The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

November 15, 2014

The Lord Jesus Christ carrying the cross

(An excerpt from The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Chapter 2:)

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it “life” and “self,” or as we would say, the selflife. Its chief characteristic is its possessiveness: the words “gain” and “profit” suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross. “Let him take up his cross and follow me.”

The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the “poor in spirit.” They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word “poor” as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


No Regeneration Without Reformation (A.W.TOZER)

July 29, 2014

In the Bible the offer of pardon on the part of God is conditioned upon intention to reform on the part of man. There can be no spiritual regeneration till there has been a moral Reformation. That this statement requires defense only proves how far from the truth we have strayed.

In our current popular theology pardon depends upon faith alone. The very word reform has been banished from among the sons of the Reformation!

We often hear the declaration, ” I do not preach Reformation;I preach  regeneration.” Now we recognize this as being the expression of a commendable revolt against the insipid and unscriptural doctrine of salvation by human effort. But the declaration as it stands contains real error, for it opposes Reformation to regeneration. Actually the two are never opposed to each other in sound Bible theology. The not – Reformation – but – regeneration doctrine incorrectly presents us with an either – or; either you take Reformation or you take regeneration. This is inaccurate. The fact is that on this subject we are presented not with an either-or, but with a both-and. The converted man is both reformed and regenerated. And  unless the sinner is willing to reform his way of living he will never know the inward experience of regeneration. This is the vital truth which has gotten lost under the leaves in popular evangelical theology.

The idea  that God will pardon a rebel who has not given up his rebellion is contrary to the Scriptures and to common sense. How horrible to contemplate a church full of persons who have been pardoned but who still love sin and hate the ways of righteousness. And how much more horrible to think of heaven as filled with sinners who had not repented nor changed their way of living.

A familiar story will illustrate this. The governor of one of our States was visiting the state prison incognito. He fell into a conversation with a personable young convict and felt a secret wish to pardon him.” What would you do,” he asked casually, ” if you were lucky enough to obtain a pardon?” The convict, not knowing to whom he was speaking, snarled his reply: “If I ever get out of this place, the first thing I’ll do is to cut the throat of the judge who sent me here.” The governor broke off the conversation and withdrew from the cell. The convict stayed on in prison. To pardon a man who had not reformed would be to let loose another killer upon society. That kind of pardon would not only be foolish, it would be downright immoral.

The promise of pardon and cleansing is always associated in the Scriptures with the command to repent. The widely used text in Isaiah, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, there shall be as wool,” is organically united to the verses that precede it: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” What does this teach but radical Reformation of life before there can be any expectation of pardon? To divorce the the words from each other is to do violence to the Scriptures and to convict ourselves of deceitfully handling the truth.

I think there is little doubt the teaching of salvation without repentance has lowered the moral standards of the Church and produced a multitude of deceived religious professors who erroneously believe themselves to be saved when in fact they are still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. And to see such persons actually seeking the deeper life is a Grim and  disillusioning sight. Yet our altars  are sometimes filled with seekers who are crying with Simon, “Give me this power, ” when the moral ground work has simply not been layed for it. The whole thing must be acknowledged as a clear victory for the devil, a victory he could never have enjoyed if unwise teachers had not made it possible by preaching the evil doctrine of regeneration apart from Reformation. (A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, 1955)


Fulfill Your Vow to God!!

April 16, 2014

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth,
    do not be hasty in your heart
    to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
    and you are on earth,
    so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares,
    and many words mark the speech of a fool.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.


Christus Victor

July 30, 2013

christusvictor(Editor’s note: Several months ago, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article about Cristus Victor.  I commented that I had written a paper about the topic when I was in Bible College.  She replied, “So what were your conclusions?”  I told her I would blog about it, because a two sentence answer would not do the topic justice.  I apologize for the delay, and also that this answer may still be too brief, but here is my initial response.)

In 1930 a German theologian named Gustaf Aulen wrote a book arguing that the early church had a particular understanding of the atonement of Christ known as Christus Victor.  In short, Christus Victor is the idea that Christ’s atonement defeated sin and death.  Aulen argued that in the eleventh century, Anselm brought about a revision in the church’s theology with his substitutionary theory of atonement, which teaches that Christ’s death was a transaction by which God ransoms his people and buys us back from death.  Aulen rejected the idea that all humanity was subject to Satan because of Adam and Eve’s sin, and therefore rejected the idea that the cross was necessary to ransom us.

