A. W. Tozer on Spirituality in the Age of Machines

In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer indicted 20th-century Christians for their lack of patience in spiritual activities. If this was true then, how much more is it true today. In the selection below, Tozer describes the contemporary practice and then gives some of its “tragic results.”

The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 69-70.

Prayer for 2015 Kentucky Victims’ Rights Day

Today I had the opportunity to pray the prayer of invocation for the Kentucky Victims’ Rights Day Commemoration held in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol building. The event was sponsored by the Office of the Attorney General. Below is the text of the prayer that I prayed.

O God, we pray to you who King David of Israel said is “The LORD [who] works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6) and “The LORD [who] is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9) You are the one true God who hears and answers prayer.

As the Psalmist prayed, we pray today:

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. (Psalm 10:12)
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear (18) to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

As Asaph prayed, we pray today:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3-4)

As Solomon prayed, we pray today:

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! (Psalm 72:4)

We pray for those who have been victims of crimes and for the survivors of those who have been victims of crimes.

We’re thankful for this day that has been set aside to remember those who have been and are victims of crime and injustice.

We’re thankful for government’s God-ordained role in restraining evil. We pray for our government and for each citizen in the words of King Lemuel in Proverbs 31 to:

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. (9) Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

We pray these things in the name of the only 100% innocent man who ever lived, the victim of the most cruel crime ever committed, the sinless Son of God, who willingly gave Himself in the place of all who would put their trust in Him. In Jesus’ name we pray these things. Amen.

“Out of Egypt I Have Called My Son”: A Biblical Theology of Sonship

On yesterday at Farmdale Baptist Church I departed from my typical type of exposition in order to preach a message that traced the idea of sonship throughout the Old and New Testaments. You can listen to the audio below and I have included my notes beneath the audio links. 

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In Hosea’s sermon recorded in chapter 11, the familiar themes of God’s judgment, the need for repentance and hope of restoration are found. But additionally there is in this text a window into the larger story of God’s plan of redemption. There are certain texts of Scripture which provide portals into this grand story of the Bible.

Such a text is Hosea 11:1. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Here we are given a glimpse into the larger story of the coming of Jesus of which the story of Hosea is a part. We know this because the inspired writer Matthew wrote in his gospel in 2:15 that when Jesus was carried by his parents to Egypt for his safety as an infant, his subsequent return out of Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1. In Matthew 2:15, Matthew provides not only a way of interpreting Hosea 11:1, but the entire Old Testament.

Matthew interprets Hosea in the same way that Hosea interprets the Exodus. In Hosea, Israel is going back to Egypt in judgment (which typifies the impending captivity in Assyria), but a future day of restoration is coming: a new Exodus. As Matthew looks back at the Exodus through Hosea, he says that new exodus has come with the coming of Christ! In this morning’s message I would like to offer a biblical theology of sonship.

I. Adam – God’s Son through Physical Creation, Genesis 1:26-27.

In Genesis 1:26-27, man is said to have been created in the image of God.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

For this reason, Luke is able to call Adam “the son of God” in his genealogy of Jesus found in Luke 3:38. Likewise, all human beings share in this image of God and can be called the sons of God in that sense. There is a truth in the universal fatherhood of God which the liberals often speak of, but it is a partial truth (therefore an untruth). God is the father of all men through creation, but that won’t get anyone to heaven. You must become the sons of God through the new birth in order to go to heaven!

The fact that all mankind can be considered the sons of God gives the apostle Paul common ground upon which to speak in his sermon to the Greek philosophers at Mar’s Hill in Acts 17. There he said in verses 28-29:

for “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.” (29) Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

Paul elsewhere clearly states that mankind bears the image of Adam who bore the image of God, albeit imperfectly. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)

For this reason James appeals to the image of God that remains in man post-fall in James 3:8-9 by saying that we should not curse men “who are made in the likeness of God.”

II. Israel – God’s Son through National Election, Exodus 4:22.

But there is another sense in which Scripture speaks of this idea of sonship. In Exodus 4, Jehovah God is sending Moses back to Egypt to lead His people out of bondage and into the land of promise. God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh in vv. 22 and 23:

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

This is no doubt what Hosea had in mind in Hosea 11:1 when he said, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

But not only is the nation of Israel corporately spoken of as God’s son, but King David himself is promised that he would have a descendant who would be called “son” by God in 2 Samuel 7:12-14,

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (14) I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

And Isaiah raises the ante by saying that this “son” will be virgin-born and called Immanuel meaning “God with us”!

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This “Child”, this “Son” is nothing less than the “mighty God,” the ruler whose kingdom will never end!

