In Chapter 3 of The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer teaches about the presence of God. While many Christians will understand the doctrine of the Father’s omnipresence, few have experienced the closeness that Tozer is talking about.
“God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day… That type of Christianity which happens now to be the vogue knows this Presence only in theory… According to its teachings we are in the Presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually… We are satisfied to rest in our JUDICIAL possessions and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.” *
For too many, the head knowledge has not pierced the heart. While our churches are teaching solid doctrine, there is a serious drought of those passionately longing after God.
“We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they?” *
Sermons are reduced to dry orthodoxy or mere moralism. Few, any more, are able to penetrate our hearts with the experience that Christ is in our presence. Tozer draws a parallel with the Old Testament temple and the life of a believer. People traveled from all over once a year to come to the temple to worship because that is where the presence of God, the Shekinah, was located. There was a fearful awe of His Precense. Only a veil separated the presence of God from the worshipers, which was ripped from top to bottom by God at the death of His Son. After Pentecost the presence of God was given to every believer by the Comforter or Holy Spirit. The temple of the New Testament is not a building, but the heart of all believers.
“Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?” *
In comparing the two temples, Tozer points out that there is a veil in the heart of many believers. The veil that separates us from the Holy One is our own self.
“To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.” *
This is probably the most convicting paragraph in the whole book. While we have many deep roots to this life and what this world has to offer, there is nothing we are so closely intertwined with than our own selves. Yet it is the self that must die to truly become a devoted follower of Christ. We must die to ourselves, but this is not an easy task.
“Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible Conference than in a tavern.” *
In our ‘American Idol’ and ‘Reality TV’ culture, we have made a spectacle of the ridiculous and celebrities out of those who have accomplished nothing but to be born rich. The church is not better off because we have developed our own self-interests. If Tozer’s words were true in his day, how much more are they evidenced in our churches of today?
There are very few Christians who are willing to do what it takes to become a true follower of Christ. There are few who are willing to expose their ‘self’ to the cross and let it do it’s work. It is not easy. In fact it is quite painful. But freedom cannot be had by any other means.
“In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.” *
To truly forsake this life of slavery to sin and satan, we must take up the cross and die to self. Then, and only then, will we be able to peek inside the veil of our hearts and experience the true presence of God.
* Continue reading Chapter 3 of Tozer’s The Pursuit of God here.