Posts Tagged ‘A.W. Tozer’

Dear Pentecostals and Charismatics,

If you know me, you know I am one of you. I am an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church. I volunteer with Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God college ministry. A Pentecostal church was founded in my paternal grandmother’s home. At times I have even undertaken to defend our doctrines from cessationist critics.

Yet I’m an awkward Pentecostal. I don’t really fit in very well. I stand between two families of Christians, Pentecostals and charismatics on one hand, and my more reformed Baptist and Presbyterian brothers and sisters on the other hand. This is not a normal place to be. My reformed friends find my belief in the gifts a curiosity, an enigma, an outlier and anomaly. My Pentecostal and charismatic friends find my Calvinism to be strange, if not antithetical to Pentecostalism itself. This despite the fact that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements have always been highly ecumenical, spanning denominational boundaries and finding homes in a vast array of theological contexts.

Continue reading here.

I know some people are surprised by the fact that I like reformed rap and Christian hip hop. To be honest, I was not initially drawn to its style, but to its theological content. I began to appreciate the style more after the fact. And as I see more depth and more theology in its lyrics, I love the genre even more. To give you an example, I want to examine the song “Take up and Read” from Shai Linne’s recent album “Lyrical Theology: Part 1.”

The song itself is an exhortation for Christians to follow the example of Augustine and “take up and read, take up and read!” And it is full of well-crafted lyrics that allude to various books and authors. I have compiled a list of these, roughly in the order they appear (I’ve excluded some duplicates, John Piper’s “Desiring God” is referenced twice) in the song. I recommend you listen carefully to the songs lyrics, then look at this list and listen to the song again. This is the only way you’ll appreciate lyrics like “I’ll shout out a van ’til they hear the defense of the faith” or “B, we’re in a war field.” These references are woven flawlessly into the lyric, and if you don’t listen carefully you won’t catch many of them!

Take up and read – From Augustine’s “Confessions.”

Bondage of the Will – By Martin Luther

Desiring God – By John Piper

Religious Affections – By Jonathan Edwards

Table Talks – By Martin Luther

B.B. Warfield – Old Princeton Theologian

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards

Forgotten Trinity – By James White

Reverence and Awe – D.G. Hart and John Muether

Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges

Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Carl Trueman – Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary

The Gospel According to Jesus – John MacArthur

The Truth War – John MacArthur

Made in Our Image – Steven J. Lawson

Redemption: Accomplished and Applied – John Murray

Art for God’s Sake – Philip Ryken

The Defense of the Faith – Cornelius Van Til

The Pleasures of God – John Piper

“Amazing Grace” – By John Newton

Lectures to My Students – C.H. Spurgeon

Preaching and Preachers – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Reformed Pastor – Richard Baxter

The Godly Man’s Picture – Thomas Watson

The Mystery of Providence – John Flavel

The Bible and the Future – Anthony Hoekema

Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul

Holiness – By John C. Ryle

The Cross of Christ – John Stott

The Glory of Christ – John Owen

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

The Valley of Vision – Collection of Puritan Prayers/Devotions

Repentance – C. John Miller

The Mortification of Sin – John Owen

A Praying Life – Paul Miller and David Powlison

Knowledge of the Holy – A.W. Tozer

Knowing God – J.I. Packer

The Sovereignty of God – A.W. Pink

I don’t know that this list is exhaustive, I hope I have not missed any allusions, but it’s quite possible I did. The whole song is an example of lyrical and literary genius. Now take up and read!

Joey

It would be possible for me to list several books that have dramatically shaped me, especially as it relates to my spiritual development and growth. Some people say, “Well we only need the Bible, why read anything else?” To that I would reply the Bible tells us God has given teachers to the Church so that we can grow into perfection in Christ, and the written word is a means of instruction used in the earliest days of the Church and before. Yes, the Bible is the only inspired and inerrant Word of God; and it is completely sufficient for all spiritual needs. But some people know more about the Bible and life in Christ than we do, and from those people we can learn. This certainly doesn’t replace studying the Bible for ourselves; rather, it supplements and enhances our personal Bible study.

