Thursday, July 26, 2007

Have Religious Gadgets Replaced the Holy Spirit?
...excerpts by A.W. Tozer

Too Much Comfort
ANOTHER REASON FOR THE ABSENCE of real yearning for Christ’s return is that Christians are so comfortable in this world that they have little desire to leave it. For those leaders who set the pace of religion and determine its content and quality, Christianity has become of late remarkably lucrative. The streets of gold do not have too great an appeal for those who find it so easy to pile up gold and silver in the service of the Lord here on earth. We all want to reserve the hope of heaven as a kind of insurance against the day of death, but as long as we are healthy and comfortable why change a familiar good for something about which we actually know very little? So reasons the carnal mind, and so subtly that we are scarely aware of it.

Again, in these times religion has become jolly good fun right here in this present world, and what’s the hurry about heaven anyway? Christianity, contrary to what some had thought, is another and higher form of entertainment. Christ has done all the suffering. He has shed all the tears and carried all the crosses; we have but to enjoy the benefits of His heartbreak in the form of religious pleasures modeled after the world but carried on in the name of Jesus. So say the same people who claim to believe in Christ’s second coming. (Born after Midnight, p. 134)

The Drooling Appeal to the Flesh
Our trouble is that we are trying to confirm the truth of Christianity by an appeal to external evidence. We are saying, “Well, look at this fellow. He can throw a baseball farther than anybody else and he is a Christian, therefore Christianity must be true.” “Here is a great statesman who believes the Bible. Therefore the Bible must be true.” We quote Daniel Webster or Roger Bacon. We write books to show that some scientist believed in Christianity: Therefore Christianity must be true. We are all the way out on the wrong track, brother! That is not New Testament Christianity at all. That is a pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh. That never was the testimony of the New Testament; never the way God did things—never! You might satisfy the intellects of men by external evidences, and Christ did, I say, point to external evidence when He was here on earth. But He said, “I am sending you something better. I am taking Christian apologetics out of the realm of logic and putting it into the realm of life. I am proving My deity, and My proof will not be an appeal to a general or a prime minister. The proof lies in an invisible, unseen but powerful energy that visits the human soul when the gospel is preached—the Holy Ghost!” The Spirit of the living God brought an evidence that needed no logic; it went straight to the soul like a flash of silver light, like the direct plunge of a sharp spear into the heart. Those are the very words that the Scriptures use when it says “pierced (pricked) to the heart.” One translator points out that that word “pricked” is a word that means that it goes in deeper than the spear that pierced Jesus’ side. (How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit, pp. 29-31)

An Outward Shift

All of this top-heavy Christendom that we know today was never known in the book of Acts and in the days of the apostles. Utter simplicity was at the root of everything. Faith was the power, or at least the instrument, and the Holy Ghost the power that led them on and love throbbed at the heart of their worship and purity of life was demanded of them. So they had worship and love and faith and their moral lives were pure and their whole lives simple. And then as the years passed came the shift in externalism just as had happened in the days of Israel—a shift outward from the center toward the surface. Always remember this that it could be the easiest thing in the world to live at the center but it usually is the hardest. It’s easier to live on the surface then it is in the center. The Church shifted toward externalism and institutionalism took over. Then came form and ceremony and tradition. (Sermon, “The Deeper Life,” Chicago, 1956)

Then came a slow shift from the center out toward the perimeter. Out from the beating heart, out to the epidermis, to the outside skin of things. Then externalism took over in Israel and a good deal of the long history of Israel in the Old Testament is the history of Israel yielding to the propensity to live on the surface and the prophets of God urging Israel back to the center. Always God urges men back to the center and always men by centrifugal force tend to fly out to the edge of things. Always God wants men to have content and always men seek to be satisfied with words. (Sermon, “The Deeper Life,” Chicago, 1956)

The whole problem is the externality of worship. This is the biggest problem the church faces now—the problem of externalism. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #7, Toronto, 1962)

Form without Worship
Men like ceremony without love or meaning and God always insists on love and meaning regardless of ceremony. And men love form without worship and God wants worship whether He has form or not. And externalism lies in words and ceremonies and forms. Internalism lies in content, in love, in worship, in inward spiritual reality. (Sermon, “The Deeper Life,” Chicago, 1956)

Dry Worship without the Spirit
Then, also, the Spirit gave a bright, emotional quality to their religion, and I grieve before my God over the lack of this in our day. The emotional quality isn’t there. There is a sickliness about us all; we pump so hard trying to get a little drop of delight out of our old rusty well, and we write innumerable bouncy choruses, and we pump and pump until you can hear the old rusty thing squeak across forty acres. But it doesn’t work. (How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit, p. 14)

