For a training assignment for missions preparation, I was required to read A.W. Tozer’s classic book The Pursuit of God and highlight a few points that were particularly impactful. This was my second time reading this great book, and it was interesting to see that as my walk with God and my theology has matured (at least I hope it has matured) since I read this as a young Christian almost 15 years ago, different itches were scratched.
Here are a few of my reflections.
Tozer’s discussion of “Self-sins” was exceptionally convicting. Particularly this quote:
“Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow….we must invite the cross to do its deadly work in us” (p. 35)
At the root of all my sin is pride. This was a good reminder that even if I can see and confront obviously prideful sin, it still can and will creep up unnoticed in other areas of my life, often in ways that are combined with Godly desires and couched in “spiritual” sounding terminology. As Calvin said, “the heart is a factory of idols”. To tear one heart idol of self worship down only to submit to another, more subtle, one is tragically foolish. However, it is a pattern that I so often fall into. Tozer’s reminder that “we must invite the cross to do its deadly work in us” is so key. It is only when I am living in the light of the cross that I can truly see my sin for what and where it is and simultaneously be liberated from its power as I see my Savior putting it to death for all time on my behalf.
So often it is easy for me to be convicted by my sin and confess it to the Lord and others, but then to languish in despair and false humility, but to never move onto the hope and power that the cross and empty tomb of Christ provide.
I very much appreciated this gospel centered encouragement.
Another refreshing reminder that I was blessed by was the emphasis on seeing the proper connection be tween justification and practical sanctification. The more my understanding of the immensity of God’s grace grows the more aware I am of the danger of falling into the pitfall that Paul warns against in Romans 6:15,
“ What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
Even though I despise that kind of faulty theology it is so easy to drift into living as if it is true at times. True grace moves us to act, but cross-less action mocks grace. Often I have used my desire to exalt the grace of God in my life to allow a subtle apathy into my mind and heart towards exerting effort towards imitating Christ.
Tozer I believe strikes the right Biblical chord in showing the harmony between resting in God’s mighty grace and striving with the power of God that works in us when he says,
“Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life, hoping ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy “acceptance” from the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate Saul and spare the best of the sheep and the oxen.” (36-37)
“we pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” (1)
Tozer’s last chapter entitled “The Sacrament of Living” illuminated something in my life that had crept in more than I realized since being in the Navy. I have often found myself saying something to the affect of, “I’ve counseled and shared the Gospel with 5 people at work today, I’ve done my duty for God, now it’s ‘my’ time. If I don’t get ‘my’ time, I won’t be recharged enough to give God ‘His’ time tomorrow.” This lie leads me to justify not serving others when on “my” time, or worse, tolerating blatant sin during my “sovereign” time. Another bad fruit of this kind of thinking that inserts a false dichotomy into life is expressed with thoughts like, “All I did was Navy stuff today, I wish I could go back to being a full time pastor and not have to deal with all this military garbage.” or “I can’t wait until I can be really useful to God in Indonesia…”
Tozer smacked me into sanity with this statement:
“we must practice living to the glory of God, actually and determinedly. By meditation upon this truth, by talking it over with God often in our prayers, by recalling it to our minds frequently as we move about among men, a sense of its wondrous meaning will take hold of us. The old painful duality will go down before a restful unity of life. 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.”
The last topic I will comment on has been perhaps the principle from that has lingered with me the most. Tozer’s discussion of the difference between a scribe (tells what he has read) and a prophet (tells what he has seen) got me thinking about the necessity for daily tasting and seeing the Lord’s goodness. Communion with Christ is not a vicarious experience. I’m tired of trying to taste the beauty of Christ by trying to swallow the secondhand description of someone else’s experience of feasting on God. I want to want to know more of what it’s like to thirst for the living God like a deer thirsts for water. I’ve experienced moments like this before, moments where I am simultaneously overcome with a hunger for more of God and being satisfied with God, but those moments seem so fleeting and I long to have a deeper longing for that kind of fulfilling hunger.
Furthermore, and more practically, going from 1 to 4 kids in a matter of a few months, all the while being in the most intense season of ministry since I became a chaplain, I have constantly been confronted with my need for daily nourishment from the Word and daily communion with my God. In the past, I was often able to “fake it” in my own strength, giving the appearance of bearing the fruit of the spirit, getting through a spiritually dry day without showing the selfishness that I knew was lurking right underneath the surface. Nowadays however, with the intense stresses of the last few months, I can’t go an hour of living in my own strength, before my flesh rears its ugly head. I have learned, and been greatly helped by this reading assignment, that the daily bread of God’s Word and prayer is not just a good ideal to shoot for, but a life and death necessity. Previously if I was tired or busy I would sacrifice my morning quiet time with the Lord and grit my teeth through the rest of the day or week knowing that most likely on the weekend I could make up for my spiritual dryness and have an extended time drinking deeply from the Eternal Spring on the weekend. Now however, not only do I rarely get that extended quiet times on the weekends, but I have come to see that a daily hour with God in the morning is much more precious, necessary, and life giving than an extra hour or two of sleep, or entertainment, or pleasure. I cannot survive on a possible weekend feast of old stale manna and expect it to sustain me throughout the week. God has taught me that He has promised me daily bread, not weekly, or monthly, but daily sustainment. While I have not perfectly practiced this principle, I am thankful for the daily reminder, motivation and necessity of starting each morning taking in the Lord’s provision of Himself and His promises for that day.