At any rate, it’s often hard to say what books have most impacted me. I certainly was shaped by works such as Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler in my earlier years. Being home schooled I read biographies of David, Daniel, John Wycliffe, and other famous spiritual leaders. These books too helped shape me. But undoubtedly the time period of the greatest and most rapid spiritual growth in my life has been the 5 year period beginning in 2005.

Since 2005 I’ve been introduced to many phenomenal pastors, theologians, philosophers, and authors. And among those a few have stood out more than others. As it relates to the deeper life I have been especially influenced by A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson, and Charles Finney.

In the future I will likely review books by all of those authors. But for now I want to direct your attention to just one: Leonard Ravenhill. Of Ravenhill’s book Why Revival Tarries, Ravi Zacharias said it was “The book that shaped me probably more dramatically than any other book that I have read.”

In writing the Forward to the book A.W. Tozer said: “Toward Leonard Ravenhill it is impossible to be neutral. His acquaintances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love and admire him out of all proportion and those who hate him with perfect hatred. And what is true of the man is sure to be true of his books, of this book. The reader will either close its pages to seek a place of prayer or he will toss it away in anger, his heart closed to its warnings and appeals. Not all books, not even all good books come as a voice from above, but I feel that this one does. It does because its author does, and the spirit of the author breathes through his book.”

In trying to summarize this book I would say it is a rebuke to the Church, a charge against spiritual complacency, and an exhortation to give all in the pursuit of obedience to Christ. Ravenhill issues a call to live beyond the status quo of Christianity in the modern day. In many ways we might say Ravenhill is urging us to “Get on my level!”, yet we realize that rising to that level will make us incredibly uncomfortable and require great sacrifice on our part.

Ravenhill says “There are two indispensable factors to successful Christian living. They are vision and passion. Men battle mountainous seas of human, carnal criticism and storm the flinty heights of devilish opposition to plant the cross of Christ amidst the habitations of cruelty. Why? Because they have caught a vision and contracted a passion.”

However, Ravenhill is concerned that we have very little vision or passion today. The remedy he suggests has been effectively used for several thousand years. That remedy is God-inspired, sincere repentance and Spirit-led intercession (I will freely use Christianese in this note, because the target audience is those who already believe).

The fact is we need prophets today, Elijahs and Ezekiels who will challenge our institutions, question our presuppositions, rebuke our complacency, and exhort us to walk righteously before God as His holy people. Such a prophet will risk offending a great deal of modern-day Christendom, but will persist because of the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the heart.

In a day when we have more methodologies and strategies and programs that at any other time in the history of the Church, yet we’re still declining in the Western world, we genuinely need to ask where the problem lays. In a day when so much is at stake, when the risk of failure is too high to be considered by spiritually reasonable people, I think it’s necessary to get back to the basics: Prayer, anointing, vision, conviction, holiness. With painstaking clarity Ravenhill calls us back to such basics.

God has promised a great deal to this generation. I think we’ve tried doing things our way for quite long enough to show that it’s utterly and entirely insufficient. Back to the basics, brothers and sisters. The shapers of history in the realm of the spiritual have always been those who desperately sought God, heard His voice and experienced His presence, and allowed their lives to be defined by obedience to the King above all kings. Will we be such a people?

With my prayers,
Josiah

[All quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bethany House Publishers, 2004.]

“If the spiritual view of the world is the correct one, as Christianity boldly asserts that it is, then for every one of us heaven is more important than earth and eternity more important than time. If Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be; if He is what the glorious company of the apostles and the noble army of martyrs declared that He is; if the faith which the holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge is the true faith of God, then no man has any right to dedicate his life to anything that can burn or rust or rot or die. No man has any right to give himself completely to anyone but Christ nor to anything but prayer.” -A.W. Tozer

“”I admit without a blush that this chapter is intentionally provocative and acerbic. I am tired of complacent Christianity. I am declaring “open season” on our smug, spiritual complacency and amnesia. We would rather squat in our rubber-foamed pews and hear a yet more pleasant dissertation on Psalm 23 for the one-thousandth time than hear a man fresh from audience with the eternal God (a man, whose sweat-bedewed brow indicates the volcano in his soul) cry with broken sobs, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” (Ps. 94:16).”” -Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way

The past several weeks have been very challenging for me. There have been many things to consider, and words fail to express the totality of the conviction I’ve been dealing with.

