What do you do when you want to begin a chapter of your book with a quote that you think people are already familiar with?
Use that familiarity to your advantage. Lead with it.
That’s how A. W. Tozer began the third chapter of The Pursuit of God:
“Among the famous sayings of the Church fathers none is better known than Augustine’s, ‘Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.’”
This quote is famous, said Tozer, because it says so much in one sentence:
“The great saint states here in few words the origin and interior history of the human race.”
What do you do when the next quote you want to use is also well-known?
Again, you celebrate it. It’s famous for a reason:
“The Shorter Catechism, ‘Agreed upon by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster,’ as the old New-England Primer has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them in one short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. ‘Question: What is the chief End of Man? Answer: Man’s chief End is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’”
What do you do when you want to spend a long paragraph on the attributes of God, things like His immutability and omniscience?
You could apologize that you find it necessary to review some basic facts. Or you could jump in like Tozer does:
“What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Tozer had a gift for sharing familiar, foundational truths that Christians can become complacent about. He delighted in them anew and then shared them with fresh delight.
Good Old “Dying to Self”
Dying to self is one of those familiar truths that believers need to see again and again. This is what Tozer shows us in the third chapter of The Pursuit of God, “Removing the Veil.”
In the first chapter, Tozer had stirred up the reader to pursue a more intimate knowledge of God. In the second chapter, he warned of the cost. You must take up your cross and give up your attachment to things.
The third chapter continues with a similar warning. It’s a warning about a veil.
But first, some good news about a veil.
The veil that had separated us from God has now been removed. It was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus died.
Tozer reviews the symbolism of the Old Testament Tabernacle and celebrates the fire of God’s presence that was hidden behind that now-removed veil.
But there is still another veil. Two thirds into the chapter, Tozer introduces it with these questions:
“With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?”
The answer, he says, is that there is veil remaining in our hearts:
“It is the veil of our fleshly fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated.”
And so he comes to the best part of the chapter and one of the best parts of the book, his description of this veil and of the unpleasantness involved in removing it.
It’s a vivid picture of dying to self. It’s worth reading often. Let me share one paragraph here:
“Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.”
We can’t say we weren’t warned. The rest of the book goes on to describe the blessings of intimacy with God. Here at the outset, Tozer had made sure that we readers have counted the cost.
This Post is Part of a Chapter-by-Chapter Look at A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God
- This Voice from the Past is Still Calling for the Seekers
- The Larger the Heart, the Less It Holds
- God Tore Down His Veil, We Protect Ours
- We Walk by Faith Not by Sight, Not by Imagination
- Three Tips for Cultivating Spiritual Receptivity
- Has Everybody Heard the Speaking Voice?
- Seeking a Practical Definition of Faith
- Victorious Spiritual Experience Summed Up in Three Words
- Laying Down the Burden of Self
- Learning to See All of Life as Worship