Friday, February 16, 2007

Keys to the Deeper Life- Part 2

At the inspiration of A.W. Tozer’s book, Keys to the Deeper Life, in my last blog post I discussed the need for a “radical life” in order to know God and to keep grace from being “cheap grace.” At the end of Chapter One, Tozer more fully defines a “radical life” by saying, “We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross-bearing: these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct.” He is making the case that all our prayers for revival are for naught if we are not actually living the New Testament life. I would like to explore some thoughts about his list. Obviously it’s not all-encompassing, but Christians who live their lives in this manner would most certainly be well on the road to sanctification and would certainly affect their culture. Here are my musings on Tozer’s list:


I was listening to an archived webcast of “Generations with Kevin Swanson” today where Swanson was interviewing Greg Harris, one of the pioneers of homeschooling and father of Joshua Harris, pastor and author. Harris made a point about “separation” that gave me an “ah-hah!” moment. He pointed out that separation is NOT isolation. He gave the analogy of a Christian’s home being an embassy for a foreign land. For example, one would expect to find Spanish cuisine and Spanish culture in a Spanish embassy in Australia. The Spanish embassy is in Australia, but it is not of Australia. It retains its own culture and flavor, while being physically present in a different culture and country. The same holds true here. As ambassadors of Christ, our homes are to be embassies of heaven. One should find the fragrance and culture of Heaven when they enter, even though we are physically here on earth. They can also find out how to become a citizen of Heaven as well. Obviously like all analogies, this one does break down. But, it does help us to understand that as Christians, we must live our lives according to the dictates of our real home: heaven. Our lives need to witness forth and glorify God. We do that best when we quit trying to be like the world, when we quit trying to be “relevant,” and instead actually practice New Testament Christianity. That will separate us, but will not isolate us.


As I’ve written numerous times in this blog before, there is no question that God wants our obedience to His Word. That obedience is what will separate us from the culture. This is not obedience in order to earn our righteousness, but is the obedience that is part and parcel of sanctifying us after conversion.


As a people who have peered into our souls and found them wanting, we know the depths of our depravity and the amount of forgiveness we have received from God (and if you haven’t done that…you might want to question your salvation, for you probably don’t even know what you are saved from!) We cannot be anything but humble toward others when we truly understand the grace that has been extended to us by God. Pride is the natural mode of the flesh, and we must fight it at every turn. Do be careful, though, not to misinterpret humility as lack of conviction of the truth. One can stand for the truth in a humble manner.


This relates to the separate life. A separate life is a life of simplicity. We in the Disneyland of America get so completely tied down with our toys and our activities that we are like the rat on the treadmill…running, running, running, running, yet never getting anywhere. We justify all the activities as being good things or as exposing our children to different aspects of life, but in the process we miss out on the truly important things in life…things like relationships, service, love of our neighbor, time together as a family in daily worship. A simple life is not a boring life, but rather is a calm life, and a shelter in the storm that is our culture. Imagine your neighbors seeing your home and life as a shelter when their lives are raging in the storm…and then you will see the Gospel-witnessing power of simplicity and separateness.


I had to ponder this one a bit, but found it made a lot of sense. Our lives here are pitifully short in light of eternity. As ambassadors for Christ, we only have a short time to bring the Gospel, to advance His Kingdom. Those are critically important things…far more critical than the “bread and circuses” of our culture. Does it mean that we are grumpy and never smile? Of course not! We have our joy in our Lord and we most certainly can enjoy our lives. But it does mean that we understand the importance and the brevity of our lives and the difference we can make in our world…thus we go about our task with gravity and zeal. I think of the closing scene of the movie, Schindler’s List, where Schindler realizes the difference he had made in the lives of so many Jews…BUT he grieves because he realizes how many more he could have saved had he truly applied himself wholeheartedly. As Christians, we don’t want to look back on our lives and say, “If only…”


This is obviously a fruit of the Spirit. But how does it relate to living a life in the vein of New Testament Christianity? A person who is self-controlled is a person who is able to resist temptation, and thus is able to progress toward a holy life and more Christlikeness. A self-controlled person isn’t buffeted by the whims and pressures of the world because he understands where his life and his joy is…and it isn’t in this world! A person who is self-controlled reminds me of the meditation I did on “meekness.” A meek person would certainly be a self-controlled person. And if you think being meek is being wimpy…you need to read this post! A self-controlled person is a steady person, a rock and an anchor in a storm…and thus a witness to the world as they whirl about in the storms of life.


Do I need to even stress how modesty isn’t even on the radar screen of today’s society? And I don’t mean just in terms of dress, but also in terms of lifestyle. Do we keep up with the Joneses in ostentatious lifestyle choices? Do our children use pop culture to determine style of dress? Is the world our standard? Modesty says we should be using the Bible as a standard, both in dress and in lifestyle. In dress, our women certainly don’t have to be dowdy or wear a Christian version of a burqua…but they DO need to uphold a standard of virtue in the way they dress so as not to communicate messages of sexual availability. They also need to be sensitive to how their dress may cause their Christian brothers to stumble. (Ladies…ask your husband or your dad, and then listen to what they say; they see things you don’t when it comes to suggestiveness in dress.) In lifestyle, do we need to live in a mud hut? Of course not. But we do need to be cognizant of what we are spending our money on; our spending habits are the best indicator of what we truly love. Does our lifestyle promote relationship and service? Does it bring people to us in ministry opportunity? Is our home a haven into which we bring the unsaved? These are outworks of modesty in lifestyle.