Let me be very upfront: If Jesus is the Son of God; if He is Prophet, Priest, and King; if He is the Son of Man; if He is the Word by which all thing were made; if He really is our Savior, then no goal outside of God Himself is worthy of human effort, and Jesus has the absolute unfettered right to dictate the terms whereby we shall live our lives.

No more obfuscating what we believe about Jesus. I agree with C.S. Lewis, Jesus was either Lord, liar, or lunatic. If He’s a liar or lunatic we are justified in disregarding Him; however, if He’s Lord then our present response to that reality is completely and entirely inadequate.

If Jesus is God how can the transformation in our lives as a result of dedicating ourselves to Him be any less then the transformation from Saul to Paul? Oughtn’t we also go from chief of sinners to greatest missionary? If the same God that called Abram has called us shouldn’t we also drop what we’re doing and live according to eternal purposes seeking to advance a Kingdom not made with human hands?

If Jesus is God do not our worldly accomplishments and temporary achievements seem very insignificant in light of eternity? As much as I like having a 4.0 GPA semester after semester is it not incredibly inconsequential in light of 4+ billion people living not recognizing their Creator and only true Sovereign?

What I’m saying is this: Jesus is Lord, He is the Bridegroom establishing the Church as His bride. But far from being infatuated with the incomprehensible love lavished upon us, we’ve acted like whores. Think about it, what causes marital dissatisfaction? A lack of communication, the drowning out of romantic intimacy by other cares, a lack of time spent together. What causes dissatisfaction in Christ’s relationship with the Church? More or less the same things (albeit applied differently).

I’m very much afraid the overwhelming majority of us Christians today have been duped. Think about it, we pray about what college to go to instead of what country to go to. We pray about what Church to attend rather then what church to start. We think careers are an end rather then a means to a far greater end then retirement. We shape God according to our preconceived mold and construct rather then allowing God to shape the terms whereby our lives will be run.

The most important and outrageous claim of Christianity is that Jesus physically rose from the dead and that this proves beyond any reasonable doubt that He is the Son of God; and from this claim it logically follows that we surrender the whole of our lives to Jesus Christ and that we live exclusively for Him and His purposes. The example of the Apostles and early Christians leaves us with no other rational conclusion.

Upon the acceptance of Christ, consider everything the Apostles gave up: 1. The sacrificial system they had practiced the whole of their lives, 2. Their firm belief that it was blasphemous for any man to claim deity, 3. Their recognition of the Sabbath, 4. The approval of the Jewish religious authorities they had always trusted and followed, 5. Their professions (tax collectors, fishermen, etc…), 6. Their lives.

One of our problems is we think giving up our lives refers exclusively to martyrdom. Let me share a sentiment with you: Every single Christian martyr throughout history was dead long before they were beheaded (or crucified or burned or whatever). Dead to what? The flesh, the world’s way of thinking, sin, temporal values.  When Paul lost his head he went from life with Christ to life with Christ. Nero hardly killed Paul, he coroneted him into God’s hall of fame.

I learned many things during the Facebook Fast. For a whole month Facebook was dead to me, and in a sense the people I can’t contact otherwise were also dead to me. After one month I’ve come back, in some ways reluctantly (in other ways, happy to have my virtual pulpit back). But that same sense of deadness ought to be what I feel towards everything that stands in between God and me. Everything that is temporary ought to be dead to me.

I write not as one who has achieved, but as one who is convicted. My reputation is not dead to me. My personal ambitions are not dead to me. Pointless entertainment is not dead to me. Lust is not dead to me. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. All these things are but rubbish and poo compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! When will I go beyond mentally realizing that to actually living it?

“There’s a cry in my heart For Your glory to fall For Your presence to fill up my senses,  There’s a yearning again A thirst for discipline A hunger for things that are deeper Could You take me beyond? Could You carry me through? If I open my heart? Could I go there with You? (For I’ve been here before But I know there’s still more Oh, Lord, I need to know You) For what do I have If I don’t have You, Jesus? What in this life Could mean any more? You are my rock You are my glory You are the lifter Of my head Lifter of this head”  -Starfield

His humble servant- Josiah

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.  2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”  Psalm 63:1-5, NIV
I want to ask you one of the most profound questions we’re capable of entertaining.  What do you think about God?

Truthfully, consider that.  How you answer that will be the greatest determinant of your behavior.  If you don’t seek God, why don’t you?  I know for me it’s because I become narrowly focused and forget what’s really important.  But God says He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (see Hebrews 11).  If we truly believe God rewards us when we seek Him, then how can we not seek Him? If I believe there’s a treasure hidden somewhere, I’m digging it up.  The greater the treasure, the more effort I’m willing to exert to reach it.

Now consider this:  God is infinitely great!  He is eternally good.  He’s incomprehensibly loving.  He’s all-powerfully merciful.  He’s infinitely just.  God is beautiful, He’s magnificent, He’s majestic, He’s glorious.  In light of that, how can we not seek Him?
I believe that if we truly conceive of God in such a way, it will be impossible for us to avoid seeking Him.  However, and I speak from experience, since we do not exert much effort in seeking God, I must conclude it’s because we do not conceive of Him in that way.
A.W. Tozer said that distorted ideas about God soon rot the religion in which they appear.  David said God’s love is better than life.  If that’s true, what should our priorities be?  If God is as good as David describes Him in Psalm 63 (among other Psalms), then shouldn’t our lives radically reflect that God is our treasure?

I don’t say this as one who is perfect.  I don’t know any body’s status regarding their treasure hunt for God.  I have probably failed in worse ways then many of you in this respect.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“If Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be; if He is what the glorious company of the apostles and the noble army of martyrs declared that He is; if the faith which the holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge is the true faith of God, then no man has any right to dedicate his life to anything that can burn or rust or rot or die. No man has any right to give himself completely to anyone but Christ nor to anything but prayer.”  -A.W. Tozer, “On Breeding Spotted Mice”, in Man:  The Dwelling Place of God

God bless!
Josiah

P.S.  -You may enjoy these videos:


And this book by A.W. Tozer:  http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.c.htm  (Go to the bottom and click on “List of Books” for a free library of Christian classics!)

In Ezra 3 we see something very exciting.  The altar is rebuilt!

What’s so important about the altar?  Everything.  First, it’s a symbol of holiness, of consecration.  The altar is set apart for God’s use and His purposes.  It’s sacred.  Leonard Ravenhill always asserted that revival changes the moral climate.  Certainly there is a paradigm shift between the moral climate going into Babylonian captivity and the moral climate coming out of captivity.  God’s people had stopped being His people and they were punished.  But as they returned they were re-consecrated.

So often we think about holiness as this unattainable standard we shall never reach.  And certainly there is a moral standard that comes with holiness.  But we shouldn’t view holiness as drudgery and something that depresses us when we think about it.  We should view holiness for what it is, being set apart for God’s purposes.  Of course there’s a high standard that comes with that.  As Americans we expect that our ambassadors will not get drunk and assault Britian’s Foreign Secretary.  Likewise, as Christ’s ambassadors God calls us to a similar standard.  God has a plan and a purpose for us, and to let anything so temporary and unsatisfying as sin come in between God and His plan and us should break our heart.

God has amazing plans for us, He desires a relationship with us.  It would be foolish to think that relationship doesn’t come with standards.  If we treat boyfriends and girlfriends with specific standards, if we don’t sleep around because of our commitment to them how much more should we strive to live up to God’s standard?  It’s not like God doesn’t help us, He’s readily accessible and constantly basking us with His love and grace and mercy.  Some use that as an excuse to sin, I see it as the most compelling reason not to sin.  It is the people I love the most and that love me the most that I am least willing to offend, who’s standards I most desire to uphold.  Christ’s love is the main motivation not to sin.  Recieving grace I do not deserve makes me desire to live by the standard from this point forward.

