AW Tozer Daily Devotional

Tozer Devotional

Collective Writings from the Books of A.W. Tozer

It might help us also to remember that truth occurs both in the singular and in the plural. There are within the Holy Scriptures truth and truths, all inspired and all profitable, but certainly not all equally clear. Great and good men have differed about the meaning of certain texts, but all served their generation by the will of God and fell on sleep. Christ said not, "I am the truths," but "I am the Truth." He gathers up in Himself all truth and truths. To know Him is to know the Truth in living experience, but it is not to know all truths in intellectual apprehension. Let us be careful lest we see a truth in the Word and mistake it for the Truth. There is a mighty difference. It has always been a source of great delight to me to discover the hymns of the Calvinists Watts, Newton and Cowper in the hymnbook edited by John Wesley, the Arminian. And not a few of the Wesleyan hymns are bound up with the hymns of Isaac Watts published as long ago as 1823. When Wesley was dying, so we are told, he tried to sing, though his voice was all but gone from him. Someone stooped low over his bed and heard coming from his lips the whispered words of Watts' hymn,

I'll praise my Maker while I've breath, And when my voice is lost in death, Praise shall employ my nobler powers. Fine points of theology are not important at such a time.
Posted: July 18, 2018, 1:00 pm
The new convert is sure to feel the need of instruction and will drink up whatever he hears from the pulpit, accepting not only the doctrines but the emphases as well. Soon he will speak the language of his group and will speak it with their accent. Then he will judge the spirituality and orthodoxy of all other Christians as much by the accent as by the language itself. Unfortunately indoctrination of a new Christian often means no more than giving him a thorough course in partial truth with the tacit understanding that this is all there is. I am sure we do not mean to do this, but it is what too often happens nevertheless. Of course narrowness, intolerance and bigotry result from this as certainly as an oak from an acorn. I have seen the motto, "In essentials unity; in nonessentials charity," and I have looked for its incarnation in men and churches without finding it, one reason being that Christians cannot agree on what is and what is not essential. Each one believes that his fragment of truth is essential and his neighbor’s unessential, and that brings us right back where we started. Unity among Christians will not, in my opinion, be achieved short of the Second Advent. There are too many factors working against it. But a greater degree of unity might be realized if we all approached the truth with deeper humility. No one knows everything, not saint nor scholar nor reformer nor theologian. Even Solomon in all his glory must have overlooked something.
Posted: July 17, 2018, 1:00 pm
None of us should imagine that he has a perfect view of truth. The eye that can see all truth at once without distortion is surely not to be found in this world of fallen men; indeed there may be reason to question whether such an eye exists even among the saints above. Whether such perfection will be granted the redeemed in the glorified state is also doubtful, though Paul's words, "Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known," give us reason to believe that at the redemption of the body our knowledge will be vastly increased. That this cannot mean absolute knowledge, however, is clear. There can be only one Absolute. Infinitude is an attribute God cannot share with His creatures. To "know as we are known" probably means not "as fully as we are known" but rather "know by direct experience." Someone has advanced the theory that religious denominations result from differences of temperament among those who compose the larger body of Christians; that new believers tend to seek the fellowship of those whose peculiar beliefs and emphases create a climate most agreeable to their own temperament. This is an interesting hypothesis but hardly accounts for all the facts. A denomination is but "the lengthened shadow of a man," and the man whose shadow it is must have had powerful convictions concerning certain particular truths or he would not have founded the denomination in the first place. Those who are born into the denomination adopt its views without realizing that there are any others. The religious maverick who (as this writer) was converted to Christ out of a nonreligious home without denominational preference or prejudice is likely to attach himself to the first and nearest Christian fellowship that offers itself.
Posted: July 16, 2018, 1:00 pm
The soul of man, says Matthew Arnold, is a mirror suspended on a cord, turning in every breeze, always reflecting what is before it but never reflecting more than a small part of the whole. The size of the mirror varies from man to man, but no one is able to comprehend the vast panorama that lies before and around us. The mental giant has a larger mirror, to be sure, but even the largest is pathetically small. As long as we know that our view of truth is partial we can preserve that humbleness of mind appropriate to the circumstances; but let us once get the notion that our view is total and we become intellectually intolerant. Let us become convinced that ours is the only sensible view and our ability to learn dies instantly.
Posted: July 15, 2018, 1:00 pm
Wesley believed in the freedom of the will, but he saw also the necessity of a prevenient working of divine grace in the heart before the lost man can repent. In a manner characteristic of him he transferred the impenitence of Pharaoh to himself:

