by A.W. Tozer
I have heard one of our modern Christian activists say, “I am still busy looking around for the best doctrine on holiness;’ or I don’t know when I will find a doctrine of the deeper life that is satisfactory to me!”
There is really only one answer to this kind of a quest-turn your eyes upon Jesus and commit yourself fully and completely to Him because He is God and Christ, Redeemer and Lord, “The same yesterday, today and forever!”
In these matters of spiritual blessing and victory, we are not dealing with doctrines-we are dealing with the Lord of all doctrine! We are dealing with a Person who is the Resurrection and the Life and the Source from whom flows all doctrine and all truth.
How can we be so ignorant and so dull that we try to find our spiritual answers and the abounding life by looking beyond the only One who has promised that He would never change? How can we so readily slight the Christ of God who has limitless authority throughout the universe? How long should it take us to yield completely and without reservation to this One who has been made both Lord and Christ-and yet continues to be the very same Jesus who still loves us with an everlasting love?
I never want to come to a halt, pleading that I hold the right and proper doctrines-because I know that the only righteousness I can ever possess is His righteousness imparted to me. I claim nothing and my testimony is the same as Martin Luther’s prayer: “Oh, Lord Jesus, Thou art my righteousness-I am Thy sin!”
The only sin Jesus had was mine, Luther’s and yours – and the only righteousness we can ever have is His.
Christ does not change
It seems to be very hard for us to comprehend the importance of the fact that Christ does not change and that there is no fluctuation in His character, in His nature, in His resources, in His love and mercy.
Because change is everywhere around us at all times on this earth and among human beings, it is difficult for us to grasp the eternal and unchanging nature and person of Jesus Christ. We are well aware that if we elevate a man, giving him a high position with great influence and plenty of money-he is going to change! He may not realize it and often he will deny it, but he is not going to be the same in character and attitude and habits and manner of life. He will become proud-and probably aloof and unsympathetic! He will probably have his nose up in the air and it will be hard for him to recognize his old friends.
But nothing about our Lord Jesus Christ has changed down to this very hour. His love has not changed. It hasn’t cooled off, and it needs no increase because He has already loved us with infinite love and there is no way that infinitude can be increased. His compassionate understanding of us has not changed. His interest in us and His purposes for us have not changed.
He is Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is the very same Jesus. Even though He has been raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, and made Head over all things to the Church, His love for us remains unchanged. Even though He has been given all authority and power in heaven and in earth, He is the very same Jesus in every detail. He is the same yesterday, today and forever!
It is hard for us to accept the majestic simplicity of this constant, wonder-working Jesus. We are used to getting things changed so that they are always bigger and better!
An important man in the Old Testament represents all of us in our humanity. He was afflicted with leprosy and he wanted the prophet of God to come and strike a noble pose and in a very dignified and proper way say to the leprosy, “Be gone!” But the prophet said he should take his pride in hand and go to the Jordan river and bathe in the waters of the Jordan in order to be healed. In other words, God asked him to do something very simple.
You and I are not always satisfied with the manner in which God deals with us. We would very much like to do something new, something difficult, something big and dramatic-but we are called back. For everything we need, we are called back to the simplicity of the faith, to the simplicity of Jesus Christ and His unchanging person.
The very same Jesus-a Brother who bears your image at the right hand of the Father, and who knows all your troubles and your weaknesses and sins, and loves you in spite of everything!
The very same Jesus-a Savior and Advocate who stands before the Father taking full responsibility for you and being easier to get along with than the nicest preacher you ever knew and being easier to approach than the humblest friend you ever had.
The very same Jesus-His is the sun that shines upon us, He is the star of our night. He is the giver of our life and the rock of our hope. He is our safety and our future. He is our righteousness, our sanctification, our inheritance. You find that He is all of this in the instant that you move your heart towards Him in faith. This is the journey to Jesus that must be made in the depths of the heart and being. This is a journey where feet do not count.
Good at footwork
Many of our Christians are activists-they are good at footwork and they are engaged in many religious journeys, but they do not seem to move up any closer to Jesus in heart and in spirit. This modern religious emphasis on activity reminds me of the Japanese mice that I have seen in the windows of the pet store. Don’t stop and look at them if you are the nervous type. I do not know why they call them dancing mice because they don’t waltz-they just run continually. I think they must be fundamentalists, brethren-they are on the go all the time! Some Christians seem to feel that it is a mark of spirituality to attend banquets and seminars and workshops and conferences and courses, night after night, week after week.
This naturally brings up some lessons from the New Testament record concerning the sisters, Martha and Mary. I think it was plain that Martha loved Jesus but her concept of devotion was activity. She was an active girl and she believed that because she loved the Lord, she ought to be doing something all the time to show it. Mary also loved the Lord Jesus but with a different attitude in her devotion. She was fervently occupied in spirit about the love of His Godhead! Our Lord knew the difference then and He knows the difference today.
Actually, our craze for activity brings few enriching benefits into our Christian circles. If you look into our churches, you will find groups of half-saved, half-sanctified, carnal people who know more about social niceties than they do about the New Testament; and more about love stories and soap operas than they do about the Holy Spirit.
When they get together, they have no trouble in thinking up things to do, but there is a question in my mind as to whether all of these things ought to be done in the name of the Lord!
It is not enough just to be rushing somewhere to another meeting, another discussion, another dialogue. Jesus commended Mary for knowing the value of the one thing that is necessary-that God should be loved and praised above all other business which may occupy us bodily or spiritually. Mary was fervently occupied in spirit about the love of His Godhead. I like that- although I know it sounds strange and almost heretical to our modern activists.
My plea is that we will not be satisfied to continue on as “external” Christians. The extroverted Christian lives largely for the externals of Christianity, and therefore sadly neglects his inner life and growth.
Recall what happened when Jesus said to the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Peter jumped up right away, grabbed his hat and would have been on his way, but Jesus stopped him, and said, “Not yet, Peter! Don’t go like that. Tarry until you are endued with power from on high, and then go!”
I believe that our Lord wants us to learn more of Him in worship before we become busy for Him. He wants us to have a gift of the Spirit, an inner experience of the heart, as our first service, and out of that will grow the profound and deep and divine activities which are necessary.
Years ago I heard Dr. Oliver Buswell warn that our evangelical churches were beginning to suffer from what he called “a rash of amateurism.” He didn’t know what a prophet he was-for now we have religious amateurs running in all directions!
The first thing we tell our young converts, the babes in Christ, is, “Here is a handful of tracts- now get out and get busy!”
But the Lord did not say that. He spoke about the first thing that was needful-to be fervently occupied in spirit with the love of Christ’s Godhead, and to love and praise Him above all other business, bodily or spiritual. That’s what it means to love God, to be a spiritual person-to have an ordained and measured affection plainly directed unto God Himself! This is more than a flash of spiritual feeling or emotion-it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with goose-pimples!
An ordained and measured pouring out of our love and affection-and this cannot be done with out some involvement of the emotions. But it is not like a rainy day when a cloudburst may pour itself out in a few hours-and then there may be a dry spell for weeks. It is a demonstrated love for the Lord Jesus Christ, continually pouring itself out, ordained and measured!
Knowing and loving the unchanging Christ with this kind of adoration will keep us from falling into a number of subtle traps which have long plagued unstable believers.
It will keep us from stumbling over “people.” You will continue to have your longing after God, but you will no longer stumble over the imperfections of men and women around you. It was Thomas a Kempis who wrote in The Imitation of Christ: “If thou would’st have peace of heart, do not inquire too earnestly into other men’s matters:’ If you spend time examining your Christian brother, you will find him lacking in some things. Don’t forget that all idols have feet of clay.
We have plain teaching that the Lord does not want His children to become “saint-worshippers:’
He doesn’t want you to become a preacher-worshipper or a teacher-worshipper. God wants to deliver you from the best man you know so that man can die and be removed and you won’t backslide!
Praises of people
Another thing we know is that this kind of love and devotion will keep you from stumbling over the praises of people. I am of the opinion that perhaps the praises people try to give us are more dangerous to our Christian walk than their blame. The devil wants us to believe that we are saintly and superior to other Christians – that’s the way he hooks us! That’s why he gets other people to tell us how well we are doing-and how we are passing right by other Christians who are not humble and warm-hearted “like we are!”
Every time you take a new step forward for God the devil will have some means of communicating to you the fact that God is proud of you-and that you are wonderful! As soon as he can get you interested enough to say, “Yes, I guess that’s true;’ you have had it, brother!
Now, what about the blame we often get from our fellow Christians? Are you hidden away in Christ Himself and so occupied in spirit that you take little heed of what men do or say about you? I have observed that as long as we sit frozen to our chair, making no spiritual progress, no one will bother us. No one will come and put an arm around our shoulder and urge us: “Thou hast dwelt in this mount long enough-rise therefore and go across this Jordan!”
But, if we start to cross Jordan urged on by our own spiritual thirst and desire, at least fourteen people will ask prayer for us in the concern that we are losing our minds.
During my ministry I have seldom been blamed for being cold when I was cold. People don’t come to the pastor and say, “You are no longer warm hearted-what has happened to your spiritual life?”
I have concluded that you can be backslidden, and in the rank and file of evangelical Christians no one will take any notice of it. There will be no rebuke.
On the other hand, they will jump down your throat and accuse you of showing off as soon as you start to seek God in earnest for victory and blessing! It does seem odd that we can be in the Christian faith and yet we are going to have bleeding fingernails and sore knees for every inch of ground that we take away from the devil!
That’s why so many Christians are taking so little! Many of us had actually taken more spiritual ground when we were converted than we now possess.
I picked up a little piece of printed paper on a muddy road in West Virginia many years ago. I will never know who put it there, but I know God planned that I should see it and remember it.