I have noticed lately among so-called evangelicals a renewed interest in the religious gadgets that our Protestant fathers once threw away to make room for the Holy Spirit. It is becoming more common now to see in our churches huge pictures of Christ, crosses on the altar, candles and other symbolic objects. This is the sure way back to formalism and death. In proportion as the presence of Christ is felt in a congregation these things will be unnecessary, even offensive. And as the Presence lifts and withdraws, these symbols are brought in as poor substitutes. (The Size of the Soul, p. 169)

People have made a comedy of religion. A comedy of errors it has been, too, because men have enslaved themselves to externals. They have enslaved themselves to objects. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #7, Chicago, 1956)

Swimming against the Current
The fish that goes along with the current hasn’t any trouble with the current, but as soon as he starts the other way the current gets sore at him. Just as long as you go the way the wind blows, everybody will say you’re very fine and commend you for being deeply religious. If you decide to go God’s way instead of the way the wind blows they’ll say that your roof leaks or that something has happened to you that you’re a fanatic. You can go along with the times or you can be like Zechariah and Elizabeth and refuse to go along with the times. Personally I’ve decided that a long time ago. They say that if you don’t conform to the times and find a common ground for getting along with everybody that nobody will listen to you. The more I’m nonconformist the more people want to hear me. (Sermon, “To Older People,” Mahaffey Camp)

I’ve been told that I’ve missed the boat but I reply that I wasn’t trying to catch that boat. That boat and a lot of others like it can go on without me and I’ll be quite happy. We can conform to the religion of our times if we want to.
I weigh 145 pounds dripping wet, but I stand here to tell you that I’m a nonconformist, twice born, and a rebel and I will not conform to the times. Up to now I’ve been able to get a hearing and refused to conform to the times. But if a day ever comes when to conform to the times is the price you have to pay to be heard, then I’ll go out and start where I started before on the street corner and preach there. But I won’t conform to the times.

They say you are supposed to do it. They say, “Don’t you know we have the same message but it’s just different times we’re living in.” I know the voice of the serpent when I hear it. The hiss of the serpent is in that and I recognize that. So we can either conform or we can withdraw from the whole business, and Paul says, “From such turn away.” (Sermon, “To Older People,” Mahaffey Camp)
We cannot afford to let down our Christian standards just to hold the interest of people who want to go to hell and still belong to a church. We have had carnal and fleshly and self-loving people who wanted to come in and control young people’s groups and liberate us from our spiritual life and standards and “strictness.” (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 6, p. 32)

Too Much Soft Preaching
In our day, the churches are trying to offer such a blend and such a compromise between heaven and hell. Some pastors feel that this is the way to get along with people and to improve the church’s public relations. (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 3, p. 91)

By offering our hearers a sweetness-and-light gospel and promising every taker a place on the sunny side of the brae, we not only cruelly deceive them, we guarantee also a high casualty rate among the converts won on such terms. On certain foreign fields the expression “rice Christians” has been coined to describe those who adopt Christianity for profit. The experienced missionary knows that the convert that must pay a heavy price for his faith in Christ is the one who will persevere to the end. He begins with the wind in his face, and should the storm grow in strength he will not turn back for he has been conditioned to endure it. (That Incredible Christian, p. 116)

Don’t Compromise
The rise of a new religious spirit in recent years is marked by disturbing similarities to that earlier “revival” under Constantine. Now as then a quasi-Christianity is achieving acceptance by compromise. It is dickering with the unregenerate world for acceptance and, as someone said recently, it is offering Christ at bargain prices to win customers. The total result is a conglomerate religious mess that cannot but make the reverent Christian sick in his heart. (The Price of Neglect, p. 95)

We are sent to bless the world, but never are we told to compromise with it. Our glory lies in a spiritual withdrawal from all that builds on dust. The bee finds no honey while crawling around the hive. Honey is in the flower far away where there is quiet and peace and the sun and the flowing stream; there the bee must go to find it. The Christian will find slim pickings where professed believers play and pray all in one breath. He may be compelled sometimes to travel alone or at least to go with the ostracized few. To belong to the despised minority may be the price he must pay for power. But power is cheap at any price. (The Next Chapter after the Last, p. 21)


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ann_in_grace said...

Tozer was a Great Christian. I wish I had time and possibility to dig deeper into this selection of texts.

The other day I found an ad in a local newspaper: "Jesus heals - Jesus band-aid for you".
How sad, and how offending to Our God and Creator - to make such things....

donsands said...

Tozer was a man "full of faith and the Holy Ghost". (Acts 6:5)

The Church is bloated with people who need to become lost before they can be found. They have just enough formal religion to make them feel good about themselves. And the pulpits are preaching icing on top of a feel good cake.

The pulpits are not allowing the Word of God to cut deep to the marrow.
They are detouring around the portions of Scripture that are hard sayings of God.

"Too much soft Preaching". I like the way you put it here Steve.

Thanks for all you do for the faith. Keep on.

This was such a good post.