The Pursuit of God.  By A.W. Tozer.  Harrisburg, P.A.: Christian Publications, 1958. 128 pp.  

Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng

 The book presents the doctrines of God but the teaching goes beyond laying the fundamentals of the Christian faith.  It lays the principles and practices for those who have the inner longing and hungering after God Himself. The insatiable appetite to pursue a closer and deeper relationship with God is the mark of growing Christians following their profession of faith in Christ,

 They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct "interpretations" of truth.  They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water (p. 7).

 In other words, once the individual is "saved," the young babe in Christ should experience the hunger and thirst after God but Tozer's lament is that the "whole transaction of religious [Christian] conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless" (pp.12, 13).  As a result, the contentment of receiving salvation becomes an end instead of a new beginning of a "glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead" (p. 14). What happens to those who have made a "decision" or "raised" their hands to receive Christ after an evangelistic event is a worthy question for the church to pursue.

The pursuit to know God deeper is not accredited to man's initiative nor it is man-made. It originates with God who has "put an urge within us" (p. 11) and being "made in His image we have within us the capacity to know Him" (p. 14) but the "working of that impulse is our following hard after Him" (pp. 11,12). Believers, therefore, must reciprocate with the deliberate desire and life goal to know Him and the absent of the holy desire and goal can lead to complacency and "complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth" (p. 17).  Are the programmes, methods and activities in the church delivering believers out of their complacent spirituality or merely occupying their "time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart?"  This is another concern of Tozer (p.17).

"The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things" (p. 28) and Chapter 2 shows how the possessive habit of clinging to things can be harmful to one's spiritual growth. Abraham's total surrender of Isaac to God was presented to illustrate the blessings of not allowing things or God's gift to take the place of God for Abraham had "everything, but he possessed nothing" (p. 27).  Tozer is convinced that those who are set upon the pursuit of God will experience the test of renunciation and it is most painful when those treasures to surrender involve loved relatives and friends. But, the comfort is "everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed" (pp. 28, 30). 

The spiritual experience of entering into the Presence of God can be hindered by what the author prescribed as "self-sins" and these are "self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love" and others (p. 45). He shared his disappointment that in the church, "manifestation of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders" and the promotion of "self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice" (p. 45).  The removal of self-sins requires more than mere receiving instruction on the depravity of man and the work of Christ.  It demands the experience of Galatians 2:20 in repudiating the self-life.

Believers who doubt that God can be known in personal experience will find Tozer's definition on "reality" and "reckon" perceptive in developing a sense of God-consciousness in them (Chapter 4).  The experience of being aware or conscious of God's Presence is through the cultivation of spiritual receptivity (p. 67) and the degrees of awareness can be "increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect" (p. 69). The cultivation and exercise takes time and may not appeal to  

 

a generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machine is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age [technological age] methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar (p. 69).

 Spiritual receptivity is also affected by one's ability to listen to God.  To listen, the believer must remove the misconception that the "bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather" (p. 74). The Bible must not be treated as "only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking" and "God's speaking is in the continuous present" (p. 82).  To hear God's voice, the practice of ďsilenceĒ is recommended and it is "best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us" (p. 82). The act of faith in God must be present for it is considered an "indispensable must in our pursuit of God" (p. 86).  Faith is defined functionally as a  "redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus" (p. 91). It is a habit that can be cultivated (Chapter 7).

The labour of submission is a worshipful act in the pursuit of God. Chapter 8 deals with the difficult practice of surrendering one's family, personal ambition, money, relations, health, likes, dislikes and others to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The greatest challenge is the surrendering of the "self" (Chapter 9). It means a willingness to take "God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly and not insisting upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image" (p. 101).  A life that is surrendered to God according to Tozer will make every act of life an act of worship.  The acts of performing one's role in the home, place of work, public places are not less sacred than the acts of prayer, Bible reading and church attendance. The Apostle Paul is a good example, "Paul's sewing of tents was not equal to his writing of an Epistle to the Romans, but both were accepted of God and both were true acts of worship" (p. 127). This is an echo of the Biblical principle, "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). 

The book may be an old publication but it is not outdated. The pursuit of God to develop a closer relationship with the Creator and to mature to be more Christ-like is not an outdated or old-fashion spiritual quest. Those who are looking for  "recipes" to follow the "how" of spiritual growth may be frustrated but Tozer's contributions will remain a refreshing reference to help God's hungry children find Him.

CHAPEL NOTES

BGST Chapel Message on 1st Dec 2004

by Mr Edwin Tay Ed Min

 Edwin is our alumnus (DipCS & MCS) and he has just completed a M.A. in Systematic Theology from Kingís College, University of London. He will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh.