Simply put, I think that this is not a case of either/or but of both/and.  While Aulen brought back into focus the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over Satan’s power, he missed the full picture of the Gospel.  Does Christ bring us victory over sin?  Absolutely!  Is that the only thing that Christ’s atonement did?  No.

The Bible clearly teaches that sin and death entered the world through the sin of Adam.  The only one who can offer perfect atonement for sin – satisfying God’s wrath, leading to forgiveness and peace with God – is God himself, because only God is perfect, and therefore only God can perfectly restore the soul from the power of the sinful nature.  Christ shed his blood to bring this atonement.  He died to put to death the sinful nature, crucifying sin and making a spectacle of Satan.  He rose again to give us new life, allowing us to be born again.  He is no longer in the grave, and so death no longer has power.  When we are found in Christ, we are born again into him.  The power of the ascension is the power to say, “No,” to sin, because Christ Jesus has power and authority over Satan, having put all things under his feet.

Is the cross necessary to ransom us from the power of sin?  Yes it is.  Does the cross also bring victory?  Yes it does.  In fact, without the victory of the cross we would not be able to be born again.  Satan would still have power over our lives and we would still be slaves to the sinful nature.

It is my conclusion therefore that the Gospel includes the theology of the penal and substitutionary atonement, as well as the victorious aspects of Christus Victor.  You cannot have one without the other.  It is also my conclusion that the church has lost touch with the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and today only teaches half-truths.  It has missed the power of the Gospel, and while claiming to belong to Christ denies him by its actions.  There is no victory over sin in the church today.  Why is that?


The Mind in the Life of the Christian

July 23, 2013

the thinker

The mind is a part of the soul.  Since we were created in the image of God, all the faculties of that image are good.  A Christian is not someone who checks their brains out at the door when they enter the church.  We are commanded to love the Lord with all of our minds.  The Lord has asked us to be thinking Christians.

 

It was Ravi Zacharias who said, “After all, it is not that I think, therefore, I am, but rather, the Great I AM has asked us to think, and therefore we must. And we must serve Him with all our minds.”


Two Approaches to Reasoning

July 16, 2013

Last week I talked about the two types of logic – inductive and deductive.  I also alluded to this week’s topic.  If I may speak in broad terms, there are two general ways that people tend to approach reason as it relates to truth and this world. 

Some people view the world scientifically; that is, they use inductive logic and their five senses to evaluate truth claims.  Life is thought through based on what the person can see, hear, and touch.  This is called Empiricism.

Other people view the world philosophically.  They use deductive reasoning to evaluate life based on their experiences, but on an emotional level.  How they feel about a situation determines how they view the truth of the matter.  This is called Existentialism.

Many times these two approaches are viewed as contradictory.  In the secular sense, they are both philosophical distortions of truth and reality.  However, I serve a God of coherence.  The God of the Bible is the Creator of heaven and earth, saying something about the way we view the world empirically.  He is also present with his creation, speaking to our experience.  In theological terms we speak of God being transcendent over creation, as well as immanent in his relationship with us. Faith cannot be disconnected from the life we live, because it is a part of our existence in this world. 


Two Types of Reasoning

July 9, 2013

When we speak of the subject of logic, there are two types of reasoning. Inductive reasoning starts with individual pieces of evidence, and puts the puzzle together in order to reach a conclusion. This is a scientific way of looking at truth claims. Deductive reasoning does the opposite, and taking a general idea or conclusion, and then breaking it down to make sense of it in pieces. This is a philosophical way of examining truth claims.

Allow me to give an example. Look at the problem 2+2=x. We can figure out that x=4 by adding the individual numbers 2 and 2. That is inductive logic. Now suppose you are a detective committed to solving a crime. You know the end result of what happened (the crime itself), but have to collect the clues (the “pieces” of the puzzle) in order to figure out how it was carried out and by whom. That is deductive logic.

I am convinced that we can use both types of reasoning to help point to the existence of God. If you follow the trail of scientific evidence in nature, you will find that it leads to a Creator. If you follow the broad idea of the existence of moral right and wrong, and figure out how we come to morality, you will end up with the conclusion that a Moral Lawgiver must exist.

I do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because he is some kind of crutch that makes me feel good. I believe in him because the Gospel is true. Truth claims can be tested. I serve a God that says, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).


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