Lam. 3:22-23 π Jn. 13:14 π Jn. 16:13 π Acts 7:48 π Acts 17:24 π 1 Cor. 5:10 π 2 Cor. 2:11 π 2 Cor. 3:18 π 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 π 2 Cor. 6:18 π Phlp. 2:4 π Tit. 2:14 π Heb. 12:7-8 π Heb. 13:8 π 2 Pet. 1:5-7
All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.
If we offer our converts something beside Christ or something in addition to Christ, we should not be disappointed if they do not run well or long. Novelty soon wears off everything, no matter how precious. When the interest begins to flag, we try to recapture it by fiery exhortations. I for one admit that I am weary of the religious pep talk. I am tired of being whipped into line, of being urged to work harder, to pray more, to give more generously, when the speaker does not show me Christ. This is sure to lead to a point of diminishing return and leave us exhausted and a little bored with it all. And from there we may easily grow backwards and become smaller and less fervent than when we were first converted…
The sum of all this is that nothing can preserve the sweet savor of our first experience except to be preoccupied with God Himself. Our little rill is sure to run dry unless we keep it replenished from the fountain. Let the new convert know that if he would grow instead of shrink he must spend his nights and his days in communion with the Triune God. (“The Wasp and the Church Member,” pp. 128-129)
We have been seeing throughout this series that the “church” most often gives new converts precisely something other than or something in addition to Christ. And the race the spiritual converts run is a short dash that fizzles out into the “dull religious routine” of faithful “church” attendance.
Because the “church” does not have Christ (or has some mixture of Christ and something else), the “church” leadership must look for tactics that might generate interest (and income!). Tozer gives here a list of common tactics resorted to to keep “the faithful” faithful to the “church.”
Novelty – the need for something new – is a legitimate (albeit too often overemphasized) need of the human being. And God has something new for us every day – His mercy! ( Lam. 3:22-23 ) In addition, though the Lord never changes ( Heb. 13:8 ), His work of bringing us into all truth ( Jn. 16:13 ) and from glory to glory ( 2 Cor. 3:18; top ) is a work that continuously takes us into new and unexplored territory (at least from our perspective). If we cannot be content with this newness from God, then let us be honest and admit that the real, one, true God is not what we want but rather we want one of our own imagination, preference and creation.
Fiery exhortations are for those who are in error or rebellion and is not to be the usual diet of the sheep. One who is already truly committed to obeying the Lord most often does not need fiery exhortation. And fiery exhortations to support the “church” and clergy are in direct opposition to the will of the Lord in the listeners’ lives. Those who consistently obey the compulsion pressed upon them by fiery exhortation to exhibit interest in the “dull religious routine” of faithful “church” attendance must drown out the still, small voice of the Lord in their own hearts!
Tozer gives four variations on the “religious pep talk” so often given at “church” and his categories cover the spectrum rather well. Let’s look at these one at a time.
1) Whipped into line. Keeping sheep in their place is a lot harder when one thinks of the sheep as “mine” and this makes the “religious pep talk” all the more necessary as the “pastor” (most often a false shepherd far too outnumbered to actually and personally care for the sheep) cannot rely on the true Shepherd to enforce the “pastor’s” edicts from the pulpit. If the “pastor” were a true shepherd teaching the pure way of the Lord, he would know with certainty that any commands given were truly from the Head Shepherd and he is quite capable of disciplining His own. (see Heb. 12:7-8; top ) Where Christ is the genuine Head there is little or no need for the “religious pep talk” – this author is unable to discover a single instance of one in the New Testament!
Philip Keller, a real-life shepherd who has written books comparing the lives of sheep to following Christ, records the extent to which a shepherd will go to cure a sheep that habitually wanders off. After bringing back a wayward sheep to the fold one too many times, the shepherd will carefully and deliberately break one of the sheep’s legs. The loving care the shepherd lavishes on the sheep during its recovery almost always cures the sheep of its waywardness. Short-sighted animal rights activists will of course object but this is much kinder than allowing the animal to beat itself to death by falling off a cliff or strangling itself to death in a barbed-wire fence. The spiritual lessons should be obvious – and it should be obvious that any man (“pastor,” “elder,” “deacon” or whatever) who is trying to “break” a sheep’s “leg” apart from the direct working of the Lord is simply abusing the sheep and will have to answer to the Shepherd for everything they’ve done to the sheep!
