The Dangers of a Shallow Faith

We live in an age of great compromise, and it has invaded the evangelical church in America. The assault has been deliberate, insidious, and massive–slowly injecting it’s poison over the past 40 or 50 years to the point where modern day “Christianity” in America hardly even resembles actual New Testament living. Just watch most of the programs on Christian television if you want a good example.

A.W. Tozer, who died in 1963, saw it coming–indeed, he experienced it in his own lifetime and warned folks about it. A book compiled, edited, and recently published (2012) by James L. Snyder on Tozer’s previously unpublished writings on this topic makes for compelling reading. When we as Christians look and act just like the rest of the world (and a lot of us do) with a little “God-talk” thrown in for good measure, our faith is not only shallow but mostly likely nonexistent. We say we have faith–we may sing worship songs on Sunday morning in church and maybe listen to the sermon that may or may not be relevant to living life the way Jesus intended for us to live it–but the proof is in the way we live our lives the rest of the week. Ah, “there’s the rub,” as Shakespeare once stated. We really don’t treat our family, friends, or our enemies any differently then the rest of the world does, and “sacrificial living” isn’t even a part of our vocabulary let alone our lifestyles. Usually, we just want “more” of what our culture offers us, especially in the way of money and material possessions. And, our “faith” is really in ourselves or in any number of other areas that take priority in our lives. And that is a very dangerous place for it to be.

Very dangerous indeed. . . .

A renowned theologian, A.W. Tozer and his wife, Ada, had seven children and lived a simple, non-materialistic lifestyle. He authored more than 40 books during his lifetime and even after he became a well-known Christian author, he signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need (source here). As mentioned above, some of his previously unpublished works have recently been compiled and edited by James L. Snyder in several volumes including this one titled, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy (Regal Books, 2012).

This book should be at the top of your reading list (you won’t regret it, either). It is “a call for every Christian to move from shallow living to deep faith” (quote from back cover of the book). Continuing from the back cover:

“. . . Tozer warns believers in Christ against the great danger of spiritual lethargy. He urges Christians to be aware of the times in which they live and to recognize how attempting to live a life for God on autopilot will actually undermine their faith. For Tozer, the risks are so significant that ‘breaking out from the tyranny of spiritual lethargy–whatever the cost–should be the number-one priority of every Christian.’”

In this book you will learn “the importance of standing boldly against spiritual and moral slumber” and “see the importance of remaining awake in the face of constant temptation and distraction.” You will also “discover the spiritual awakening and change the Holy Spirit can bring to your life as you surrender completely to God and walk in a deeper faith” (source: back cover).

The book is divided into three parts. Part I is titled, “The Dangers Facing the Evangelical Church.” There are six chapters in Part I and it starts right off with a chapter titled, “At the Brink of Apostasy.” The opening paragraph states, “The evangelical church in America is facing some serious hazards that threaten to bring it to the brink of apostasy. My prayer is that it is not too late for an awakening that will lead to successful reformation” (p. 13). This chapter continues with sections on “The Curse of Worldliness” where Tozer states, “The Bible has no compromise whatsoever with the world. The Bible has a message for the evangelical church, calling it back home. The Bible always send us out into the world, but never to compromise with the world; and never to walk in the way of the world, but only to save as many as we can. That is the one direction. So, my Christian friend, if you are settling back, snuggling into your foam rubber chair and resting in your faith in John 3:16 and the fact that you have accepted Jesus Christ, you had better watch yourself. Take heed, lest you also be found wanting. Take heed of your own heart, lest when all is said and done, you have become tied with the world.” (p. 15).

Another section in that chapter titled, “The Haunting Spirit of Babylon,” is about how entertainment, a spirit of lethargy, and a lifestyle of ease have taken over our lives; and the last section is titled, “Overtaken by Spiritually Impotent Theologians.” In this section Tozer states that “theology” is simply the study of God, and “from the word ‘theology’ comes the word ‘theologian.’ It used to mean a person who has specialized in the study of God, but it has come to mean someone who is an expert is a slice of Christianity. In many cases, the slice is rather small and disassociated from the whole. These contemporary theologians deal with doctrinal minutia. Their expertise is in the area of rethinking doctrinal positions in light of contemporary society and culture. For some reason, they believe that because society has changed so drastically, our doctrinal positions need to change accordingly. To reexamine the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, for example, is an exercise in futility. By slicing and dicing doctrinal positions, we have come to a point of not knowing what we believe” (p. 22). Further down on that same page, Tozer states, “Experts who know everything but what is essential in the spiritual life are now running our churches.”

