A couple of weeks ago I posted an article written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) titled, “The Old Cross and the New,” originally published in 1946. As I stated in that post, Tozer’s writings read like front page news today, although some of the wording comes from the era in which he lived, yet he had an uncanny ability to see the future in the present day occurrences all around him. Many well known pastors today–Drs. Billy Graham, Charles Swindoll, and Charles Stanley to name a few–have often quoted Tozer as he still has much insight to offer us–even after being dead for over 51 years now (source here).
Today I ran across another article by Tozer in an earlier chapter in the same book, “The Best of A.W. Tozer,” as the previous article I posted two weeks ago. This article is titled, “That Incredible Christian.” The irony in reading this article was that just a couple of days ago I was talking with someone who described Christians as being like everybody else except that they are forgiven and going to heaven. This is not an uncommon belief among many Christians; however, it is one that has surfaced only in recent history over the past several decades. It’s not that this person was being trite in her description (no, she was very sincere); however, it tends towards a shallow view of Christianity, especially to non-Christians. And it doesn’t include the fact that Jesus Christ is calling his followers to be Disciples (see article titled, “Give Up Your Weak Definition of Disciple” at “The Gospel Coalition”), and not just merely expecting us to “coast along for the ride.” In fact, an article I read today in “Charisma News” titled, “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy,” addresses part of the problem which is stated in the title (the article is available at this link).
Since the Tozer article, “That Incredible Christian,” is available online, I’ve decided to let Tozer speak for himself on this topic and I’ve copied and pasted the article below. The article is available at this link and also at www.aztozerclassics.com. It is also included in the book titled, “The Best of A.W. Tozer, Volume 1” (Chapter 20), compiled by Warren Wiersbe (originally published in 1978, republished in 2007), and is also available in a book titled, “That Incredible Christian” (Chapter 1) by Tozer at this link (and the book is also available online in PDF format at this link):
That Incredible Christian
The current effort of so many religious leaders to harmonize Christianity with science, philosophy and every natural and reasonable thing is, I believe, the result of failure to understand Christianity and, judging from what I have heard and read, failure to understand science and philosophy as well.
At the heart of the Christian system lies the cross of Christ with its divine paradox. The power of Christianity appears in its antipathy toward, never in its agreement with, the ways of fallen men. The truth of the cross is revealed in its contradictions. The witness of the church is most effective when she declares rather than explains, for the gospel is addressed not to reason but to faith. What can be proved requires no faith to accept. Faith rests upon the character of God, not upon the demonstrations of laboratory or logic.
The cross stands in bold opposition to the natural man. Its philosophy runs contrary to the processes of the unregenerate mind, so that Paul could say bluntly that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. To try to find a common ground between the message of the cross and man’s fallen reason is to try the impossible, and if persisted in must result in an impaired reason, a meaningless cross and a powerless Christianity. [There are shades of Bonhoeffer, a contemporary, in that last sentence.]
But let us bring the whole matter down from the uplands of theory and simply observe the true Christian as he puts into practice the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Note the contradictions:
The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, yet he is more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever. He walks on earth while seated in heaven and though born on earth he finds that after his conversion he is not at home here. Like the nighthawk, which in the air is the essence of grace and beauty but on the ground is awkward and ugly, so the Christian appears at his best in the heavenly places but does not fit well into the ways of the very society into which he was born.
The Christian soon learns that if he would be victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary. That he may be safe he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. He goes down to get up. If he refuses to go down he is already down, but when he starts down he is on his way up.
He is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong. Though poor he has the power to make others rich, but when he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes. He has most after he has given most away and has least when he possesses most.
He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is most conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still. In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow.
The paradoxical character of the Christian is revealed constantly. For instance, he believes that he is saved now, nevertheless he expects to be saved later and looks forward joyfully to future salvation. He fears God but is not afraid of Him. In God’s presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that presence. He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing.
He loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, and is aware of no incongruity in so doing. He feels that he is in his own right altogether less than nothing, yet he believes without question that he is the apple of God’s eye and that for him the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of shame.
The Christian is a citizen of heaven and to that sacred citizenship he acknowledges first allegiance; yet he may love his earthly country with that intensity of devotion that caused John Knox to pray “O God, give me Scotland or I die.”
He cheerfully expects before long to enter that bright world above, but he is in no hurry to leave this world and is quite willing to await the summons of his Heavenly Father. And he is unable to understand why the critical unbeliever should condemn him for this; it all seems so natural and right in the circumstances that he sees nothing inconsistent about it.
The cross-carrying Christian, furthermore, is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth.
When he looks at the cross he is a pessimist, for he knows that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemns in that one act all nature and all the world of men. He rejects every human hope out of Christ because he knows that man’s noblest effort is only dust building on dust.
Yet he is calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world the resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last and the Christian waits the consummation. Incredible Christian!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article by Tozer. He also wrote another article titled, “The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches” which is also available at the same website–www.awtozerclassics.com—at this link. I’ve decided to post a paragraph from the article to whet your appetite instead of making this article a new post:
Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” or “Let not your heart be troubled,” but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has. (Read the entire article at this link.)
A quote from the website of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, established in October 2007 at Simpson University, states that Tozer “is widely regarded as one of the deepest theological thinkers of the 20th century. He is known worldwide for his prayer-bathed way of speaking pithy truth and introducing people to God. Tozer was a man of integrity. He lived simply, committed himself to lifelong learning, and drank deep from God’s Word . . . . Regarding his personal life, Tozer was the father of seven children and husband of one wife, Ada, to whom he was faithfully married for 45 years. While Tozer was a godly man of prayer, it is said that he was difficult to know. He had a gift for speaking and writing but sometimes he withheld his thoughts to the point that those around him felt pained. He could also speak harshly at times. He was apologetic about some of his criticisms and willing to model repentance, even though he was acclaimed.” (quote source here).
The writings of Tozer (over 30 books and many articles) are still very popular today and, as quoted on the Seminary’s website, “Even today God uses Tozer to soften human hearts and lead people into the holiness of joy. It is interesting to note that Tozer’s 30 books sell better posthumously than they did when he was alive. Two of his books, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy, have become Christian classics. Recorded sermons of A.W. Tozer are available as MP3 files at The Christian and Missionary Alliance Website. To learn more about A.W. Tozer, see Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer (Lyle Dorsett), The Mystical Spirituality of A. W. Tozer Twentieth Century Protestant (Lynn E. Harris), and The Life of A.W. Tozer (James Snyder)” (quote source here).
The blight of the Church today is spiritual starvation.
People are famishing on rationalism, socialism,
sensationalism, on lifeless bonds and bank notes
and unwholesome pleasures. “Wherefore do ye
spend money for that which is not bread?
and your labour for that which satisfieth not?…
eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight
itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Are you living on the bread of God
or starving while in the Father’s house
there is bread to spare?
YouTube Video: “From the Inside Out” (2009) by Phillips, Craig and Dean: