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.


The All Importance of Motive

July 22, 2013

By A.W. Tozer

Christus im Hause des Pharisäers

The test by which all conduct must finally be judged is motive. As water cannot rise higher than its source, so the moral quality in an act can never be higher than the motive that inspires it. For this reason no act that arises from an evil motive can be good, even though some good may appear to come out of it. Every deed done out of anger or spite, for instance, will be found at last to have been done for the enemy and against the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately the nature of religious activity is such that much of it can be carried on for reasons that are not good, such as anger, jealousy, ambition, vanity and avarice. All such activity is essentially evil and will be counted as such at the judgment. In this matter of motive, as in so many other things, the Pharisees afford us clear examples. They remain the world’s most dismal religious failures, not because of doctrinal error nor because they were careless or lukewarm, nor because they were outwardly persons of dissolute life. Their whole trouble lay in the quality of their religious motives. They prayed, but they prayed to be heard of men, and thus their motive ruined their prayers and rendered them not only useless but actually evil. They gave generously to the service of the temple, but they sometimes did it to escape their duty toward their parents, and this was an evil. They judged sin and stood against it when they found it in others, but this they did from self-righteousness and hardness of heart. So with almost everything they did. Their activities had about them an outward appearance of holiness, and those same activities if carried on out of pure motives would have been good and praiseworthy. The whole weakness of the Pharisees lay in the quality of their motives.

That this is not a small matter may be gathered from the fact that those orthodox and proper religionists went on in their blindness till they at last crucified the Lord of glory with no inkling of the gravity of their crime. Religious acts done out of low motives are twice evil, evil in themselves and evil because they are done in the name of God. This is equivalent to sinning in the name of the sinless One, lying in the name of the One who cannot lie and hating in the name of the One whose nature is love. Christians, and especially very active ones, should take time out frequently to search their souls to be sure of their motives. Many a solo is sung to show off; many a sermon is preached as an exhibition of talent; many a church is founded as a slap at some other church. Even missionary activity may become competitive, and soul winning may degenerate into a sort of brush-salesman project to satisfy the flesh. Do not forget, the Pharisees were great missionaries and would compass sea and land to make a convert.

A good way to avoid the snare of empty religious activity is to appear before God every once in a while with our Bibles open to the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. This passage, though rated one of the most beautiful in the Bible, is also one of the severest to be found in Sacred Writ. The apostle makes the highest religious service and consigns it to futility unless it is motivated by love. Lacking love, prophets, teachers, orators, philanthropists and martyrs are sent away without reward. To sum it up, we may say simply that in the sight of God we are judged not so much by what we do as by our reasons for doing it. Not what but why will be the important question when we Christians appear at the judgment seat to give account of the deeds done in the body.

(From The Root of the Righteous)
(Photo: Christ in the House of the Pharisee by Tintoretto)


“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

July 15, 2013

“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Can you or I love God without having to obey him? This would be a very confusing task, because we are declaring an allegiance to God, yet somehow assuming that it is not necessary to obey him. If this were possible, what would it look like? It would show that devotion does not necessitate action to follow.  Do I just say that I love, and that is it?  Do I just hold affection in my mind and that is good enough?

I believe that there would be a great depression in a marriage if on his wedding day a husband promised that he would love his wife “till death do us part,” and for the rest of his marriage not once show it in some manner.  How would you feel if this was your husband or wife? Would you be satisfied with just one day of I do’s, and afterward receive no sign to affirm it?  Would you be okay with this kind of so-called love? Or would you demand that the one who said “I do” show that he or she really does by the way they reflect their love to you?

How much more is this true of God? Do we seriously think that we owe any less devotion for God?  Do we really assume that he has too much on his plate to pay attention to little ol’ me? Or do we just use this as an excused to justify our lack of commitment towards the one we said “I do” to?

How horrible it is to know that although we would not appreciate it if our spouses lacked in reflecting their love toward us, we fail time and time again to show God the commitment that he deserves.  How could we do such a thing to him? There is no other way to love God. To love God is to obey God! Don’t make excuses.

Father, God, Lord, my first true love, please forgives us for foolishly thinking that we can say that we know you an yet not obey you. Please give us a jealous love for you, God, that we may be always focused on pleasing you and honor you in all that we do, for you are a jealous God.

 

 


Made in the Image of God

July 8, 2013

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines the image of God as, “The doctrine that humanity is in certain respects created in the divine likeness.”[1]  In short, everything that in man that shows God’s qualities and characteristics are included in this image.  As God created, so man is able to create. As God can use his senses, so can man.  As God can see, hear, and smell, so can man.  Man is semi-transcendent and has a soul that is not confined to this physical world.

When God created man in his image, he created him perfectly.  The problem of the soul is that sin has corrupted it.  Therefore the problem with man is not his humanity, but what corrupts his humanity.  Now that image of God has been marred.  Now man thinks, reasons, understands, feels, desires, and rationalizes his behavior in his own misguided view.

This impacts the way I minister the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in two ways.  First, it impacts the way I view myself; and secondly it impacts the way I view the person I am ministering to.

I have been set free from the power of the sinful nature thought the blood, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Gospel.  “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  I have been spiritually restored to that which I was created to be, holy and pure in the image of God.  “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16).  The Gospel makes it possible to be everything that God has called us to be.  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I examine myself through this lens.  Do I reflect God’s holiness?  Do I reflect God’s righteousness and blamelessness?  How can I minister the Gospel of salvation to anyone if I have not met its standard?  How can I tell others that they need to be saved from Adam and be born again into Christ if I myself am not found in Christ?

Secondly, I view the individual as someone who is either in Adam or in Christ.  If they are in Adam, they are still under the control of the sinful nature and the image of God is still corrupted in their soul and in their life.  If they are found in Christ, are they living up to the holiness that he gives?  If they are living a holy life, are they also ministering as they should?

Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  My purpose is to build others up to this same standard – the fullness of Christ in all holiness, and maturity in faithfulness to him.

Sometimes people have accused me of being arrogant in my position.  To that I respond that there is a difference between being arrogant and being confident.  I do not take pride in myself as if I have made myself holy or somehow saved myself.  But I know the God who I serve, a holy God who desires the same for all his creation.  God does not create junk.  He created man perfect, and he desires this for his elect.  He has given us the way to be restored to his image and have full relationship with him.  “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This knowledge of holiness is key, because it determines who we set out to become when we come to Christ.  Whose image are we being restored to?  What does that image look like?  It was A.W. Tozer who said, “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him.”[2]  If we do not view God as holy, and do not recognize that God wants to restore us to that image of holiness, we have committed to worst of idolatries.  Then we have chosen to reject who God has created us to be, creating instead a god in our own image, and a gospel of our own desires.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:19-24).

(918)

 

Bibliography

Henry, C.F.H. “Image of God.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001

 

Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1961


[1] C.F.H. Henry. “Image of God.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 591.

[2] A.W. Tozer. The Knowledge of the Holy. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1961), 3.


What Comes to Mind

July 8, 2013
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (A.W. Tozer).

The most important attribute of God is his holiness.  I say this because God’s holiness is pure light in the face of the darkness of sin, and pure life to those of us who have been snatched out of the darkness and given new life in Christ.  Everything about God’s character is a reflection of his holiness.  Everything that we are called to be in Christ is also a reflection of God’s holiness, because in Christ we have everything that is true of Christ.  Everything that is true of God, because the Lord Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. 

What comes to your mind when you think of God?  This will impact everything about your relationship with God, and everything about the way you live your life in Christ.


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