Jesus made it clear that the world will hate us just as it hates Him. After all, we are His hands in the world right now. We bear His image. As a result, we can certainly expect persecution if we are to attempt to truly live a New Testament life. As long as we are tepid, the devil is quite happy to let us just roll along. After all, we aren’t really affecting anyone, and because we lack introspection, we ourselves may not even be saved! He’s happy if we just stick with cultural Christianity. But if we look to start a life patterned after this list…look out! There will be roadblocks everywhere…from family, friends, church members, and even strangers! There will be a cross to bear. But remember that Jesus bears that cross with us, enabling us to endure beyond anything we considered possible. And there is joy in the endurance, in the journey.

The premise of this chapter in Keys is that our prayers and appeals to God for revival in our country as the solution to our societal problems are not effective as long as we as Christians are not actually living as Christians. As long as we have compromised with the culture, we don’t offer the culture any hope, anything that is different. We as Christians may very well be the answer to our own prayers! Imagine the effect of the culture actually seeing authentic Christianity lived out in front of them. There would be those who would turn away in disgust…but God would move in the hearts of many who would see God’s active hand in our lives and want the same. That is called revival! And revivals change cultures for the glory of God.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Radical, Dude! Keys to the Deeper Life- Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on A.W. Tozer's, Keys to the Deeper Life. It's difficult to know where to begin...there are so many good "jumping off points." So I guess I'll start with some quotes (in red) out of Chapter 1: "Leaning Into the Wind."

Most evangelicals no longer initiate; they imitate, and the world is their model. The holy faith of our fathers has in many places been made a form of entertainment....

It's not difficult to see that for most of the evangelical world, our Christian faith doesn't inform our entire life, our entire being. Rather, it is compartmentalized, brought out when it fits, and kept firmly locked away when it doesn't. We aren't initiating by living a life that is separate and distinctly Christian. Instead we are living a lot like the world, investing in the trinkets and comforts, educating our children in the same manner, living lives so busy we can't begin to form relationships with anyone outside our families, and in some cases, so busy we can't grow the relationships inside our families! And yet we go to church, read our Bibles, pray, have quiet time...but still live in most ways similar to the world. It's duplicitous…and James 1:8 tells us a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways....

That note of protest which began with the New Testament and which was always heard loudest when the Church was most powerful has been successfully silenced. The radical element in testimony and life that once made Christians hated by the world is missing from present-day evangelicalism. Christians were once revolutionists -- moral, not political -- but we have lost our revolutionary character. It is no longer dangerous or costly to be a Christian. Grace has become not free, but cheap. We are busy these days proving to the world that they can have all the benefits of the gospel without any inconvenience to their customary way of life. It's "all this, and heaven, too."

The church once stood in stark opposition to the world…in today's vernacular, the church would be “radical," and that's meant to be a pejorative. Jesus reminds us that the ruler of this world is Satan, so one would expect when the light that is the church shines brightly into the world, exposing its offerings for the lies that they are, there would be opposition...hatred! Being a “radical” Christian was dangerous and costly. Do I want danger and cost? Honestly? No. But do I want a real, authentic, close, intimate relationship with Christ, one that fills and stirs my soul in only the way Christ can? Absolutely. What if that means danger and cost? Well…if the choice is between knowing Christ in a close, intimate way or staying at a distance in order to remain “safe,” then bring on the danger and cost! It is the fruit of that close relationship with Christ, especially in the face of danger and cost, that witnesses the saving power of the Gospel to a dark and hurting world! God promises us the grace to endure, and while that type of grace is free, it most certainly is not cheap!

Tozer decries grace that has become cheap, and given that grace is God’s means of salvation, to cheapen it is to slap Jesus and His sacrifice in the face. Paul makes it very, very clear that we are not to continue to sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2). A Christian is to abhor sin, to mortify it, to strive in the power of the Holy Spirit for holiness and Christlikeness. When we proclaim the Gospel as “free” and mean there is no post-conversion requirement for obedience, for change, and for holiness, we proclaim “cheap” grace and a false gospel. And worse…when we as Christians “prove” to the world through our own example, the benefits of “Gospel without inconvenience”, we are living a life of cheap grace that both misrepresents our Savior and lacks the power to stand in the face of any opposition at all. A life of obedience to Christ will be inconvenient in the eyes of the world, but it is the only life that is truly fulfilling because it is the only life that draws us closer and closer to our Savior in a real and tangible way.

A person who strives to live this kind of life, to know Christ in a manner that is more than an intellectual exercise, to bring His light into the darkness of this world will be labeled a “radical”…and it’s appropriate, because he is radical compared to the milque-toast, culturally-relevant, culture-embracing, seeker-sensitive evangelical church of today.

Wear the label with the same humility of another “radical”…your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Join Me!

I am reading a new book by A.W. Tozer entitled, Keys to the Deeper Life. Many bloggers and writers write book reviews, and they are helpful when determining whether you would like to take the time with a book. In my case, though, I would rather use my format to muse upon quotes and sections of the book that strike me as important and interesting. My writings will be my way of considering, thinking about, and applying what he is saying. If you find my posts causing you to want to read the book, I was able to find it at at a very reasonable price.

In the meantime, please join me in the journey into Keys to the Deeper Life.