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In A. W. Tozer's, Men Who Met God, we find and outstanding overview of the life of seven biblical figures who should permeate our lives every day. Men Who Met God is just that, a book about 7 men who had the awesome experience of walking and communing with God in some fashion in the ???coolness???' of the afternoon, through a burning bush, through personal discussion, or another divinely inspired method and shows how they learned, were taught and exemplifies our meager understanding of the relationship ...
In A. W. Tozer's, Men Who Met God, we find and outstanding overview of the life of seven biblical figures who should permeate our lives every day. Men Who Met God is just that, a book about 7 men who had the awesome experience of walking and communing with God in some fashion in the â¿¿coolnessï¿½' of the afternoon, through a burning bush, through personal discussion, or another divinely inspired method and shows how they learned, were taught and exemplifies our meager understanding of the relationship between man and God. This book, Men Who Met God, by A.W. Tozer is classic Tozer and sheds light on how Tozer was able to write and preach a message or group of messages that brought home a particular point. In this book, Tozer points out humility, renewal, blessing, reconciliation and confession.
Many of the greatest pastors of this day and age have one of A.W. Tozer's 40 writings on their shelves. Warren Wiersbe said that, If a sermon can be compared to a beam of light, then A.W. Tozer released a laser beam from the pulpit, a beam that penetrated your heart.
This particular book was originally preached as a series of sermons by A.W. Tozer at Southside Alliance Church in Chicago. These sermons were compiled into this book form by Gerald B. Smith in 1986.
"We Preach Christ"
... and we never apologize for true Christian experience
We are in tune with the plain teachings of the Bible when we attach great importance to genuine Christian experience. But I will take immediate objection to the charge, "Tozer preaches experience!" I do not preach experience. I preach Christ. That is my calling, and I will always be faithful to that calling.
Nevertheless, I want to shed some light on this matter of experience. I insist that the effective preaching of Jesus Christ, rightly understood, will produce spiritual experience in Christian believers. Moreover, if Christian preaching does not produce spiritual experience and maturing in the believer, the preaching is not being faithful to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures!
Let me say it again another way. The Christ of the Bible is not rightly known until there is an experience of Him within the believer, for our Savior and Lord offers Himself to human experience.
When Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," it is an invitation to a spiritual experience. He is saying, "Will you consent to come? Will you make this a journey for your heart, not your feet? Have you added determination to your consent? Then come. Come now!"
Jesus Christ, truly known and loved and followed, becomes a spiritual experience for seeking men and women. That, in essence, is the thesis of this book.
As a boy, I was not a Christian. I did not have the privilege of growing up in a home where Christ was known, loved and honored.
God spoke to me through a street preacher as he read Jesus' words I already quoted from Matthew 11:28: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
That invitation let me know that Jesus is still saying, "Come. Come now!" I went home and up into the attic, where I would be undisturbed. There in earnest prayer I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. I have been a Christian ever since.
My feet took me home and into the attic. But it was not my feet that went to Jesus. It was my heart. Within my heart I consented to go to Jesus. I made the determination, and I went!
I am positive about the validity, the reality and the value of Christian experience. Jesus is a person and He has all the attributes of personality. We can talk to Him just as we talk to our other friends. He says, "Come to me and tell me all your troubles." You can tell Him anything. You can say anything to the Lord Jesus you want to say.
If you find His way hard, tell Him so. He does not get angry, and He does not turn away from you. Why should we not tell Him everything? He already knows everything about us!
Yes, our Lord gives Himself to us in experience. David says, "O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). Either that is a wild figure of speech that must be discarded as visionary, or it means something. I think it means something.
I believe the Holy Spirit was saying through David, "You have taste buds in your soul for tasting, for experiencing spiritual things. Taste and experience that God is good!" Our shortcoming in spiritual experience is our tendency to believe without confirmation.
God Himself does not need to confirm anything within His being. But we are not God. We are humans, and in matters of our faith we need confirmation within ourselves.
Why are so many Christian believers ineffective, anemic, disappointed, discouraged? I think the answer is that we need confirmation within ourselves and we are not getting it.
I have no doubt that God, in love and grace and mercy, awaits to confirm His presence among those who will truly hunger and thirst after righteousness. For a long while I have been on record insisting that true spiritual experience is conscious awareness, illustrated early in the Old Testament by Abram's personal realization and knowledge of the presence of God.
In the Christian church, genuine spiritual experience goes back to the apostles—actually back to our Lord Himself. I do not refer to a dream while a person sleeps. I do not refer to something a person has buried in his or her subconsciousness. I refer to a conscious intelligence, an awareness.
The human personality has a right to be consciously aware of a meeting with God. There will be a spiritual confirmation, an inward knowledge or witness.
