Going Deeper

I've been enjoying a new book I picked up last week... it's called "Keys to the Deeper Life", and has spoken very specifically to some questions and issues that have come up in my heart, mind, and life in the past year or so. Nearly 50 years ago, A.W. Tozer wrote these little essays and they are still so relevant today.

Tozer begins with a discussion of evangelical Christians and the oft-sought goal of "revival". After describing the mediocre, lukewarm faith of the church of his day, he offered this comment... how much more true I find it to be today!
A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off than it would have been if the boom had never occurred... It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.
He points to an excessive focus on scholarship and intellectual assent without a parallel dependence on the Spirit of God as a major problem within the modern church. Because of this, he says,
"...The basic doctines were there, but the climate was just not as favorable to the sweet fruits of the Spirit. ...The resultant experience is wholly mental."
Without an understanding of the Spirit at work in our hearts & lives, Tozer contends that we are left to then try to keep ourselves in line, tending either toward legalism or license, rather than leaning on the Spirit within. And that, all too often, we bend towards the world in our lifestyle as believers. Now, hold onto your hats; this next paragraph--written in 1957!!!-- is so very relevant today.
"The separating line between the Church and the world has been all but obliterated. Aside from a few of the grosser sins [although, in 2009, even those are included in the following description], the sins of the unregenerated world are now approved by a shocking number of professedly "born again" Christians, and copied eagerly. Young Christians take as their models the rankest kind of worldlings and try to be as much like them as possible. ...The moral climate is not that of the New Testament, but that of Hollywood... Most evanglicals no long initiate; they imitate, and the world is their model."
He challenges us to return to not only creedal/confessional New Testament faith, but also in our manner of life. He describes it this way: "separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross bearing..." These words are like a foreign language to most Christians of our generation. Modesty brings to mind rules about hemlines rather than an attitude of humility. Gravity brings to mind physical science laws rather than a sobreity and seriousness of person. Simplicity? Cross-bearing? These are not ideas on which we often choose to dwell.

Suppose, he asks, what would an angel think if he left the glorious, eternal presence of God, and came down to live awhile among us. Tozer (I think, rightly) contends that that angel would be shocked at the comfortable lack of spiritual focus in the lives of the average Christian today, and he offers this challenging assessment:
"The bold claims that we are sons of God, that we are risen with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places, that we are indwelt by the life-giving Spirit, that we are members of the body of Christ and children of the new creation, are negated by our attitudes, our behavior, and most of all, by our lack of fervor and the absence of a spirit of worship within us."
Indeed, he sadly states that the reason he chose the title, "Keys to the Deeper Life" was not because he is challenging the church to go deeper than the New Testament asks it to go... but "because the average Christian life is tragically shallow".


Thoughts? Comments? I confess, I have so much to learn about really walking in the Spirit and letting His fruit develop and ripen in my life. Is God convicting you of any of these areas or ideas? Are you diving deeper in the Christian life?

19 comments:

Wendy said...

Tozer is one of my favorites! He always challenges. I need to get this one too. He is so relevant even today. Thanks for sharing.

Jess said...

Wendy,
This is the first work of Tozer's that I've been privileged to read. It is SO challenging. Makes me want to read more.

Donna said...

I always enjoy reading your blog because you always talk about the things that are on my mind as well..

I would totally agree with Tozer that the average Christian life is tragically shallow. It is something God has been showing me and my husband lately.

Knowing it though is one thing, changing is another. We struggle with it daily. The only thing I know to do to effect change is to spend more and more time in the Word and conversing with our Heavenly Father. My husband quoted someone (can't remember who at the moment) who said "To be much like God, one must be much with God."

I love reading your blog and have been blessed by it so much! Thanks for sharing!

Hugs,
Donna

Holli T. said...

This book sounds great. It does indeed sound completely relevant for today. I am always longing to go deeper in my faith, and it seems I'm more like a child than I care to admit. I am so easily distracted...

Before I forget, let me add it to my Amazon shopping cart!

Holli T.

Homeschool Dawn said...

For many years, my husband and I remained in a particular denomination because it was the denomination we had grown up in. I always felt unchallenged by its teachings and frustrated by some of its doctrine. Tozer's quotes sum up how I felt about that denomination. Five years ago, we joined a church that is faithful to sound teaching and to a style of worship that does not emulate the world. I have realized in that time how much Tozer's quote describes me. I'm learning how much I need sound teaching and the "iron-sharpening-iron" fellowship of maturing believers.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and insightful!

Lisa

Anonymous said...

As long as most churches are funded through donations from congregants, it seems inevitable to me that clergy will be reluctant to challenge church members on the tough questions.

It's always going to be easier to rally people against sins that most people in the congregation would never commit (like same-sex marriage). In contrast, you run a real risk of offending people in the congregation if you speak out against widespread problems like divorce. Who's going to pay the preacher's salary when people start flocking to the other church, where they feel good during Sunday morning services?

I don't have any bright ideas for how to solve this problem.

Laurie B

Ashley L said...

Thank you so much for this post. as usual,it is very encouraging.

