Paths to Power: Living in the Spirit's Fullness

Paths to Power: Living in the Spirit's Fullness

by A. W. Tozer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781600663475
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/1980
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 80
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

A.W. TOZER began his lifelong pursuit of God at the age of seventeen after hearing a street preacher in Akron, Ohio. A self-taught theologian, Tozer was a pastor, writer and editor whose powerful use of words continues to grip the intellect and stir the soul of today's reader. Among his best-loved books are the classics The Pursuit of God and The Attributes of God.

Read an Excerpt

Paths to Power

Living in the Spirit's Fullness

By A. W. Tozer

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 1940 Christian Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60066-347-5


Power in Action

The greatest event in history was the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to live and to die for mankind. The next greatest event was the going forth of the Church to embody the life of Christ and to spread the knowledge of His salvation throughout the earth.

It was not an easy task which the Church faced when she came down from that upper room. To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died—to have died as criminals die—and more than that, to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story? Who would put faith in one whom society had condemned and crucified? Left to herself the Church must have perished as a thousand abortive sects had done before her, and have left nothing for a future generation to remember.

That the Church did not so perish was due entirely to the miraculous element within her. That element was supplied by the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost to empower her for her task. For the Church was not an organization merely, not a movement, but a walking incarnation of Spiritual energy. And she accomplished within a few brief years such prodigies of moral conquest as to leave us wholly without an explanation—apart from God.

In short, the Church began in power, moved in power and moved just as long as she had power. When she no longer had power she dug in for safety and sought to conserve her gains. But her blessings were like the manna: when they tried to keep it overnight it bred worms and stank. So we have had monasticism, scholasticism, institutionalism; and they have all been indicative of the same thing: absence of spiritual power. In Church history every return to New Testament power has marked a new advance somewhere, a fresh proclamation of the gospel, an upsurge of missionary zeal; and every diminution of power has seen the rise of some new mechanism for conservation and defense.

If this analysis is reasonably correct, then we are today in a state of very low spiritual energy: for it cannot be denied that the modern Church has dug in up to her ears and is struggling desperately to defend the little ground she holds. She lacks the spiritual insight to know that her best defense is an offense, and she is too languid to put the knowledge into effect if she had it.

If we are to advance we must have power. Paganism is slowly closing in on the Church, and her only response is an occasional "drive" for one thing or another—usually money—or a noisy but timid campaign to improve the morals of the movies. Such activities amount to little more than a slight twitching of the muscles of a drowsy giant too sleepy to care. These efforts sometimes reach the headlines, but they accomplish little that is lasting, and are soon forgotten. The Church must have power; she must become formidable, a moral force to be reckoned with, if she would regain her lost position of spiritual ascendancy and make her message the revolutionizing, conquering thing it once was.

Since "power" is a word of many uses and misuses, let me explain what I mean by it. First, I mean spiritual energy of sufficient voltage to produce great saints once again. That breed of mild, harmless Christian grown in our generation is but a poor sample of what the grace of God can do when it operates in power in a human heart. The emotionless act of "accepting the Lord" practiced among us bears little resemblance to the whirlwind conversions of the past. We need the power that transforms, that fills the soul with a sweet intoxication, that will make a former persecutor to be "beside himself" with the love of Christ. We have today theological saints who can (and must) be proved to be saints by an appeal to the Greek original. We need saints whose lives proclaim their sainthood, and who need not run to the concordance for authentication.

Secondly, I mean a spiritual unction that will give a heavenly unction to our worship, that will make our meeting places sweet with the divine Presence. In such a holy place showy sermons and streamlined personalities will be all out of order, a very grief to the Holy Spirit, and the emphasis will fall where it belongs, upon the Lord Himself and His message to mankind.

Then, I mean that heavenly quality which marks the Church as a divine thing. The greatest proof of our weakness these days is that there is no longer anything terrible or mysterious about us. The Church has been explained, the surest evidence of her fall. We now have little that cannot be accounted for by psychology and statistics. In that early Church they met together on Solomon's porch, and so great was the sense of God's presence that "no man durst join himself to them." The world saw fire in that bush and stood back in fear; but no one is afraid of ashes. Today they dare come as close as they please. They even slap the professed bride of Christ on the back and get coarsely familiar. If we ever again impress unsaved men with a wholesome fear of the supernatural we must have once more the dignity of the Holy Spirit; we must know again that awe-inspiring mystery which comes upon men and churches when they are full of the power of God.

