Poverty of soul has but one relief
The essence of the Christian life is communion with God. To neglect Him is to neglect the Fount of the Living, to toil and sweat from a thirsty heart. In this collection of short essays, Tozer calls us from the deserts we wander to the life we need: Christ Jesus the Lord.
For the Christian eager to bear fruit—the busy one bearing little, the young one wanting growth, or the older growing weak—The Root of the Righteous is indispensable. Incisive and encouraging, Tozer heaps truth upon truth to help you live the nourished life.
The Root of the Righteous is a favorite among fans of Tozer. In every chapter—each fewer than five pages—his penetrating wisdom will help you cultivate a pure heart, a full spirit, and a life that bears fruit, all as you abide in God.
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The Root of the Righteous
By A. W. Tozer
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1986 Lowell Tozer
All rights reserved.
The Root of the Righteous
One marked difference between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present-day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.
This appears in our attitude toward certain great Christian souls whose names are honored among the churches, as, for instance, Augustine and Bernard in earlier times, or Luther and Wesley in times more recent. Today we write the biographies of such as these and celebrate their fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the root out of which the fruit sprang. "The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit," said the wise man in the Proverbs (12:12). Our fathers looked well to the root of the tree and were willing to wait with patience for the fruit to appear. We demand the fruit immediately even though the root may be weak and knobby or missing altogether. Impatient Christians today explain away the simple beliefs of the saints of other days and smile off their serious-minded approach to God and sacred things. They were victims of their own limited religious outlook, but great and sturdy souls withal who managed to achieve a satisfying spiritual experience and do a lot of good in the world in spite of their handicaps. So we'll imitate their fruit without accepting their theology or inconveniencing ourselves too greatly by adopting their all-or-nothing attitude toward religion.
So we say (or more likely think without saying), and every voice of wisdom, every datum of religious experience, every law of nature tells us how wrong we are. The bough that breaks off from the tree in a storm may bloom briefly and give to the unthinking passerby the impression that it is a healthy and fruitful branch, but its tender blossoms will soon perish and the bough itself wither and die. There is no lasting life apart from the root.
Much that passes for Christianity today is the brief, bright effort of the severed branch to bring forth its fruit in its season. But the deep laws of life are against it. Preoccupation with appearances and a corresponding neglect of the out-of-sight root of true spiritual life are prophetic signs which go unheeded. Immediate "results" are all that matter, quick proofs of present success without a thought of next week or next year. Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure.
A tree can weather almost any storm if its root is sound, but when the fig tree which our Lord cursed "dried up from the roots" it immediately "withered away" (Mark 11:20–21). A church that is soundly rooted cannot be destroyed, but nothing can save a church whose root is dried up. No stimulation, no advertising campaigns, no gifts of money and no beautiful edifice can bring back life to the rootless tree.
With a happy disregard for consistency of metaphor the apostle Paul exhorts us to look to our sources. "Rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17), he says in what is obviously a confusion of figure; and again he urges his readers to be "rooted and built up in him" (Colossians 2:7), which envisages the Christian both as a tree to be well rooted and as a temple to rise on a solid foundation.
The whole Bible and all the great saints of the past join to tell us the same thing. "Take nothing for granted," they say to us. "Go back to the grass roots. Open your hearts and search the Scriptures. Bear your cross, follow your Lord and pay no heed to the passing religious vogue. The masses are always wrong. In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them."
A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved" (Proverbs 12:3).CHAPTER 2
We Must Give Time to God
Probably the most widespread and persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no further along than when they first believed?
Some would try to resolve the difficulty by asserting flatly that such persons were never saved, that they have never been truly regenerated. They are simply deceived professors who have stopped short of true conversion.
With a few this may be the answer, and we would accept this explanation as final did we not know that it is never the deceived professor who laments his lack of spiritual growth, but the true Christian who has had a real experience of conversion and who is sure that he is this very moment trusting in Christ for salvation. Uncounted numbers of such believers are among the disappointed ones who deplore their failure to make progress in the spiritual life.
The causes of retarded growth are many. It would not be accurate to ascribe the trouble to one single fault. One there is, however, which is so universal that it may easily be the main cause: failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.
The temptation to make our relation to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. Believing for salvation has these days been reduced to a once-done act that requires no further attention. The young believer becomes aware of a living Savior to be followed and adored.
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God. Paul was anything but an advocate of the once-done, automatic school of Christianity. He devoted his whole life to the art of knowing Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. ... That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. ... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:8, 10, 14)
Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him. Without meaning to do it we have written our serious fault into our book titles and gospel songs. "A little talk with Jesus," we sing, and call our books God's Minute, or something else as revealing. The Christian who is satisfied to give God His "minute" and to "have a little talk with Jesus" is the same one who shows up at the evangelistic service weeping over his retarded spiritual growth and begging the evangelist to show him the way out of his difficulty.
A thousand distractions would woo us away from thoughts of God, but if we are wise we will sternly put them from us and make room for the King and take time to entertain Him. Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it. God will respond to our efforts to know Him. The Bible tells us how; it is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the holy task.CHAPTER 3
God Is Easy to Live With
Satan's first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve's confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.
Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward. Inwardly they were "whited sepulchres," as our Lord Himself told them (Matthew 23:27). Their wrong conception of God resulted in a wrong idea of worship. To a Pharisee, the service of God was a bondage which he did not love but from which he could not escape without a loss too great to bear. The God of the Pharisee was not a God easy to live with, so his religion became grim and hard and loveless. It had to be so, for our notion of God must always determine the quality of our religion. Much Christianity since the days of Christ's flesh has also been grim and severe. And the cause has been the same — an unworthy or an inadequate view of God. Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be.
