Brushes With Death and the Solace of God

 

Face of God

You know, much is done on this site and other sites to be iconoclastic; to smash the idols of our age in pursuit of the truth. I see this as a good thing. One of the idols to be smashed has been the bible itself. Yet, there is spiritual comfort to be had in that very thing which we feel destined to destroy. This week I’ve had three brushes with the deaths of loved ones and acquaintances. The finality of death always brings me humbly to my knees, but not in a concerted effort to plead for my soul to be good enough to earn heaven, no, I am brought to my knees in recognition that I too am finite.  While I do not think I believe in a heaven or hell as evangelicalism knows it, I believe that we all return to the dust of which we are all made. I do not thing I believe in a literal resurrection. But one thing I do believe, is hope itself. There is no particular thing I invest my hope in. Hope itself is its own reward.I know when to be humble and I know where to take a stand, but sometimes you read things of such sweetness, you must submit in the face of it. I have missed my spiritual reading. I miss the great authors of Christianity. I’ve been feeding too long on the pablum of Rick Warren and others of his generation. Tonight I read the Preface to The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer, that great preacher of evangelicalism. In the face of such 20th century tripe that passes for preaching nowadays, one can’t help but wish for preachers of Tozer’s caliber, none of which exist anymore. In his Preface, Tozer explains why he wrote the book (forgive the length):

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct ‘interpretations’ of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water. This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day. But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders.

Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. [See 1 Kings 18 for the allusions.] But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the ‘piercing sweetness’ of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: ‘The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.’

It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: `Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.’ (emphasis mine)

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. 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. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. (Emphasis mine)

Truer words have never been spoken than Tozer’s assessment of the spiritual state of those who profess Christianity. There are some in Christianity that take it upon themselves to pronounce judgment upon your soul. There are those who would slam the door of God’s presence in your face and refuse you admittance because you lack the marks they deem important and necessary to the Kingdom of God. Who are these doorkeepers that claim to hold the only key? What are their credentials? They stand there with their rulebook and count your sins, gloating over them like so much coin.

Freedom is the ultimate and only test of love, especially Christian love. A popular saying in the 70s was “If you love it, let it go.” While it was sappy, it contained a great truth. The only true love is one that grants freedom to another’s soul. The only true love allows it to grow and gives it room to dance, to cry, to make mistakes. The only true love does not blame. I am willing to let all of my preconceptions go, out of love. I am willing to even let go my conception of God if it means finding peace in my soul at the time of death. And only God will know the state of it.

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit (The Pursuit of God)

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Psalm 63:8

 

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5 thoughts on “Brushes With Death and the Solace of God

  1. Thanks for this excellent and thought provoking post. And may the God of all comfort be with you in the midst of the loss of loved one’s.

    I wonder if there are some preacher’s around of Tozer’s caliber? If there are, they aren’t likley to be found in much mainstream evangelicalsim which seems to prefer a sweet idealism or a sour legalism. Lamentable. But there is a developing and unfolding Exodus church that may contribute to change in touching on many of the issues you so rightly raise.
    Greg

  2. Greg,
    I was wondering the same thing about preachers when I read the Preface. It seems unlikely that there are any. Another of my favorites is Oswald Chambers. Fortunately we still have these men’s writings.

    Good points you make about mainstream evangelicalism. “Sweet idealism or sour legalism” is it in a nutshell. This is mainly why I’ve stayed away from church after 23 years in them. I’m holding out hope that somewhere there’s a community for me in my area, but until then, those on the internet provide it.

    Thank you for the wishes for comfort. I greatly appreciate it and I’m glad you stopped by. I like your web site and the numerous posts about the emerging church. I wish there were some where I live.

  3. Greg, wow – that is exactly what is happening, an Exodus. You have written about this on a website?

  4. Oh, and I agree… God is the author and finisher of our faith… and all the steps in between. Man wills, but god directs.

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