Sometimes when you are reading a book, highlighting one passage after another, there is not much one can do by way of reviewing the book. Nothing better can be said than what is already in the book. I found that with a new collection of sermons by A.W. Tozer.
It is no use trying to pen a review of it; far better to just let it speak for itself. I refer to one of a number of new books which have appeared, dedicated to disseminating previously unavailable words of Tozer (1897-1963). This volume is The Christ-Centred Church, edited by James Snyder (Monarch Books, 2009).
It offers a number of Tozer’s sermons that have never before been published. It contains fifteen sermons which contain the usual fire, Holy Spirit anointing and zeal for God that characterised the pulpit ministry of Tozer. All that I can do here is simply provide a number of spiritual nuggets, in the hope of readers buying the book and soaking up these riches for themselves.
Consider the sermon, “This Thing Called Christendom”. In it he chastises a church which thinks it can function without God even being present. Here are a few quotes:
“Just as the Jews were in physical descent from Abraham and nobody challenged this, so the evangelicals are in creedal descent from the apostles. . . . The error is in assuming that, because we are in creedal descent, we are in spiritual succession.” (p. 45)
“Sadly, in some churches, God is no longer necessary.” (p. 48)
“To the average church, God is desirable and maybe even useful, but he is not necessary. Most of our churches can get on without God.” (p. 49)
“I like to be in a place where God is indispensable to me.” (p. 49)
“The Holy Spirit is not necessary to the church; we have arranged it so that he is not required. He has been displaced by what we call ‘programming’ and by social activity.” (p. 50)
“Modern evangelicalism has surrendered to the world, excused it, explained it, adopted it and imitated it. Young preachers imitate people in the world with a good deal more energy than they imitate the holy saints of God.” (p. 54)
“We have bushels of religious gatherings, but only once in a while is God in the midst. . . . Today we have programming – that awful, hateful word ‘programming’ – but God is absent.” (p. 56)
In a sermon entitled “The Sacred Obligation of Judging” he makes these vital points:
“I want to tell you something. We are beating the drum for revival; we are getting thousands of people to pray into the night for revival. Well, we might as well jump up and down on the altar of Baal, cut ourselves and cry, ‘Baal, hear us! Baal, hear us!’ because we will not submit to diagnosis. We will not let God find out what is wrong with us. We will not let God know us through and through, and we will not listen to the man who tries to find out and minister to our needs. We go to the preacher for inspiration and encouragement, for confirmation in our backslidden ways.” (p. 144)
“Evangelical Christianity, as we know it, is almost as far from God as liberalism is. Its nominal creed is biblical but its orientation is worldly. . . . The evangelical church is orientated around showmanship.” (pp. 150-151)
“Christianity and the world do not mix. We cannot have a Christian world; unfortunately we can have a worldly Christian.” (p.152)
In another sermon called “The Haunting Memory of Dead Words” he looks at “‘Accept’: the doctrine of moral passivity”:
“To accept Jesus and not demand a transformed man or woman will result in actually rejecting the Christ of the New Testament. All over the country, evangelists blaze abroad the message, ‘Accept Jesus’, which has become in our day nothing more than a theological zombie. It is a voice out of the tomb, which means nothing to this generation. The outworking of this ‘receive’ doctrine is nothing short of a tragedy.” (pp. 160-161)
In “Some Live Words for Today’s Church” we find these gems:
“This is the day of excusing sin instead of purging sin. An entire school of thought has developed justifying sin within the church and trying to prove that sin is perfectly normal, and therefore acceptable.” (p. 166)
“We live in a day in which renunciation is no longer being taught. We are not supposed to renounce anything to become Christians. We are not told to. We just believe something and accept something passively, in a state of moral inertia, and then we go right back to what we were doing before. There are people in this country making a career of compromising the cross of Christ with the world, until we cannot tell which is which. We are one big compromise.
“When a person is converted, they ought to renounce their old life. We are members of a new creation, born from above, sons of the Father, joint heirs with the Son; heaven is our home, hallelujah is our language and we belong to a little company, a minority group, despised and rejected of men.
“Instead of that, Christianity has become popular. Evangelicalism has become popular and, consequently, it is dead.” (pp. 168-169)
“I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart.” (p. 172)
“I refuse to fight over theories, but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart: men and women who are lost in worship, who love God until he is the sweetheart of the soul.” (p. 173)
And in another terrific sermon he tells us “How to Know When a Thing is From God”. In it he provides seven tests by which we can judge any religious experience, any teaching, or any doctrine. Here are a few snippets:
“What does that doctrine do for God? Does it make God great or small? Does it make God necessary or less necessary? Does it put God where he belongs, does it bring glory to him and does it humble me? Does it show me how little I am and how great God is? Or does it obscure God and draw a veil across the face of God? Whatever makes God less – less important, less wonderful, less glorious or less mighty – is not of God.” (p. 209)
“Any doctrine that makes the world your friend is not your friend. Any doctrine that makes it easy for you to hobnob with the world and the world’s ways, to accept the world’s values and do things the way the world does, is not of God; it cannot possibly be.” (p. 218)
“The closer I come to God, the more intolerable sin becomes.” (pp. 218-219)
These are just a few select quotes from a veritable goldmine of great and lofty thoughts, spiritual gems, and precious preaching. Needless to say, the reader is encouraged to grab this volume, and any other book containing the writings or sermons of Tozer. They never disappoint.
(Available in Australia at Koorong Books)