The altar is also used for sacrifice.  We talked about this briefly in Part 3, but we’ll go deeper here.  In Verse 3 we are told that they began offering burnt offerings.  According to the Fire Bible the burnt offering was a “voluntary act of worship”, it provided for atonement for unintentional sin; it was an “expression of devotion, commitment, and complete surrender to God” (Fire Bible Student Edition, 163).

Think about that, it was a voluntary act of worship.  Today we no longer have to use bulls, rams, doves or pigeons for our worship.  But we ought to worship.  What is worship?  It’s acknowledging God, it’s our response to God.  In the New Testament the most common word for worship, proskuneo, refers to a dog licking its master’s hand.  Surely this is an excellent example of devotion, commitment, and surrender.

Perhaps we think too small of God.  As A.W. Tozer said, false concepts of God soon rot the religion in which they appear.  If we truly understood the depths of God’s love, the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ, the glory of God, God’s amazing goodness, His nearness and transcendence, His holiness, His justice, His mercy, His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence then every time we worshiped we would go wild, we would fall to our knees, we would echo the words of the old hymn:  “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.  O how marvelous!  O how wonderful!  And my song shall ever be, o how marvelous!  O how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”.  As Paul Washer says, our lives should be a contradiction.  We should have a theology that’s deep, almost academic; but when we worship we should go wild (if we’re dignified).

Of course if we truly thought of God this way we would have no excuse, we would have no right to give ourselves to anyone but Christ nor to anything but prayer (A.W. Tozer).  It would require complete and total commitment, 100% devotion.  No more whoring with the world.  We must be God’s and God’s alone.

This brings us to a third notable point regarding the altar, it’s a sign of the presence of God.  We underestimate God.  All the time I hear “we have to sin every day”.  That’s a lie.  Only someone who’s god is powerless must sin everyday.  A god incapable of overcoming sin is no god at all.  A god incapable of relating to and intervening for its creation is no god at all.

The fact is we can live in close and intimate communion with God, and we should.  But so often we don’t.  I’m just as guilty of this as any of my readers.  I dare say some of my readers are probably less guilty of this then myself.  But what an egregious sin to neglect God, to neglect time with Him.  To ignore His presence with us each and every day.  This sin causes us to miss out on a 1,000 blessings.

We spend so much time doing other things, watching television or movies or whatever.  How many of us would say to a girlfriend or boyfriend “I won’t be spending time with you tonight, I’m watching Seinfeld“?  None of us.  To compromise we might invite that person to watch Seinfeld with us.  In relationship to God we say “Oh He’s always with us”.  Absolutely!  But that means two things, 1.  We should be following Him, not making Him follow us and 2.  Knowing He’s always with me I certainly don’t want to do anything that He finds offensive.

To say “I don’t need to spend time praying because I do everything with God” is like saying “I don’t need to spend time with my girlfriend because I invite her over when I watch porn”.  It’s ridiculous and it demonstrates the contempt for God that many these days live daily.   We haven’t crucified the world, we’ve brought it out of the ditch, cleaned just enough to where we can’t see the dirt, and we’ve slept with it.

Now the last thing I want to point out is this:  All of this rebuilding happens in a community of unity.  Read the first verses of Ezra 3 again, all the Israelites assembled as one man and together they undertook this rebuilding.  My campus pastor often points out that Christianity is a communal faith.  Granted, we all make our personal decision to follow Christ, but we grow and spiritually mature in community, in the whole Body of Believers.  In Colossians 2:2-3 Paul says he desires for these Christians to “have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (NIV).

The interesting thing is Paul hinges that on the believers at Colasse and Laodicea being encouraged in heart and united in love.  Outside of the unity of the Body of Believers we do not have the full riches of complete understanding, we miss out on fully knowing Christ and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Him.  There is no such thing as lone ranger Christianity.  Even in China where the Church faces severe persecution they are dedicated to gathering together in fellowship, being united in love (I don’t just say this, this is based directly on the account of a Chinease student).

If we want the Church to be built up, if we desire to truly grow in our faith, if we want to grow in our knowledge of God we must unite ourselves in love, consecrate ourselves to God’s purposes and sacrificially dedicate ourselves to Him as we live a lifestyle of worship ever conscious of God’s nearness and presence in our lives.

