Devotional: A. W. Tozer

Collective Writings from the Books of A.W. Tozer
  1. Within the precincts of religion are sometimes found certain sins which I want here to mention. These may be classified under three heads: Sins committed out of weakness, respectable sins more or less allowed by everyone, and sins that have been woven into the religious fabric until they have become a necessary part of it. Sins of the second category are those that exist with the sanction of or at least the connivance of the church, such as pride, vanity, self-centeredness, levity, worldliness, gluttony, the telling of "white" lies, borderline dishonesty, lack of compassion for the unfortunate, complacency, absorption in the affairs of this life, love of pleasure, the holding of grudges, stinginess, gossiping and various dirty habits not expressly forbidden by name in the Scriptures. These sins are so common that they have been accepted as normal by the average church and are either not mentioned at all or referred to in smiling half-humor by the clergy. While not as spectacular as a roaring weekend drunk or as dramatic as a violent explosion of temper, they are in the long run more deadly than either, for they are seldom recognized as sin and are practically never repented of. They remain year after year to grieve the Spirit and sap the life of the church, while everyone continues to speak the words of the true faith and go through the motions of perfunctory godliness, not knowing that there is anything wrong.
  2. A great preacher, now deceased, to whom I used often to listen with profit and delight, would sometimes shout dramatically, "God never classifies sin." His words were intended as a protest against a careless attitude toward certain forms of sin, and in their context I agree with them. Nevertheless God does classify sin and so does the law of the land, and so does the conscience of every man. As various serpents differ from each other in their power to kill, so various sins carry different kinds of venom, all bad, but not all equally bad, their power to injure depending upon the high or low concentration of iniquity they carry in them. Within the precincts of religion are sometimes found certain sins which I want here to mention. These may be classified under three heads: Sins committed out of weakness, respectable sins more or less allowed by everyone, and sins that have been woven into the religious fabric until they have become a necessary part of it. No sin is to be excused. Every sin carries its own penalty. But the sin committed on impulse or the sin committed out of weakness over the protests of the heart surely does not carry the same deadly charge as those done with brazen deliberation. From such a sin there is complete deliverance by the power of Christ; and from such there is more likely to be, since it is a grief to those who commit it.
  3. The school into which we Christians are introduced furnishes many lessons, all taught by the wisest of all teachers; but everything depends upon how we respond to them. Unfortunately many of us learn little and soon forget what little we may have learned. We can hear great preaching, as Demas heard Paul, without profit; we can meet saintly Christians without becoming stimulated to seek to live holier lives; we can see miraculous answers to prayer and be none the better for it. The providential circumstances set up the lessons; the Teacher is wise and patient; only the disciple fails to profit. A child who through negligence learns nothing in school is guilty of practicing serious waste. He is wasting the money furnished by his parents or the taxpayers, and the gifts and energies of everyone associated with the effort to teach him are wasted as well. And much the same thing may be said of the dullard Christian. He is wasting the painstaking efforts of every pastor or teacher who tries to help him. There have been a few noble souls who have managed to break through into a place of great spiritual power and purity with scarcely anyone to help them and with but the scantiest educational equipment to assist them in their search for God and holy things. Ought we not to be ashamed who are surrounded with such a wealth of aids and still learn so little? And how much suffering is wasted on us. Chastisement is a stern teacher, but there are great riches to be gained in her school. It is critically important that we enter that school with humble hearts and open minds. Yes, it is possible to go through school without learning anything. For all of us the final bell will ring soon. We had better do some hard studying before that time comes.
  4. A proverb has it that all we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. The truth of this is demonstrated plainly in the records of religious denominations. Almost every denomination began as a revolt against theological error or formality in worship, worldliness in conduct, externalism or ecclesiastical tyranny. A discontented man of great spiritual desire was joined by a few others of like mind. These had or soon received clear religious experience that gave urgency to their witness and zeal to their efforts. Usually they threw off the burden of religious complexities and turned to simplicity and inwardness. So great was the relief that those who rushed to join them felt that they had indeed recaptured the glory of the Early Church, and not one of them would have believed that their precious God-enamored band of Christians could ever forget. But they did. Or if they did not, the next generation did. It is one of the anomalies of religion that the second generation members of a spiritual movement usually go back to the bondage from which their fathers escaped such a short while before. With many sad examples to warn them they yet move as if hypnotized or sleepwalking straight back into captivity. They will not learn from others' experience. The same is true of local churches. Many of the very persons who flee the worldly confusion of a dead church for the spiritual freedom of a live one will, when elected to places of influences in the new fellowship, soon begin to introduce into that fellowship the identical practices that killed their former church and drove them from it. Little by little every unscriptural abuse, every idol, every golden calf will appear to grieve the Spirit and stifle the life of the people. And nothing anyone can say will halt this march back into the twilight.
  5. When we become Christians we enter the school of Christ. We come under the direct tutelage of the Holy Spirit and should move normally upward by stages toward spiritual perfection. But the truth is most of us do not. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt they became students in God’s school of experience, but they were slow to learn and sometimes they did not learn at all or forgot at critical moments all that they had learned. The Old Testament is helpful reading, not because of any worthy qualities it reveals about Israel but because in it we see the great kindness and long-suffering of God toward a dull and wrongheaded people who managed to go through school without learning anything. Because Israel could not or would not learn from experience they were at various times defeated, oppressed, dispossessed, and at last they were rejected outright and dispersed throughout the world. The presence of Jews in every corner of the world is a witness to this. That Israel should have learned and did not is no proof that they were more obtuse than the rest of us; it proves rather that they were very much like us. Instead of smugly condemning a nation for its folly we had better consider ourselves lest we also fall. For the record of the church is no better than that of Israel. Before the last book of the New Testament had been finished the church had started through the same cycle of learning and forgetting, rising and falling, sinning and repenting that had marked Israel in earlier times. And after the passing of 1,900 years we are still at it.