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I recognize that not all of the folks who read my posts are on my worldview-page. That’s good. I want my posts to set a plow blade in fallow ground; even if I lose that person, maybe they’ll remember what made them quit. That said, there have been some encouraging signs lately … a few new readers and a couple of likes. Maybe I’ll stick it out.
Any-hoo, I’ve become a Tozer junkie … A. W. Tozer, that is. Direct, to the point, never pulled any punches, called things out as he saw them, and did so with plenty of love, humility, and wisdom. He’s my kind of guy.
Don’t hit me with subtleties please; I will either miss them or put you on the hotseat, pummeling you with a litany of clarifying questions until I wear you down … and you explain yourself, providing a full disclosure (or, in many cases, a confession) of your true agenda.
P.S. This does not apply to social situations. In those cases, I simply smile and nod.
I’m currently reading two of Tozer’s books; 1) The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, and 2) I Talk Back to the Devil: The Fighting Fervor of the Victorious Christian. I came across the first one recently, about the time my understanding and experience of faith began to change. I came across the second while in a stupor of confusion after having witnessed my oldest daughter suddenly explode into a rage of irrationality, complete with f-bombs, threatening to check herself into a hospital because she believes she’s insane. She definitely has serious mental health problems, no doubt. Even so, because I see everything through a Christian worldview, I see her problems as fundamentally spiritual; hence the book. More on my daughter another time – it is pertinent, but again, for another time.
Every morning after reading Tozer, I think, Gee, I need to write a post about that, and then I don’t. But not today. Today I’m going to draw from the first book and see where it goes. It’s an experiment. I hope it works out.
Life, and I mean human societal life, goes through cycles. It is like the swinging of a pendulum, always moving in one direction or the other, but never moving beyond some collective unconscious line of demarcation before it stalls and then drops back toward the outer demarcation of the other side. The pendulum finds a familiar and wiser territory at the bottom of the arc, and I wonder if the lowest point of the curve ever changes. I think it must … just a little at a time, capturing the residuals of new pain-won wisdom left behind by the naïve or foolish or pridefully-reckless visits to each of the outer extremes. This morning’s devotional brought me to Isaiah 28, which seems to fit.
And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Only those with eyes open to see and ears ready to hear will learn and be blessed, trusting God’s guidance and avoiding the precipice of the outer edges. The rest, those who don’t trust God, proceed at their own possible suffering or even peril. I know this from experience, believe me.
But that’s just how I see it.
In The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, Tozer notes that as he looked back over the history of Israel in the Old Testament, he noticed that just about every third generation had to throw out all the previous generation’s religious accouterments and get back to the original.
Wow. Now that’s interesting.
Here’s the basic pattern: The first generation established their nation upon the clear Word of the Lord. The second generation, their sons, then took the foundation for granted and added some nonessential elements, while letting the essentials slide. Then the third generation, the grandsons, completely disregarded the work of the grandfathers who established Israel, and completely disenfranchised the entire nation of Israel from its foundation.
The grandsons sought out other gods that …
“suited their fancy at the time. They looked with envy on nations around them and began adopting the pagan gods of their neighbors. They soon adopted a culture of the nations around them, and it was difficult to tell the difference between an Israelite and a Philistine.”
When the next (fourth) generation, came along, the great-grandsons became exhausted by having to carry all the religious junk accumulated by those who had come before them, and so felt compelled to look for something original. Invariably, they would stumble upon the Word of the Lord, and then clear away all of the religious paraphernalia introduced by the previous generation. The fourth-generation was the start of a new cycle; an awakening.
This has also happened throughout Church history starting with the first-generation Church Fathers. The second-generation sons who followed tried to keep the movement going by replicating all that the fathers did. Then the third-generation grandsons found themselves beaten down and exhausted by the religiosity that had little to do with their spiritual roots. There was no visible difference between the Church and the world. The culture of the world had effectively taken over the Church.
Tozer writes …
Instead of their religion carrying them forward in holy passion, they were trying to carry their religion, and the weight of it brought them to points of weariness and religious fatigue and final collapse. They sought relief out in the world in the form of compromise. To negotiate with the world is to forfeit the sense of God’s presence.
And, as with Israel, there was an awakening. Groups of people became so imbued with holy desire that overwhelming movements broke out, bringing people into the Kingdom of God. Tozer writes that God was (and is) behind these movements, seeing the hunger of people’s hearts, starting and owning the movements, and giving them what only He can provide.
I would estimate that no denomination has ever survived its 100-year anniversary without a drastic overhaul from the inside out. The apostle Paul warns about having “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). He adds with an air of finality, “from such turn away.”
When a generation comes along dissatisfied with the status quo and has a hunger for God that cannot be quenched by ritual and tradition, most of these do not come out of the religious hierarchy, but come stomping in unceremoniously with such a passion for God that they upset everything they come in contact with and bypass religious protocol, much to the affront of the religious Pharisees and scribes in control at the time. The religious leaders condemn them and try to put them out of “the Church.” However, they are the Church, and they inflame a new generation with a holy passion for the person of God that cannot be quenched.
This is where the evangelical church of our generation is.
What’s my point?
We’re due for an awakening.
What Does the Third Generation State Look Like?
