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It goes without saying that A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was “considered by many to be a modern-day prophet. Tozer felt that the church was on a dangerous course towards compromising with ‘worldly’ concerns. In 1950, he was appointed editor of the Alliance Weekly magazine, now Alliance Life (alife), the official publication of The Alliance. In his first editorial, dated June 3, 1950, he wrote ‘It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run, and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.’” (Quote source here.)
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. One of his articles titled, “The Old Cross and the New,” “has been printed in virtually every English-speaking country in the world.” Written in 1946, it “first appeared in “The Alliance Witness” [now known as Alliance Life or alife] and it still appears now and then in the religious press” (quote source here). The article (printed below) is available on the internet at this link and also at www.aztozerclassics.com and is also included in the book titled, “The Best of A.W. Tozer, Volume 1” (Chapter 43), compiled by Warren Wiersbe (originally published in 1978, republished in 2007).
The Old Cross and the New
All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique–a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul’s day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God’s approval.
Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power. (Source here and also at www.aztozerclassics.com.)
YouTube Video: “The Old Rugged Cross” sung by Johnny and June Carter Cash:
Photo credit here
I’m old enough to remember the days of “hellfire and brimstone” preachers. Sin was serious business to them and they wanted us to know just how serious it was. Sometimes they may have focused too much on God’s judgment and not enough on His mercy and grace, but we humans have a great capacity for complacency in our lives, so they wanted to make sure we understood the consequences.
Fast forward several decades . . . now the very opposite has blanketed America. Sin is treated as if it is inconsequential as in the oft quoted phrase, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” (quote source here). The message nowadays is that “grace covers everything” so we can do as we please, using that as the perfect excuse for just about anything we want to do.
There is a balance between the two extremes and it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. When I started this blog over three and a half years ago now–on July 20, 2010–it was not with the intent to focus on Christianity here in America but rather as a place to write about what it was like to be unemployed during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history and in our own lifetime. I spent the first several months (through April 2011) just getting that hang of blogging (there is really no set of rules to go by although there is a lot of advice on the Internet about blog writing). I don’t remember how many blog posts I wrote before I deleted all of them in frustration at the end of April 2011 and decided blogging just wasn’t for me. However, three months later–on July 8, 2011–I fired my blog back up again and it just took off the second time around . . .
. . . And I’ve been writing about that “balance” since that time. I’ve written blog posts on both sides of the issue–writing some very hard hitting “hellfire and brimstone” posts and also a number of “grace filled” posts. Obviously, the “hellfire and brimstone” posts haven’t been nearly as popular. However, sin is still very serious business to God, and that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time regardless of how “in tune” we might think we are when it comes to “all things Christian” in America today.
However, the focus of this post is not on “hellfire and brimstone.” The message is a very simple one, yet one that is more important than any other decision we will ever make in our lives. It is more important then deciding who we marry, what career path we choose, climbing the social and/or corporate ladder, how much money we make, or how we can make a name and legacy for ourselves in this world. It is more important than knowing all the “right” people, or hobnobbing with the rich and famous, or acquiring as much education as possible (and, hopefully, not accumulating a mountain of debt in the process), or hoping to write the next “New York Times” best seller.
Before I go any further I want to state that there have been times when I have been writing a post that I feared the reaction some of them might create, but I felt compelled to write them anyway. Our society has become too “soft and easy” to the serious issues in life, and as you know if you’ve been reading my posts, “soft and easy” wouldn’t exactly describe a lot of them. However, I’ve never written any of them as if I was an outsider to the human race. No, I’m just as human and just as fallible as anybody else.
I was reading a couple of devotions this morning that hit home on two critical and important issues. The first is what we ought to say when we need to say it, and the second is the very simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both reminded me of something very important that all of us who call ourselves Christian should remember. And both remind us that it’s not about us, but about God’s power through Jesus Christ to change us–and others–too.
What You Ought To Say
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and
magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how
and what you should answer, or what you should say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour
what you ought to say.” ~Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)
How many times have the words just . . . come to us? And yet for some reason, we still doubt that they will.
