During his life Dr. A. W. Tozer was known for many things: an outspoken critic of the religious scene, an outstanding preacher, an editor of a leading Christian periodical, and author of several devotional classics. The real focus, however, of his daily life centered on the worship of God. Nothing else so occupied his mind and life. This worship of God was not something tacked onto a busy schedule. It became the one great passion of his life. Everything revolved around his personal worship of God.
James L. Snyder
Tozer paid the price for this lifestyle of worship. Many, even of his own family did not understand him and his insistence on being alone. Some even regarded him as a bit odd, but what others thought of him did not trouble him in the least. His primary business was the worship of God. Nothing else mattered.
A comprehension of his passion for worship is necessary to appreciate the ministry of Tozer fully. If not, a misunderstanding, not only his words but his actions as well, is apparent. He was completely committed to this one solemn activity and pursued it with all the passion he had. Tozer hammered his ideas regarding worship into convictions that governed his life and ministry. "Worship," Tozer explained, "is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven."
Tozer walked to the beat of a different drummer, but it was not simply because he was a rebel. That may have been a small part of it, but the main factor was his complete sellout to Jesus Christ. Family, friends, even the ministry had to take a back seat to this yearning of his. Perhaps his essay, THE SAINT MUST WALK ALONE, explains to a certain degree his idea of true spirituality. His focus in life was on the person of Jesus Christ and he would do everything within his powers to sharpen that focus. All his spiritual energies and disciplines were directed in that singular path. Consequently, in a certain degree he was difficult to life with, not because he was demanding or irascible, he was simply focused on God.
At times he would come to the family dinner table, especially after the children had left, and not speak a word. Not because he was mad at anyone, he was focused on God and he would not break the focus even for fellowship around the table with friends and family. Tozer did not spend too much time working on his social graces, probably one glaring weakness in his character. Yet to do the work he believed God called him to, demanded much time away from people, shut up alone with God.
Tozer daily cultivated the ability to focus on God. He would quiet his heart and out of that quietness would come adoration and worship for the Triune Godhead.
Often at conferences Tozer seemed preoccupied. He was always musing on some aspect of God. He once claimed that he had dreams of God, so much were his thoughts directed toward the Godhead. Although quite knowledgeable on a variety of subjects and strong opinions on many of them, in later life Tozer increasingly became disengaged with them. His focus on God was getting sharper. The "art" of worship increasingly engaged his time.
The lessons Tozer learned in worship were generously shared with all who would listen. His preaching and writing were simply the clear declarations of what he had experienced in his private sessions with God. Emerging from his prayer closet dripping with the fragrance of the Presence eager to report all he had witnessed.
A close study of Tozer's ministry will warrant the simple conclusion that his ministry was not just cranking out sermons, articles and editorials. He always had something significant to report. This distinction marked his entire ministry. He firmly believed that his labor must flow from a life of worship. Any work that does not flow from worship is unacceptable to God. After all, it is God we are trying to please, not man.
Throughout his long ministry Tozer never became entangled in social or political issues. Not that he had no opinion on these subjects, for he did. His conviction was that he was responsible for sticking to the great essentials of life. That is why his writings today are just as fresh and relevant as when first published. He believed certain things never change whatever the generation. He kept to those fundamentals and you either loved Tozer or hated him. While other ministers were getting involved in political issues, Tozer contented himself with preaching about God. This was his passion.
Tozer's criticism of entertainment within the church made him quite infamous during his lifetime. His high view of worship caused him to lash out mercilessly at times. Worship was to be pure and untainted by worldly things. In his mind the two opposed each other. When someone suggested that singing a hymn was a form of entertainment it riled Tozer's fury. Some of his most eloquent denunciations were in this direction. He was justly concerned about the inroads worldliness was having in the Church and its effect upon Christians. Especially was he adamant about contemporary evangelism methods many were advocating. He felt it lowered the standards of the Church and he was dead set against it.
