Excerpted from In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer

by James L. Snyder

I like a pipe organ in church, especially where the preacher is a modernist. I enjoy counting the pipes and trying to guess which palm the console is hidden behind while the preacher distills his learned doubts over the congregation. - pg. 9

Samuel Boggs, late head of the Gideons, was a great lay preacher. He used to preach a thought-provoking sermon called, “Unknown Disciples.” What a glorious company they were, those heroes and heroines of the Bible, whose deeds were recorded but whose names were not given!

There is another book kept by the One who never slumbers nor forgets, and in that book the anonymous great have their names as well as their deeds recorded. After all, a deed without a name is better than a name without a deed. - pg. 9

It is a dangerous and costly practice to consult men every time we reach a dark spot in the Scriptures. We do not overlook the importance of the gift of teaching to the Church, but we do warn against the habit of taking by blind faith the opinions of men - even good men. A few minutes of earnest prayer will often give more light than hours of reading the commentaries. The best rule is: Go to God first about the meaning of any text. Then consult the teachers. They may have found a grain of wheat you had overlooked. - pg. 9-10

I am fully convinced that no man on earth knows or can know enough to seriously threaten the foundations of our faith. The most that honest scholarship can ever do is to strip away some of the moss that clings to the strong pillars upon which the Church of God rests. - pg. 14

The true follower of Christ will not ask, “If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?” Rather he will say, “This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!” - pg. 14-15

There are few sadder sights than that of an old man who has outlived his generation and his usefulness, but who, for some reason, still lingers on, staring with crusty disfavor at any servant of the Lord, however humble, who may be for the moment in a place of prominence in the Kingdom of God. - pg. 15

The glory of God is the health of the universe; the essential soundness of things requires that He be honored among created intelligences. - pg. 15

While I have no doubt that the grace which has followed me since my boyhood will continue with me while I live on earth and for an eternity after, I have enjoyed already enough of God’s benefits to supply me with matter for constant praise for at least a thousand years to come. If God were to close my account tomorrow and refuse any longer to honor me with His favors, the circumstances of His grace to me so far would require that I should still thank Him unceasingly with tears of honest gratitude. - pg. 25-26

The warfare of the Christian is like foreign missions, romantic to talk about but drably realistic to live through. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs provides a delightful thrill in the reading, but I doubt that any of the martyrs themselves enjoyed their dying as much as we enjoy reading about them. - pg. 26

The work of Christ on the cross did not influence God to love us, did not increase that love by one degree, did not open any fount of grace or mercy in His heart. He had loved us from eternity, and needed nothing to stimulate that love. The cross is not responsible for God’s love; rather it was His love which conceived the cross as the one method by which we could be saved. - pg. 26

There is one sure way to escape the delusions of religion: Receive Christ as Lord of our lives and begin to obey Him in everything. Submit to the truth and let it search us. Submit and obey are hard and exacting words; but necessary if we would be true Christians. - pg. 45-46

The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility. He cannot be torn from this earth one hour ahead of the time which God has appointed, and he cannot be detained on earth one moment after God is done with him here. He is not a waif of the wide world, a foundling of time and space, but a saint of the Lord and the darling of His particular care. - pg. 46

Much unworthy thinking has been done about the cross, and a lot of injurious teaching has resulted. The idea that Christ rushed in breathless to catch the upraised arm of God ready to descend fury upon us is not drawn from the Bible. It has arisen from the necessary limitations of human speech in attempting to set forth the fathomless mystery of atonement. - pg. 46

We have been redeemed not by one Person of the Trinity pitting Himself against another, but by the Three Persons working in the ancient and glorious harmony of the Godhead. - pg. 46

Our chief difficulty in dealing with God is the habit of trying to make our own terms instead of meeting the terms already laid down. With our mouths we sturdily deny that weeping has any value, but I fear that in our hearts we are often guilty of embracing the heresy of tears. We sometimes allow our natural sympathy to throw us over on the side of rebellious humanity against God Himself. - pg. 46-47

Most Christians, I find, help each other very little in ordinary conversation, and often do each other much harm. There are few who can talk for any length of time without descending to speech that is not only unprofitable but positively harmful. For myself, I get little help from the fellowship of Christians, and I am sure that up to this time they have received very little help from mine. - pg. 60

A few preachers have found a happy solution to the economic problem in the simple plan of living by faith. No one can put the economic squeeze on such a man; for as he is accountable to God alone for his ministry. God is, by the same token, responsible for his daily bread. It is impossible to starve a man into submission under this arrangement, for the servant of God lives on manna, and manna can be found wherever faith can see it. - pg. 60