God is not just a God of external blessings, of improved situations and needs that are met. He also blesses our language, particularly when we’re under pressure, and we don’t know what to say.
The next time we have to go in front of a crowd, let’s seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And he will “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
~Dear God, bless my language. Prepare me to say a word to your people today and each day in the future. And when I don’t know what to say, I trust that you will step in. Amen.~
As I read this, I wondered how often we have a tendency to just “hang out” with other Christians? And how often do our conversations focus on the very same things as the rest of the culture at large–how to make more money, how to get more of “the good life,” how to look good and be accepted, etc.? When was the last time we relied on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say to others, especially a whole world out there who doesn’t know Jesus Christ or have only seen the plastic image representing Him in our “get more” brand of Christianity that saturates our culture. Folks, let us not forget that we are His representatives on this earth. Unfortunately, most of the time we act just like the rest of the culture. What’s up with that? No wonder so many folks “out there” are not convinced that Jesus Christ is real.
The second devotion is by Aaron Householder, senior pastor at Southview Baptist Church, for March 14th in “Open Windows” by LifeWay Publishers. The devotional passage for this devotion is Romans 10:12-13:
“For whosoever shall call upon the
name of the Lord shall be saved.”
~Romans 10:13 (KJV)
Whosoever. I trust that meant you; I am thankful that meant me. We praise God for our salvation. But does whosoever mean the wickedest woman you ever knew? Does whosoever mean the man who treated you so terribly wrong?
We say it does. But we don’t always live like it does. And we may not share Jesus like we know He will save anyone. We may not pray as if we know God can change the hardest heart. We sometimes lack trust that God can convince and change even the most cynical and sinful. We also hesitate to speak His Word in kindness and with boldness as often as He offers us the opportunity.
No matter what someone has done, no matter where they have been, and no matter what has been done to them, God will forgive. God can save. He did it for you. He did it for me. He will do it for whosoever will repent of sin and trust in Christ.
So let’s share Jesus with great faith. Let’s be winsome in our witness and pray to the Lord in confidence, knowing that He saves all who call upon Him.
~Father, I praise You for saving a whosoever like me. I pray that You would use me in leading someone else to Christ soon. Give me courage, wisdom, and Christlike love.~
For those of us who call ourselves Christian that is what life is all about at the very bottom line. It should be the focus of everything that we do and the basis of what gives us meaning in this life. We are not here to “get everything this life has to offer” but to offer the only true source of life that there is to others–personally knowing Jesus Christ who can change our lives now and forever. And He will be there to guide us in the midst of everything that we do (or encounter) in this life, no matter what our occupation is or how much money we have or don’t have, what our status is in this life whether pauper or King/Queen, and no matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in (planned or unplanned). God is no respecter of persons and He doesn’t play favorites (see James 2:1-13), and we shouldn’t either. “Whosoever” includes every human being on this planet.
We need to take our eyes off of everything our culture has to offer us and put them back on the One who redeemed us in the first place. We need to lay aside our complacency and our own lust for more of everything in this life and live for Him, and not just for ourselves. That is when the rest of the world will take notice, and that is when Jesus Christ will become real to them (and to us, too).
There is a lost and dying world out there who needs to see the reality of Jesus Christ, and if He isn’t evident in those of us who call ourselves Christian, how are they ever going to be convinced that He is real? We need to clean up our own act and stop living like what we do doesn’t matter. It does matter. And the whole world is watching . . . .
Whosoever shall call . . .
Upon the name of the Lord . . .
Shall be saved . . . .
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish
but have eternal life.
~John 3:16 (NIV)
YouTube video: “Higher Love” sung by Salvador (on their CD “Make Some Noise” 2013):
During much of the past four years I’ve been in the habit of getting up early and starting my day by meeting with God through reading the Bible, a few devotions, and praying. And it has revolutionized my life. And, I haven’t stopped during this short trip back to Houston where I continue to look for employment. It has become my lifeblood.
