Editor’s note: The Herald-Leader published this article on January 11, 2012, but I’ve been asked about it recently, so here it is again – with minor revisions.
A.W. Tozer was born in 1897. He had no earned college degree but wrote many books that impacted the 20th century church. During a trip by train from Chicago in the late 1940s, Tozer was inspired to write again. When the train pulled into McAllen, Texas, the next morning, the rough draft of “The Pursuit of God” was completed. The depth of that message has made it a book in high demand — well over 1.7 million copies in many languages are in print.
Pastor Tozer had a drive to know God. He was not content to be merely a Godly pastor who could preach from the Bible; he desired to be an authentic representative of Jesus Christ. Tozer could be gentle with those who were actively searching for truth, but tough on those who were faking it. And his parishioners found out what it meant to be an authentic Christian.
“Authentic” means not false or copied. It is something genuine, real, trustworthy, reliable; being accurate in representation of the facts. To be authentic Christians, we must stop living and acting like the world, but honor Jesus Christ in every facet of our lives — both in and out of church.
In his book “Apprehending God,” Tozer points out that although God wants to interact with us, the church around the world is basically ignorant of it. I agree with Tozer. Here are several of my own observations from around our nation:
• People often treat the sanctuary as a secular auditorium.
• Pre-service conversation is often not about the Lord.
• However, as though a power switch has been turned on, people instantly enter a “worship” mode. (Is it authentic, or a trained response?)
• After the meeting, most people go out as they came in because nothing in their lives has really changed. But they say, “I enjoyed the worship.”
This, in part, is what Tozer was talking about. Many folks do not understand the nature of God or what He desires. Sadly, we don’t have many ministers who understand the nature of God or of authentic Christianity.
Why do some people have deep spiritual experiences with the Lord while others do not? The answer doesn’t lie with God, but with people. God is willing to bless all who sincerely come to Him. However, many of us are not aware of God’s desires because many people don’t give themselves to serious Bible study, devotion, meditation on the Word, or on the Person of God. Instead, too many of us prefer (as Tozer said) “glamour and fast flowing dramatic action” in our church services. Sadly, that is true today more dynamically than it was in 1948 when he said it.
In our church meetings we often compete with the world for the attention of the world, rather than focus on leading people in righteousness. Tozer said, “…worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.” Rosa Montgomery, sister-in-law to Billy Graham (both deceased) put it this way: “Many people interpret Scripture in light of their life’s experiences, rather interpret their life’s experiences in light of Scripture.”
Tozer also said, “The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.” I agree. Many in church leadership are using the world’s methods in an attempt to accomplish God’s work. Therefore they are pursuing the world instead of pursuing God. By placing an emphasis on being relevant to the people, we have effectively reduced the necessity of living a life dedicated to Jesus Christ. Thus, we essentially have watered down the Gospel.
Tozer said, “We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.” This happens only by spending time getting to really know God.
So, I ask you now: are you an authentic Christian, or do you successfully fake it?
— S. Eugene Linzey is a teacher, author, and mentor. Send comments and questions to [email protected] cox.net . Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com . The opinions expressed are those of the author.