“The doctrine of justification by faith—a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort—has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved,” but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.” – The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer, chap. 1, par. 5. Pub. 1948
A. W. Tozer was a man of God, and a preacher of the word of God in the same church denomination which I grew up under (C&MA). In fact, as a teenager he came to faith in Jesus Christ in my home town of Akron, Ohio. And, I grew up under preaching such as his back in the 50s to the late 70s.
I think my maternal grandmother, Jennie Jones, who I never knew, because she died when I was just two years old, if she had been a man, might have done as Tozer did, too. For, in discovering her journals in 2004, for the first time ever, what I read of her writings expressed so much of what was also in the heart of Tozer, which was the heart of God.
What amazes me is that Tozer penned these words and others like them back in 1948, before I was even born. One of my favorites of his writings is The Old Cross and The New (1), which was first published in 1946 in the Alliance Witness, which was the magazine of that church denomination, which was a very strong evangelical church denomination of that time. Holiness and sanctification were very strong themes taught in my home church on a consistent basis back in those earlier days of my life.
What amazes me about this quote (above) is that Tozer was seeing then, in 1948, what I didn’t begin really seeing in its fullness until God called me to this present ministry in 2004. And, another amazing God-thing about this is that my grandmother preached the same message in her journals, and God has called me to give out this same message, too, on the internet. For, what Tozer said in this quote has been the central message of the ministry God has given to me in these last days before the return of Christ.
And, that message is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that is that Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and that we might live with him to his righteousness, and that is the essence of the gospel message.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul was a “Tozer” of his time. Although he did not live in modern-day America, and he didn’t see then the transition that Tozer described, which has taken place in the church in America, still he continually taught holiness and sanctification. He taught the crucified life for the believer in Jesus. And, he didn’t teach it as optional, either, for our eternal salvation.
The message then, which is the same message God has always been giving any who would call on him for salvation, is that, because of God’s grace to us, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice of his life for us on a cross, we are to give our lives to God wholly unto him. We are to hold nothing back. We are to surrender our lives to the Lord to follow him in his ways and in his truth.
And, this surrender to Jesus is to be holy and acceptable to God, too. In other words, this is not about us giving up some things for God, or us doing “good deeds,” thinking we are pleasing God. It is not about us giving the Lord some of our time, either. We don’t just set aside time for God each day while we spend the rest of the day doing whatever we want. He gets it all!
Also, holy means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are being conformed to the likeness of Jesus. So, this means total surrender to our Lord 24/7, not just in some areas, and not just during part of our days or weeks. And, it means we no longer think, speak and conduct our lives like those who make no profession of faith in Christ at all.
And, what is acceptable to God is that we die with him to sin that we might live with him to his righteousness – all in his power at work within our lives as we yield to his Lordship over our lives. And, it is that we walk in obedience to his commands as a matter of our life’s course, not necessarily in absolute sinless perfection, but daily, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh and walking according to (in agreement with) the Spirit.
Romans 12:3-8 ESV
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Some people falsely accuse the “Tozers” of this world today, who are still teaching the message of the “Old Rugged Cross,” of being legalistic and of teaching works-based salvation. And, too, they may accuse them of being self-righteous and prideful because they talk about our need to be holy, and to live righteously, and to be set apart from the world and unto God.
Granted, there are people who are self-righteous who, like the Pharisees, teach a legalistic Christianity of works of the flesh, while behind closed doors they are living in sinful addiction and doing some things much worse than many who never believe in Jesus would ever think of doing. And, they do give a bad name to Christianity and to holiness.
But, it is not conceit that leads us to follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. It takes much humility to surrender our lives to the Lord and to forsake the ways of our flesh in order to follow our Lord in obedience. And, it is not self-righteousness or a sense of superiority that leads the Lord’s true servants to teach on holiness and sanctification, either. For, we get beat up on when we do that, and we get rejected, ignored, mocked and ridiculed, so there is no pride in that.
But, what Tozer was seeing 70 years ago, and what many of us are seeing today, is this shift in evangelical Christianity away from holiness to tolerance of sinful practices in the church. It is a shift away from godliness and purity to license to continue in sinful addictions without guilt. And, it is a shift away from the gospel Jesus taught, to a gospel of human-making which now appeals to and placates (coddles) the flesh, so that no one will feel offended or uncomfortable with the preaching of truth, or feel guilty about their sin.
So, they are teaching that people can “receive” Jesus Christ into their hearts and be “saved” from their sins and nothing really has to change in their lifestyles. It is just a matter of acknowledging what Jesus did for us on the cross, or saying some words after someone in a prayer, and accepting God’s grace and his forgiveness of sins. But, they skip a very important step.
What they leave out is that we must die with Christ to sin and we must be transformed in our thinking away from sin to God and to righteousness. And, we must now apply Christ’s righteousness to our lives, not superficially, but in practice in our daily walks with him.
The “New Birth” is not just some stamp of approval God puts on our lives now that we “invited him into our hearts,” but it is a radical transformation (metamorphosis) by the Spirit of God that turns us (our hearts) from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18).
Yet, this message is meeting with much resistance these days in institutional market-driven “churches,” which are businesses of men being passed off as the true church. But, the true church is not a building or a church denomination, although all my life that has been called “church,” and it is hard to know how to make that distinction exactly. But, the true church is the body of believers in Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ as the true head.
So, many of these modern-day congregations, which are often a mixture of the world and professing Christians together, are saying to parts of the body, “We have no need of you,” because our “parts” are now being excluded from much of the gatherings of the body, which are really gatherings of the world mixed in with professers of faith in Jesus. Some of us have even been instructed to “go someplace else” where we will be “a better fit,” because we don’t fit in with today’s market-driven church.
But, that’s ok, because God has called us to come out from Babylon so that we don’t share in her sins and in her punishment, and the Lord has sent us out into the highways and byways of life to call in all who will come to the wedding banquet, and who will be accepted by God, because they are wearing the right wedding garments. But, our hearts’ desire is that all of our loved ones might genuinely turn their hearts and lives over to Jesus Christ.
My Heart’s Desire
An Original Work / June 29, 2013
Based off Rm. 10; Lu. 9:23-26; Ep. 4:20-24
Loved Ones, Oh, my heart’s desire
Is that you might come to Jesus.
Many appear zealous for God,
But they do not trust in Him.
They have not submitted to the One
Who saved them from their sins;
Not forsaken their sins,
Nor have they obeyed their King.
The word of the Lord is near you:
The word of faith we’re proclaiming:
That you must confess your faith
In Jesus as your Lord and King:
Believe in Him as your Lord,
And follow Him where’er He leads.
Share the gospel; be a witness,
And meet others’ needs.
Beautiful are the feet of those
Who bring the good news of Jesus:
Anyone who would come to Him
Must deny himself today;
Die to sin and self, and
Let the Spirit transform you in heart;
Put on your new self in Jesus,
Yielding to the cross.
Friday, May 3, 2019
(1) The Old Cross and the New http://www.ldolphin.org/oldcross.html