Category Archives: A.W. Tozer

Tozer on the Gentleness of God

tss-pop-can-large.jpgA.W. Tozer writing on Psalm 18:35 (“your gentleness made me great”):

“God is easy to live with. Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.

Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward.

Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

– A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous, pp. 13-16. As quoted in the newest Banner of Truth Magazine (issue 531; Dec. 2007).

Tony’s Book Club pick #4: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (0060684127, book review)

Weighing in at just 3.4 ounces, Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy is a tiny book with a heavyweight hook! Of all the great works out there on the attributes of God, this is my favorite.

I was first introduced to Tozer when I led a group of local college students through the book, The Pursuit of God (another excellent, must-read). I was drawn especially to Tozer’s simplicity, biblical depth and straight talk. In articulating the sweet communion the believer enjoys with God, Tozer communicates with a clarity no author (except maybe Martyn Lloyd-Jones) can match. Pound-for-pound, no writer provides the preacher more quotes than Tozer!

The Knowledge of the Holy is a 23-chapter, 120-page study of the attributes of God. It is the perfect size for group studies or to recommend to readers who have trouble with larger books.

Tozer covers the attributes you would expect (immutability, omniscience, transcendence, omnipresence, faithfulness, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, love and sovereignty of God). But he throws in some chapters that often are forgotten in short attribute studies, like the Self-sufficiency and Self-existence of God.

Tozer writes out of a burden that each generation holds tightly to an accurate view of God.

“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind” (p. 4). And on the page earlier he wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”

Tozer’s presentation of the attributes of God is passionate because a wrong understanding of God is (as he writes) ‘deadly.’ Our generation must look beyond the creedal affirmations we inherited and ask the honest question: Who do I believe God is? And since each Christian comprises the Church, this self-examination is necessary for everyone in the church (see p. 114).

Tozer properly shows that an accurate understanding of God flows first from faith in God and the accuracy of His Word. Without faith in the impossible (the resurrection, for example) there will never be a clear understanding of who God is. In the eternal, revelation must precede reason.

The danger for our generation (and every generation) comes when we fashion God into our own golden-calf-image. God is who He is and remains who He is. And, “were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away” (p. 33).

It is the Christian’s duty and joy to pursue this God and Tozer proves himself to be a reliable guide in the journey.

The church’s great danger: Wrong thoughts about God

“Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

- A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins: San Francisco), 1961, p. 4.

Pic3: Tozer on the Christian pursuing God

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Preaching what we study vs. preaching what we see?

There is a subtle distinction between two types of preaching that are profoundly different in nature. Bear with me in this first attempt to collect these thoughts into words.

I think the words of Christ especially make the distinction I am talking about when He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Here, to me, is the distinction – some preachers grow content to preach mere words or a system of theology while others preach people upwards through the Bible towards a Man (Christ) and are never satisfied until their hearers come face-to-face with the Man.

Of course the Bible is central to both, as are hermeneutics, expositional capacities, commentaries, study, etc – and I’ve seen God bless both forms of preaching to His own glory. The difference is that one preaches from what is studied and the other preaches what is seen.

This, I believe, is why Spurgeon stands as the great example of preaching. Last week we looked at how he dwelled on the manifestations of Christ (John 14:22). From a vision of the unseen realities he preached. Far differently than what he merely studied or read, it was an extension of those – he preached what he saw.

Angell recently caught my attention when he said the same thing.

Lukewarmness can excite no ardor, originate no activity, produce no effect: it benumbs whatever it touches. If we enquire what were the sources of the energy, and the springs of the activity, of the most successful ministers of Christ, we shall find that they lay in the ardor of their devotion. They were men of prayer and of faith. They dwelt upon the mount of communion with God, and came down from it like Moses to the people, radiant with the glory on which they had themselves been intently gazing. They stationed themselves where they could look at things unseen and eternal, and came with the stupendous visions fresh in their view, and preached under the impression of what they had just seen and heard.

-John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times (Banner of Truth, 1847/1993) p. 64

It is also interesting to note Spurgeon’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:12 (“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known”). To him it was not so much a reference to specific passages of God’s Word giving us dim glimpses of the face of Christ but rather as we study at various times we see distant glimpses of Christ. Like a man standing at a storefront glass and seeing a silhouette in the background – sometimes we see His face in the Bible and others times we don’t. Sometimes even in the same passage one will see a faint glimpse of Christ’s face and another will not (see sermon 61).

This all leads me to another precious quote by Tozer on the subject:

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatsoever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

-A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications: 1993) p. 9-10

Almost without exception, the preacher who reads this, nods his head and assumes he is doing this is the very man who can improve much. It is a great reminder for preachers to double-check our messages lest we become preachers of literature, that we not grow content preaching what we read and study but take every opportunity to see through the Bible into the face of Christ.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image … (2 Cor. 3:18. ESV).

