As we continue our study of A. W. Tozer’s classic book, The Pursuit of God, this month we will look at chapter 4, Apprehending God.
“God and the spiritual world are real. We can reckon upon them with as much assurance as we reckon upon the familiar world around us. Spiritual things are there (or rather we should say here) inviting our attention and challenging our trust. Our trouble is that we have established bad thought habits. We habitually think of the visible world as real and doubt the reality of any other. We do not deny the existence of the spiritual world but we doubt that it is real in the accepted meaning of the word. The world of sense intrudes upon our attention day and night for the whole of our lifetime. It is clamorous, insistent and self-demonstrating. It does not appeal to our faith; it is here, assaulting our five senses, demanding to be accepted as real and final. Sin has so clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that other reality, the City of God, shining around us. The world of sense triumphs. The visible becomes the enemy of the invisible; the temporal, of the eternal. That is the curse inherited by every member of Adam’s tragic race. At the root of the Christian life lies belief in the invisible. The object of the Christian’s faith is unseen reality. Our uncorrected thinking, influenced by the blindness of our natural hearts and the intrusive ubiquity of visible things, tends to draw a contrast between the spiritual and the real; but actually no such contrast exists. The antithesis lies elsewhere: between the real and the imaginary, between the spiritual and the material, between the temporal and the eternal; but between the spiritual and the real, never. The spiritual is real. If we would rise into that region of light and power plainly beckoning us through the Scriptures of truth we must break the evil habit of ignoring the spiritual. We must shift our interest from the seen to the unseen. For the great unseen Reality is God. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is (God is Real), and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) This is basic in the life of faith. If we truly want to follow God we must seek to be other-worldly. This I say knowing well that that word has been used with scorn by the sons of this world and applied to the Christian as a badge of reproach. So be it. Every man must choose his world. If we who follow Christ, with all the facts before us and knowing what we are about, deliberately choose the Kingdom of God as our sphere of interest I see no reason why anyone should object. If we lose by it, the loss is our own; if we gain we rob no one by so doing. The “other world,” which is the object of this world’s disdain and the subject of the drunkard’s mocking song, is our carefully chosen goal and the object of our holiest longing. But we must avoid the common fault of pushing the “other world” into the future. It is not future, but present. It parallels our familiar physical world, and the doors between the two worlds are open. The soul has eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear. Feeble they may be from long disuse, but by the life-giving touch of Christ alive now and capable of sharpest sight and most sensitive hearing. As we begin to focus upon God the things of the spirit will take shape before our inner eyes. Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead (John 14:21&23). It will give acute perception enabling us to see God even as is promised to the pure in heart. A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all. There will be seen the constant shining of “the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9) More and more, as our faculties grow sharper and more sure, God will become to us the great All, and His Presence the glory and wonder of our lives.” (See Tozer’s book in its entirety on-line at http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Tozer_Pursuit_of_God.pdf)
Here are some thoughts and applications I gleaned from this chapter: “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].” (Hebrews 11:1) Reality is objective truth and existence whether any mind ever perceives it and God and His Kingdom are the Ultimate Reality. “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these (earthly) things will be given to you also.”(Matthew 6:33) Tozer says, “faith is not imagining or visualizing (projecting ideas or images and attaching reality to them); faith creates nothing, it simply reckons upon that which is already there. Faith is the organ of our spiritual senses.”
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) We begin our relationship with God through faith in the gospel message (the Word of Christ or about Christ) and we continue to grow in faith by hearing the Word of God and applying it to our lives (i.e., obeying Him). There is a reciprocal relationship between the knowledge of God (His Word) and obeying Him as seen in these passages below (and many others). Obedience leads to increasing knowledge of God which leads us to a greater love for and intimacy with Him that leads to a greater desire to obey Him which leads to even more revelation knowledge of God. “For this reason, since the day we heard about it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking [specifically] that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [with insight into His purposes], and in understanding [of spiritual things], 10 so that you will walk (obeying God’s will) in a manner worthy of the Lord [displaying admirable character, moral courage, and personal integrity], to [fully] please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and (thus) steadily growing in the knowledge of God [with deeper faith, clearer insight and fervent love for His precepts].” (Colossians 1:9-10) “But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. 23 For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience].” (James 1:22-25) “The person who has My commandments and keeps them (obeys) is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him [I will make Myself real to him].” (John 14:21)
In summary, God and the spiritual world are real but we can be overly focused on this visible and temporal world by only using our five senses. The visible world clamors for our attention, our affections, and our investments (get it now and keep it now for myself). So we must by faith choose to focus on the other world (be God conscious and responsive to His Spirit) and we must do it now for it is now in this life we are called to be stewards of God and the gifts He gives us to steward for His purposes and glory. “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].” (Colossians 3:2) “And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward (eternal rewards in heaven).” (Luke 12:42-43) “Do not store up for yourselves [material] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” (C. T. Studd)
Tozer concludes this chapter with a powerful prayer that would serve us well to pray in our desire to Apprehend God. “O God, quicken to life every power within me, that I may lay hold on eternal things. Open my eyes that I may see; give me acute spiritual perception; enable me to taste Thee and know that Thou art good. Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been. Amen”
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen