“The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”
That quote is from chapter one of The Pursuit of God.
The title of the chapter, “Following Hard after God,” is taken from Psalm 63:8.
It’s natural to read a title like that and ask yourself if it applies to you. Are you following hard after God?
Don’t answer yet. It’s better to read the chapter first, and then answer. Your answer might change.
For now, as a way of introducing The Pursuit of God, let me point out four things that Tozer does in the first chapter.
1. He Name-Drops, but in an Unintimidating Way
He does this throughout the whole book.
When you read Tozer, the saints of history come in and out of the picture constantly. They provide background depth. Like the aliens in a Star Wars movie, each one represents a world that could be explored, if you had the time. For now they just pop in and out. They may be strangers to the reader, but Tozer lives comfortable among them.
The way he quotes the ancient saints puts the reader at ease. This is not an academic book. You don’t have to know who he is talking about to get the point.
For example, here are some of the unintimidating references from the first chapter of The Pursuit of God:
“…as von Hügel teaches, God is always previous.”
– You may be unfamiliar with the name, like I am, but the lesson is so simple and memorable. “God is always previous.” Those four words not only put me at ease, but they make me feel like I, too, know a little von Hügel.
“…a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd.”
– Here he turns these names into types. You might not recognize all the names, but you can guess the type.
“The author of the quaint old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, teaches us how to do this.”
– I don’t know what effect the word “quaint” had in 1948, when The Pursuit of God was first published. But today, the effect is disarming. I imagine it was the same then. I don’t think anything was ever both quaint and intimidating at the same time.
2. He Gives the Reader Space to Identify as the Good Guy
The good guy, the protagonist of the book, is the pursuer of God. It’s the saint who is not content with his or her present experience of God, but is desperate for more.
For the first two thirds of chapter one, Tozer sets up the problem. As he does so, he often uses the passive voice, as in the following three examples:
“The doctrine of justification by faith—a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort—has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God.”
“The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us.”
“We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him…Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside.”
Doctrine has fallen, simplicity has been lost, and we have been snared. Tozer doesn’t name the bad guy. This gives us readers space to identify ourselves as the good guys, whether we deserve it or not.
We may have been complacent and self-satisfied in the past, but here is the opportunity to shake ourselves and pursue God again.
3. He Shows the Way Forward
After setting up the problem, Tozer begins to answer it. As he does so, he invites the reader in with the words “you and I”:
“You and I are in little (our sins excepted) what God is in large. 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 senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition.”
So we can join Tozer in the pursuit. We can be those he refers to when he says that there are “some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who …want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.”
If you count yourself as one of those hungry ones, Tozer tells us what we must do. Emphasis added:
“If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself 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, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.”
4. He Gives a Preview of Victory
At the end of the chapter, Tozer describes what it looks when someone has been in this pursuit for a while.
Yet now his language has changed a bit. He’s not talking about a throbbing heart and an unembarrassed interchange, as in the quote that we started with. Instead, he speaks of cool detachment.
This is because he is looking at the person from a different perspective. He is considering him in relation to the world around him, not in relation to God.
He’s setting us up for the next chapter.
Here’s the description. It’s a promise. We can be this kind of man or woman:
“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.”
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