Could This Be Our Most Critical Need?
By A.W. Tozer
When viewing the religious scene today, we are tempted to fix on one or another weakness and say, “This is what is wrong with the church. If this were corrected, we could recapture the glory of the early church and have pentecostal times back with us again.”
This tendency to oversimplification is itself a weakness and should be guarded against always, especially when dealing with anything as complex as religion as it occurs in modern times. It takes a very young man to reduce all our present woes to a single disease and cure the whole thing with one simple remedy. Older and wiser heads will be more cautious, having learned that the prescribed nostrum seldom works for the reason that the diagnosis has not been correct. Nothing is that simple. Few spiritual diseases occur alone. Almost all are complicated by the presence of others and are so vitally interrelated as they spread over the whole religious body that it would take the wisdom of a Solomon to find a single cure.
For this reason, I am hesitant to point to any one defect in present-day Christianity and make all our troubles to stem from it alone. That so-called Bible religion in our times is suffering rapid decline is so evident as to need no proof, but just what has brought about this decline is not so easy to discover.
I can only say that I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles. Of course, if that were true, then the supplying of that lack would be our most critical need.
The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today.
I think it is altogether accurate to say that there has never before been a time in the history of the church when so many people were engaged in Bible study as are so engaged today. If the knowledge of Bible doctrine were any guarantee of godliness, this would without doubt be known in history as the age of sanctity. Instead, it may well be known as the age of the church’s Babylonish captivity, or the age of worldliness, when the professed Bride of Christ allowed herself to be successfully courted by the fallen sons of men in unbelievable numbers. The body of evangelical believers, under evil influences, has during the last twenty five years gone over to the world in complete and abject surrender, avoiding only a few of the grosser sins such as drunkenness and sexual promiscuity. [Ed. note: Though the actual date when Tozer penned these words is unclear, obviously it was sometime prior to his death in 1963. Sadly, the exception he cites in his day is no longer an exception in ours today. Those “grosser sins” are also occurring in modern churches and among church leaders, maybe even more so in Neo-Pentecostal churches than any other ecclesial branch.]
That this disgraceful betrayal has taken place in broad daylight with full consent of our Bible teachers and evangelists is one of the most terrible affairs in the spiritual history of the world.
Yet I for one cannot believe that the great surrender was negotiated by men of evil heart who set out deliberately to destroy the faith of our fathers. Many good and clean-living people have collaborated with the quislings who betrayed us. Why?
The answer can only be, from lack of spiritual vision. Something like a mist has settled over the church as “the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations” (Isaiah 25:7). Such a veil once descended upon Israel: “For their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). That was Israel’s tragic hour. God raised up the church and temporarily disfranchised His ancient people. He could not trust His work to blind men.
Surely we need a baptism of clear seeing if we are to escape the fate of Israel (and of every other religious body in history that forsook God). If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.
Mere evangelism is not our present need. Evangelism does no more than extend religion, of whatever kind it may be. It gains acceptance for religion among larger numbers of people without giving much thought to the quality of that religion.
The tragedy is that present-day evangelism accepts the degenerate form of Christianity now current as the very religion of the apostles and busies itself with making converts to it with no questions asked. And all the time we are moving farther and farther from the New Testament pattern.
We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.
When the Roman church apostatized, God brought about the Reformation. When the Reformation declined, God raised up the Moravians and the Wesleys. When these movements began to die, God raised up fundamentalism and the “deeper life” groups.
Now that these have almost without exception sold out to the world—what next?
[Excerpted from the book, We Travel An Appointed Way, by A.W. Tozer]
Read Spirit Life Magazine article about A.W. Tozer, A.W. Tozer – A 20th Century Prophet.
Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was an American, pastor, preacher, magazine editor, Bible conference speaker, spiritual mentor, and author of more than 40 books, including at least two now regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. Though he had no formal theological training, his spiritual acumen and life’s work was recognized by two Christian colleges who bestowed upon him honorary doctorate degrees, but more importantly he was esteemed by many of his contemporaries as a true prophet. Tozer was affiliated with Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) for his entire 44 years of ministry that began with his first pastorate in a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, WV, only five years after his conversion in 1919, and his longest pastorate spanning 30 years Southside Alliance Church in Chicago. His whole life, the father of seven lived a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, never owning an automobile, preferring to travel by bus or train. Tozer gave away most of his substantial book royalties to the poor. The inscription on his grave-marker in Akron, Ohio, reflects the simple life this anything but simple man lived, saying simply: “A.W. Tozer – A Man of God.”
Wiki Bio of A.W. Tozer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._W._Tozer
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