Monday, October 30, 2006

Anemia or Power?

As I continue upon my A.W. Tozer readings, I am finding him to be immensely quotable, with pearls of wisdom and challenge sprinkled liberally throughout his writings.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer addresses why we in modern Christianity are so devoid of "spiritual receptivity." Spiritual receptivity is crucial because it is the ability for us as saved sinners to "hear" God as He speaks in His Word. It is only when we hear God speaking to us personally in the present tense that we experience the power of a transformed life. Tozer points out that we often view God as having been silent, then speaking as the Word was written, and then going silent again. We say "God spoke" in the past tense. But he contends that God has never been silent and that His Word "speaks" (present tense) today to those who are spiritually receptive enough to hear. And the fruit of hearing that speaking is a changed life that is decidedly counter-cultural, yet undeniably powerful.

But he contends that far too few people who go by the name "Christian" ever develop this spiritual receptivity. Instead they develop, in the manner described in the following quote, the theology and standards they apply to their lives...and the results are powerless and anemic at best.

"We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another's notions, copied one another's lives and made one another's experiences the model for our own. And for a generation, the trend has been downward. ... It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done."

In other words, we look around and endeavor to copy others we think of as "spiritual" and "mature" and compare ourselves to still others who are not as spiritual, and then say we are doing well, or "growing." Tozer describes that as distinctly unbiblical, as he should because what he describes is the making of a standard out of our friends' and peers' lives. If our standard for anything in our life is "That's the way 'Joe Smith' (or 'the Smith family') does it," then we are living as Tozer delineates. Note that he says it will require a determined heart and a large amount of courage to turn from this pattern. A person who desires to break out will be going against not only the worldly culture, but the church culture as well. He will be different, and that difference will not be appreciated by those unwilling to consider how their lives are being lived.

What is Tozer's answer? How can this be accomplished?

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there."

Note some specific parts of this quote, with some expounding thoughts in amplification:

"Exercising one's self unto godliness."
Exercise is work. It is a determined effort with a particular goal in mind. In this case, it is hard work toward godliness. (No, this isn't works righteousness; this is for the Christian who is saved by grace through faith, and is in the sanctification process.)


Trust that God intends for you to achieve that godliness and that His Word is sufficient.

Obey the commands, precepts, and patterns you find in God's Word, trusting that God knows better than your peers, and if He desires your holiness and godliness, He alone knows how to achieve it in you.

Humble yourself before God and His Word, acknowledging the weakness of your own strength and knowledge, along with your willingness and desire to learn by listening to God speak.

The action of repentance is "to turn." Turn away from and question your current practices, no matter where they came from (for example, family worship...or lack of you conduct your personal time with the Lord, how you raise and educate your children, how you interact with your neighbors, how you and your spouse organize your home, the impact of sports, vacations, how money is spent, and on and on and on...don't leave a stone unturned, understanding this is a process and isn't something that will occur or change overnight; but it needs to start). Until it is validated in Scripture, each and every practice you bring forth is suspect as being cultural instead of Biblical. Repent before God of how you've always done things, and humbly ask that He speak through His Word in direction for your life and the way you live it.

"Sincere return to God"
The flip-side of the repentance coin is when you turn from your life as you've always known it, you are sincerely, humbly, obediently turning to God alone as your source.

"Go to the Bible itself for spiritual standards"
This is the key to the entire list. The whole point of not being spiritually receptive, and thus lacking in spiritual power is that we don't use the Bible as our standard; we use one another! The exercise, the trust, the obedience, the humility, the repentance, and the return to God all hinge on making the Bible the final and complete standard for life. Anything else will lead right back down the path to spiritual weakness and anemia.

"Delight in what one finds in the Bible" (like what was found in my post on Psalm 1?!)
This isn't to be drudgery. What we find in the Bible is Life!!! It is a salve to the injured soul. These spiritual standards are an easy yoke and a light burden. In short, they cause delight. And as we saw in Psalm 1, a delight in the Law of the Lord produces a solid life characterized by fruit that nourishes all who cross our path.

So what will it be? More of the same anemic, powerless faith? Or a break from the standard of man to the Standard of God, His Word... and the Kingdom power to affect our world and win souls for eternity... all in joy and delight?

Doesn't seem to require a lot of debate in my mind....

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