Monday, March 05, 2007

"Believing" Commands- Keys to the Deeper Life- Part 4

A.W. Tozer chooses to end Chapter 2 of Keys to the Deeper Life with, “If we are alert enough to hear God’s voice we must not content ourselves with merely ‘believing’ it. How can any man believe a command? Commands are to be obeyed, and until we have obeyed them we have done exactly nothing at all about them. And to have heard them and not obeyed them is infinitely worse than never to have heard them at all, especially in light of Christ’s soon return and the judgment to come.” The chapter is entitled, “Panting After God” and is thus about a heartfelt, joyous seeking of a close, intimate relationship with God regardless of the cost. And yet he closes this topic with the above thought. In Tozer’s mind there is obviously a very direct and very important link between a close relationship to God and obedience to the commands in His Word.

If we have come to the point where we are “hearing” God through His Word and through a close, experiential relationship with Him, then we have gotten to a point of great intimacy with our Creator. It means we have come to know Him for who He really is: our Creator, our Savior, and our Lord. Think about the sort of “conversations” you would have: they wouldn’t be the typical chit-chat of friendship, but rather they would be your Lord instructing you on His desires for your life! In other words…commands! If we have gotten this close, we should already be well-versed about joyfully doing as He commands. We would have long since learned what a joy and a pleasure it is to follow Him wherever He might lead, doing whatever He might command.

The question then becomes, “What comes first, intimacy with the Almighty or obedience to the Almighty?” I’m afraid that more often than not we are seeking the intimacy first. We want the closeness, the joy of knowing God…and figure the obedience stuff can come later, if at all. Obedience might actually change us; we would rather know God on our terms. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Tozer makes a very astute observation when he notes we cannot “believe a command.” The Bible is full of commands. Make a special note to look for them the next time you are reading. They are everywhere. Be this way. Act that way. Think in another way. Treat others in this manner. Look for the imperative in the sentence structure that makes it a command to the believer. We cannot say we believe in all of Scripture unless we take the commands at face value and actually obey them!

It is this obedience that will change our lives, for God will not leave us chasing a little white ball around a course while there is personal sanctification to be done and Kingdom work to be accomplished. If we insist on just hitting a little white ball with a club, then there is reason to doubt that you actually know God. And if you don’t actually know God, then you are not saved. Within 100 years, either Christ is going to return or you are going to die. There will be a judgment. Your golf handicap will not fare well before the judgment seat of Christ. Knowing God through the blood of His Risen Son and a sanctified life of ever-increasing obedience is what will enable you to stand before the infinitely holy and perfect power of God.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Knowing God- Keys to the Deeper Life- Part 3

If you spend much time in evangelical circles these days and listen closely, you will hear about “Contemplative Prayer” as a way of getting closer to God. It’s one of the latest “crazes” to make the rounds through the evangelical church in America. There is much that is very, very wrong and dangerous with contemplative prayer…but what is right is that those who are attempting this have as their motivation a sincere desire to seek and know God more fully. Their motivation is right; their methodology is heretical and New Age.

In Chapter 3 of Keys to the Deeper Life, A.W. Tozer says, “When the apostle (Paul) cries, ‘That I may know him,’ he uses the word know not in its intellectual but in it experiential sense. We must look for the meaning—not to the mind but to the heart. Theological knowledge is knowledge about God. While this is indispensable it is not sufficient. …Christian truth is designed to lead us to God, not to serve as a substitute for God.

Knowing God is the motivation for those seeking to learn Contemplative Prayer, but the flip side is also the problem that pervades much of Evangelical Christianity today. In those churches that have not yet become a watered-down pabulum of mush, good theological doctrine is still preached and taught. But Tozer accurately points out, “theological knowledge is knowledge about God.” We can have all the points of doctrine correct, verses memorized, all of our “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed…and still not know God. This is a very dangerous position in which to find one’s self. As evangelist Paul Washer points out in his sermon to a group of teens (video of this sermon is here), at the judgment people will come to Jesus, call him “Lord, Lord” (the double emphasis means they are serious), and yet Jesus will order them away because He never “knew” them.

To have a “deeper life” we must know God; we must know Christ. Lest anyone get the wrong message here, Tozer also points out that theological knowledge is indispensable for knowing God. This is what is wrong with contemplative prayer; it substitutes a New Age experience for Biblically-based, doctrinally sound experience. If one isn’t grounded in theological knowledge, he can be sucked into a dangerous trap like contemplative prayer.

Do you know God? Do you know Jesus? Is your faith only in your head…or is it also in your heart? Tozer speaks of Paul doing whatever it took to know Christ…enduring suffering, persecution, ridicule (maybe even being called a "radical" or an "extremist"!!)…and yet finding conformity to Christ “cheap at any price.” My prayer is that God would cause that intense desire to well up in all our hearts, now and forevermore.