Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And a little more Tozer!

Lost in today’s religious world is the radical antithesis between the redeemed and the unregenerate. “Coming to church” has become the test of faith, rather than joyful belief in and submission to the pure, unadulterated message of the Gospel. But “coming to church” is a duty attended to by all the world’s religions, and no more makes one a Christian than a visit to a clinic makes one a medical doctor.

Christianity is first and last a relationship with a real, living Person—Jesus Christ, a relationship possible only when one has been regenerated, brought from a state of spiritual death to life. It is not wrapped up in the confession of a concept, the reciting of a creed, the joining of a church, or warm religious feelings. Jesus Christ is the Living God—which means He actually exists as a real person, a thinking, choosing, volitional, emotional Being. He exists wholly independently from creation, from people, from human consciousness. He was before all things, and by Him all things exist.

Any religious sensibility that names Jesus and confesses to love and admire Him yet falls short of a genuine redemptive relationship with Him as a real, living Person is in no way Christian. Tozer’s comments on this sort of “Christianity”—which is essentially unchanged by an encounter with Christ and feels equally comfortable with the world and the Church—are helpful.

It is no more than a religious platitude to say that the trouble with us today is that we have tried to bridge the gulf between two opposites, the world and the Church, and have performed an illicit marriage for which there is no biblical authority. Actually no real union between the world and the Church is possible. When the Church joins up with the world it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world and an abomination to the Lord.

The twilight in which many (or should we say most?) believers walk today is not caused by any vagueness on the part of the Bible. Nothing could be clearer than the pronouncements of the Scriptures on the Christian’s relation to the world. The confusion which gathers around this matter results from the unwillingness of professing Christians to take the Word of the Lord seriously. Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is whitewashed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers, and those same believers are everlastingly seeking to gain acceptance with the world. By mutual concessions men who call themselves Christians manage to get on with men who have for the things of God nothing but quiet contempt.

This whole thing is spiritual in its essence. A Christian is what he is not by ecclesiastical manipulation but by the new birth. He is a Christian because of a Spirit which dwells in him. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh can never be converted into spirit, no matter how many church dignitaries work on it. Confirmation, baptism, holy communion, confession of faith—none of these nor all of them together can turn flesh into spirit nor make a son of Adam a son of God [Tozer, ThePursuit of Man, pp 115-7].

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Tozer

The true Christian has a passion and love for truth, and feels not at all uncomfortable with the imperialistic, exclusive nature of truth. And yet if that passion for truth is not regulated by warm love for our neighbor, we are to the lost but frowning, bitter advocates of something the world finds to be foolish. Truth riding on the crest of love is appealing, but mired in the muck of pride it can be disgusting. In the nature of God these two great forces are never in tension: "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10). Not so in man. If we are not trained by humility, we will attempt to wield truth as a battering ram with which we try to bludgeon our neighbors, our children, and our spouse into submission.

As Tozer focuses on the Holy Spirit in the last third of his book, The Pursuit of Man, he speaks about love and truth:

The blight of the Pharisee's heart in olden times was doctrine without love. With the teachings of the Pharisees Christ had little quarrel, but with the pharisaic spirit He carried on unceasing warfare to the end. It was religion that put Christ on the cross, religion without the indwelling Spirit. It is no use to deny that Christ was crucified by persons who today would be called fundamentalists. This should prove most disquieting if not downright distressing to us who pride ourselves on our orthodoxy. An unblessed soul filled with the letter of truth may actually be worse off than a pagan kneeling before a fetish. We are safe only when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, only when our intellects are indwelt by the loving Fire that came at Pentecost. For the Holy Spirit is not a luxury, not something added now and again to produce a deluxe type of Christian once in a generation. No, He is for every child of God a vital necessity, and that He fill and indwell His people is more than a languid hope. It is rather an inescapable imperative [A. W. Tozer, 106].

Nowhere is this human, fallen, and wholly unnecessary contradiction between love and truth seen so clearly as in our communications on the Internet. Our flame wars do little more than demonstrate how little the truth has changed us, and I am as guilty as the next. We are like the sons of thunder, who in the face of rejection asked Jesus, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54). Jesus' response to James and John is one we still need to heed today: "But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:55-56, while there is a textual issue with His precise words, there is none with the fact of His rebuke).

May God invade us with His Holy Spirit, that our stand for truth would be unyielding but bathed in warm-hearted love and respect for those who do not yet know the Truth, Whom to know aright is life eternal.