If we would but quickly surrender to the will of God we could the sooner begin to enjoy His blessings. - pg. 60

The minister himself should simply carry into the pulpit on Sunday the same spirit which has characterized him all week long. He should not need to adopt another voice nor speak in a different tone. The subject matter would necessarily differ from that of his ordinary conversation, but the mood and attitude expressed in his sermons should be identical with his daily living. - pg. 71

Apart from prayer there is probably no Bible doctrine which receives so much attention as does faith, yet there are few things about which we know less. - pg. 71

One trouble with us today is that we know too many things. The whole trend of the moment is toward the accumulation of a multitude of unrelated facts without a unifying philosophy to give them meaning. The neat little digest magazines tend to encourage faith in the idea-hopping type of study. This produces an informed superficiality worse in many ways than ignorance itself. - pg. 71

The prophets and reformers of the past were men of few but mighty convictions. Their very narrowness secured high compression and gave added power to their lives. - pg. 71

In baseball a player always goes back and sits down after he strikes out. It would help matters in many a church if that rule could be applied to board members. - pg. 78

A preacher not long ago announced that he would have for his subject the next Sunday evening, “Don’t Tear Your Shirt.” He took for his text these words, “Rend your hearts and not your garments,” and preached on repentance. It is that kind of thing that makes atheists. To approach a solemn subject in such a flippant manner is inexcusable. It is time the Christian public goes on a gracious and dignified strike against such comic-strip parody of the gospel preaching. A listener said of Moody, “He was the most deadly in earnest man I ever heard.” He adorned the message he preached. - pg. 79

A church can wither as surely under the ministry of soulless Bible exposition as it can where no Bible at all is given. 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. Then, and not till then, is it the prophetic word and the man himself a prophet. - pg. 79

It is possible within the provisions of redemptive grace to enter into a state of union with Christ so perfect that the world will instinctively react toward us exactly as it did toward Him in the days of His flesh. - pg. 100

It is the Spirit of Christ in us that will draw Satan’s fire. The people of the world will not much care what we believe, and they will stare vacantly at our religious forms, but there is one thing they will never forgive us, the presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts. - pg. 100

A world of confusion and disappointment results from trying to believe without obeying. This puts us in the position of a bird trying to fly with one wing folded. We merely flap in a circle and seek to cheer our hearts with the hope that the whirling ball of feathers is proof that a revival is under way. - pg. 100-101

Many a splendid church has drifted into modernism because its leaders would not insist on the everlasting importance of the basic doctrines of the faith; and many a church split has resulted from an undue attachment to nonessentials. Contending for the faith once delivered to the saints may not always mean fighting to retain the major tenets of the Christian creed. It can mean, as well, striving to maintain a proper balance between all the doctines of the faith in their relation to each other and to the whole. Overstress the minors, and you have chaos; overlook the majors, and you have death. - pg. 101

People, not ideas, should get first attention from the preacher. Yet we find many talented men who are cold toward people but fervent in their love for ideas. Terrible as it may be, it is yet true that one may spend a lifetime propagating religious ideas with little or no love for men back of it all. - pg. 116

Plain speech is to be admired, but a lot that passes for plain is simply rude. The trouble with the man who boasts that he calls a spade a spade is that he often ends by calling everything a spade. He sneers at every tender emotion, brands with the name of spade every simple human joy, and is buried at last with a spade - the latter office being perhaps the kindest one that humble implement ever performed for him. May God keep fresh the fountain of our laughter and tears! - pg. 116

Many preachers have occasion to be thankful for the Revised Version margin. It is verily a present help in time of trouble. But I am always suspicious of any sermon that has to use crutches. If there is not plain Scripture enough to support the idea, better throw it out; it probably is not so anyway. - pg. 116

Every hope for the human race is based upon the assumption that the nature of man can be changed from what it is to what it ought to be. Were the character of the individual static, all hope for the world would perish instantly. - pg. 116-117

Am I mistaken, or have I noticed among our churches a drift toward the observation of holy days and new moons and seasons? If such a thing is true, let us revolt against it. Let us throw off the yoke of bondage which we were, at such great cost, set free. - pg. 117

The minister in charge of the weekly meetings should take pains to see that the Word is read before the congregation in a voice clear enough to be understood and loud enough to be heard by all. To take great care for the sermon, and then for public reading grab the Bible and hastily turn to the first passage that looks inviting is to place the sermon above the Word of God itself. - pg. 128

