing however radical the fluctuation in our emotional states may be.
The Holy Spirit is a living Person and should be treated as a person. We must never think of Him as a blind energy nor as an impersonal force. He hears and sees and feels as any person does. He speaks and hears us speak. We can please Him or grieve Him or silence Him as we can any other person. He will respond to our timid effort to know Him and will ever meet us over half the way. However wonderful the crisis-experience of being filled with the Spirit, we should remember that it is only a means toward something greater: that greater thing is the life-long walk in the Spirit, indwelt, directed, taught and empowered by His mighty Person. And to continue thus to walk in the Spirit requires that we meet certain conditions. These are laid down for us in the sacred Scriptures and are there for all to see.
Now let us keep our theology straight about all this. There is not in this painful stripping one remote thought of human merit. The "dark night of the soul" knows not one dim ray of the treacherous light of self-righteousness. We do not by suffering earn the anointing for which we yearn, nor does this devastation of soul make us dear to God nor give us additional favor in His eyes. The value of the stripping experience lies in its power to detach us from life's passing interests and to throw us back upon eternity. It serves to empty our earthly vessels and prepare us for the inpouring of the Holy Spirit. The filling with the Spirit, then, requires that we give up our all, that we undergo an inward death, that we rid our hearts of that centuries-old accumulation of Adamic trash and open all rooms to the heavenly Guest.
Be sure, however, that in these painful chastenings we shall not be deserted by our God. He will never leave us nor forsake us, nor will He be wroth with us nor rebuke us. He will not break His covenant nor alter that which has gone out of His mouth. He will keep us as the apple of His eye and watch over us as a mother watches over her child. His love will not fail even while He is taking us through this experience of self-crucifixion so real, so terrible, that we can express it only by crying, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
The Christian who is seeking better things and who has to his consternation found himself in a state of complete self-despair need not be discouraged. Despair with self, where it is accompanied by faith, is a good friend, for it destroys one of the heart's most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the ministration of the Comforter. A sense of utter emptiness, of disappointment and darkness can (if we are alert and wise to what is going on) be the shadow in the valley of shadows that leads on to those fruitful fields that lie further in. If we misunderstand it and resist this visitation of God we may miss entirely every benefit a kind heavenly Father has in mind for us. If we cooperate with God He will take away the natural comforts that have served us as mother and nurse for so long and put us where we can receive no help except from the Comforter Himself. He will tear away that false thing the Chinese call "face" and show us how painfully small we really are. When He is finished with us we will know what our Lord meant when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
Then, I doubt whether anyone ever received that divine afflatus with which we are here concerned who did not first experience a period of deep anxiety and inward agitation. Religious contentment is the enemy of the spiritual life always. The biographies of the saints teach that the way to spiritual greatness has always been through much suffering and inward pain. The phrase, "the way of the cross," though it has come in certain circles to denote something very beautiful, even enjoyable, still means to the real Christian what it has always meant, the way of rejection and loss. No one ever enjoyed a cross, just as no one ever enjoyed a gallows.
Before we can be filled with the Spirit the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in the life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else. The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want. One great hindrance to the Spirit-filled life is the theology of complacency so widely accepted among gospel Christians today. According to this view acute desire is an evidence of unbelief and proof of lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. A sufficient refutation of this position is afforded by the Word of God itself and by the fact that it always fails to produce real saintliness among those who hold it.
If the Spirit takes charge of your life He will expect unquestioning obedience in everything. He will not tolerate in you the self-sins even though they are permitted and excused by most Christians. By the self-sins I mean self-love, self-pity, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, self-defense. You will find the Spirit to be in sharp opposition to the easy ways of the world and of the mixed multitude within the precincts of religion. He will be jealous over you for good. He will not allow you to boast or swagger or show off. He will take the direction of your life away from you. He will reserve the right to test you, to discipline you, to chasten you for your soul's sake. He may strip you of many of those borderline pleasures that other Christians enjoy but that are to you a source of refined evil. Through it all He will enfold you in a love so vast, so mighty, so all-embracing, so wondrous that your very losses will seem like gains and your small pains like pleasures. Yet the flesh will whimper under His yoke and cry out against it as a burden too great to bear. And you will be permitted to enjoy the solemn privilege of suffering to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in your flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church. Now, with the conditions before you, do you still want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?" If this appears severe, let us remember that the way of the cross is never easy. The shine and glamour accompanying popular religious movements is as false as the sheen on the wings of the angel of darkness when he for a moment transforms himself into an angel of light. The spiritual timidity that fears to show the cross in its true character is not on any grounds to be excused. It can result only in disappointment and tragedy at last.