Such is the stubbornness of man! So deep in me the evil lies!
Chastised a thousand times in vain, I still against Thy judgments rise;
Not all Thy judgments can convert This sinner, or this sin remove,
Unless Thou find it in Thy heart To soften mine by pardoning love. How easy it is to read the dramatic story of the Exodus without profit; but in Wesley's musical commentary everything that happened there has a meaning for the Christian. For instance, the whole matter of God turning Egypt's water into blood ceases to be a problem to cloud the mind and becomes sunshine for the heart. The words "The waters . . . Were turned to blood" receive this happy comment,

He turned their water into blood, When vengeance was His dread design:
But thanks to the incarnate God, He turned our water into wine!
Posted: July 14, 2018, 1:00 pm
A commentary, as everyone knows, is a book written by a commentator, and a commentator is one who comments on what God has said, hoping thereby to make us understand what God meant. The standard commentaries for the most part, however, make rather heavy reading. They almost always walk and if occasionally they run, they never run fast or far, and they rarely mount up with wings as eagles. For this reason I turn frequently with considerable pleasure to Charles Wesley's poetic commentary, a modest work of only 1,100 pages, printed in London in the last decade of the 18th century. Wesley admits that many of his thoughts are gleaned from others, but a deep reverence permeates the whole, and a glowing love for God and the inspired Word breathes on every page. It is possible in such a small work to touch only the shining peaks of truth, so the commentary is far from complete; but often the hymnist puts into a single stanza a happy comment which, if not so informative, is highly stimulating to the religious imagination. I offer here a few examples taken from the section on the Book of Exodus. When God told Moses to go unto Pharaoh and demand the release of Israel, Moses pleaded, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent" (Exodus 4:10). Here is a dry comment by Wesley:

How ready is the man to go Whom God hath never sent—
How timorous, diffident and slow His chosen instrument!

On the knotty problem of God hardening Pharaoh's heart Wesley offers this interpretation:

There needed, Lord, no act of Thine, If Pharaoh had a heart like mine:
One moment leave me but alone, And mine alas is turned to stone!
Posted: July 13, 2018, 1:00 pm
A commentary, as everyone knows, is a book written by a commentator, and a commentator is one who comments on what God has said, hoping thereby to make us understand what God meant. The commentary may be good if we know how to use it, harmful if we do not. Its usefulness lies in this, that it provides background material which the average Christian is not able to gather for himself and thus often proves a real aid in the study of the Bible. But it is not an unmixed blessing. It has at least three serious weaknesses. One is that it soon becomes known as an "authority." Let a man be quoted often enough and be dead long enough and he is likely to be canonized by his grateful readers and his writings given oracular standing before the Christian public. The pronouncement of a revered commentator often exercises over the mind of a Protestant a sway as tyrannical as that of a papal bull over the conscience of a Catholic. Another disadvantage of a commentary is that it tends to destroy the art of meditation. We find it easier to turn to the commentary than to brood long and lovingly over a difficult passage, waiting for the light to break. This habit of taking the quick and painless way to knowledge is particularly bad for the minister, for it often sends him into the pulpit with borrowed armor. Even if what he learned is true, he got it by consultation instead of by meditation and the quality is sure to be impaired. A third weakness of the commentary, or at least of the commentary habit, is that it makes for a uniformity of belief not only on major theological tenets, which is desirable, but on minor ones, which is not. Let a hundred preachers lean on Matthew Henry or Adam Clarke. Then let each preacher be heard by 500 parishioners each Sunday for a year. Result: you have thousands of Christians accepting as divine truth the religious opinions of two good and wise men, opinions which may in the first place have been nothing more than educated guesses. And yet, in spite of these drawbacks, a commentary is a good and useful tool for any Christian to own
Posted: July 12, 2018, 1:00 pm
To demand too much of ourselves is to admit tacitly that we have at least some degree of confidence in our native moral ability, and of course it is also to admit that our confidence in God is correspondingly weak. The man who knows himself deeply will not expect anything of himself and will not be disappointed when he fails to produce. Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, "O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself." He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter. Meister Eckhart said that when we rise above sin and turn away from it, God will act as if we had never sinned at all and will never let our past sins count against us, for He is a God of the present and takes a man as He finds him without regard to his past. Of course this all presupposes true repentance and faith and is written not to minimize sin but to magnify grace. So much for last year; but what about the year ahead? Well, there are said to be 3,000 promises in the Holy Scriptures and they are all ours if we know what to do with them. For the Christian there is no unexplored territory. "When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them." The footprint of the obedient sheep is always found within the larger footprint of the Shepherd. It is wholly impossible for us to know what lies before us, but it is possible to know something vastly more important. A quaint but godly American preacher of a generation past said it for us. "Abraham went out not knowing whither he went," said he, "but he knew Who was going with him." We cannot know for certain the what and the whither of our earthly pilgrimage, but we can be sure of the Who. And nothing else really matters.
Posted: July 11, 2018, 1:00 pm
For some of us last year was one in which we did not acquit ourselves very nobly as Christians, considering the infinite power available to us through the indwelling Spirit. But through the goodness of God we may go to the school of our failures. The man of illuminated mind will learn from his mistakes, yes even from his sins. If his heart is trusting and penitent, he can be a better man next year for last year’s fault—but let him not return again to folly. Repentance should be radical and thorough, and the best repentance for a wrong act, as Fenelon said, is not to do it again. Charles Wesley called Pharaoh "a penitent in vain" because he repented under the pressure of each plague and went back to sinning as soon as the plague was removed. In seeking to evaluate our conduct over the past year, we must be careful to avoid two opposite errors: the first is being too easy on ourselves and the second is being too hard. Contrary to what we hear constantly, especially from certain enthusiastic brethren determinedly bent on revival according to their particular idea of it, we do not always do God service by scourging ourselves. The evangelical flagellant who thinks to please God by punishing himself is as far from the truth, though in the other direction, as the rabbi who in all seriousness declared, "If there are two righteous men in the world they are myself and my son; if one, it is myself."
Posted: July 10, 2018, 1:00 pm
A popular French writer once suggested that it takes intellectual powers approaching genius to escape from the illusion of anniversaries. Not possessing such powers I can only look wistfully at the mental giant who dwells in such timeless tranquillity and make what terms I can with the circling of the spheres. I know well enough that at midnight, December 31, nothing unusual will actually happen except in my head and the heads of others like me. I will think a new year that is new only because men have arbitrarily called it so, and feel myself passing over a line that is not really there. The whole thing will be imaginary and yet I cannot quite escape the fascination of it. The Jews start the New Year on one date, and the Christians on another, and we cannot forget that the calendar has been pushed around quite a bit since men began to count time by years. Still the observation of the New Year is useful if it persuades us to slow down and let our souls catch up. And I think that is the real value of watch night services. We might do the same thing any night, but it is not likely that we will, so we may profit by taking advantage of the New Year service to examine our lives and ask of God strength to do better in the future than we have done in the past. While the backward look should be searching and realistic, it should also be brief, for as a black minister said in my hearing recently, "It's difficult to climb a mountain looking back." A quick glance over our shoulder is good, for it will sober us and remind us that we must some day give an account of the deeds done in the body.
Posted: July 9, 2018, 1:00 pm
While faith contains an element of reason, it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were no more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct and personal. Christ's coming to Bethlehem's manger was in harmony with the primary fact of His secret presence in the world in preincarnate times as the Light that lighteth every man. The sum of the New Testament teaching about this is that Christ's claims are self-validating and will be rejected only by those who love evil. Whenever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, a judgment seat is erected and each hearer stands to be judged by his response to the message. His moral responsibility is not to a lesson in religious history but to the divine Person who now confronts him. "Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight." But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing. We had better decide.
Posted: July 8, 2018, 1:00 pm
The Christmas message, when stripped of its pagan overtones, is relatively simple: God is come to earth in the form of man. Around this one dogma the whole question of meaning revolves. God did come or He did not; He is come or He is not, and the vast accumulation of sentimental notions and romantic practices that go to make up our modern Christmas cannot give evidence on one side or the other. Certain religious teachers in apostolic times refused to believe that Jesus was actually God come in the flesh. They were willing to exhaust the language of unctuous flattery to describe His glorious manhood, but they would have none of His deity. Their basic philosophy forbade them to believe that there could ever be a union of God and human flesh. Matter, they said, is essentially evil. God who is impeccably holy could never allow Himself contact with evil. Human flesh is matter, therefore God is not come in the flesh. Certainly it would not be difficult to refute this negative teaching. One would only need to demonstrate the error of the major premise, the essential sinfulness of matter, and the whole thing would collapse. But that would be to match reason against reason and take the mystery of godliness out of the realm of faith and make of it merely another religious philosophy. Then we would have rationalism with a thin Christian veneer. How long before the veneer wore off and we had only rationalism?
Posted: July 7, 2018, 1:00 pm
So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. We must not forget that the Church is the custodian of a truth so grave and urgent that its importance can not be overemphasized, and so vast and incomprehensible that even an apostle did not try to explain it; rather it burst forth from him as an astonished exclamation:

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory (1 Timothy 3:16). This is what the Church is trying to say to mankind but her voice these days is thin and weak and scarcely heard amid the commercialized clangor of "Silent Night." It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning; but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import. The same man who will check his tires and consult his road map with utmost care before starting on a journey may travel for a lifetime on the way that knows no return and never once pause to ask whether or not he is headed in the right direction.
Posted: July 6, 2018, 1:00 pm
"Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!"—Phillips Brooks. That there were in the world multiplied millions who had never heard of Christmas did not matter to our poet for the purpose of his poem. He was expressing an emotional fact, not a statistical one. Throughout the Western world we tend to follow the poet and approach Christmas emotionally instead of factually. It is the romance of Christmas that gives it its extraordinary appeal to that relatively small number of persons of the earth’s population who regularly celebrate it. So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all. A half dozen doctrinally sound carols serve to keep alive the great deep truth of the Incarnation, but aside from these, popular Christmas music is void of any real lasting truth. The English mouse that was not even stirring, the German Tannenbaum so fair and lovely and the American red-nosed reindeer that has nothing to recommend it have pretty well taken over in Christmas poetry and song. These along with merry old St. Nicholas have about displaced Christian theology.
Posted: July 5, 2018, 1:00 pm
But the Christian needs stimulation. . . . Overstimulation, however, is always bad. Certain highly emotional religious groups appear entirely incapable of carrying on unless they are aroused to a high pitch of nervous excitement which, incidentally, they mistake for the movings of the Holy Spirit. Serious as this is I still believe it is more sincere and less injurious than that new playboy type of Fundamentalism which can only exist by high voltage external stimuli. One such group recently advertised a missionary rally as a "missionary spectacular." These misguided friends simply do not see the glaring inconsistency between this and legitimate New Testament methods. No Christian should need any other stimulation than that afforded by the Word of God, the indwelling Holy Spirit and prayer. These along with the overwhelming needs of the lost world should provide all normal stimulation. Anything beyond this is unnecessary and can be dangerous.
Posted: July 4, 2018, 1:00 pm

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