God bless!

Josiah

At times I have a tendency to make assumptions.  With the title of this blog I’ve generally assumed that most Christians know there is something very wrong with American Christianity today.  In an article titled Religious Boredom A.W. Tozer says “That there is something gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity today is not likely to be denied by any serious minded person acquainted with the facts.”

This sentiment is shared among the writers and editors of this blog.  But I have not made clear what “the facts” are that lead me to this conclusion.  So here I hope to build the case; to explain, at least in part, why I believe there is something gravely wrong with Evangelical Christianity today.

First, I think it necessary to define what is meant by “tradition”.  By tradition I mean those beliefs and practices of the Church that are based mainly on the influence of humanity and culture rather than rooted in the Word of God.  Typically these practices have been passed down for some substantial amount of time, but they could also be practices recently introduced to the Church that were mainly influenced by cultural custom.

With that understanding, I believe there is something wrong with the way things presently are because:

1.  Our Evangelical practice does not align with the normative Church practices established in Scripture.

The hard fact of the matter is many things we do in Church simply are not Biblical.  I will not make such a claim without examples.  It is Biblical to raise children up in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4).  It is tradition that tells us Sunday School is essential to this.  Now I’m not against Sunday School, much of what I have learned regarding the things of God was in Sunday School.  However, I am concerned that parents neglect their parental responsibilities because “the Sunday School teacher will do it.”  I’m also concerned that in many Sunday Schools the curriculum is simply baby food repeated on a three-year cycle.  I am concerned that in spite of 18 years of Sunday School most Evangelical young adults are not prepared to handle secular university life and have never heard the term “apologetics” in relation to the formation of a Christian world view.

We could broaden this to our discipleship in general.  Discipleship as Jesus practiced it was relational.  Jesus built lasting and impacting relationships with His disciples.  Today much of our discipleship is centered around imparting information. Information is important, but  information alone does not make disciples.  For 18 years I grew up in the Church attending Sunday School, youth group, rallies and conferences, summer camps, etc…  And all of those things contributed to my spiritual development.  But I daresay the 19 months of my life that I’ve been involved in true relational discipleship have helped me develop spiritually more than the other 17 and a half years combined.

I would recommend all of my readers write down a list of all the common practices in the Church, read through the New Testament, and then see how many of those practices are legitimately rooted in the New Testament.  For example, where in the New Testament does it say one must be an ordained minister to serve communion or baptize someone?  It doesn’t.  Where in the New Testament does it say deacons shall be prominent businessmen, lawyers, and doctors?  It doesn’t.  How were people ordained in the New Testament?  If we look at the commissioning of Baranabas and Paul, the process is much different then what is experienced in our present-day Churches.

2.  Our commitments do not align with the commitments of the New Testament Church.

Look at how missional the New Testament Church was.  2,000 years later with all our technology and sophisticated methods we still aren’t as effective in our church planting as the Apostle Paul was.  In fact, many of our main-line denominations and fellowships are more focused on maintaining the Churches that have already been planted then they are on planting new Churches in other countries.

The early Church was also devoted to prayer.  God help us, prayer is virtually unheard of in today’s Church.  I think every Church in the nation should issue The Life of Prayer by A.B. Simpson and The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray to every single one of it’s members.  Such a bold move might shake us up or at the very least help unify and encourage the remnant.  But honestly, if I invite people to the theatre I’ll get 10-12 friends; if I invite them to a prayer meeting I’m lucky to get 6.  What’s wrong with our priorities?  We’re in an adulterous relationship with entertainment and we risk offending (if we have not already offended) God Almighty.

Fellowship was another important part of the 1st Century Church.  Today our fellowship is reduced to a 5 minute meet-and-greet at the beginning of each service.  Shame.  Fellowship, in the Biblical sense, involves sharing each other’s lives.  Today we must be dignified. We must put on a good face for Church. We mustn’t get too personal with each other.  Rubbish.  We need to quit worrying about dressing up in costumes every Sunday and start sharing our lives with each other.  I would love getting phone calls every night saying “Joey, I have this need, can you pray with me?”.  Our fellowship should be deep. We should be the most loving, open, honest people on the planet.  Is not the world to know we are Christians by our love?