While I’ve been a Christian since I was a young girl, my passion ebbed and flowed over the years. I don’t know how many years have gone by where Jesus Christ was not the “Number One” priority in my life when I first climbed out of bed in the morning. In fact, days and sometimes weeks would go by where I wouldn’t even open my Bible except on Sunday if/when I went to church and if/when I remembered to take it with me. And more often then not, when I prayed it centered around my needs and/or the needs of others but lacked thanksgiving and praise as a meaningful part of it. And, I also wandered my way through a number of prodigal years, too. It wasn’t until I moved to Houston on September 25, 2008, to start that fateful job that has ended in this very long time of unemployment that I clearly felt God’s Spirit wooing me to “get serious” in my relationship with Him. And I did. And my life hasn’t been the same.
I read a couple of short devotions this morning and I want to share them with you. Perhaps you find yourself in a lukewarm lifestyle of Christian apathy that rarely finds any real passion for the things of God in this life, or perhaps you don’t personally know Him even if you do attend church every Sunday but it rarely leads to a changed life during the rest of the week. The first devotion is titled “Turnaround” for August 31, 2012, and is from Our Daily Bread:
Bill was a friend of mine in seminary who had come to Christ out of a blatantly sinful lifestyle. He described it this way: “I was driving down the street drinking a bottle of brandy with another man’s wife at my side. When I saw some Christians on the sidewalk witnessing to passersby about Christ, I drove by and shouted, ‘Fools!’ But only a few weeks later I found myself kneeling in a church and asking Christ to become my Savior and Lord.” Bill’s conversion resulted in his giving up his old ways and experiencing a new life in Christ. It was a life-changing turnaround.
True repentance, which is initiated by the Holy Spirit, includes a real turnaround. Often we see that the greater the opposition to the gospel prior to conversion, the more stunning the change of direction afterward. When Saul of Tarsus encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel. Of this many observed: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23).
Authentic conversion includes repentance, which is a change of mind and direction. For the follower of Christ, repentance means to keep turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in obedience.
Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee. —Sleeper
Repentance is being so sorry for sin
that you are willing to give it up.
Zeal Without Knowledge
“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge”
I used to make New Year’s resolutions–things I wanted to change about myself. If I had followed them, I would be almost perfect! Unfortunately, my good intentions usually fell apart within a week. I had a zeal to be a better person, but I was relying on my own strength or willpower.
Self-help books fill bookstore shelves and often make the best-seller lists. We can long to improve our lives physically and spiritually, but zeal without God’s power sets us up for failure. Any changes we make on our own will be superficial.
Paul yearned for Israel to be saved. They had knowledge of God but didn’t know Him on a personal basis. They were depending on their own righteousness to save them. But we can never make ourselves righteous through our own efforts. Self-righteousness is a poor substitute for God’s righteousness.
Knowledge “puffs up” our self image. We may be impressed with the information at our fingertips. But only God gives us wisdom to interpret data and use it to live for Him.
Father, help me remember that lasting change
can only come through You.
A.W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) once stated, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference” (quote source here). He died almost 50 years ago, but this statement is still so very true in many of our churches today. We do a myriad of “things” in the name of Jesus Christ but rarely consult with Him on what really needs to be done. We have lost our first love in order to strive for a life of prosperity and comfort. We place our passion in “things” instead of the Creator of everything.
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s not too late to turn your life around. And you can do it right now. Repentance is the key that unlocks the door to a real and vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to end this post with the words to a song by Twila Paris titled, “True North” (YouTube Video below):
We lost our bearings following our own mind
We left conviction behind fear of the future
Springing from the sins of the past
Hiding the hope that would last
How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we know where it is?
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home
In the lingering night
We were never alone
Wonders of nature
Speak to us all of Your plan
Why would we run from Your hand
Laws of the earth
Just like the laws of the heart
Only begin where You are
How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we find it again?
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home
In the lingering night
We were never alone
“Finding ‘true north’ is essential for accurate navigation . . . . In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path” (quote source here). For those of us who are Christian, Jesus Christ is our “True North.”
Are you in need of a turnaround in your life?
If so, won’t you do it today?
YouTubeVideo: “True North” by Twila Paris:
Photo credit here