The Pursuit of God – (condensed version) by A.W. Tozer
The only real harbinger (sign), for revival detected on the religious horizon, is a thirst for God. We will not be satisfied until we have drunk deep of the fountain of living water. It might be a few saints here and there, the size of a man’s hand, but it can result in a resurrection of life for many souls. Counting the stones of the altar and rearranging the sacrificial pieces on the altar is useless if there is no fire on lofty Mount Carmel, to set the offering alight.
Correct teachings on the principles of the doctrines of Christ is extremely important. The teaching of fundamentals of the faith year after year unaware that it produces no manifested presence in their lives is sorrowful. The art of worship has been lost altogether and replaced by a strange thing called “programs”, that leaves the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself; and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and centre of their being, their spirit.
Chapter 1 – Following Hard after God
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
1. The Doctrine of Prevenient Grace, meaning Enabling Grace
Before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; it may be imperfect, but it is a true work nonetheless and is the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
We pursue God because He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. John 6:44, No one can come to me, said our Lord, unless the Father who has sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. And it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every bit of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him, and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: Ps 63:8, My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. In this divine “upholding” and human “following” there is no contradiction. All is of God, for God is always previous. In practice, however (that is, where God’s previous working meets man’s present response), man must pursue God.
On our part, there must be positive reciprocation if this secret drawing of God is to eventuate in an identifiable experience of the Divine. Psalm 42 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? This is deep calling unto deep, and the longing heart will understand it.
2. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith:
Evil company has interpreted this doctrine in a way that it with holds men from the knowledge of God. Conversion has become mechanical and spiritless. Christ may now be “received” without creating any special love for Him by the new convert in their spirit. The man is “saved”, but he is not hungry or thirsty for God.
Just like the modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world, so we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. God is a spirit and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can, for we are spirit. Gen1:27a God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him.
It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental interchange that the full possibilities of both can be explored. All social interchange between human beings is a response of personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human spirit is capable.
Religion, so far as it is genuine is, in essence, the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God. Joh 17:3, This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
In the deep of His mighty nature God thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us, He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the spirit of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.
This interchange between God and our spirit is known to us in conscious personal awareness. It is personal; that is, it does not come through the body of believers, as such, but is known to the individual, and to the body through the individuals which compose it. And it is conscious; that is, it does not stay below the threshold of consciousness and work there unknown to the soul but comes within the field of awareness where the man can “know” it as he knows any other fact of experience.
You and I are to a little degree (except for our sins) what God is to a large degree. Being made in His image, we have within us the capacity to know Him. In our sins, we lack only the power. The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration, our whole being sensing its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the kingdom of God. It is, however, not an end but an inception, for now, begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin; but where we stop, no man has yet discovered, for there is neither limit nor end in the awful and mysterious depths of the triune God.
Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him, the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.
Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better. Gen 33:13, Now, therefore, I pray You, if I have found favour in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favour in Your sight; and from there he rose to make the daring request: Gen 33:18, I pray You, show me Your glory. God was frankly pleased by this display of ardour, and the next day called Moses into the mount, and there in solemn procession made all His glory pass before him.
David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire and his Psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder.
Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ. Phil 3:10, That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, was the goal of his heart, and to this, he sacrificed everything. More than that, Phil 3:8, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Currently, everything is made to centre upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible), and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our spirit. We have been snared a false logic that insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as doctrine, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise; thus, the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favour of a smug interpretation of Scripture.
We will turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, “O God, show me Your glory.” They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God. I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality of our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. Now as always God reveals Himself to “babes” and hides in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress.
When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Levi received no share of the land. God simply said: Num18:20, Then the Lord said to Aaron: You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. And by those words made him richer than all his brethren, richer than all the kings and princes who have ever lived in the world. And there is a spiritual principle here, a principle still valid for every priest of the Most High God. The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose, he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever.
O God, I have tasted Your goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the triune God, I want to want You; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirstier still. Show me Your glory, I pray, so that I may know You indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name, Amen.