Ex. 32:26; 2nd π Josh. 24:15; 2nd π Jer. 2:13 π Mt. 6:23 π Mt. 24:5 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 16:13 π 1 Cor. 2:11 π 2 Cor. 7:1 π 2 Cor. 11:2-3 π 2 Cor. 11:4 π Col. 2:8 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 1 Tim. 4:1 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π Rev. 3:15 π Rev. 19:15-21
All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.
There was a time, no longer ago than the ’20s and ’30s, when a Christian knew, or at least could know, where he stood. The words of Christ were taken seriously. A man either was or was not a believer in New Testament doctrine. Clear, sharp categories existed. Black stood in sharp contrast to white; light was separated from darkness; it was possible to distinguish right from wrong, truth from error, a true believer from an unbeliever. Christians knew they must forsake the world, and there was for the most part remarkable agreement about what was meant by the world. It was that simple.
But over the last score of years a quiet revolution has taken place. The whole religious picture has changed. Without denying a single doctrine of the faith, multitudes of Christians have nevertheless forsaken the faith and are as far astray as the Modernists, who were at least honest enough to repudiate the Scriptures before they began to violate them.
Many of our best-known preachers and teachers have developed ventriloquial tongues and can now make their voices come from any direction. They have surrendered the traditional categories of religious thought. For them there is no black or white, there is only gray. Anyone who makes a claim to having “accepted Christ” is admitted at once into the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the glorious company of the apostles regardless of the worldliness of his life or the vagueness of his doctrinal beliefs.
I have listened to certain speakers and have recognized ingredients that went to make up their teachings. A bit of Freud, a dash Emile Coue, a lot of watered-down humanism, tender chunks of Emersonian transcendentalism, auto-suggestion a la Dale Carnegie, plenty of hopefulness and religious sentimentality, but nothing hard and sharp and specific. Nothing of the either/or of Christ and Peter and Paul. None of the “Who is on the LORD’s side” ( Ex. 32:26 , KJV) of Moses, or the “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” ( Josh. 24:15; top ) of Joshua; just tender pleading to “take Jesus and let Him solve your problems.”
If such as I here describe were cultists or liberals of one stripe or another I would say nothing more about it, but many of them are professed evangelicals. Press them and they will insist that they believe the Scriptures and accept every tenet of the historic Christian faith, but listen to them teach and you are left wondering. They are building upon sand; the rock of sound theology is not under them.
The notion is now pretty well disseminated throughout the ranks of current evangelicalism that love is really all that matters and for that reason we ought to receive everyone whose intention is right, regardless of his doctrinal position, granted of course that he is ready to read the Scriptures, trust Jesus and pray. The unregenerate sympathies of the fallen human heart adopt this foggy creed eagerly. The trouble is that the holy Scriptures teach nothing of the kind. (“The Way of Christ Is Still Narrow,” God Tells the Man Who Cares, pp. 65-67)
Tozer, writing around 1960, gives testimony here of a quick but dramatic transformation in the practice of following Christ. Before this shift, there were clear, distinct boundaries – in part, because law itself was respected nearly across the board in North America. The same time frame, however, beginning in the 20s and 30s with gangsters and prohibition on into the 60s with drugs and rock-n-roll, is a time of growing lawlessness – more and more people progressively doing what is right in their own eyes (at least, whatever they reasonably could hope to get away with). As the title of this chapter suggests, Tozer’s main point is that even as people have changed how they live, the way of Christ has not changed one whit. But even though Tozer accurately identified some of the major symptomatic changes, he did not, as was discussed in the introduction to this series, possess the revelation (now available) to discern the depth of where all this was going and where it was coming from. Thus Tozer saw nothing wrong with the “church” paradigm through which he filtered the truth of God – yet it is the “church” paradigm which is the root cause of most of the ills he describes.
“Without denying a single doctrine of the faith,” Tozer wrote, “multitudes of Christians have nevertheless forsaken the faith and are…far astray…” But these “Christians” are still faithful “church” members, “deacons,” “elders” and “pastors”! “The Modernists…” wrote Tozer, “were at least honest enough to repudiate the Scriptures before they began to violate them.” (emphasis added) Honest rebellion is preferable to the lukewarm fruit of the deceived multitudes who claim every tenet of the faith but who have nevertheless forsaken the faith! (see Rev. 3:15 ) This is what Tozer is saying but for some reason he does not grasp the full implications of what he has said – that the “church” is the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith. ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ; also see Mt. 24:5; top - consider who besides the “pastor” most claims to speak for God and to have His anointing to hold his position – exactly what it means to say “I am the Christ” [the anointed one])
“Many of our best-known preachers and teachers,” wrote Tozer, “have developed ventriloquial tongues and can now make their voices come from any direction.” Forked tongues is more accurate now – though most preachers and teachers are so immersed in the “church” paradigm that, though they are sincere in their beliefs, their beliefs, being the fruit of deception in their lives, are sincerely and demonically wrong. “No lie is of the truth,” John told us. ( 1 Jn. 2:21 ) Paul wrote, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” ( Col. 2:8 ) Freud, Coue, Emerson, Carnegie, humanism and religiosity certainly qualify as that! The LORD told Jeremiah, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.” ( Jer. 2:13 ) The cisterns dug by the modern “church” are dug far too close to the cess pools of modern thought and the doctrines of demons ( 1 Tim. 4:1; top ) precisely because the “church” is the apostasy.
The “church” paradigm teaches us to regularly put ourselves under the authority and speaking of one man, most often the “pastor” of the “church.” The “church” now being, as Tozer so aptly put it, “anyone who makes a claim to having ‘accepted Christ’…regardless of the worldliness of his life or the vagueness of his doctrinal beliefs.” Thus this “church” does not mind that there is absolutely no Scriptural basis for the one-man “pastor” show, the pulpit, the pews (with the attendant pew-potato mentality) or the monologue “sermon” (most often three points and a poem interspersed with lively, humorous anecdotes drawn from various books written to spice up the “pastor’s” “sermons”). When the mixed multitude is routinely mistaken for “the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the glorious company of the apostles,” anyone of any character is welcome to join and anyone who displays the proper eloquence and wields enough power to ascend to the throne and the pulpit can be the “pastor”!
In such an environment, there will never be the call to join one’s self only to the side of the Lord ( Ex. 32:26 ), to choose this day which God one will serve ( Josh. 24:15 ) nor to forsake all idolatry and purify one’s self from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. ( 2 Cor. 7:1 ) To do so would empty the building and the “pastor’s” pockets! Thus for any true sheep to place himself under the teaching and authority of this rogue “pastor” means that we must reject the quiet, still, small voice of our true Head and Shepherd, Christ Jesus, who, by His Spirit, guides us into all truth. ( Jn. 16:13; top ) This is precisely why Christians never mature and never change much. The “church” is built upon sand – the traditions of men and the doctrines of demons – “the rock of sound theology” (and sound practice!) “is not under them.”
It is interesting that Tozer saw the beginnings of two prevalent errors: “love” and tolerance (two sides of the same coin, actually). “Love Is All You Need” was a top song a few short years after Tozer’s death in 1963. The demonic made it as popular in the world as it was (and still is) in the “church.” But it is poor theology, at best. We cannot separate out the one attribute of God we like, exclude the rest of His attributes that we don’t like, and still have the God of the Scriptures. We will only have a false “God” created according to the dictates of our own intellect and emotions – a monster indeed! – and we will have committed an error on a par with separating Jesus or the Holy Spirit from the Godhead.
Tolerance too is at an all time high but it is nothing new. Paul wrote, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” ( 2 Cor. 11:2-3; top ) Let us take a minute to understand clearly what Paul is saying here.
“I put you together with Christ,” Paul says to the Corinthians, “so that you could be a chaste virgin and He could be your husband. But I fear – for your sake and that my work is in vain – because you seem to be deceived away from Him.” How was this deception manifesting among the Corinthians? Tolerance. Let us read the next verse:
“For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with [tolerate] it.” ( 2 Cor. 11:4; top )
Make no mistake here. The deceptive work of the demonic is very capable – if we allow ourselves to succumb to it – of separating us from Christ (though He is but a truly repentant heart’s cry away). Let us also note the three deceptions capable of so separating us from Christ:
1) A different Jesus. This, as we discussed above, is as common in the “church” as it is in the cults that openly change the real and historical Jesus for one of their own manufacture. The “gentle Jesus meek and mild” myth is but one “church” favorite. Some who still labor under this myth have even raised the question, “Who would Jesus kill?” and the picture accompanying this question shows Jesus pointing a gun at the leaders of countries like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc. What shortsightedness! Which one(s) will He kill? All of them if they’re still in power on the day He returns. (see Rev. 19:15-21; top ) And He won’t need the pistol either!
2) A different gospel. Today there is almost any number of varieties of “the” gospel available. By and large, they fall into three categories: intellectual, emotional and volitional.
The proponents of the intellectual gospel are absolutely convinced (in their own minds, at least) that they have the right gospel. They insist their teachings are Christocentric and kerygmatic – tossing these terms about to dismiss those whose seminary education is less than theirs – and completely miss their own arrogance and holier-than-thou self-righteousness. These resent the tone by which the true prophets denounce them as vipers and white-washed tombs and wash their hands of the whole affair by saying, “They’re just hurt and bitter and obviously I’m not the one to bring healing into their life.”
The proponents of the emotional gospel insist that all manner of foolishness is the joy and giftings of the Holy Spirit. This is that, they proclaim to follow God but then they perform all manner of behaviors that are completely dishonoring to God. Anyone who does not embrace these activities as being from God is denounced as blind, deceived and/or divisive.
The proponents of the volitional gospel insist that the true followers of Christ must obey every jot and tittle of the law and practice certain religious rituals if they would hope to go to heaven when they die. Of course, the fact that their religious rites and rituals most often violate the very laws and commandments they preach is overlooked. And the emptiness of their methods is seen for what it is when one is able to recognize that the religious requirements of these sects diminish and change whenever less people are willing to obey them.
These are the three aspects of the soul – mind, emotions and will – and there is a counterfeit “gospel” available for all who wish to partake. Make no mistake here. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ( Jn. 4:24 ) Whenever we take the spiritual gospel (which can only be made known by the Spirit of God – 1 Cor. 2:11; top ) and address it to or make it acceptable to or make it practiceable by the unassisted soul of man, we have concocted a different “gospel.”
3) A different spirit. Oh, my! We can have the right gospel and the right Jesus but possess them with a different spirit other than the Holy Spirit and be just as separated from Christ as any cultist! The demonic does not mind if we have some truth so long as they have us! To do this they need only mix a small amount of error with the truth we possess and our “light” is great darkness indeed. (see Mt. 6:23; top )
The tolerance club “church” is built on the “foggy creed” that “we ought to receive everyone whose intention is right, regardless of his doctrinal position, granted of course that he is ready to read the Scriptures, trust Jesus and pray.” As Tozer so aptly says at the end of this quote, “The trouble is that the holy Scriptures teach nothing of the kind.”
Are we going to follow God or men? The choice – as do the consequences and rewards of our choice – belongs solely to our own selves.
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