His comments at times are sharp but it is because of his deep love for the Church and the fellowship of God's people. He did not relish the idea of any compromise with the message or the spirit of New Testament Christianity. He truly believed the Church of Jesus Christ had a viable message for the world and was anxious that the message not be mixed or diluted. Desperate times require strong medicine. Tozer felt the Church was backing away from Her strong medicine and becoming adjusted to the world around. A phrase he detested.
He aptly described his philosophy when he said, "I believe everything is wrong until God sets it right." This is where he began and from that position he proclaimed freedom through the Lord Jesus Christ.
This book includes Tozer's booklet, THE MENACE OF THE RELIGIOUS MOVIE that sets forth in irresistible logic his conviction on this whole matter of entertainment in the church. The opinions are strong yet backed by biblical principles. Not only must the message please God but the methods of getting that message out must please God and be compatible with the character and nature of God. He continually ridiculed the idea that "new days demand new ways."
To appreciate Tozer’s criticism of entertainment fully we must examine his idea of worship. He firmly believed entertainment would undermine Christian worship and put the Church in jeopardy, a thought abhorrent to Tozer. The integrity of the Church, as Tozer saw it, was in danger of being compromised by the introduction of "things" into the sanctuary. His ideas of music, prayer, evangelism and missions sprang from the imperative of Worship within the Christian community.
We appraise the ministry of Dr. Tozer through his books and it is through his books that he continues to help those who are hungry for God. To help those fellow pilgrims along the way, the way he was most familiar. He confined all of his writing and preaching to what he knew by experience. What he preached was not mere theory or guess work but what he had discovered personally in his walk with God.
Showing what he had witnessed and the reality of the truth as it griped him invariably caught the audience up in the aura of the moment. They experienced, almost vicariously, what he has experienced. He made them see what he has seen. His descriptive ability is so powerful they see and smell and feel what he himself has experienced.
Although there is a glaring omission of social concerns, those were on the peripheral of his burden. His burden was always the individual's responsibility to God. If that obligation was in a right perspective then, Tozer reasoned, a person's duty to the world around him would fall into place. So Tozer concentrated on that one essential aspect of Christianity, the relationship to and with God.
The legacy of Tozer is in the majesty of God. Whatever else Tozer did his supreme desire was to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as simply as possible. He tried to set before his generation the importance of certain virtues such as simplicity and solitude. He had a great influence among the young preachers, and endeavored to turn them away from sham and pretense and all kinds of flesh that would creep into church politics. Tozer highly recommended getting alone with your Bible and a hymnal. It was this intimacy with God that made his ministry what it became and is remembered now.
Also, a significant aspect of this legacy is spiritual insight. Tozer saw into the nature of things so deeply it burdened him. He once remarked that if you want to be happy do not pray for discernment. Tozer had the gift of spiritual discernment. He could see through to the very nature of things and see beyond the present action to the impending result in the years to come. He could see that the way the evangelical church of his day was going they soon would be in serious spiritual trouble. His message is always to turn back to God despite the inconvenience or cost. He urged churches to forget the Madison Ave. techniques, the strategies of the world and their programs and priorities. He advocated a life of sacrifice, self?denial and service for Christ.
During his lifetime they widely recognized Tozer as a spokesman for God. His insight into spiritual matters was penetratingly accurate. He was widely read, rarely followed. Those who did have the courage to follow discovered to their delight, spiritual realities surpassing anything this world has to offer. Once seen it is difficult to go back to the religious boredom of the average Christian.
Through his ministry Tozer issued a clarion call for evangelicals to return to those authentic, personal and inward positions that characterized the Christian Church when she was most faithful to Christ and His Word.
Tozer's ministry was directed toward the common Christian, not the average. The common person in the pew could understand his message but the average Christian, delighting in mediocrity took no delight in his pronouncements and spiritual ardor. They once said of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, that he was a radical Christian. Such could be said of A. W. Tozer.
In his prayers Tozer never feigned a sanctimonious posture but maintained a continuous sense of God that enveloped him in reverence and adoration. His one daily exercise was the practice of the presence of God, pursuing Him with all his time and energy. To him, Jesus Christ was a daily wonder, a recurring astonishment, a continual amazement of love and grace.
"If you major on knowing God," Tozer once wrote, "and cultivate a sense of His presence in your daily life, and do what Brother Lawrence advises, 'Practice the presence of God' daily and seek to know the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures you will go a long way in serving your generation for God. No man has any right to die until he has served his generation."
This was the habit of Tozer. In the early days at Chicago he would often take a bus and go out to the lake early in the morning with only his Bible and spend many hours alone with God.
An ardent lover of hymns, Tozer had in his library a collection of old hymnals. Often, on the way to an appointment he would grab one of these hymnals to read and meditate. "After the Bible," he often advised, "the next most valuable book is a hymnal. Let any new Christian spend
a year prayerfully meditating on the hymns of Watts and Wesley alone, and he will become a fine theologian." Then he added, "Afterward, let that person read a balanced diet of the Puritans and the Christian mystics. The results will be more wonderful than he could have dreamed."
Tozer's search for God naturally led him to the Christian mystics. He discovered these great saints were uncontrollably in love with God. His great love and appreciation for these writers sprang out of his own heart's deep longing after and thirsting for God. "These people," Tozer would say, "know God, and I want to know what they know about God and how they came to know it." He so identified with the struggles and triumphs of certain devotional writers that many people called him a mystic, a designation to which he never objected.
Tozer's admiration for these writers did not mean he endorsed everything they did or taught. It was their utter devotion of God along with the ability to share their spiritual insights and observations that he valued. They helped him in his walk with God and that was all that really mattered. He placed great emphasis on the contemplation of divine things resulting in the God?conscious life.
Correct doctrine was not enough for Tozer. "You can be," Tozer delighted in saying, "straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually." Consequently, Tozer did not major in systematic theology. His emphasis was always on a personal relationship with God; a relationship so real, so personal and so overpowering as to utterly captivate a person's full attention. He longed for what he termed, a God?conscious soul, a heart aflame for God.
The selection in this book show Tozer's insistence on the necessity of courageous criticism of religious practices that he felt would erode the centrality of the person of Christ or make religion a form of entertainment. This became a passion in his ministry and it was this aspect of his ministry that created conflict. His outspoken stand against certain practices and trends offended some people in the Christian Church of his day. Much of what he had to say is as relevant today as when he first spoke them.
The lack of spirituality among men and women today is embarrassingly evident. Tozer zeroed in on one of the primary causes. "I am convinced," Tozer said, "that the dearth of great saints in these times even among those who truly believe in Christ is due at least in part to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God." He went on to develop this further. "Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence."
During his lifetime Tozer earned the reputation as a twentieth?century prophet. He saw through the fog of modern Christianity, pointing out the rocks on which it might founder if it continued its course. Able to express what he saw in a beautiful, simple, forceful manner, Tozer often represented the voice of God when the words of others were but echoes.
There were times when Tozer stood alone on certain issues, which never intimidated him in the least. He never concerned himself about who stood with him on any issue. His concern was always with the truth. He was fearless in his denunciation that made enemies rather quickly. He once criticized a popular new Bible translation. "Reading that new translation," opinionated Tozer, "gave me the same feeling a man might have if he tried to shave with a banana."
People waited upon Tozer's ministry with expectancy knowing that they would hear old truths robed in fresh and sparkling, sometimes startling, expressions. Tozer once said, "Years ago I prayed that God would sharpen my mind and enable me to receive everything He wanted to say to me. I then prayed that God would anoint my head with the oil of the prophet so I could say it back to the people. That one prayer has cost me plenty since, I can tell you that."