The fashion now is to tolerate anything lest we gain the reputation of being intolerant. The tender-minded saints cannot bear to see Agag slain, so they choose rather to sacrifice the health of the Church for years to come by sparing error and evil; and this they do in the name of Christian love. - pg. 128

We would do well tn seek a new appreciation of the inarticulate many who make up the body of the Church. They do a large share of the praying and pay most of the bills. Without them not a preacher could carry on, not a Bible school function. They are the flesh and sinews of the missionary program. They are the private soldiers of the Lord who do most of the fighting and get fewest decorations. The big stars of the Church get a lot of their glory now; the plain Christians must wait till the Lord returns. There will be some surpises then. - pg. 128-129

Religious habits can deceive the possessor as few things can do. As far as I know, a habit and a mud turtle are the only things in nature that can walk around after they are dead. For instance, many a man has returned thanks at the table faithfully for many years, and yet has never once really prayed from the heart during all that time. The life died out of the habit long ago, but the habit itself persisted in the form of a meaningless mumble. - pg. 129

Altar services are often rushed through in noisy haste, with a little sniffle on the part of the seeker being accepted as proof that a work of God has been done. We are so pitifully eager to get people “through” that we encourage them to “believe” and “praise” when as yet they are still in darkness. - pg. 140

We dare not be satisfied with any evangelism, however well organized and widely publicized, till it begins to produce results we can “handle” a week or a year later. - pg. 140

It will be a new day for us when we put away false notions and foolish fears and allow the Holy Spirit to fellowship with us as intimately as He wants to do, to talk to us as Christ talked to His disciples by the sea of Galilee. After that there can be no more loneliness, only the glory of the never-failing Presence. - pg. 141

If one-tenth of one per cent of the prayers made in any American city on any Sabbath day were answered, the world would see its greatest revival come with the speed of light. We seem to have gotten used to prayers that produce nothing. God still hears prayers and all the promises are still good, yet we go on at a pretty dying rate. Can someone tell us the answer? - pg. 151

I had been naive enough to believe that we had been disillusioned by the sorry performances of the personality boys of a few years ago, and that we had recovered from that form of abnormal psychology which we caught from the movies; but evidently I was too optimistic. Like malaria it’s back on us again. - pg. 151

The first work of revealed truth is to secure an unconditional surrender of the sinner to the will of God. Until this has been accomplished, nothing really lasting has been done at all. The reader may admire the rich imagery of the Bible, its bold figures and impassioned flights of eloquence; he may enjoy its tender musical passages, and revel in its strong homely wisdom; but until he has submitted to its full authority over his life, he has secured no good from it yet. - pg. 151-152

Some people spend all their time on a kind of doctrinal trapeze and never come down long enough to learn how to walk with God. Out our way they swing by their toes on the flying bar of divine soverignty, turn a double summersault, catch hold of the eternal decrees, and come up bowing on the mystery of predestination. It may be good exercise (though I suspect a little strenuous for the average heart), but I have not noticed that it makes them any holier or more Christlike. The wise words of Thomas a Kempis should not be forgotten: “It is better to feel compunction than to know the definition thereof.” - pg. 162

Just before he died I heard Dr. Reuben A. Torrey preach a sermon on the Holy Spirit. He was pretty feeble and his voice was shaky, but it was one of the greatest sermons I have ever heard, and after the passing of years the fragrance lingers. One sentence particularly remains: “We do not need to worry about getting more of the Holy Spirit, but see to it that He gets more of us. We can have all of Him if He can get all of us.” That is worth pondering. - pg. 162

On the pulpit of a famous mission appears the text: “Sirs, we would see Jesus,” a gentle reminder to the speaker to keep to his subject, Christ and Him crucified. When the pulpit is used for any other purpose than to set forth the Word of God, the glory has departed. Let us keep the Bible in the pulpit, and as far as possible keep the donkeys out! - pg. 163

The greatest danger we face from this machine age is that we will become engrossed with mechanical gadgets and forget we have hearts. Man cannot live by bread alone nor by machinery alone. The heart must be nurtured. For this reason the prophet and the poet are more important to a nation than the engineer or the inventor. Longfellow and Whittier have meant more to us than Edison or Ford. Burns’ songs have meant more to Scottland than Watts’ steam engine. - pg. 176

Someone has advanced the idea that if we would have a revival, we should begin to sing; that revivals always come on the wings of song. It is tre that revivals and song always go together, but the song is the effect of the revival, never the cause of it. Men are not revived because they sing; they sing because they are revived. It is coldness of heart that has caused us to lose the joy and zest from our singing. The revived heart will soon burst into song. - pg. 176