How much faith do we have in God?

Thank you Mark Alderton (Sovereign Grace Fellowship, Minneapolis) for the following quote!

Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him.

The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in.

The faith of Paul or Luther was a revolutionizing thing. It upset the whole life of the individual and made him into another person altogether. It laid hold on the life and brought it under obedience to Christ. It took up its cross and followed along after Jesus with no intention of going back. It said goodbye to its old friends as certainly as Elijah when he stepped into the fiery chariot and went away in the whirlwind. It had a finality about it … It realigned all life’s actions and brought them into accord with the will of God.

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now, as they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is surely coming when we shall have nothing but God! Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will all be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.

It would be a tragedy indeed to come to the place where we have no other but God and find that we had not really been trusting God during the days or our earthly sojourn. It would be better to invite God now to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure for our troubles, it is a sure one! Gentler cures may be too weak to do the work. And time is running out on us.

- A.W. Tozer (source unknown)

An open letter of our future and Sovereign Grace Ministries

June 30, 2006

Hello friends and family,

Having a calling into pastoral ministry is a great blessing. It means meeting people that are likeminded from all over the country, and having the great honor of opening the Bible to others. It also means prioritizing the ministry over personal ambitions, and pursuing a God who pulls people from their comforts. For the past several years, our family has lived under the tremendous blessing of being drawn towards pastoral ministry in the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

About two years ago, we began pursuing the training options that would fit us for the tasks ahead. We looked at many options in our home city of Omaha, considered four separate seminaries from the West coast to the East coast, and finally explored other church-based ministries. After several years of emails, travel, conversations and prayer we have concluded that the best training suitable for our family is with Sovereign Grace Ministries based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. We have begun building a relationship with them and have gained tremendous wisdom in meeting with many of their leaders at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville this past April. After more emails, prayer, wisdom from national leaders and travel, we intend to begin our journey within Sovereign Grace Ministries at Sovereign Grace Fellowship, a wonderful church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have spent time with the pastors there and our hearts have been knit together in the Gospel. We are excited about the direction of their church and its successful leadership training.

Today our home will officially be for sale in Omaha. Having been in this terrific city for most of our lives, we will be leaving family whom we love, a business we have developed, a church family that we love, the home we built ourselves and many friends we will miss dearly.

In amazing ways, the provisions of God have been especially tangible in the past 6 months. We fully trust that God will continue to provide. Our sovereign God is in control of all our situations and especially promises blessing when we are willing to hand over family, homes and lands for the Gospel (Luke 18:28-30). We have seen, as God works in our lives, that gain comes through loss. We would appreciate your prayers that our home would sell, that we would have joy in this process, and that God would provide a job in Minneapolis as a writer.

While we are seeking pastoral training, the light burdens we are called to bear and the faith in God’s provisions are no different than the burdens and faith expected in the lives of each Christian.

We are grateful for the investments so many of you have made in our lives in Omaha. We are thankful also for your patience as we have come to these conclusions. We look forward to the coming weeks and months as we step out in faith to a future we cannot yet see.

The following quote from A.W. Tozer has been especially powerful in this time of our lives:

Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him.

The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in.

The faith of Paul or Luther was a revolutionizing thing. It upset the whole life of the individual and made him into another person altogether. It laid hold on the life and brought it under obedience to Christ. It took up its cross and followed along after Jesus with no intention of going back. It said goodbye to its old friends as certainly as Elijah when he stepped into the fiery chariot and went away in the whirlwind. It had a finality about it … It realigned all life’s actions and brought them into accord with the will of God.

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now, as they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is surely coming when we shall have nothing but God! Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will all be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.

It would be a tragedy indeed to come to the place where we have no other but God and find that we had not really been trusting God during the days or our earthly sojourn. It would be better to invite God now to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure for our troubles, it is a sure one! Gentler cures may be too weak to do the work. And time is running out on us.

In the name of our loving, faithful and sovereign God who justifies His enemies and then takes pleasure in His children (Ps. 149:4),

Tony and K. Reinke
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P.S. We are aware that God’s sovereignty can override our own plans and wishes. Commenting on Proverbs 16:9, Charles Bridges writes, “As rational agents we think, consult, act freely. As dependent agents, the Lord exercises His own power in permitting, overruling, or furthering our acts. Thus man proposes; God disposes.” We are all too aware that God can sometimes dispose what we have proposed !

Low views of God destroy the Gospel

“Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech … Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God … Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”

- A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, (HarperCollins, 1961) pp. 1-3

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