Paths to Power by A.W. Tozer
Christian Publications, Inc.
In his forward, Tozer writes, “… each major idea may be a ‘path’ leading to a life of abundant grace promised in the Sacred Word. Let us remember that a path is merely a way toward something; it can never be the thing itself. A knowledge of the truth is not enough; the truth must be followed if we would realize in actual experience the blessedness which is here described.”
Since “power” is a word of many uses and misuses, let me explain what I mean by it. First, I mean spiritual energy of sufficient voltage to produce great saints once again… Secondly, I mean a spiritual unction that will give a heavenly unction to our worship, that will make our meeting places sweet with the divine Presence… Then, I mean that heavenly quality which marks the Church as a divine thing… Lastly, by power I mean that divine afflatus which move the heart and persuades the hearer to repent and believe in Christ.
God’s Part and Man’s
… Let it be boldly stated that there are some things which only God can do, and for us to attempt to do them is to waste our efforts; and there are other things which only man can do, and for us to ask God to do them is to waste our prayers. It is vain for us to try to do the work which can only be done by sovereign grace; it is equally vain for us to implore God to do what has been commanded by sovereign authority.
Among the things which only God can do, of first importance to us is the work of redemption… Christ’s work on Calvary made atonement for every man, but it did not save any man. Salvation is personal. It is redemption made effective toward the individual. Salvation is the work of God in the heart, made possible by the work of God on the Cross… If atonement was made for all men, why are not all saved?.. This act of appropriating salvation is one which only man can do… God cannot do our repenting for us… God has commanded all men to repent. It is a work which only they can do. It is morally impossible for one person to repent for another… but before we can be saved we must of our own free will repent toward God and believe in Jesus Christ…
Another thing God cannot do: He cannot believe for us. Faith is a gift of God, to be sure, but whether or not we shall act upon that faith lies altogether within our own power. We may or we may not, as we choose. True belief requires that we change our attitude toward God. It means that we not only acknowledge His trustworthiness but go on to trust His promises and obey His commandments… Where God is the object of faith He cannot be the subject also. The repentant sinner is the subject, and as such he must put his faith in Christ as his Saviour. This he must do for himself. God may help him, He may wait long and be patient, but He can never take his place and do the act for him.
The day when it is once more understood that God will not be responsible for our sin and unbelief will be a glad one for the Church of Christ. The realization that we are personally responsible for our individual sins may be a shock to our hearts, but it will clear the air and remove the uncertainty…
…The message of the Cross contains two elements: (1) Promises and declarations to be believed, and (2) commandments to be obeyed. Obviously faith is necessary to the first and obedience to the second. The only thing we can do with a promise or statement of fact is to believe it; it is physically impossible to obey it, for it is not addressed to the will, but to the understanding. It is equally impossible to believe a command; it is not addressed to our understanding, but to our will…
What does all this add up to? What are its practical implications for us today? Just that the power of God is at our disposal, waiting for us to call it into action by meeting the conditions which are plainly laid down… Study the Bible to learn the will of God and then do His will as you understand it. Start now by doing the next thing, and then go on from there.
“Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” Hosea 10:12.
Here are two kinds of ground: fallow ground, and ground that has been broken up by the plow.
The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay. Had it intelligence, it might take a lot of satisfaction in its reputation; it has stability; nature has adopted it; it can be counted upon to remain always the same while the fields around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment. But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility: Never does it see the miracle of growth; never does it feel the motions of mounting life nor see the wonders of bursting seed nor the beauty of ripening grain Fruit it can never know because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow.
In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken, but its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. All over the field the hand of God is at work in the age-old and ever renewed service of creation. New things are born, to grow, mature, and consummate the grand prophecy latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature’s wonders follow the plow.
There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. For examples of the fallow life we need not go far. They are all too plentiful among us.
