A Negative Gospel

One of my most favorite men of all time is A.W. Tozer – he has touched my heart in ways that I can’t even begin to explain. I was talking to my mother the other day, and we were discussing whom we would like to meet and talk to if we could meet any old preacher from years ago, and one of the first men that came to mine was Tozer. He was passionate, always willing to preach the truth. His own conversion is something that inspires me greatly, you see, when he was on his way home from work, he passed a street preacher who told him, “If you don’t know how to be saved, just call on God and ask Him to be merciful to you, a sinner.” and he took that man’s words to heart, and when he arrived at home, he prayed and asked the Lord for forgiveness and salvation. From that day on, he was never the same. In 1919, only five years after he was saved (without any formal theological training, I might add.) Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church! And so began his ministry. When he began to observe the church (not just his, but the churches all around him.) he saw that it was beginning a downward spiral towards compromising with the world.

He was born into poverty and was mostly self-educated, teaching himself the things that he missed out on in High School and College due to a bad home situation. In 1950, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Wheaton College, and it was in May of that same year that he was elected editor of a magazine, now called Alliance Life. From his first editorial, titled Quality vs Quantity dated June, 1950, he wrote, “It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.” In 1952, he received an honorary LL.D. degree.

He and his wife and their seven children lived a simple life, and even after he became a well known author, he signed away most of his royalties to those who he felt were in need. He spent his last few years in Toronto, Canada, where he died of a heart attack. His last message was titled, “The Waning Authority of Christ in churches.” which was published three days after his death in the magazine. Tozer said, “Among the gospel churches Christ is in fact little more than a beloved symbol. . . . The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten, but it has been mostly relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion.”

So, why am I telling you this?  Simple. It’s important for us to put a face and a life to a name that we most likely know. Some of you may have heard of A.W. Tozer before this post (I hope you all know of him) and some of you may have even read some of his books, but maybe, you don’t know his story. It’s important to know the man behind the books so that we may see how important his words truly are, and how he allowed God to lead him. A.W. Tozer was often negative, talking about sin, and Hell, and the need for repentance. He was honest with people, whether they were believers or unbelievers, as we see in these quotes I’ll leave below:

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”

“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”

“The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly
has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”

“Christians don’t tell lies they just go to church and sing them.”

As you can tell, A.W. Tozer had very little concern for offending others. If he offended people, he was happy knowing that he was convicting them and thus doing what the Lord calls us all to do. As he said in the quote in the image at the top of this post, when he heard people saying he preached too negatively, he simply told them that he was preaching the Gospel. And, as much as we may dislike it, the Gospel can be quite negative. It would do us good to remember that, although Christ has paid our debts and saved us if we are Christians, the wages of sin is still death for those who have not already accepted Him as their Savior. If we refrain from preaching the negative part of the Bible – the judgement and wrath of God, Hell, damnation, the necessity of repentance – then no one will ever be saved, because you can not be saved if you think your sin is okay and will be accepted by God!

Galatians 5:19-21  When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

He often preached against the church using entertainment and other things to draw in a crowd, saying that it was simply a distraction from Satan. (“I believe that entertainment and amusements are the work of the Enemy to keep dying men from knowing they’re dying; and to keep enemies of God from remembering that they’re enemies.” A.W. Tozer.) He believed that the church was, and still is, in desperate need for a true revival. When he observed the world, he saw that it was “perishing for a lack of the knowledge of God” and the Church was “famishing for want of His presence.” and he was not shy about telling this to everyone he met.
Why was he so bold? He saw that the world and the church of Christ was going down a very bad path towards sin, and because he saw this, he had an obligation to God to tell others about this and warn them. Just as we do now. We have a lot to learn from preachers like Tozer.
“Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token homage to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is ABOVE, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choice he makes day after day throughout his life.”
He, unlike most Pastor’s today, was willing to call out sinners and their sin, and to allow the sin to be exposed. He wanted the sin to be exposed so that it could be removed! He wanted for people to make their choice, to stop straddling the fence. He will remind us of many Biblical preachers as he warned the church like the disciples did in the earlier days. Where has this passion gone? How often do you see Pastor’s willing to expose the sin? Most of them now simply want to sweep it under the rug for two reasons, 1.) They don’t want to offend people. 2.) They don’t want the world to look in, see the imperfections and realize that they to are imperfect shepherds and can not control their flock.
“Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.”

“We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals…The tragic results of this spirit all all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies…the glorification of men, trust is religious externalities….salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such of these are the symptoms of an evil disease.”

“To be effective the preacher’s message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God’s present voice to a particular people.”

One of his biggest passions was for the church, and we should take notes on this. Most of our churches will claim to want revival but they are not willing to let go of their sin in order to take it! God wants to give us revival but revival can not happen if we continue on in our sin, seeking entertainment more than desiring to worship God, seeking to have our ears tickled rather than listen to the Gospel that should alarm, arouse and challenge us. We fill our church with things of the world then wonder why God is not present!

I will end this post with one last quote from Tozer,

“Acquaint thyself with God.”

Instead of worrying about seeming negative, smile when people persecute you, when people say that you are too negative or judgemental, knowing that you are preaching the Bible.



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