You might not know this man, but you should. His outfit and his glasses show that he is not a modern man, but his words ring in our era as if they were uttered yesterday. This is Aiden Wilson Tozer, commonly known as A.W. Tozer and he has something to say to our generation even 42 years after his death.
As part of my studies at Regent University I took part in a group project on the life of A.W. Tozer. Some of you might be familiar with some of his books, including The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy and The Root of the Righteous. I have not read any of his books except Whatever Became of Worship, but I will now.
As part of this project I looked up audio files of some of his sermons, and this brother pulls no punches. If you are looking for an easy salvation message, where you coast through life, consider what he said in "The Plague of Your Heart"
"The plague of sin is not accidental. The plague of sin is not something of which I am an innocent victim. It is a bent to love and choose evil and I am responsible to God for the plague of my own heart. For remember now, when you come to sin we talked about the plague in nature [he had previously talked about the American Chestnut blight and the Dutch Elm disease] and that is a figure by which we may reason from the known to the unknown, from the tangible to the intangible. So we reasoned across by way of analogy and illustration from a plague that is a disease to a condition of the soul which is not a disease but which is a bent to choose and to love sin. Now God would not send a man to hell for having cancer. Neither would God send a man to hell for being born in sin. But God sends men to hell because they love it, they choose it and they practice it ... My friend you will not go to hell because Adam sinned. You will go to hell because you sin, and because you chose it and love it. And knowing the judgment of God against such things, yet practiced those things knowingly and willingly."
This is a strong saying that we do not often hear nowadays. The last thing I want to do is put anyone under condemnation, but Tozer does not do that either. He just doesn't try to candy-coat things and let people sleep in their lostness. He confronts us, sinners and saints alike, with the truth of God's holiness as well as His lovingkindness.
My wife listened to some of these sermons (and some entire series are available on the Christian and Missionary Alliance website) and she said "you don't hear that kind of preaching any more!" And sadly, she's almost right.
Most of what we hear is about God's grace, but not much about what receiving that grace is supposed to do in our lives. The righteousness Jesus gives us before God is not a stopping point but a launching pad. We are supposed to grow in grace, and while a plant does not grow by itself, it has to respond to the conditions in which it is planted.
If I put a seed in the ground, water it, fertilize it, make sure it is free of bugs and other predators, I expect that seed to sprout and bear fruit. What kind of seed would I think it was if it looked exactly the same after a month as it did when I put it in the ground? That would lead me to think that one of two things: (1) the ground is bad; or (2) the seed is dead and will not germinate. So what am I to do? I can fix the conditions -- maybe it got too much water, or not enough; maybe the fertilizer burned it; maybe an insect ate it and it was damaged. But if I have done all that and it still stays the same way it was when I put it in the ground, what can I do but throw it away?
I'm not saying this to be "fire and brimstone" but to be sober, to myself first. Reading -- and hearing -- Tozer has made me take a look at myself. Am I being what God has called me to be and am I walking worthy of the calling with which I have been called (Eph 4:1)? I want to be. Yet I know that even the desire to do that comes from Christ!
My previous post on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe talks about the movie. But the Chronicles of Narnia also features a quote from Aslan the Lion in one of the other books, which is both sobering and hopeful "You would not have called to me if I had not called to you first." So while I am challenged by Tozer and other authors, I can know also that it is the One who loves me most Who wants me to grow. Just a few thoughts. More later.
Image: A. W. Tozer. The Christian and Missionary Alliance: Who We Are. n.p. Online: http://www.cmalliance.org/media/sermons/tozer/index.php [18 Nov 2005]