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

III. Jesus – God’s Son through Eternal Generation, Matthew 2:15.

Jesus is qualified to be called the son of God by virtue of his human birth. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke serve to show that Jesus is the son of David, Abraham and Adam. He is the descendant of Adam and therefore the son of God by physical creation as the only true man who ever lived. He is the descendent of Abraham and therefore the son of God through national election as the true seed of Abraham. He is the descendant of David and therefore heir to the throne of Israel and the title promised to David’s seed as son!

I believe that Matthew 2:15 is one of the hinges upon which the whole story of the Bible turns. This text ties together the theme of sonship found in both testaments. There Matthew writes

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt (15) and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Commentators on both Hosea and Matthew agree. Derek Kidner in his commentary on Hosea 11:1 writes:

Not surprisingly the infant Christ, who summed up in His person all that Israel was called to be, was likewise threatened and delivered; and although the details differed, the early pattern was re-enacted in its essentials, ending with God’s Son restore to God’s land to fulfil the task marked out for Him. (Derek Kidner, Hosea, 101-102)

Similarly, Craig Blomberg in his commentary on Matthew 2:15:

Just as God brought the nation of Israel to inaugurate his original covenant with them, so again God is bringing the Messiah, who fulfills the hopes of Israel, out of Israel, out of Egypt as he is about to inaugurate his new covenant. (Craig Blomberg, Matthew in NAC, 67)

Note the parallels of Jesus’ life and Israel’s experience in Matthew 1-7.

  • A wicked ruler
  • Murdered infants
  • Sojourn in Egypt
  • Departure from Egypt
  • Baptism Jordan River / Passing through Red Sea
  • Temptation in Wilderness
  • Sermon on Mount (New Covenant) / Mount Sinai (Old Covenant)

But if Israel failed in the Wilderness to obey the demands of the Old Covenant, Jesus succeeded. As D.A. Carson has noted,

In fact, Jesus is often presented in the New Testament as the antitype of Israel; that is, the true and perfect Israel who does not fail. If Israel is likened to a vine that produces disgusting fruit (Isa. 5), Jesus is the true vine who brings forth good fruit (John 15). If Israel wandered in the wilderness 40 years and was frequently disobedient in the course of many trials and temptations, Jesus was sorely tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, but was perfectly obedient (Matt. 4:1-11). Israel in the Old Testament is the Lord’s son (Exod. 4:22, 23; Jer. 31:9); but Jesus, Himself a son of Israel, indeed a son of David, was supremely the Son of God; and therefore He re-enacted or recapitulated something of the history of the “son” (the nation of Israel) whose very existence pointed forward to Him. (D.A. Carson, God With Us, 18)

You may note also the theme of sonship in Matthew 3:17-4:4.

Grame Goldsworthy has likewise noted:

Jesus is looked upon as both the ideal Adam and the ideal Israel-that is, He is the people of God, the Seed of Abraham to whom all promises were made (see Gal. 3:16). Jesus as the Son of Adam (Son of man) accomplishes that which Adam failed to do; and likewise, as the true Israel, He does what Israel failed to do. Thus the temptation narratives show the reversal of Satan’s conquest of Adam in the garden and of Israel in the wilderness.

If Jesus is the true people of God, the true Adam and the true Israel, all the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel to be the people of God must have their fulfillment in Him.
http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/articles/golds1.htm

But there is much more to Jesus’ sonship than merely physical descent from Adam, Abraham and David. Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. The eternal second person of the Trinity. He did not become the Son of God at Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. He has been the Son of God throughout all eternity. What I’m saying is that there was never a time when the Son was not!
The reason this is difficult for us to comprehend is because our human experience is quite different. Human fathers always precede their sons in time. But the Heavenly Father has eternally begotten His Son! The testimony of Scripture is clear:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Likewise, the “I Am” statements of the Gospel of John are Jesus’ own declarations of His own eternal self-existence. John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is the contrast between the Son of God and all humans. Humans were, but Jesus is!

In Malachi 3:6 the Father declares, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” and the inspired author of Hebrews likewise declares of the Son in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

IV. Believers – God’s Sons through Spiritual Regeneration, John 1:12-14.

The wonder of wonders is that we, the fallen sons of Adam, can be the sons of God! Not in the same sense in which the 2nd Person of the Trinity is the Son of God, but in relationship with Him we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ!

Galatians 3:26-29 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

1 John 3:1-2 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

This is why the work of Sunrise Children’s Services is so important! This is why foster-care and adoption is so important! It is a picture of the gospel of what God has done for each and every believer! He has adopted us and placed us in His family and claimed us as His own!

This is also why the work of missions and evangelism is important! The reason we share the gospel, the reason we give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board, the reason we go on mission trips, the reason we have Vacation Bible School, the reason we need to share our testimonies, is because the gospel is about making people God’s children!

How do you know if you are one of God’s children? The evidence according to John 1:12 and 13 is reception of Him and belief in His name (which is the totality of His Person and Work). Have you received Him? Have you believed in His Name?