I have been wrestling through some of this myself, especially with regards to the whole aspect of "excessive focus on scholarship and intellectual assent." I want to grow in wisdom and knowledge, but it is so tempting to think that growing in my head knowledge means that I am growing in my faith. In some ways, of course the two are related, but until the knowledge is applied in my life, it doesn't mean anything. That is my current struggle. I want to grow in knowledge, but are my motives right and am I actually applying what I learn? Am I letting the Spirit take these principles from His word and godly men and women and transform me to be more like Him? I am very much feeling convicted of this very thing and feel like I am seeing it all around me in the church too. Thank you for the thought provoking words!

Megan at My Heart, My Home said...

Once again, Tozer gets cited and I have yet to sit down and read him myself! I agree with his insights, but like other commenters have said, "Now what?"

I find it almost humorous about his quote regarding Hollywood being made in the 50s...So scandalous!!! If only (poor thing) he saw what it was today.

It is sad that Christians primarily imitate the world. As an example, my husband is not fond of "Harvest" festivals at churches in lieu of "Halloween." To him, churches are only imitating it with non-evil innuendo.

As for your question, what are you doing to go deeper? As quaint and obvious as this should be, I am reading my Bible now on a daily, disciplined basis. Which for me is a major step up from reading it sporadically. And now since becoming a SAHW, I am finding myself able to meditate back on my readings from earlier in the day and mull them over. In short, I am already reaping spiritual benefits from initiating this simple practice.

Leah said...

I LOVE Tozer; great post Jess - our Christian life can be such an 'experience' sunday to sunday but our reality must be living in the spirit with an eternal perspective in every area of life, everyday. My (our?) generation have leaned towards being raised with an 'outward', public ministry focus; big stage, big voice, big hair (!!) but to know God is when deep calls to deep, in the quiet place, in the secret, in the early hours...in the home! That's where we hear His voice. Challenging stuff!

Alison said...

So encouraged to read this! My hubby is walking with the Lord again after a few years in darkness and the Lord has been using him to teach me these same things... My head has been full of knowledge and I have lived a very moral life and truly have loved the Lord. But I have missed what it means to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh or the world's systems. I think the main thing that we are "doing" right now to remedy this problem and to "go deeper" is to seize every thought and turn it to prayer, to reckon ourselves dead to sin, to remember that it is HIS power working in us and to live Christ's life, not our own. Not as easy to do as checking of items on a list (pray for one hour, do a Bible study on the Holy Spirit..), but it has been so good! I would highly recommend two books by Watchman Nee: Love not the World and The Normal Christian Life. He has some pretty radical thoughts, but I think that's just what we need to hear! Thanks for posting this... I'll have to read that Tozer book!
Alison

Word Warrior said...

Jess,

I remember reading this quote from Tozer and how spot on he is. Love breeds obedience--our love for Jesus Christ must be the fountainhead of all else, or we fall into one of those ditches. "If you love Me..."

Catherine R. said...

Jess, I feel like I am your cheerleader because I'm always here to give you a virtual high-five, but so be it!

This is good stuff. Really, truly, mediocrity seems more insidious a threat to us than flat out disbelief. Also, the part about our faith being "mental" is something that is a pet peeve of mine since I am not academic-minded, so I am seen as ignorant if I can't argue about rapture-tribulation etc. blah blah blah.

Once I heard an old pastor of mine say that it's not about being *informed* so much as it's about being TRANSformed. That has always stuck with me.

Ruth said...

Jess,
Going deeper is one reason I love reading your blog. The things you write about go beyond the status quo I'm used to hearing. You strike me as an intentional wife, mother and child of God who is on a quest to rise above the cultural norms that are so shallow in our generation. It is just refreshing to read the things you write about and be encouraged on this journey. Thanks for being a blessing.

Ruth from Texas

Kristi said...

I love Tozer as well. (Hi! Came from Sara's blog!) I know, especially from my own experience, that God will do whatever He wants to get my attention and help me to go deeper. Whether I am following or striving, He wants to conform me to the image of Christ.

This past year I have fought it in many ways, and more than ever I am humbled and begging God to show me His glory as He mends, heals, restores, and gives grace. That's what it all comes down to for me right now - He is giving me grace upon grace! Oh, that is good, even if it is learned the hard way!!!

I like your blog and will be returning! :) Kristi

Debra said...

Wow! That is a good and relevant word. Thank you for sharing. I am going to have to go and find that book! :)

And I love your description of your kids on the sidebar ... four neat people under six. Now that is speaking life over your family!

Debra

Robin said...

I can't really add a better comment than those above. I'm encouraged by the fact that so many of these women and you feel the same way I do. As if there is something deeper and more meaningful than what our American church promotes or envisions. Do you get the American Vision articles? I receive them daily and read yesterday's with particular interest. http://www.americanvision.org/article/the-lost-reformation/

I'm very encouraged that God seems to be working on so many people in similar ways at the same time. Perhaps another Reformation is on its way.

I'd never heard of Tozer before this entry, but I will be on the lookout now.

Thanks!!

Robin

Noel said...

Just bought the book! Tozer is always a "win!" (Not that I need yet another book!) My friends say I should start a library! :)

{Life Is Good} said...

I love coming to your blog because it makes me want to read, make the time to read. Great post.