There was only one paragraph and it said, “There are only two things known in this universe that are bigger when they were born than when they get their growth. One is a wasp and the other is a church member.”
I don’t know about the wasp, but I do know that many church members start out with a blaze, and then they look around and decide that they should be more like other Christians-just settle down. Soon they are as backslidden as the rest. The amazing thing is that so many people can be so backslidden and never know it!
What a sad condition for Christians who are in the church of the mighty Redeemer and Deliverer who is eternally the Victor, the Rock of Ages. Why can’t we claim all that He has promised for us?
Christ is the same
In view of much of today’s dispensational teaching about Bible interpretation, the apostles, miracles of God, and the fullness of the Spirit, I must remind you that the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. That allows me to tell you something blessed and heartening which I have found to be true, and which I will stand by to the end of time.
This is my finding: there is nothing that Jesus has ever done for any of His disciples that He will not do for any other of His disciples!
Where did the “dividers get their teaching that all the gifts of the Spirit ended when the last apostle died? They have never furnished chapter and verse for that. When some men beat the cover off their Bible to demonstrate how they stand by the Word of God, they should be reminded that they are only standing by their own interpretation of the Word.
I find nothing in the Bible that says the Lord has changed. He has the same love, the same grace, the same mercy, the same power, the same desires for the blessing of His children. You will have to prove it to me if you take the position that Jesus Christ refuses to do for you something that He did for any other of His disciples! He is just the same toward everyone and everything.
His attitude toward the proud is unchanged. In the Bible record the proud men who came to Jesus got uniform treatment. Somehow, they were never able to discover that side of Jesus which is gentle and loving, kind and merciful. The proud always came up on the wrong side of Jesus, and they got that which the proud will always get from Jesus- justice and judgment, rebuke, warning and woe! It was the same with the self-righteous, the insincere, the hypocrites-they all came up on the wrong side of Jesus!
It is about time that the modern artists who paint pictures of Jesus should be told that He was not a pretty, curly-haired weakling. They should be told the truth-that He is the Christ of God and He will come riding through the skies on a white horse and with a sword at His side. He will judge the world, He will call all men to their feet and they will honor Him for His majesty, His power, His purity, and for creation itself.
He is the same Jesus-He will always be the same!
He is always the same to the meek, the mourner, the brokenhearted, the penitent sinner. His attitude is always the same towards those who love Him, the honest-hearted person. These are the people who come up to Jesus on the right side- and He never turns them away. He is ready with forgiveness. He is ready with comfort. He is ready with blessing.
He loves us
We cannot understand this readiness of Jesus to love us and help us and bless us-because He does not really need us. One of His attributes is omnipotence-so He doesn’t need us. But the secret of this-He loves us!
Think of a man who is president of a great, thriving corporation. He has cars and airplanes at his disposal and hundreds of people who will carry out his orders immediately. This great man has a three-year-old daughter. Does he need her? No, of course not, but he loves her and he wants her! His heart is responsive to her needs and desires.
So it is with us. Before we were born, God was God, the Lord God Almighty! He has never needed us. None of our human talents and abilities are significant to Him. But He needs our love and wants our love!
The Apostle John leaned his ear against the beating heart of the Son of God and the Lord recognized His love and devotion and called him “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He loved the rest of the disciples, too, but He couldn’t love them as much because they didn’t reciprocate as much.
Jesus is still just the same towards those who seek His fellowship. He wants to be with those who are occupied with the love of His Godhead! Our relationship with Him is all summed up in this simple fact-everything you need is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God!
He is God and He is the Son of Man. He is all the guilty sinner needs and He is more than the fondest expectation of the loftiest saint. We can never go beyond Him. We can never learn all that He is able to teach. We can never use all of the spiritual power and victory He is able to provide.
It is good for us to remember how strong He is- and how weak we are. I settled this issue a long time ago. I tell you I have talked to God more than I have talked to anyone else. I have reasoned more with God and had longer conferences with God than with anybody else.
And what did I tell Him? Among other things, I told Him, “Now, Lord, if I do the things I know I should do, and if I say what I know in my heart I should say, I will be in trouble with people and with groups-there is no other way!
“Not only will I be in trouble for taking my stand in faith and honesty, but I will certainly be in a situation where I will be seriously tempted of the devil!”
Then, after praying more and talking to the Lord, I have said, “Almighty Lord, I accept this with my eyes open! I know the facts and I know what may happen, but I accept it. I will not run. I will not hide. I will not crawl under a rug. I will dare to stand up and fight because I am on your side-and I know that when I am weak, then I am strong!”
So I don’t let anyone praise me and I try not to pay attention to those who would blame me; I find that this is not difficult, for I am only a servant of the holiest man that ever walked the streets of Jerusalem-and they called Him a devil!
This is how I have learned to stand fast for Christ, and all that He is to His own!
Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.
Your friend and servant in Christ Jesus,