I've decided to reread a book that meant a great deal to me in my early walk as a Christ-Follower. As I stumbled along early in my faith, this book gave me depth to my goals and perspective....depth I feel that I want to taste again. Here are a couple of thoughts from Chapter 1 of The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. It's a timeless classic and must-read for anyone seeking God.
1) "The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be 'received' without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is 'saved,' but he is not hungry or thirsty for God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little."
This Passage screams to me of the American Church, generally speaking. We have instituted a system where church attendance and offering of finances pays the debt of worship and passionate discipleship. We believe our "duty is done" when we regularly open the front door of the worship center, when we are seen with our fellow believers on-site. What we miss is the transformation of ourselves internally. We can sing, listen, pray and give without ever changing the blackness of our hearts. We can love Jesus with our words, never loving him with our actions. We can speak of God at the same moment as we stroke our sin. We can allow worship and sin to be both brought to the alter without ever wanting to change...our "safety net" being Grace and "once saved always saved."
I don't want to sound like a legalist here, for Grace conquers all. But even Paul said that "just because of Grace, we don't keep on sinning." I think what Paul meant here was not that we make ourselves, by force, stop something we are doing wrong...but that if we are truly in the presence of God continuously, seeking Him, pursuing Him, there's no way we CAN keep on sinning. We strive for purity, we strive for light. We resist the devil, as James says, out of love for God and our struggle to stay within earshot of Him.
This has struck deep in my soul as it relates to relationships around me. That I can week by week, lead others up the hill to the Temple Mount singing, yet not transform how I relate to them. I must always be about transformation in my heart, and then following my words with action. My words mean nothing if not acted upon. My faith is dead without true actions of repentance and deed. My friend and fellow-pastor David pointed out in a recent sermon that when Jesus says to "Love your neighbor" or "Love your enemy", this is not a feeling of love but an acted upon love. This is a place for me to transform with Jesus' help.
2) "When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking 'God-and' effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the 'and' lies our great woe. If we omit the 'and' we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing."
I am the worst of sinners, as a Pastor, in wanting God-and. It is easier for me in the church vocation to add God to all my designs and my good plans. I also want to add God to my family, of course....we're in ministry. How does someone like me get so turned around? Simple, desire other things as much as God. Add anything to the mix and call it, "as important to you" as your faith, and you've added a hyphen and a conjunction. It's easy, believe me, I do it all the time!
My goal needs to be, and is "nothing but Jesus." Not that other things are bad, or we shouldn't enjoy our life and our families, etc...they are to be loved stewarded and guarded but shared. But everything around us can never rise to the same acclamation or need as our need for relationship with Jesus. When other things rise up in our life that feed our souls, it is too easy to put Jesus aside, just for a moment, as we attempt to heal ourselves or satisfy our thirst. Jesus is the living water when we're thirsty, the bread when we're hungry, the sacrifice when we need one. Ironically, we never are able to really prove that we believe He is the only thing, until it's very hard not get involved in the healing process ourselves, becoming our own doctor. May I be better at practicing this truth...thanks Mr. Tozer!
More next week as I go on to Chapter 2......