It would be well for us if we could learn early the futility of trying to obtain forbidden things by over-persuading God. He will not be thus stampeded. Anything that falls within the circle of His will He gives freely to whomsoever asks aright, but not days or weeks of fasting or prayer will persuade Him to alter anything that has gone out of His mouth. - pg. 176

When God sets out to really make a superior Christian, He is compelled to strip the man of everything that might serve as a false refuge, a secondary trust. He must shut the man up to Himself only, or He must give him up to be a second-rate saint. - pg. 194

One of the greatest hindrances to spiritual poise and balanced living is the tendency to accept as correct images seen out of focus. What looks to a tired eye like a strange monster walking across the brow of a distant hill may be in reality only a beetle walking across the windowpane close at hand (as every reader of Poe will remember). - pg. 194

Harmful or vain speech blocks revival and grieves the Spirit more than we are likely to realize. It destroys the accumulative effect of spiritual impressions and makes it necessary each Sunday to recapture the devotional mood which has been lost during the week. Thus we are compelled constantly to do over again the work of last week and to retake ground lost by unprofitable conversation. - pg. 194

Every ransomed man owes his salvation to the fact that during the days of his sinning God kept the door of mercy open by refusing to accept any of his evil acts as final. - pg. 211

The lone hope for a sinning man is that for a while God will not accept his sinful conduct as decisive. He will hold judgment in suspension, giving the sinner opportunity either to reverse himself by repentance or to commit the final act that will close the books against him forever. - pg. 211

It is a none too subtle form of egotism to picture ourselves as great sinners, letting our imagination mount till we see ourselves strong and dangerous rebels, after the likeness of Milton’s Satan, actually threatening the security of the throne of God. We thus dramatize ourselves to hide our pitiful weakness. - pg. 211-212

That a man, by his sin, may ruin himself and greatly injure others is true. His sin, when seen in relation to himself and others is great; but when set over against the boundless power and limitless resources of Deity, it is nothing at all. - pg. 212

In baseball a man will sometimes “play over his own head,” which is to say that he will, for a brief time, rise above his average ability as a day by day player. No manager would sign a man on such an erratic performance. He wants to know what the player is capable of doing game after game against all kinds of opposition. - pg. 212

When I say that a church is dead, I do not mean only that its members are apathetic and slow to respond to the promptings of the Spirit. I mean something more terrible than that; I mean that its words and deeds have not the Spirit of life in them. - pg. 220

The knowledge of God is the most glorious treasure anyone could possess, yet in most civilized countries there is but one institution engaged in promoting that knowledge, and even that institution is not working very hard at it. - pg. 220

There is a glorious catholicity of the saints, a mystic brotherhood of the farsighted who have long been straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the King in His beauty in the land that is very far off. With great joy and deep humility I claim membership in that brotherhood. This is the oldest and largest church in the world; it is the church of the cross-smitten, of the God-enamored. - pg. 220-221

The spiritual giants of old would not take their religion the easy way nor offer to God that which cost them nothing. They sought not comfort by holiness, and the pages of history are still wet with their blood and their tears. We now live in softer times. Woe unto us, for we have become adept in the art of comforting ourselves with power. - pg. 221

Perpetual disciples are a reproach to any teacher. We should teach men and women how to walk alone, looking only to God for support. The quicker they can get along without us, the better we have done our job as teachers. The temptation to make ourselves indispensable is very strong, but we must learn to enjoy the pain of seeing our disciples catch up with us or even pass us on the way. - pg. 229

If we could only rise above our prejudices, we should see that all God’s children bear a family resemblance to each other. And we should see also that no matter how loudly a man may protest his faith in Christ, no matter how often he may be found before the altar, if he has not the sign of the cross in his heart, he is for all his religion a man most miserable, a soul lost in the night. - pg. 229

The depths of a man’s spirituality may be known quite accurately by the quality of his public prayers. - pg. 229

To get to the truth I recommend a plain text Bible and the diligent application of two knees to the floor. Beware of too many footnotes. The rabbis of Israel took to appending notes to the inspired text, with the result that a great body of doctrine grew up which finally crowded out the Scriptures themselves. - pg. 229-230

I have on a few occasions been roasted to a rich brown over some personal idiosyncrasy which could not possibly do any harm, while the big weaknesses that really gave me trouble were either ignored altogether or made to pass for virtues! - pg. 230

”Tozer-Grams,” Excerpted from the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer, James L. Snyder, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1991.

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