OK, admittedly I might be a bit strange. I am not a very excitable chap. Not much moves me I must confess. But some things do get a reaction, if even a slight tingling in the toes! Going to a bookshop is always one way to get my attention and rev up the heart beats.
And finding a new book by a much loved favourite author is also a way to get a bit of a stir out of me. And when that author is A. W. Tozer, with a never before collection of his sermons having just come out, then my excitement levels do indeed start to rise.
I refer to the brand new collection of sermons compiled and edited by James Snyder, Voice of a Prophet (Regal, 2014). Snyder has done a number of other collections of his works (essays, sermons, etc.) and has also written a helpful biography of Tozer (A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God. Monarch Books, 1991, 2009).
I tend to assume that everyone knows about Tozer, but it seems that this is not always the case. I just had a gal elsewhere tell me, “More of Tozer thanks Bill, never read him before. Fantastic!” Well, for her sake, and for that of others who still need to get up to speed here, I am more than happy to oblige.
Those who know nothing about him can find a brief biography and description of the man and his ministry here: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/10/02/notable-christians-a-w-tozer/
So if you want to learn a bit about him, have a read of that. Then, as I told this gal, repent, and run out to a place like Koorong Books and buy every single Tozer volume you can lay your hands on! That should keep you busy for a little while!
Here I simply want to whet your appetite. Nineteen of his sermons on the topic of the prophet are found here. And even the introduction by Snyder is quite good. In it he says this: “I think Tozer would agree when I say that those who seem right for the job are not the ones God calls. God chooses a man or a woman who is out of sync with his or her generation. God uses a person, not because he or she fits in, but usually because he or she does not fit in.”
He mentions how when Tozer began his preaching ministry, he seemed quite unqualified: he had no seminary degree, and he did not even finish high school. When he was interviewed for ordination the group of ministers and elders were not very impressed. But one man spoke to his defence, noting his passion for the ministry, so they reluctantly agreed to the ordination.
It is a good thing too. Snyder goes on to reprint his entire 1920 ordination prayer which I have often run with previously. Here is just a small portion of this incredible prayer of dedication:
Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Let me then just offer some snippets, some spiritual nuggets, from these sermons, in the hopes that you will drop everything you are doing and run out and buy a copy. The first sermon offered is “Whose Church Is It, Really?” He uses as his text 2 Kings 2:3 which speaks about the “sons of the prophets”.
He writes about “the church incognito” and says this: “The voice of the prophet today is seldom heard, not because there are no prophets speaking for God, but because the noise and clatter of our culture have so invaded the church that they have drowned out that voice.”
He then turns his attention to how each generation “seems to drift a little further away from the vision of what God has for the church.” He bemoans the fact that the sons of the prophets are so unlike the prophets. He then lists some characteristics of the sons of the prophets:
“Perhaps at the top of the list would be the awful truth that they are not message oriented. The message is not really that important. What is being touted today to run the church is marketing, presentation of the message, and performance. These three things have overshadowed the message.”
The priority given to “cultural relevancy” is killing us he warns: “There is a passion today to be relevant. This, I believe, is one of the gods of the modern church. We will go to great lengths to prove that the message fits in nicely with the culture around us.”
In his sermon on “God’s Message To His Church” he begins with these words: “The true prophet is called to be a voice of God to his generation. His mission is to bring God’s message to God’s people, in such a way that they hear it and obey it.”
He reminds us that the “message never originates with the prophet. It is God’s job to connect the prophet with the message he wants to impart to His people. It is never left to the prophet. . . . This message that God entrusts to His prophet is under strict orders from God, without any deviation. The song of the prophet is, ‘Thus saith the Lord’.”
And God’s message will confront the present situation and the surrounding culture: “The message God gives always confronts the present condition in order to contradict that situation and move people toward God. . . . God’s message cuts through the smoke and mirrors and brings truth to bear upon that particular situation.”
And truth is certainly the means God uses: “The essence of the message of the prophet is truth. Truth is always a double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. There is a cost factor for the prophet to deliver the message, and there is a cost factor for us to receive that message. This emphasizes the extreme importance God puts upon the truth He is trying to bring our way.”
One more sermon: “The Challenge of the Prophet”. Looking at Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal, Tozer speaks of the contrast between true and false religion. False prophets promise a life of ease and relaxation and entertainment. True religion, and true prophets, demand everything from us:
God calls you to be a soldier, a good, hard soldier. I never could figure out why ministers feel they have to pat and paw over everybody to get them in, why they have to dilute and edit and modify and amend and trim down the gospel. It does not work this way. A trimmed-down gospel never saved a soul. A trimmed-down, diluted, edited religion is not the religion Christ died to establish. Heaven is not filled with weaklings who had to have somebody go along and help them over the rough spots. It is full of soldiers and martyrs, and the dreamers and the prophets and the clean man who loved his God and loved his generation and lived and died living a good life – a hard life.
There is plenty more of value that could be presented here from these 200 pages of gold from Tozer. But this should suffice to get your interest up. I hope you will grab this, and anything else by Tozer you can find. It will do your soul a world of good.