Again, I mean that effective energy which God has, both in biblical and in post-biblical times, released into the Church and into the circumstances surrounding her, which made her fruitful in labor and invincible before her foes. Miracles? Yes, when and where they were necessary. Answers to prayer? Special providences? All of these and more. It is all summed up in the words of the Evangelist Mark: "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the words with signs following." The whole Book of Acts and the noblest chapters of Church history since New Testament times are but an extension of that verse.

Such words as those in the second chapter of Hebrews stand as a rebuke to the unbelieving Christians of our day: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." A cold Church is forced to "interpret" such language. She cannot enter into it, so she explains it away. Not a little juggling is required, and not a few statements for which there is no scriptural authority, but anything will do to save face and justify our half-dead condition. Such defensive exegesis is but a refuge for unbelieving orthodoxy, a hiding place for a Church too weak to stand.

No one with a knowledge of the facts can deny the need for supernatural aid in the work of world evangelization. We are so hopelessly outclassed by the world's superior strength that for us it means either God's help or sure defeat. The Christian who goes out without faith in "wonders" will return without fruit. No one dare be so rash as to seek to do impossible things unless he has first been empowered by the God of the impossible. "The power of the Lord was there" is our guarantee of victory.

Lastly, by power I mean that divine afflatus which moves the heart and persuades the hearer to repent and believe in Christ. It is not eloquence; it is not logic; it is not argument. It is not any of these things, though it may accompany any or all of them. It is more penetrating than thought, more disconcerting than conscience, more convincing than reason. It is the subtle wonder that follows anointed preaching a mysterious operation of spirit on spirit. Such power must be present in some degree before anyone can be saved. It is the ultimate enabling without which the most earnest seeker must fall short of true saving faith.

Everything else being equal, we shall have as much success in Christian work as we have power, no more and no less. Lack of fruit over a period argues lack of power as certainly as the sparks fly upward. Outward circumstances may hinder for a time, but nothing can long stand against the naked power of God. As well try to fight the jagged lightning as to oppose this power when it is released upon men. Then it will either save or destroy; it will give life or bring death. "Ye shall receive power" is God's promise and God's provision. The rest waits on us.


God's Part and Man's

Failure to distinguish the part of God from the part of man in salvation has prevented countless seekers from finding peace, and left whole sections of the Church of Christ powerless for long periods of time.

Let it be boldly stated that there are some things which only God can do, and for us to attempt to do them is to waste our efforts; and there are other things Which only man can do, and for us to ask God to do them is to waste our prayers. It is vain for us to try to do the work which can only be done by sovereign grace; it is equally vain for us to implore God to do what has been commanded by sovereign authority,

Among the things which only God can do, of first importance to us is the work of redemption. Atonement was accomplished in that holy place where none but a divine Saviour could come. That glorious work owes nothing to the effort of any man; the best of Adam's race could add nothing there. It was all of God, and man could simply have no part.

Redemption is an objective fact. It is a work potentially saving, wrought for man, but done independent of and exterior to the individual. Christ's work on Calvary made atonement for every man, but it did not save any man.

Salvation is personal. It is redemption made effective toward the individual. Salvation is the work of God in the heart, made possible by the work of God on the Cross. Both the once-done work of redemption and the many-times-multiplied work of salvation are in the class of things which only God can do. No man can forgive his own sins; no man can regenerate his own heart; no man can declare himself justified and clean. All this is the work of God in man, flowing out of the work which Christ has already done for man. Universal atonement makes salvation universally available, but it does not make it universally effective toward the individual.

If atonement was made for all men, why are not all saved? The answer is that before redemption becomes effective toward the individual man there is an act which that man must do. That act is not one of merit, but of condition. And it is an act of eternal importance to us because its non-fulfillment prevents us from receiving the effective work of Christ in personal salvation. This act of appropriating salvation is one which only man can do.

The orthodoxy of our day is afraid to face this truth. We have been schooled in the doctrine of grace, and we fear to state things so baldly lest we rob grace of its glory and detract from the finished work of Christ. But it is a mistake to speak softly on a subject so vital to the soul. We should get the distinction clear and then be as bold as the truth compels us to be. We need not fear that we shall steal away the glory of God by honoring the truth He Himself has revealed. Failure to distinguish God's part from man's has resulted in mental confusion and moral inaction among Christians. Assurance and power require that we know and do the truth as revealed to us in the Sacred Word.

In the things-which-God-cannot-do category is this: God cannot do our repenting for us. In our efforts to magnify grace we have so preached the truth as to convey the impression that repentance is a work of God. This is a grave mistake, and one which is taking a frightful toll among Christians everywhere. God has commanded all men to repent. It is a work which only they can do. It is morally impossible for one person to repent for another. Even Christ could not do this. He could die for us, but He cannot do our repenting for us.