I could continue on along this line, but there are simply too many areas where our commitments are not right to list them all here.  Hopefully they will be addressed in future posts.

3.  Unlike the New Testament Church, ours is a Church without power!

We have not power because we have not the Spirit!  I think, in a very real way, we are guilty of putting out the Spirit’s flame.  We have squelched Him, continually suppressing His leading.  Mark Batterson suggests today’s Churches do to people what cages do to animals.  I don’t think anything could be more true.

We’ve used strict regiment, calculated programs, deeply rooted tradition, and a 1,000 foot tall hierarchy of power to make it nearly impossible to follow the Spirit’s leading.  We rely more on political favor than on the Spirit of God for our success.  I’m with Leonard Ravenhill, I won’t pray for revival in America, I’ll pray for revival in the Church.

4.  Our present-day Ecclesiastical practice is hindering the Body.

To be very frank, I’m afraid our present-day Church structure actually hinders the Body of Christ from functioning as the Body of Christ.  We’ve divided the Body into “clergy” and “laity.”  Such a distinction is unheard of in the New Testament.  We are proud because we have pompous-sounding titles, and we’ve actually organized the Church like a business (I am a business major, so I could get technical with this, but I will refrain).  Think about it, “Bishop T.D. Jakes,” “Pastor Al Sharpton,” “Deacon John Smith”.  These have all become titles of prestige, rather than descriptions of service in the Body of Christ.  We’ve capitalized on apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists.  Many Christians feel disempowered from service because they don’t have such a fancy title.  They feel “second-class.”

What is the result?  The 98% of the Church that doesn’t have a title doesn’t feel capable of doing anything.  C.H. Spurgeon wrote that when a “body” is just a large eye it ceases to be a body and is in fact a monster.  We’ve created a very top-heavy monster.

5.  Our expectations of the Christian life are far below what is described in the New Testament.

Let’s face it, the climax of American Christianity is a 60-90 minute service once a week.  This has become the totality of our Christianity.  God help us!  What happened? Why are we not like Peter and John who pray for the lame man going into the Temple?  Why is it that if an exorcism is necessary no body knows what to do, and we have to wait for “the reverend?”  Why is it we only expect to experience God intimately at a retreat or some other special event?

We should be experiencing God every day, walking in close fellowship with Him.  It should be odd if God does not show up during our worship.  Simply singing, uncritically and ritualistically, is not good enough.  We are servants of the living God!  We ought to believe Jesus when He says where two or three gather in His Name He will be there.  If we gather and He’s not there we must ask what we’ve done to be acting outside of His Name (authority, will).

Also, in the New Testament Church there was an eager anticipation of the return of Christ.  Such an expectation is totally lacking, indeed, we’re afraid of it.  Perhaps it’s good we’re afraid to talk about eschatology; that at least indicates a functioning conscious, though the verdict of that conscious may not be good.

In Conclusion: These discrepancies, among others I’ve not had the time to list, are why I insist on questioning tradition.  We have to break the mold if we are to experience the freedom and abundant life Christ has promised us.  We must return to our apostolic roots found in the New Testament.  We need to stop relying on what man says, and start examining what God says.

This is going to be a showdown of strength.  And this is something I welcome.  I don’t have hundreds of seminaries. I don’t have a 13 million member denomination. I don’t have 850 prophets of Baal on my side; but this showdown won’t be won by numbers, it’ll be won in the prayer closet (Ravenhill).  It won’t be won by he who has the biggest army, but by he who’s God answers by fire.

“Our only hope is that renewed spiritual pressure will be exerted increasingly by self-effacing and courageous men who desire nothing but the glory of God and the purity of the church. May God send us many of them.” -A.W. Tozer

“If we will let Him, Christ will do in us and through us that which He did in and through the committed believers after Pentecost. The potential is ours. Do we dare believe that the faithful Christian believers may yet experience a great new wave of spiritual power?” -A.W. Tozer

God bless!

Josiah