I repeat: Experience is conscious awareness. This kind of confirmation and witness was taught and treasured by the great souls through the ages.
Conscious awareness of the presence of God! I defy any theologian or teacher to take that away from the believing church of Jesus Christ!
But be assured they will try. And I refer not just to the liberal teachers. God has given us the Bible for a reason. That reason is so it can lead us to meet God in Jesus Christ in a clear, sharp encounter that will burn on in our hearts forever and ever!
There are teachers whom I call "textualists" who often put the Bible ahead of God. A textualist is someone who magnifies the Bible text to the disregard of the God who inspired the text. He—or she—holds the Bible in such a way that no one can see the light.
When the Bible has led us to God and we have experienced God in the crisis of encounter, then the Bible has done its first work. That it will continue to do God's work in our Christian lives should be evident.
Yet I have heard some people say only doctrine is important. They would leave no room for Christian experience. But consider the preaching and the example of the famed Jonathan Edwards, used so mightily by God in the Great Awakening throughout New England in the 18th century.
But, you say, Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist!
I know. And that is my point. Edwards was acknowledged by society to have been one of the greatest intellects of his time and one of the most powerful and successful ministers in history. He wrote a forceful book, Religious Affections, which in his day meant religious emotions. Edwards was not a Methodist. He was not a member of the Salvation Army. If he had been either, the fundamentalists of the day would have spiked him with the comment, "Well, he is an Arminian, you know!"
No, Edwards was a Calvinist. But he believed in genuine Christian experience so positively that he wrote his book in defense of Christian emotions. Charged by some that his revivals had too much emotion in them, Edwards stood forth and proclaimed that when men and women meet God, accepting His terms, they experience an awareness that lifts their hearts to rapture.
After all, what higher privilege and experience is granted to mankind on earth than to be admitted into the circle of the friends of God?
Abraham, called in the Bible the father of the faithful, demonstrated in many ways that he had experienced the reality of another and better world. He saw that sphere, that kingdom in which a living God reigns and rules and still encourages men and women to become His friends.
God, being perfect, has capacity for perfect friendship. Man, with his imperfections, can never quite know perfection in anything, least of all in his relationship to the incomprehensible Godhead.
Intellect, self-consciousness, love, goodness, holiness, pity, faithfulness—these and certain other attributes are the points where likeness between God and man may be achieved. It is here that Divine-human friendship is experienced.
It is well for us to remember that Divine-human friendship originated with God. Had God not first said "You are My friends," it would be inexcusably brash for any man to say, "I am a friend of God." But since God claims us for His friends, it is an act of unbelief to deny the offer of such a relationship.
When we consider the reality of this God-mankind relationship, we are considering the truth and reality of genuine Christian experience. Genuine Christian experience must always include an encounter with God Himself.
The spiritual giants of old were those who at some time became acutely conscious of the presence of God. They maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives.
The first encounter may have been one of terror, as when "an horror of great darkness" fell upon Abraham or as when Moses at the burning bush hid his face because he was afraid to look upon God. But reading on, we learn that this fear soon lost its terror and changed rather to a delightful awe. Finally it leveled off into a reverent sense of complete nearness to God.
The essential point is this: These were men who met and experienced God! How otherwise can the saints and prophets be explained? How otherwise can we account for the amazing power for good they have exercised over countless generations?
Is it not that indeed they had become friends of God? Is it not that they walked in conscious communion with the real Presence and addressed their prayers to God with the artless conviction that they were truly addressing Someone actually there?
Let me say it again, for certainly it is no secret. We do God more honor in believing what He has said about Himself and coming boldly to His throne of grace than by hiding in a self-conscious humility.
Those unlikely men chosen by our Lord to serve and minister as His closest disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ. But Jesus said to them, "Ye are my friends."
The Spirit of God has impelled me to preach and write much about the believer's conscious union with Christ—a union that must be felt and experienced. I will never be through talking about the union of the soul with the Savior, the conscious union of the believer's heart with Jesus.
Remember, I am not talking about a theological union only. I am speaking also of a conscious union, a union that is felt and experienced.
As a preacher and minister of Christ's gospel, I have never been ashamed to tell my congregations that I believe in feelings. I surely believe in what Jonathan Edwards termed religious affections.
That is man's perspective.
I also am aware that from God's perspective there are qualities in the Divine Being that can never be explained by intellect. They can only be known by the heart, the innermost being of man. John said it long ago: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). So it is best for us to confess that as humans we have difficulty in really understanding what God has said when He says that He loves us.
Do you follow me when I say that love can only be understood by the feeling of it? Think of the warmth of the sun during a summer day. Tell a person in the arctic that it is a warm day and he will not understand what you mean. But take him out in the blazing rays of an American summer and he will soon know that it is a warm day! You can know more about the sun by feeling than you can by description.