God in His mercy may "incline" us to repent and by His inworking Spirit assist us to repent; but before we can be saved we must of our own free will repent toward God and believe in Jesus Christ. This the Bible plainly teaches; this experience abundantly supports. Repentance involves moral reformation. The wrong practices are on man's part, and only man can correct them. Lying, for instance, is an act of man and one for which he must accept full responsibility. When he repents he will quit lying. God will not quit for him; he will quit for himself.

When stated thus frankly everything seems obvious enough, and we may wonder how reasonable persons could expect someone else to relieve them of their personal obligation to repent. In practice, however, and under the pressure of strong religious emotion, things are not so plain as one might suppose. The fact is, the "all has been done, you can do nothing" emphasis has caused no end of confusion among seekers everywhere. People are told they must surely perish because of what they are, not because of what they do; what they do does not enter into the picture at all. And furthermore, they can do nothing in the direction of salvation; even to suggest such a thing is to offend God: is not the horrible example of Cain enough to prove that? So they are tossed helplessly between the first Adam and the last Adam. One did their sinning for them and the other has done everything else. Thus the nerve of their moral life is cut and they sink back in despair, afraid to move lest they be guilty of sinful self-effort. At the same time they are deeply troubled with the knowledge that there is something seriously wrong with their religious lives. The remedy is to see clearly that men are not lost because of what someone did thousands of years ago; they are lost because they sin individually and in person. We will never be judged for Adam's sin, but for our own. For our own sins we are and must remain fully responsible until they have been brought for disposition to the Cross of Jesus. The idea that we can delegate repentance is an erroneous inference drawn from the doctrine of grace wrongly presented and imperfectly understood.

Another thing God cannot do: He cannot believe for us. Faith is a gift of God, to be sure, but whether or not we shall act upon that faith lies altogether within our own power. We may or we may not, as we choose. True belief requires that we change our attitude toward God. It means that we not only acknowledge His trustworthiness but go on to trust His promises and obey His commandments. That is Bible faith; anything less is self-deception. Where God is the object of faith He cannot be the subject also. The repentant sinner is the subject, and as such he must put his faith in Christ as his Saviour. This he must do for himself. God may help him, He may wait long and be patient, but He can never take his place and do the act for him.

The day when it is once more understood that God will not be responsible for our sin and unbelief will be a glad one for the Church of Christ. The realization that we are personally responsible for our individual sins may be a shock to our hearts, but it will clear the air and remove the uncertainty. Returning sinners waste their time begging God to perform the very acts He has sternly commanded them to do. He will not argue with them; He will simply leave them to their disappointment. Unbelief is a great sin; or more accurately stated, it is an evidence of sins unconfessed. Repent and believe is the order. Faith will follow repentance, and salvation will be the outcome.

Any interpretation of free grace which relieves the sinner of responsibility to repent is not of God nor in accordance with revealed truth. Nor is God responsible to help us to repent. He owes us nothing but justice. The only man who actually gets his just deserts is the man who dies in sin and goes unblessed to judgment. All others are objects of unearned mercy. To wait for God to help us to repent, or to believe that He is morally obliged to do so, is to misunderstand the whole plan of salvation.

Just what has all this to do with the lack of power in our churches? Very much indeed. Millions begin their religious lives without understanding their moral duty to God. They try to believe without having first repented. They try to have faith without intending to bring their lives into moral conformity with the will of God. Consequently they are not clear about anything. They are full of doubts and hidden perplexities. They are secretly disappointed with their lives, and are for the most part joyless and without enthusiasm. It is hard to extract much delight from uncertainty.

There is no use exhorting such would-be Christians to seek power; no use talking to them about the surrendered life. They simply cannot understand it. They listen to the sermon and then go their way, waiting in vain for God to do the things He has commanded them to do. Until this is corrected we can hope for very little power in our churches.


The Fruits of Obedience

To obey, in New Testament usage, means to give earnest attention to the Word, to submit to its authority, and to carry out its instructions.

Obedience in this sense is almost dead in modern Christianity. It may be taught now and then in a languid sort of way, but it is not stressed sufficiently to give it power over the lives of the hearers. For, to become effective, a doctrine must not only be received and held by the Church, but must have behind it such pressure of moral conviction that the emphasis will fall like a blow upon a percussion cap, setting off the energy latent within.


Excerpted from Paths to Power by A. W. Tozer. Copyright © 1940 Christian Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 Power in Action,
2 God's Part and Man's,
3 The Fruits of Obedience,
4 Miracles Follow the Plow,
5 Doctrinal Hindrances,
6 Through the Out-poured Spirit,
7 Unity and Revival,

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