The rest of the chapters in Part I include, “Seeking a Substitute for God” (e.g., “The Cult of Imitation,” “The Cult of Entertainment, ” The Cult of Celebrity,” and “Worshiping at the Wrong Altar”–the alter of marketing, the altar of money, the altar of activity, and the altar of pleasure); “A Platform for False Teaching” (e.g., a wrong concept of God, a wrong concept of ourselves, a wrong concept of sin, and a wrong concept about Christ Himself); “The Effect of Spiritual Lethargy” (e.g., a moral lethargy, spiritual lethargy); “The Process of Backsliding” (e.g., the fickle heart, the evil heart, and what happens in the backsliding heart); and “The Irrepressible Law of Consequence” (e.g., the law of consequence, the vital act of choice, choose well today, and grace and consequences coexist).

Part II is titled, “The Challenges Facing the Evangelical Church.” In the six chapters in Part II, Tozer discusses not only “The Sources of the Dangers in the Church” (e.g., the world, the god of this world, and unmortified flesh (Chapter 7); but the dangers themselves: “The Danger of Victory and Defeat” (Chapter 8), “The Danger of Bondage and Liberty” (Chapter 9), “The Danger of Idleness and Busyness,” (Chapter 10), “The Danger of Prosperity and Adversity,” (Chapter 11), and “The Danger of Postponed Living” (Chapter 12).

The final part of the book, Part III, tackles “The Path to Overcoming These Challenges.” There are five chapters in Part III which include, “Resisting the World’s Propaganda”  in which Tozer states, “The Battle is On! . . . The greatest war is still being waged today by every effective technique created to get us to stop thinking for ourselves. It is being waged by media, in all it’s various forms, from hard news reporting to ‘entertainment'” (p. 156)–and, of course, the internet and technology which did not exist in the public arena during Tozer’s lifetime; “Contemplating Our Ways” (with some serious soul-searching questions to give you pause for thought on how you are living your life right now); “Living the Dynamics of God’s Kingdom” (if you want to acquire Kingdom power, here’s how you find it and live it); “Getting Ready to Fight the Good Fight” (we are in a war every single moment of every single day–do you really believe that?). As Tozer states, “Battles are always lost before they are fought. You can write that line across your heart and your memory, and the history of the world and biography will support it” (p. 193). The cause? Moral and spiritual decay. He goes on to tell us how to battle on a higher level–like David, Jacob, and Elijah–and how to be prepared for a crisis whether it’s acute trouble that just showed up, temptation, or attacks by our adversary (in all of it’s various forms), and to “never let the day creep up on you (unprepared).”

The final chapter in Part III is titled, “Living as an Intentional Christian.” The first two paragraphs of this chapter are absolutely crucial to our understanding of what a life lived for Jesus Christ is truly all about. Here are those two paragraphs:

“The great deterrent to victorious Christian living is the idea that once we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and believe that John 3:16 is all there is to it, our life now is on automatic pilot and we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. This is the source of a great deal of disillusionment that leads to discouragement in the Christian life.

“There is no such thing as automatic pilot in our Christian experience; every step is an operation of faith that will be fiercely contested by the enemy of our soul. This kind of automatic pilot thinking leads to spiritual lethargy. Breaking out from the tyranny of spiritual lethargy–whatever the cost–should be the number-one priority of every Christian” (p. 205).

There is no “just coasting along” in the Christian life. If we are just coasting along, we’re defeated already. There is a way out of spiritual lethargy, but we have to fight for it. Are we willing to fight for it, or do we prefer being lulled to sleep by the culture and all of the excesses it offers to us (and at a very heavy price)? Do we prefer to listen to all the various “voices” out there telling us how to live, or take God at His Word by reading the Bible for ourselves, and praying to Him for wisdom and guidance (see James 1:2-8)?

The choice is ours . . .

And remember that no choice is still a choice . . . .

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