How does the third stage of the cycle, near-apostasy, manifest itself in the church? Tozer offers his observations, and in my opinion, they aptly depict our current situation. There are two primary factors: 1) The Haunting Spirit of Babylon, which this post covers, and 2) Overtaken by Spiritually Impotent Theologians, which will be covered in a subsequent post.
The Haunting Spirit of Babylon is invading the Church today “to the point of controlling it.” It manifests itself in three ways:
- The Spirit of Entertainment
- The Spirit of Lethargy
- The Spirit of Ease
The Spirit of Entertainment
I’ve actually served on a number of church tech teams, observing first-hand the irony of what happens behind the scenes before, during, and after each show … er, I mean service … and what is portrayed on the stage. Believe me, “portrayed” is the right word. The “program” is the priority. Period. Devotion to the flawless execution of the program fuels a strong spirit of perfectionism that then fosters an unfriendly atmosphere of competitiveness among team members. Public (and therefore humiliating) criticisms of minor production mistakes compel team members to throw one another under the bus. And relationships start to crumble.
It usually starts with the one at the top … the celebrity-wannabe pastor. When the last church we attended installed a fog machine behind the stage of the new sanctuary, I was out. They’d jumped the shark.
Tozer writes that “Christians today are addicted to exterior pleasures.” Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but I don’t get it. People sit in folding chairs watching a show, seemingly in awe of the performance, yet unable to experience intimacy in worship because, well … you don’t know the songs, the music is too damn loud, the room is creepy-dark except for the multi-color flashing lights, and the walls are shaking to the beat of the bass guitar. It’s unsettling, unless that’s the kind of charge you’re looking for.
I’m old enough to remember when the seeker model of church came into vogue. The aim was to attract more people to Christ by making church a more comfortable and inviting experience. More like what the “seekers” were used to in the world. The musicians looked, played, and sounded like rock stars; the skits by the drama team were done in full costume and makeup supported by elaborate sets; and the pastor delivered the message as if it had been rehearsed as a comedy act. Back then, the seeker churches overemphasized program and failed to disciple those who came, leaving many arrested in their spiritual development; shallow in faith while holding onto tepid and vacuous notions of Christ.
Was it then that the church drifted away from the profundity in front of it, the gospel, dipping its toes in the world’s pool as a growth strategy, but then getting pulled in … rather than pulling people out of it? Is our current condition today rooted in the missteps of the ’80s and ’90s?
The Church Fathers came into the presence of God with a sense of overwhelming reverence, which captivated them and brought them before God in holy silence. What has happened to reverence today? Where are those who get caught up in the spirit of reverence before their God? Where are those who have experienced the holy hush in the presence of God?
The Spirit of Lethargy
Here’s another cycle or rhythm we all know. Work work work work … achievement! … rest rest rest rest … decline decline decline decline.
This is the spirit of lethargy: an outlook that stops looking for the next drive forward, as guided by the Spirit, and instead only looks back at what has been accomplished, expecting that the machine already built will carry the church forward, doing the regular work in due course. It’s the smart guy’s approach; develop a brilliant strategy, build the machine, and then sit back and watch it work while you enjoy the residuals.
God doesn’t work that way.
God is always active, moving, working things together for good, intervening, engineering, prompting, predisposing, and looking for people He can fill with His Spirit to do His work. Those who wake up empty each morning can be filled by His Spirit, used for His purpose, and experience the abundant life in an intimate, and often secret, relationship with Him.
When a church takes its eyes off Christ and closes its ears to the Spirit’s voice, lethargy takes over and everything stalls. Dry deserts remain and people shrivel up and drift away from Christ, void of enthusiasm, expectation, and hope.
The Spirit of Ease
Similar to the spirit of lethargy, the spirit of ease sits on a foundation of false security. There’s an unconscious belief that the battles have been fought and that the struggles in the Church are over. All that’s left is to die and go to heaven.
Uh … no.
Charles Wesley wrote the hymn “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” that “set the tone for his generation,” and even MORE so should set the tone for the current Church generation.
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in His mighty pow’r,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might,
With all His strength endued,
And take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God;
That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone,
And stand entire at last.
Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole.
From strength to strength go on,
Wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the pow’rs of darkness down
And win the well-fought day.
Tozer wonders where the “soldiers of Christ” are today. Could it be that they’ve been robbed of their opportunity to grow into soldier-status by the lacking strength and focus of our current day Church? Call me cynical, but all I see in the Church, with a few exceptions, are leaders seeking power in the club, reputation for career advancement, and often-times media fame. The narcissism is thick and commonplace, while those seeking the true Christ with sincere hearts are left wanting, and sometimes even shunned.
Church … It looks to me like we’ve left The Bride in the hands of those who seek to control the destiny of this generation’s Christian Church for their own personal advancement in the world.
And that is a very very very bad thing.
Please … pray for the new awakening to come, and to come soon.
Until next time, may you find Him in this moment.
 Crossway Bibles. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 104487-104507). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
 Tozer, A.W.. The Dangers of a Shallow Faith (pp. 15-16). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Tozer, A.W.. The Dangers of a Shallow Faith (p. 17). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Tozer, A.W.. The Dangers of a Shallow Faith (pp. 17-18). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition
 Tozer, A.W.. The Dangers of a Shallow Faith (p. 19). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Soldiers_of_Christ_Arise/Published in