The aim of this article is to convince you to begin reading the books of A.W. Tozer. There have been times, I have needed his voice in my life and ministry. These dangerous, murky waters of the affluent American Church can deceive my heart fast. There is a seriousness and reverence toward God that has been lost in much of today’s church. Tozer’s writings can remedy this.
I went to a conference this year of over 10,000 pastors and church leaders in which one of the key note speakers wasn’t even a Christian. One pastor stood up and bragged that his session would not include any Scripture. I was shocked and disappointed. You know what Tozer would say about that? He once wrote, “It is doubtful we can be Christian in anything unless we are Christian in everything.” Oh how the Church needs this today! Everything we do as Christians should be stained by the blood of Christ…everything!
How can there be a separation to what is secular and what is Godly? How can we, who have tasted of the grace of God, be satisfied with anything less? No! Tozer’s ministry was different. His life was marked by prayer, holiness and deep thinking. He wrote, “It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.” This is the day in which we live.
My first encounter with this wall of faith came through the opening pages of his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy, in which he says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This kind of thinking helped me to develop a high view of God. We are sometimes taught that God created us because He was lonely or that He needs us. In reality, God is all-sufficient in Himself. God has not created me because He is bored. God created and redeemed me solely to the praise of His own glory (Ephesians 1:1-14). Having the right perception of God, sin and salvation is everything.
Tozer once said, “It is my opinion that tens of thousands of people, if not millions, have been brought into some kind of religious experience by accepting Christ, and they have not been saved.” If that was true of his time, how much more so is it in our day?
It is good for us to look back at others who have fulfilled their call in life and endured well. Hebrews 13:7 encourages us, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
James L. Snyder, who wrote Tozer’s biography, said of him, “He spent more time on his knees than at his desk.” He goes on to say, “His preaching, as well as his writings, were but extensions of his prayer life.”
Oh how we need this in today’s church! In his wonderful book, The Root of Righteousness, Tozer writes, “All things being equal, our prayers are only as powerful as our lives. In the long pull we pray only as well as we live. Some prayers are like a fire escape, used only in times of critical emergency – never very enjoyable, but used as a way of terrified escape from disaster. They do not represent the regular life of the one who offers them; rather are the unusual and uncommon acts of the spiritual amateur.”
Tozer was born in Western Pennsylvania April 21, 1897 as Aiden Wilson, but he preferred to be called A.W. At age 15, his family moved to Akron, Ohio. While he was a good kid and a hard worker, he was by no means a Christian. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is able to overcome our hardened hearts! While walking home from his job at Goodyear, he stopped to listen to a street preacher. The Gospel went into his heart! He was 17 years-old. Can you imagine the reward this name-less street preacher will have in Heaven? Tozer’s life immediately changed.
Salvation for Tozer wasn’t the end of the Christian experience, it was the beginning! He didn’t view his salvation as a ticket to heaven. Rather, he cultivated a deep relationship with God. While he didn’t have formal education or seminary school under his belt, what he did have was relationship with the Almighty deeply rooted in the Word of God and prayer. He wrote in The Pursuit of God, “…Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God. Believing then, is directing the hearts’ attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.”
In 1916, he felt called to preach. He was only 19 years-old. He moved to Nutter Fort, WV to pastor his first congregation. He wasn’t there long before accepting the call to pastor Chicago’s Southside Alliance Church. This would be his preaching ministry for the next 31 years. The church grew from 80 to over 800 under his direction. Preaching wasn’t going to be the only way God would use Tozer. When he turned 30 years old, he began to pen some of his thoughts. His writing ability quickly grew and so did his reputation. In 1950, Tozer became the editor of the Alliance Weekly. The subscription doubled immediately. He served in this position until his death in 1963.
The greatest contribution Tozer has left to the church is the more than 40 books he authored. His voice is as strong and clear today as it was 50 years ago.
To learn more about Pastor Chad Roberts, visit www.preachingchristchurch.com
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