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A.W. Tozer: Shooting From The Hip

From The Best of A.W. Tozer:

“No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions who know that. Theological truth is useless unless it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.”

“What is generally overlooked is that truth as set forth in the Christian Scriptures is a moral thing; it is not addressed to the intellect only, but to the will also. It addresses itself to the total man, and its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally. Truth engages the citadel of the human heart and is not satisfied until it has conquered everything there. The will must come forth and surrender its sword. It must stand at attention to receive orders, and those orders it must joyfully obey. Short of this any knowledge of Christian truth is inadequate and unavailing.”

“Bible exposition without moral application raises no opposition….As long as people can hear orthodox truth divorced from life they will attend and support churches without objection….Much that passes for New Testament Christianity is little more than objective truth sweetened with song and made palatable by religious entertainment.”

Now, this is almost funny coming from one who ran willy-nilly in his late teens from legalism into license, like a chipmunk my daughter and I once saw in my yard that ran frantically out of the claws of our black cat straight into the mouth of our little black terrier (I did manage to rescue the chipmunk). This sort of writing, whether from Tozer, or MacDonald, or Lewis, or whoever, used to scare me and get my heart pounding. But as I get older it really prompts desire in me.

I do know experientially at this point in my life that there is no will-power in me that can do this or that for God, as if the Christian life is lived by mere mental and moral effort; it is only the living Truth, Christ Himself with me, that can do so. All I can do is confess, “I belong to You. I give myself to You. And I want You to set me on fire, in every aspect of my being, with You.” Then, of course, I must step out in faith and expect Him to do so; I must watch and wait for Him to show me, not only things in my life that need changing (as if this were all about me) but I must watch and wait especially for those opportunities He invariably gives us to love others, to help others, to draw others into relationship, or deeper relationship, with Him. And I must also watch for those teachable moments where God is giving the Lesson of the Day through some circumstance or person; our daily life is a great devotional if we just keep our eyes and ears open.

Faith – faith in Christ, the real kind, the Biblical kind – always brings serious life change, changes in outlook, changes in behavior. Mere intellectual assent doesn’t accomplish a whole lot; the demons intellectually assent to all kinds of truth about God and yet never faithe in God. I can assent to a million different courses of action as being good and right, and yet sit and do nothing. From Screwtape: “Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.”

People like Tozer and MacDonald were always reacting to the climate of their day on this point. They were always sounding the cry, “Beware of mere intellectual assent!” At least some of what is called Christianity throughout all ages (and, gasp, even today!) is really mental assent to ideas, theories, or facts about God, disguised as the reliant faith in God that produces action.

The theoretical and theological must become experiential – on that the Word is clear.


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