For men and women who have met God, we may say that the sun—the Son—has come up in their hearts and His warmth and light have given them a distinguishing radiance. They have the inner witness!
Perhaps you will agree with me when I say sadly that the average evangelical Christian is without this radiance. Instead of an inner witness, he or she too often is found substituting logical conclusions drawn from Bible texts. There is no witness, no encounter with God, no awareness of inner change.
The whole point that I am making about the fellowship of a person with God is this: where there is a divine act within the soul, there will be a corresponding awareness. This act of God is its own evidence. It addresses itself directly to the spiritual consciousness.
It is within this context of awareness and fellowship and communion with God that I would comment on three abiding elements of Christian experience and spiritual life. These are elements that are always the same among men and women who have had a personal meeting with God.
First, these great souls always have a compelling sense of God Himself, of His person and of His presence. While others would want to spend their time talking about a variety of things, these godly men and women, touched by their knowledge of God, want to talk about Him. They are drawn away from a variety of mundane topics because of the importance of their spiritual discoveries.
Second, it is plain that the details and the significance of their personal experiences remain sharp and clear with true spiritual meaning.
But a word of caution. I am not referring to any need or formula for identical Christian experiences. We ought to be fully aware that in the body of Christ we are not interested in the production of "cookie-cutter" Christians. It is actually a tragic thing for believers to try to be exactly like each other in their Christian faith and life.
Let me also put in a word here about our Christian testimonies. I have always treasured the humble testimonies of those who have found joyous radiance within their beings because they have met Jesus Christ and know Him as Savior and Lord. I am probably overly cautious about testifying to my own experiences because I do not want anyone to be tempted to try to copy anything the Lord has done for me. God has given each of us an individual temperament and distinct characteristics. Therefore it is the office of the Holy Spirit to work out as He will the details in Christian experience. They will vary with the personality.
Certainly we can be sure of this: whenever a person truly meets God in faith and commitment to the gospel, he will have a consciousness and a sharp awareness of the details of that spiritual transaction.
The third element is the permanent and life-changing nature of a true encounter with God. The experience may have been brief, but the results will be evident in the life of the person touched as long as he or she lives.
To summarize: We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.
I must also add another word of balance. We know that the emotional life is a proper and noble part of a man or woman's total personality. But by its very nature it is of secondary importance. Religion lies in the will and so does righteousness.
God never intended that such a being as mankind should become the mere plaything of his or her feelings. The only good that God recognizes is the willed good. The only valid holiness is a willed holiness. That is why I am always a little suspicious of the overly bubbly Christian who talks too much about himself or herself and not enough about Jesus.
Then, I am always a little worried about the "hope-so" Christian who cannot tell me any of the details of his or her Christian experience.
And, finally, I am more than a little concerned about the professing Christian whose experience does not seem to have resulted in a true inner longing to be more like Jesus every day in thought, word and deed.CHAPTER 2
"I Will Pay Any Price"
Abraham was on his face, God was on the throne
I happen to believe that Abraham's encounters with the living God nearly 4,000 years ago leave modern men and women without excuse.
Abraham stands for every believer. His eager and willing faith becomes every Christian's condemnation. On the other hand, his fellowship with God becomes every believer's encouragement.
If there is a desire in your heart for more of God's blessing in your life, turn your attention to the details of Abraham's encounters with God. You will find yourself back at the center, at the beating heart of living religion.
It is profitable for us to remember that when he was still Abram, living in a segment of the world that we now identify as Syria, humans were completely occupied with a wide variety of gods. Religious expressions were based on many forms of pagan idolatry.
Remember, too, that at that point in history, almost 2,000 years before the coming of Jesus Christ into our world, Abraham had no Bible and no hymnal. He had no church and no godly religious traditions for guidance. He could not turn to a minister or an evangelist for spiritual help.
Abraham had only his own empty, hungry heart. That and the manifestation of the God who reveals Himself to men and women who desire to find Him and know Him!
The Bible informs us that Abraham heard the word of the Lord—an audible communication from a living, eternal Being. It was a revelation that takes us back to the ancient fountain of true worship, back to the roots of a living and meaningful religion. It takes us back to a time before there were churches, denominations and forms of worship—things we now take for granted. But remember, Abraham predated them all.
The Lord God was about to do something special in our sinful world. He needed a man who would believe and trust and obey just because God is God!
Abraham was that man. In the course of his fellowship with God, Abraham heard the Lord say, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.... A father of many nations have I made thee" (Genesis 17:1-2, 5).
Abraham had a glorious and continuing experience with the Almighty God. And spiritual experience is as real and valuable yet today as at any time in the history of God's dealing with mankind.
Excerpted from Men Who Met God by A.W. Tozer, Gerald B. Smith. Copyright © 1986 Zur Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Posted March 1, 2015