A.W. Tozer on the Danger of the Self-sins in Christian Leadership

tozer

In A. W. Tozer’s 1948 classic The Pursuit of God, he indicts Christian leaders for sins of egotism, exhibitionism, and self-promotion, which he says “are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy.”

To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.

One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man’s depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins; but it does not work out that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible Conference than in a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.

From the chapter “Removing the Veil” in A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (1948) Kindle edition.

Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

Patrick Cover

New biography of Patrick by Michael Haykin

We are blessed in our society today to have holidays such as Easter, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day which are filled with Christian significance. Unfortunately, almost all of the Christian meaning for these important markers on the Christian calendar has been forgotten. As much as we Christians like to blame the nebulous society around us, I don’t think it is the “world’s” fault that these holidays have not retained their Christian meaning. Instead, I fault Christians who are either unaware of their heritage or just plain derelict in their duty to educate their children. We shouldn’t expect unbelievers to celebrate Christianity, but we should expect Christians to seek to pass their heritage on to the next generation.

Hopefully you do use the holidays of Christmas and Easter as opportunities to talk to your children about the birth and resurrection of Christ respectively. However, days like St. Valentine’s Day and especially St. Patrick’s Day are often missed opportunities in evangelical homes. Perhaps we’re frightened away by the fact that these individuals are often associated with the Roman Catholic Church. But there is no need to fear Patrick for in him evangelicals have not a foe but a friend.

Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary to Ireland in the 5th century. His story of being kidnapped as a boy in Britain to become a slave in Ireland, his escape back to Britain, and his call as a missionary to return is a fascinating tale of God’s providence and grace. His dedication to the doctrine of the Trinity is both admirable and worthy of emulation. Talking to your children about how Patrick taught the Trinity to the pagans of his day provides a tremendous opportunity to explain this difficult biblical teaching to them. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. Likewise, Patrick’s commitment to take the gospel to unreached peoples (Ireland at the time would have been considered the “end of the world.”) is another important teachable aspect of this remarkable life for our children. Read, in Patrick’s own words, his commitment to take the gospel to Ireland:

I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for his name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me. (Confession 37)

In short, St. Patrick should be introduced to our children as a courageous missionary hero who believed and taught the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Many legends are attached to the story of Patrick and though I believe most are grounded in some true events, the discerning reader must be aware of the mixture of legend and history on this early Christian figure. However, we are not dependent merely on legends to know about the life of Patrick. His autobiographical Confession has survived the centuries and is a fascinating recounting of his life.

For those interested in learning more, there is a helpful modern biography of Patrick by Philip Freeman. For parents wanting a good introduction that can be ready by or to their children, I highly recommend Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Joyce Denham. In addition, a recent biography of Patrick has been penned by Michael Haykin Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact.

A few short, but very helpful articles about Patrick’s modern-day relevance are available online.

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012. It has been lightly edited and reposted today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day 2015.

Ann Judson on the Purpose of Her Life

While on board ship on way to India in 1812, Ann Judson wrote a running letter to her mother that functioned as a sort of a diary over several days between March 1 and April 6. On this day (March 14), she wrote the following:

Have been reading the Lives of Sir William Jones, and Dr. Doddridge. What a striking difference between the two characters. The former distinguished for his erudition; the latter for his piety. The great object of the one, was evidently the attainment of literary fame, and the applause of man. The other sought chiefly the good of immortal souls, and the approbation of God. Enjoyed much this evening in conversation and prayer. Perhaps some of my friends at home were praying for me; and in answer to their prayers, the Holy Spirit came to animate and comfort my heart. feel thankful that God has given me an opportunity and inclined my heart, to leave all my friends for a heathen land. I desire no higher enjoyment in this life, than to be instrumental of leading some poor, ignorant heathen females, to the knowledge of the Saviour. To have a female praying society, consisting of those who were once in heathen darkness, is what my heart earnestly pants after, and makes a constant subject of prayer. Resolved to keep this in view, as one principal object of my life.

James D. Knowles, Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, Late Missionary to Burmah. Including a History of the American Baptist Mission in the Burman Empire, 2nd ed. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1829), 49. Free Google book here.

An Unsung, but Influential Sermon in the Rise of the Modern Missionary Movement

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister’s Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was “Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion.” The text was Haggai 1:2, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Andrew Gunton Fuller tells us, “who had refused — some of them not in the kindest manner — to listen to his proposal.” [1] Fuller said in part,

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” [2]

Fuller’s son records that the “impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his “thoughts.” [3] The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.” In 1792, he also published his “thoughts”—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (PDF). On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, the Particular Baptist Society for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched.

________________

[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 103.
[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 147–148.
[3] Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 104.