One evidence of the true nature of the “church” is found in the way fear is used to motivate the faithful to stay faithful to the “church.” Some use burning charcoals as a metaphor, telling their congregation that if they stop coming to “church,” like a single charcoal falling from the burning fire, their “fire for the Lord” will quickly die out. But, if like charcoals all piled together, they remain in “church,” their fire will continue to burn. In truth, the fallacy of this is seen when we can recognize that the whole pile burns down this way because fire continues to need more fuel to continue burning – which is why Jesus tells His disciples to go to the ends of the earth and why He does not direct them to hunker down in large, cozy, comfort zones. This manipulation by fear is expressed in too many ways to cover here but this author – and many others personally known to this author – can attest to having hotter, brighter, purer fires truly for the Lord after being free of the “church” for many years, even while enduring long years of lonely “wilderness” experiences!
2) Urged to work harder. That this is a recurring aspect of the “religious pep talk” is further evidence that the “lumping together of burning charcoals” theory really doesn’t work in real life. If simply bringing people into the same room to hear the same religious speech was sufficient to keep the faithful zealous for good works, this aspect of the “religious pep talk” would never be needed. That it is needed says that the “church’s” discipleship methods are not only inadequate but also that the “church’s” usual routine actually inhibits and prohibits the spiritual life that causes the people of Christ to fulfill their calling to be zealous for good works. (see Tit. 2:14; top )
3) To pray more. To get the people of Christ to pray more we must give them a better example of the love of Christ – something much different than the eloquent quipster in the pulpit! (see Jn. 13:14 ) Nothing will drive a saint to his knees faster and more often than his breaking heart over the lost and stricken nature of the people around him – if his heart has been touched and trained by the compassion of Christ! When the saint truly loves the world and the family of Christ as Christ does, it is more necessary to pry that saint out of his prayer closet than to goad and prod him into it! That the “religious pep talk” routinely includes this element is evidence that the “church’s” usual routine fails to help the sheep reach spiritual maturity, the capstone of which is Christ-like agape love. (see 2 Pet. 1:5-7; top )
4) To give more generously. Giving is the very nature of God. That the “religious pep talk” so often covers this topic is evidence that something other than the nature of God is on display and being transferred through all those sermons! When the people of Christ truly repent of their self-centeredness – a trait most often catered to by the modern “church” with its flexible schedules, convenient services and comfortable settings – and are taught to genuinely look after the interests of others as well as their own (see Phlp. 2:4; top ), there will be no need to urge the people to give. When the nature of God is evident in His people, giving and receiving are the exhaling and inhaling by which His body breathes and has life to share with all.
“…when the speaker does not show me Christ,” Tozer wrote, “this is sure to lead to a point of diminishing return and leave us exhausted and a little bored with it all.” The way the “church” handles the truth of Christ produces this kind of fruit regularly! One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting to get a different result. So lo0ng as one continues to submit to the same inadequate religious routines, the results will always be emptiness, exhaustion and boredom. Only when we stop the religious hamster wheel and dismantle the religious squirrel cages – the “church” and all the little ways we retain its traditions of men and doctrines of demons – will there be opportunity for true abundant life.
“And from [this emptiness, exhaustion and boredom] we may easily grow backwards and become smaller and less fervent than when we were first converted,” Tozer wrote (emphasis added). What a strange coincidence that the “church’s” regular fruit of emptiness, exhaustion and boredom causes retardation and extinguishment of our spiritual life in Christ. Paul wrote, “…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” ( 2 Cor. 2:11; top ) It is no coincidence at all that the usual fruit of the “church” routinely deprives us of our life in Christ – it’s the necessary result and consequence of being ignorant of Satan’s device called “church”! We have no difficulty conceiving of false prophets, false apostles, false messiahs and even false shepherds and teachers – but a false “body” that usurps the place of the bride of Christ is just too much for most to envision. But this the reality of our day: we have received a whore as being the true bride of Christ and then we wonder why nothing works as it should!
Tozer’s closing paragraph says it all very well:
The sum of all this is that nothing can preserve the sweet savor of our first experience except to be preoccupied with God Himself. Our little rill is sure to run dry unless we keep it replenished from the fountain. Let the new convert know that if he would grow instead of shrink he must spend his nights and his days in communion with the Triune God. (“The Wasp and the Church Member,” pp. 129)
In order for a new (or old!) convert to spiritually mature and truly spend his days and nights with the Triune God, he would be wise to stop looking for Him in houses made by human hands. ( Acts 7:48 ; 17:24 ) Let him come out from all idolatry practiced in the name of Christ and purify himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. ( 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 ; 1 Cor. 5:10 ) Then and only then will he truly be a son of God. ( 2 Cor. 6:18; top )
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