The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in tolerant superiority at revivals, fastings, self-searchings, and all the travail of fruit bearing and the anguish of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him… But he is fruitless. The curse of such a life is that it is fixed, both in size and in content. To be has taken the place of to become…
The plowed life is the life that has, in the act, of repentance, thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. The urge of the Spirit, the pressure of circumstances and the distress of fruitless living have combined thoroughly to humble the heart. Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life. Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And as always fruit follows the plow. Life and growth begin as God “rains down righteousness.” Such a one can testify, “And the hand of the Lord was upon me there.”
…Corresponding to these two kinds of life, religious history shows two phases, the dynamic and the static. The dynamic periods were those heroic times when God’s people stirred themselves to do the Lord’s bidding and went out fearlessly to carry His witness to the world. They exchanged the safety of inaction for the hazards of God-inspired progress. Invariably the power of God followed such action. The miracle of God went when and where His people went; it stayed when His people stopped.
The static periods were those times when the people of God tired of the struggle and sought a life of peace and security. Then they busied themselves trying to conserve the gains made in those more daring times when the power of God moved among them.
God works as long as His people live daringly: He ceases when they no longer need His aid.
Look around today and see where the miracles of power are taking place.
To any casual observer of the religious scene today, two things will at once be evident: one, that there is very little sense of sin among the unsaved, and two, that the average professed Christian lives a life so worldly and careless that it is difficult to distinguish him from the unconverted man. The power that brings conviction to the sinner and enables the Christian to overcome in daily living is being hindered somewhere.
Tozer continues with several doctrinal hindrances.
Hindrance: The creed of the antinomian is easily stated: We are saved by faith alone; works have no place in salvation; conduct is works, and is therefore of no importance. What we do cannot matter as long as we believe rightly… Antinomianism is the doctrine of grace carried by uncorrected logic to the point of absurdity… It plagued the Apostle Paul in the early Church and called out some of his most picturesque denunciations. When the question is asked, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” he answers no with that terrific argument in the sixth chapter of Romans… It is not the teaching of the Scriptures that grace makes us free to do evil. Rather, it sets us free to do good.
Hindrance: …sinners are not lost because they have sinned, but because they have not accepted Jesus. A parallel argument would be, “That man with a cancer is dying, but it is not the cancer that is killing him; it is his failure to accept a cure.” Is it not plain that the only reason the man would need a cure is that he is already marked for death by the cancer? The only reason I need a Saviour, is His capacity as Saviour, is that I am already marked for hell by the sins I have committed. Refusing to believe in Christ is a symptom of deeper evil in the life, of sins unconfused and wicked ways unforsaken. The guilt lies in acts of sin; the proof of that guilt is seen in the rejection of the Saviour.
Hindrance: the teaching that men are so weak by nature that they are unable to keep the law of God… And on top of this we are told that we must accept Jesus in order that we may be saved from the wrath of the broken law! No matter what the intellect may say, the human heart can never accept the idea that we are to be held responsible for breaking a law that we cannot keep. Would a father lay upon the back of his three-year old son a sack of grain weighing five-hundred pounds and then beat the child because he could not carry it? Either men can or they cannot please God. If they cannot, they are not morally responsible, and have nothing to fear. If they can, and will not, then they are guilty, and as guilty sinners they will be sent to hill at last. If the Bible is allowed to speak for itself it will teach loudly the doctrine of man’s personal responsibility for sins committed. Men sin because they want to sin. God’s quarrel with men is that they will not do even that part of the will of God which they understand and could do if they would… Paul’s cry in Romans is not after power to fulfill the simple morality of the Ten Commandments, but after inward holiness which the law could not impart.
The weakness of the law was threefold: (1) It could not cancel past sins-that is, it could not justify; (2) it could not make dead men live-that is, it could not regenerate; (3) it could not make bad hearts good-that is, it could not sanctify…
The Bible everywhere takes for granted Israel’s ability to obey the law. Condemnation fell because Israel, having that ability, refused to obey. They sinned not out of amiable weakness, but out of deliberate rebellion against the will of God. That is the inner nature of sin always, willful refusal to obey God…
…Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32