The Need for Divine Illumination

January 3, 2016

By A.W. Tozer
From That Incredible Christian

TRUTHS DIFFER FROM NATURAL TRUTHS both in their constitution and in the manner of their apprehension by us.

Natural truths can be learned by us regardless of our moral or spiritual condition. The truths of the natural sciences, for instance, can be grasped by anyone of normal intelligence regardless of whether he is a good man or a scoundrel. There is no relation between, say, chastity and logic, or between kindness and oceanography. In like manner a sufficient degree of mental vigor is all that is required to grasp philosophical propositions. A man may study philosophy for a lifetime, teach it, write books about it, and be all the while proud, covetous and thoroughly dishonest in his private dealings.

The same thing may be said of theology. A man need not be godly to learn theology. Indeed I wonder whether there is anything taught in any seminary on earth that could not be learned by a brigand or a swindler as well as by a consecrated Christian. While I have no doubt that the majority of theological students live far better than average lives, yet it should be kept in mind that they can easily get their lessons without living any better than is absolutely required to stay in the institution.

It does not strain my imagination to think of Judas Iscariot as coming out of school with a Th.B., if such a thing had been offered in his day. There is simply no necessary relation between the studies engaged in by students in a divinity school and the state of the students’ hearts. Anything that is taught under the heading of hamartiology, soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology or any of the rest may be grasped as easily by a sinner as by a saint. And certainly it takes no great degree of sanctity to learn Hebrew and Greek.

Surely God has that to say to the pure in heart which He cannot say to the man of sinful life. But what He has to say is not theological, it is spiritual; and right there lies the weight of my argument. Spiritual truths cannot be received in the ordinary way of nature. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” So wrote the apostle Paul to the believers at Corinth.

Our Lord referred to this kind of Spirit-enlightened knowledge many times. To Him it was the fruit of a divine illumination, not contrary to but altogether beyond mere intellectual light. The fourth Gospel is full of this idea; indeed the idea is so important to the understanding of John’s Gospel that anyone who denies it might as well give up trying to grasp our Lord’s teachings as given by the apostle John. And the same idea is found in John’s First Epistle, making that epistle extremely difficult to understand but also making it one of the most beautiful and rewarding of all the epistles of the New Testament when its teachings are spiritually discerned.

The necessity for spiritual illumination before we can grasp spiritual truths is taught throughout the entire New Testament and is altogether in accord with the teachings of the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Prophets. The Old Testament Apocrypha agrees with the Scriptures here, and while the Apocryphal books are not to be received as divinely inspired, they are useful as showing how the best minds of ancient Israel thought about this matter of divine truth and how it is received into the human heart.

The New Testament draws a sharp line between the natural mind and the mind that has been touched by divine fire. When Peter made his good confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” our Lord replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven·” And Paul expresses much the same thing when he says, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

The sum of what I am saying is that there is an illumination, divinely bestowed, without which theological truth is information and nothing more. While this illumination is never given apart from theology, it is entirely possible to have theology without the illumination. This results in what has been called “dead orthodoxy,” and while there may be some who deny that it is possible to be both orthodox and dead at the same time I am afraid experience proves that it is.

Revivals, as they have appeared at various times among the churches of the past, have been essentially a quickening of the spiritual life of persons already orthodox. The revivalist, as long as he exercised his ministry as a revivalist, did not try to teach doctrine. His one object was to bring about a quickening of the churches which while orthodox in creed were devoid of spiritual life. When he went beyond this he was something else than a revivalist. Revival can come only to those who know truth. When the inner meaning of familiar doctrines suddenly flashes in upon the heart of a Christian the revival for him has already begun. It may go on to be much more than this but it can never be less

A Praying Christian

September 24, 2015

“If you are a Praying Christian, You can Trust that your Christian Faith will carry you in your walk with God. But if you are Not a Praying Christian you can be sure that You will have to carry your Christianity, and in the process, get very weary, tired and exhausted!
(Ravi Zacharias)

[A Life or Death Moment] What is your goal?

September 24, 2015

Are We Ready to Drink His Cup (Leonard Ravenhill)

September 24, 2015

The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

November 15, 2014

The Lord Jesus Christ carrying the cross

(An excerpt from The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Chapter 2:)

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it “life” and “self,” or as we would say, the selflife. Its chief characteristic is its possessiveness: the words “gain” and “profit” suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross. “Let him take up his cross and follow me.”

The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the “poor in spirit.” They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word “poor” as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Need For Religious Books

May 16, 2014

The Need For Religious Books

“If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I don’t know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and his Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end” (Daniel Webster, 1823).

The Real Fear of the Lord

July 29, 2013

I have heard many pastors and Bible teachers talk about the fear of the Lord being not a dreadful fear, but one of reverence and respect.  I know that for those who have an agenda to get what they want, they know how to give proper respect to those in authority only in leaning towards the act of deception, in order to fulfill their evil desire.  And they know how to do this with a smile.

Is this not true of those who accept this false notion of the fear of the Lord?  They believe that God is not looking for you to fear the possibility of being wiped off the face of the earth if we sin, be it deliberately or unintentionally.  They believe that when God’s Word says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), that God does not really mean death, but something else.  Is it not safer to believe that when we sin against God, he only sees it as a soft touch instead of a severe blow?  Because if we saw God as one who is wrathful, furious, and judgmental towards his people, he would be unlikable, unapproachable, and undesirable.

What God are we talking about here?  I tell you that this god is an illusion and a figment of your imagination.  That god could not last one minute on this planet if he tried, because his own creation would eat him up alive, and spit him back out with the snicker of mockery and conquering.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”  It is in the proper fear and trembling of God that you revere and respect him.

We are always being tempted to take God lightly so that we won’t have to see the seriousness of the violation of sin against God.  We are tempted to look at sin as if it is something that God really can’t get offended at.  Did God really say that you cannot do this, or say that, or take of this forbidden fruit?

We must fear not fearing God!  It was Moses who said to God’s people, “God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be in you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20).  God knows that it was the lack of the fear of him that caused his people to take him lightly, and eventually sin against him.

We must be a people who not only fear God, but fear losing the fear of God in our lives. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – when you speak, when you look, when you listen, when you act.  It will keep you from sinning in all these areas of your soul.


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