From a failure properly to understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today. The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing. He is austere, peevish, highly temperamental and extremely hard to please. The kind of life which springs out of such libelous notions must of necessity be but a parody on the true life in Christ.
It is most important to our spiritual welfare that we hold in our minds always a right conception of God. If we think of Him as cold and exacting, we shall find it impossible to love Him, and our lives will be ridden with servile fear. If, again, we hold Him to be kind and understanding, our whole inner life will mirror that idea.
The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. Toward the trusting sons of men His mercy will always triumph over justice.
The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive or selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.
Unfortunately, many Christians cannot get free from their perverted notions of God, and these notions poison their hearts and destroy their inward freedom. These friends serve God grimly, as the elder brother did, doing what is right without enthusiasm and without joy, and seem altogether unable to understand the buoyant, spirited celebration when the prodigal comes home. Their idea of God rules out the possibility of His being happy in His people, and they attribute the singing and shouting to sheer fanaticism. Unhappy souls, these, doomed to go heavily on their melancholy way, grimly determined to do right if the heavens fall and to be on the winning side in the day of judgment.
How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.
Some of us are religiously jumpy and self-conscious because we know that God sees our every thought and is acquainted with all our ways. We need not be. God is the sum of all patience and the essence of kindly good will. We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still.CHAPTER 4
Listen to the Man Who Listens to God
If while hearing a sermon we can fix on but one real jewel of truth we may consider ourselves well rewarded for the time we have spent.
One such gem was uncovered during a sermon which I heard some time ago. From the sermon I got one worthy sentence and no more, but it was so good that I regret that I cannot remember who the preacher was, that I might give him credit. Here is what he said, "Listen to no man who fails to listen to God."
In any group of ten persons at least nine are sure to believe that they are qualified to offer advice to others. And in no other field of human interest are people as ready to offer advice as in the field of religion and morals. Yet it is precisely in this field that the average person is least qualified to speak wisely and is capable of the most harm when he does speak. For this reason we should select our counselors carefully. And selection inevitably carries with it the idea of rejection.
David warns against the counsel of the ungodly, and Bible history gives examples of men who made a failure of their lives because they took wrong advice. Rehoboam, for instance, listened to men who had not listened to God, and the whole future of Israel was affected adversely as a consequence. The counsel of Ahitophel was an evil thing that added greatly to the iniquities of Absalom.
No man has any right to offer advice who has not first heard God speak. No man has any right to counsel others who is not ready to hear and follow the counsel of the Lord. True moral wisdom must always be an echo of God's voice. The only safe light for our path is the light which is reflected from Christ, the Light of the World.
It is especially important that young people learn whose counsel to trust. Having been in the world for such a short time they have not had much experience and must look to others for advice. And whether they know it or not, they do every day accept the opinions of others and adopt them as their own. Those who boast the loudest of their independence have picked up from someone the idea that independence is a virtue, and their very eagerness to be individualistic is the result of the influence of others. They are what they are because of the counsel they have followed.
This rule of listening only to those who have first listened to God will save us from many a snare. All religious projects should be tested by it. In this period of unusual religious activity we must keep calm and well poised. Before we follow any man we should look for the oil on his forehead. We are under no spiritual obligation to aid any man in any activity that has not upon it the marks of the cross. No appeal to our sympathies, no sad stories, no shocking pictures should move us to put our money and our time into schemes promoted by persons who are too busy to listen to God.
God has His chosen men still, and they are without exception good listeners. They can hear when the Lord speaks. We may safely listen to such men. But to no others.
Excerpted from The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Copyright © 1986 Lowell Tozer. 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.
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Table of Contents
1 The Root of the Righteous 9
2 We Must Give Time to God 13
3 God Is Easy to Live With 17
4 Listen to the Man Who Listens to God 21
5 We Must Hear Worthily 25
6 That Utilitarian Christ 29
7 On Receiving Admonition 33
8 The Great God Entertainment 37
9 Bible Taught or Spirit Taught? 41
10 The Terror of the Lord 45
11 No Regeneration without Reformation 49
12 Faith Is a Perturbing Thing 53
13 True Faith Brings Committal 57
14 The Great Disparity 61
15 Our Enemy Contentment 65
16 Christ Is the Pattern 69
17 The Cross Is a Radical Thing 73
18 We Must Die If We Would Live 77
19 Christ Died for Our Hearts 81
20 We Stand in Christ's Triumph 85
21 To Be or to Do 89
22 Make Room for Mystery 93
23 The Whole Life Must Pray 97
24 No Saviorhood without Lordship 101
25 "A Sweet Lute, Sweetly Played" 105
26 The All-importance of Motive 107
27 The Presence More Important Than the Program 111
28 The World's Most Tragic Waste 117
29 The Hunger of the Wilderness 121
30 Our Fruit Will Be What We Are 125
31 Needed: A Baptism of Clear Seeing 129
32 Narrow Mansions 135
33 The Sanctification of Our Desires 139
34 In Praise of Disbelief 143
35 Thankfulness as a Moral Therapeutic 147
36 Understanding Those Dry Spells 151
37 About Hindrances 155
38 The Uses of Suffering 159
39 Praise God for the Furnace 163
40 Victory in the Guise of Defeat 167
41 Love of the Unseen Is Possible 171
42 Something beyond Song 175
43 Three Degrees of Love 179
44 We Need Cool Heads 183
45 We Can Afford to Wait 187
46 God, the First and the Last 191
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