 

The chapel message was divided into two parts: Godís Provision and Godís Providence. 

 

Godís Provision

 

Matt 6:25-34, a familiar passage that is part of Jesusí Sermon on the Mount, exhorts us not to worry about our material needs in our endeavor to live lives that belong to the kingdom of God. In it, Jesus contrasted the chief concern of the Gentiles with the chief concern that ought to characterize his disciples. The lives of the Gentiles are dominated by material concerns as indicated by the following questions: ďWhat shall we eat?ÖWhat shall we drink?ÖWhat shall we wear?Ē (Matt 6:31-2). However, the overriding concern of the Christian disciple who is of Godís kingdom, is his/her relationship with God. This is the thrust of what seeking after the kingdom of God and His righteousness is about. Material concerns are not to be allowed to dominate our lives and cause worry. On the contrary, we are to ďworryĒ about our spiritual condition in relation to God. This does not mean that we do not work and support our families but that material needs should not have first priority in the way we choose to live our lives. Jesus gives two simple reasons why this is so: first, because our heavenly Father knows what we need materially (6:32); second, He will provide for us (6:33).

The promise of Godís provision for His people was illustrated by how God provided for Edwin and his family for his theological studies at Kingís College London over the last year. Despite the financial odds due to unforseen circumstances within the family and scholarship application, Godís provision came through amazingly, especially through the love gifts of individual members of his church. Godís provision for His people is real and often overwhelmingly so when our priorities are right. It may not always be the case that God gives us an abundance of material possessions. Yet without doubt, what the promise of Christ involves is the removal of our worries as we learn to trust Him at His Word.

 

Godís Providence

 

Godís providence is God ordering, moving, and overruling every event in the history of this world for His purpose and glory. Our individual histories are included in the providence of God. Everything that happens to us as Godís people is taken up into Godís purpose and steered towards the goal of Godís own glorification.

The providence of God in our lives is a great mystery because so often we are unable to come to terms with the character of God when we consider the things that happen to us, especially events such as illness, suffering, trauma, failures in relationships, and death. In fact, we often go through a crisis of faith, not unlike that described in Psalm 73, because such events have a way of exposing the distance between our knowledge of God and our appropriation of that knowledge by faith. At such times, the promise of God in Rom 8:28-30 that relates to His providence is especially comforting and stabilizing. It assures us that everything that happens to Godís people is for their good (Rom 8:28) and counts towards their final glorification (Rom 8:29-30).

The reality of Godís providence was illustrated by Edwinís testimony of how God had had deepened his faith through his illness. He was diagnosed with bellís palsy three days after his arrival in Edinburgh. It is a condition where the seventh cranial nerve that controls the facial muscles is inflamed. As a result, he was unable to move his facial muscles on the right of his face. The cause is uncertain. Most patients obtain full recovery within six months, some a year, and still some never quite recover from its effects. Praise God, within seven weeks, he obtained full healing. God had prepared Edwin for this ordeal, for in the years 2000 and 2001, he was deeply affected by the deaths of two close friends. The truths that life is vulnerable, uncertain, and transient were impressed upon him (1 Pet 1:24). Through these events, he saw more clearly that he is to give himself to what is essential and to disallow matters of secondary importance to dominate his life. In the providence of God, his illness and the deaths of his friends deepened his faith in God and clarified Godís call upon his life.

 

Chapel Speaker on 8 December will be Mr Samuel Ratnam.

NEWS BITS

1.       Away on leave. Mr Leong Kok Weng (6-9 Dec), Dr Quek Swee Hwa (9-11 Dec), Dr Ng Peh Cheng (14-31 Dec).

2.       Dr John Lim is still warded in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Please continue to pray for him and his family.

A Blessed Birthday toÖ

Mr Calvin Tan  29/11

Dr Moira Lee  30/11

Mr Khoo See Kiang 30/11

Mr Bernard Chaing  2/12

Mr Paul Lim 3/12

Mrs Loo Hoi Loon  3/12

Mr Leong Yeng Wai  3/12

Mr Lai Pak Wah  4/12

Mr Chan Kum Soon  4/12

Mr Leong Kok Weng  5/12

Mr Daniel Lee  5/12

Mr Paul Ng  5/12

Mr Kelvin Chan  7/12

Mr Timothy Lim  7/12

Mr Bernard Chan  10/12

Ms Tessie Setiabudi  10/12

Mr Choi Suk  11/12

Mr Woo Chong Yew  11/12

Ms Agnes Cher  11/12

Ms Jenny Low  12/12

Mdm See Poh Chan  12/12

 

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