Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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?


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