Yesterday I was given a copy of The Root of the Righteous by A.W.Tozer. It has been a while since I read any Tozer, so I used my train journey to read a few chapters. Many of his books are made up of brief articles he wrote for his church newsletter, so essentially he was a blogger half a century early. He begins one chapter with this:
“Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living. Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God.”
This is so on target. Every bit of the brokenness we see in the world stems from people with a broken view of God. This is not only true in the world around us, but also in the church too. Every bit of the brokenness we see in the church stems from people with a broken view of God.
What is interesting about what Tozer writes here is that he doesn’t say the issue was an attack on Eve’s belief in God’s existence. It was an attack on her confidence in God’s kindness. This is so important. Too often we have allowed our view of faith to be diluted to the level of belief in God’s existence, rather than an essential trust in God’s character. So, we think, as long as people believe in God then they are more or less on the right page and that is sufficient. It is not.
One of the great and dangerous assumptions in the church today is that we all know what is meant by the term, God. Yet for many God is seen to be a distant and power-hungry being whose benevolence toward us is motivated by the arm-twisting kindness of Jesus Christ. This is a corruption of what the Bible teaches. For many, God is seen to be essentially demanding and judgmental. His justice has been separated from his love and now acts as a counter-balance to the softer or warmer features that are presented in Christian preaching. Again, a corruption.
“Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. . . . The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love.”
Tozer goes on to underline that God is just and never condones sin, but that is not a counter-balancing thought. It is precisely in the delightful fellowship of God that such undeserved kindness can gladly co-exist with the holy perfection of the fellowship of God.
Whatever concerns we may feel as we look at the church today, or as we look at our own lives, it is not too simplistic to say that these ultimately boil down to one primary issue – our view of God.
It is not enough to believe that God exists, nor is it enough to believe in a set of biblical truths about God. Christianity invites us into relationship with God where our hearts grow ever more convinced of God’s kindness and love – not just as a concept to believe, or a truth to affirm, but as a reality that is toward us.
“Unfortunately, many Christians cannot get free from their perverted notions of God, and these notions poison their hearts and destroy their inward freedom. These friends serve God grimly, as the elder brother did, doing what is right without enthusiasm and without joy.”
Tozer finishes his brief blog post with this:
“Some of us are religiously jumpy and self-conscious because we know that God sees our every thought and is acquainted with all our ways. We need not be. God is the sum of all patience and the essence of kindly good will. We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still.”
Having an accurate view of what God is like is at the very core of addressing every issue we face in our lives, in our churches and in our world today. Let’s band together, not in a pompous posse who believe they have the best answer, but as a humble band of brothers and sisters who know what is the right question. Then let’s search the Scriptures and share the riches with one another. Coming to know God’s character more is the greatest pursuit we have, and the richest resource we offer.
This post fits well with Peter’s new book, Foundations: Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t (Christian Focus), which is being released next week. We hope this little book will be a big help to lots of people.
To find out more, or to order, please visit FourBigQuestions.com