DISCLAIMER: A.W. Tozer was an Arminian. If he doesn’t have a Biblical understanding of the Gospel of Grace, it’s difficult to see how his teaching could be beneficial to the soul.
This is the first installment in a planned chapter-by-chapter look at A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. Granted, there are many who have discovered the book long before I did, who will also be much better equipped for a task such as this. But hey, this is a blog, so I’m just going to write what I think.
I think first heard about A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, ten years ago, mentioned in a sermon from Pastor Dave Owen at the Malibu Vineyard. Each time Dave would quote Tozer, I’d write it down in my notebook and make a note that I needed to get a copy of that book! Well, I still don’t have a copy, but I found one of Pastor Sam’s copies sitting in a box in the upstairs hallway near my work area, so I opened it up, and it blew me away immediately.
What I wrote in my last entry–“Can you really go up on the mountain, enter the Lord’s presence, and not have thoughts of any other people enter your mind as soon as you close your eyes to pray or to worship?”–is something I struggle with periodically. It doesn’t just have to do with people with whom you have issues, but it has to do with your mind racing while you’re trying to concentrate on the Lord, and I remember it being an issue even 10 years ago at Group at the Ferguson’s house in Malibu. The introduction to Tozer’s book calls this “turbulence of soul”, and says that the quietness cannot be found in “cloistered retreats”. Monasticism and asceticism are not going to get you there. It’s an internal thing with has to do with your direct connection to God and whether you’re keeping that line open, no matter how noisy your surroundings. As the writer of the introduction says, “He came upon this closer walk with God in the bustle and noise of the city of Chicago. Tozer never enjoyed the luxury of a cloistered life” (The Pursuit of God, p. 5).
Another thing that stuck out with me in the introduction is the way Tozer brought God into every aspect of his life.
[He] educated himself by years of diligent study and a constant prayerful seeking of the mind of God. With Tozer, seeking truth and seeking God were one and the same thing. For example, when he felt he needed an understanding of the great English works of Shakespeare, he read them through on his knees, asking God to help him understand their meaning. (p. 6)
If Tozer were alive today, I think he’d be a blogger. He has that kind of attitude in his writing that I see a lot in the blogs of those with new reformation views, those who see problems with the way we Americans practice Christianity today, and seek to change it. In his own preface, he writes about the difference between a right opinion of God and true spiritual worship. He says worship has been replaced with programs, and although strong Bible teaching is a must, it is not enough. “For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth” (p.10).
Now to make it personal. This is the reason I wanted to write this installment today: the theme of the first chapter in the book, the one that explains why we should pursue God in the first place, is the same theme of U2 had in their song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. Many Christians felt like U2 had abandoned their faith with that song and looked at it as the proof that they had turned away from following God completely. After all, if someone has truly found Jesus, what could he possibly still be looking for? I have heard this opinion expressed by individuals with my own ears, as well as read articles that confirm that this is a very widespread view among many Christians, and it’s very sad.
Tozer’s point in Chapter 1 is that finding Jesus is not the end, but only the beginning, and reading this chapter has caused me to seriously suspect that Bono read Tozer before he wrote the song.
I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running
You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
Tozer’s view is that the belief is the first step into a much larger world. There is belief, and then there is knowledge. “The doctrine of justification by faith–a biblical truth, and blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort–has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such a manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God.”
A mark of spiritual maturity is the realization that the journey will never end, that our relationship with the Lord is something that we have to cultivate and continue to do so until our final breath.
We have almost forgotten that God is a person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored. (p. 13)
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found…
Tozer writes, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart” (p. 15). Are you willing to embark on that quest? It’s a journey of individual discovery to know God for yourself, but you’ll find there are others who have gone before, whose writings and reflections are like signposts to us, and there are also others today who are on the same road themselves.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV).
Find Him! Seek Him with all your heart!