Monday, December 26, 2016

Book Review: Alive in the Spirit

Alive in the Spirit. A.W. Tozer. 2016. Bethany House. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the introduction: The subject of this book, Alive in the Spirit, is a very crucial theme for the day in which we live. No other subject could be as controversial as dealing with the Holy Spirit.

If you've read my blog for any length of time--in the past four to five years that is--you'll have picked up on the fact that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE A.W. Tozer. I don't always agree 100% with him theologically. In fact, sometimes we are on opposing sides, disagreeing not just a little, but, a lot. But when all is said and done, I love him. I love him because he's a kindred spirit of sorts. He loved God. He loved the Bible. He believed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He believed that this good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, changes EVERYTHING. He believed that Christians should pursue holiness and seek God always, always, always. Needing--wanting--MORE. He believed that we should never ever be content with where we are spiritually. We should desire God above all else. God's way, always. Our will should be brought into line with HIS will, and not the other way around!

So Alive in the Spirit is a book about the Holy Spirit. It opens with a chapter or two focusing on Tozer's conversion and testimony. This is unusual. He usually is so focused on the Word of God, and the truths of God, that he doesn't devote much time--if any--to stories from his personal life. But an exception is made in this one. For the Holy Spirit has to be experienced.

I share the table of contents with you.
  • My Experience With The Holy Spirit
  • My Perception of the Holy Spirit
  • My Warning to the Church
  • My Awareness of the Holy Spirit
  • The Threefold Foundation for Trusting the Holy Spirit
  • The Penetrating Voice of the Holy Spirit
  • The Dissimilarity The Holy Spirit Emphasizes
  • The Vitality of the Holy Spirit in the Church
  • A Portrait of the Spirit Filled Church
  • The Harmony of the Spirit Filled Church
  • The Holy Spirit: An Uncomfortable Presence
  • The Holy Spirit At Work in the Church
  • Standing in the Power of the Spirit-Filled Life
  • The Fruit of the Spirit Sustains the Church
  • Spiritual Gifts: The Function of the Local Church
  • The Gifts of the Spirit Are Essential to the Church Today
  • Our Personal Pursuit of the Holy Spirit
  • My Daily Walk with the Holy Spirit
It goes without saying--almost--that I recommend this one. I do. I would agree with Tozer that the Spirit is the neglected person of the Trinity. I would agree with Tozer that believers are missing out by not pursuing fellowship--a relationship. We are to walk with the Spirit, by the Spirit, in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit's job is NOT done after conversion, or the new birth. In fact, it's just beginning. The Spirit is not done with us this side of eternity. Count on that. This little book is PACKED with spiritual truths that could change the way you live.

Favorite quotes from the introduction:
The authority of the Holy Spirit must begin with the individual Christian and then flow over into the local congregation. The local church comprises individual Christians, and as those individual Christians go, so goes the local church. This was Tozer’s passion and it is shown here in this book. He bemoans the fact that the evangelical church has been so divided that it has lost its influence in the culture. Instead of the church influencing the culture, culture is not only influencing the church, it is taking over the church. Tozer declares that what we find in the world we also find in the local church. This ought not to be so.
It takes all the Bible to make the whole Bible.
Tozer is very careful not to attack individuals or even denominations, but he does attack errors of doctrine. As a man of God called to do the work of God, he felt an obligation to speak out against the spiritual errors of his day. The thing that is most amazing to me is that the sermons forming the basis of this book were preached in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have to remind myself that Dr. Tozer died in 1963.
The problem Tozer had with entertainment is that it always promotes a person. Even though that person may mention Jesus or God and claim to be a Christian, the focus is really not on God but on the person and the performance. The same should be true of us today. Worship is critical, and for Tozer, worship could not be man-induced. Worship that does not start with the Holy Spirit is not true worship. Tozer suggests that our worship services today are man-centered and man-promoted as a result of neglecting the authority of the Holy Spirit in our congregations. As such, they cannot exalt Jesus Christ.
From the book:
Theology is simply the study of God, and I treasure nothing more in my life than the study of God. Sometimes, our study of God is merely technical and not personal. But if it is biblical truth, it has personal application to everyday living. We must do more than just believe the truth; we must allow the truth to transform us radically into new creatures in Christ.
Until my dying day, I want to surrender each day to the Holy Spirit to do that work in me that He wants to do. I will never dictate to the Holy Spirit or demand that He do this or that for me. Every day of my life, I want to surrender myself to Him and allow Him to set the agenda of my day.
God is not so much interested in coming into our world as He is in bringing us into His.
I am disturbed by the evangelical churches’ pulling aspects of the world into the church that are absolutely contrary to the Holy Spirit. Whatever is the latest trend out in the world soon finds its way into the church. I wonder how our Lord, who suffered on the cross for us, thinks about the levity that has come into our churches? If the only way we can get people is if we entertain them, the only way we can keep people is if we continue entertaining them with the newest and most popular form of entertainment.
My advice is to periodically take the time to go through these creeds. I am not sure what reading these does for you, but it is like a chicken dinner to my soul.
We are living in a lost world. By that I mean the inhabitants of the world are lost, not dramatically or poetically, but really and individually. But there is nothing poetic about being lost, as there is nothing poetic about having cancer. The worst part about our lostness is that it is inside of us. I am speaking of people born in the world who know trouble with the world and its lostness. A man lost in the forest knows he is lost and may find his way out. However, a man lost in the forest with amnesia who cannot remember his name or where he belongs is lost with a lostness that is not only external but also internal. Human beings are lost with an internal lostness making them insensible to the fact that they are lost. Or at least they scarcely know they are lost. It is a fact as real as gravity or mathematics or any other fact. The fact is the world is lost. But it is also a fact that though lost, it is not forsaken.
Nobody can repent until he knows the depth of his own sin, and nobody can know the depth of his own sin unless the Holy Spirit shows it to him.
The Holy Spirit is not just a doctrine we ascribe to. The Holy Spirit is not just part of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the One who is to come into our life and the life of our congregations and bring the power and authority of God himself. For the Holy Spirit to work in my life, I need to surrender all authority and all power to Him. For the Holy Spirit to work in our church life today, we need to surrender absolutely to the Holy Spirit.
When we deal with God, we must deal with Him on His terms, not ours.
The singing portion of church services—which some call worship—has spun out of control today. Our singing is on par with the world and the concerts the world puts on. As such, it fails to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who think singing a hymn is entertainment surely will not be happy in a Spirit-filled church. I have had people tell me that singing a hymn is a form of entertainment. If it is, I will sing no more hymns as long as I live. However, I know differently.
A false prophet who does not know Jehovah has no right to call anyone to Mount Carmel. Elijah was able to give them something better, and remember that is when the four hundred prophets of Baal were put to confusion and everybody cried, “Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God” (1 Kings 18:39 asv). The emphasis was not upon the destruction of Baal, but upon the discovery of Jehovah. No man has a right to break another man’s idol unless he has a true God. No man has any right to stand against something evil unless he has something good to put in its place. No person has any right to criticize someone who is going the wrong way unless they are going the right way themselves and are willing to witness to that.
We cannot walk together unless we can agree on which way we are walking. We cannot walk with the Holy Ghost unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He is going. In order to walk together, we have to agree on the direction but also the destination.
No matter how much I know today, tomorrow will bring me something new about God, and I am anxious to discover the newness of God in my life every day. God’s mercies are new every day, and discovering the newness of God’s mercies is the great joy of my daily walk with God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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