Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: Discipleship

Discipleship: What It Truly Means to Be A Christian. A.W. Tozer. 2018. [May] Moody Publishers. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the New Testament salvation and discipleship are so closely related as to be indivisible. They are not identical, but as with Siamese twins they are joined by a tie which can be severed only at the price of death. Yet they are being severed in evangelical circles today. In the working creed of the average Christian salvation is held to be immediate and automatic, while discipleship is thought to be something optional that the Christian may delay indefinitely or never accept at all.

Dare I say that Johnny Mac would approve this Tozer title?! Perhaps. (I think Todd Friel would as well.) The focus of this book is on the lordship question. Do people who profess faith in Christ as Savior, have to "accept" him as Lord as well and be obedient? Does being a Christian mean being a disciple and follower of Christ? Or does it just mean someone who prayed a prayer and walked up an aisle?

Tozer writes in part, "I believe we need to preach again a whole Christ to the world—a Christ who does not need our apologies, a Christ who will not be divided, a Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!" And later he writes, " I don’t think you can be a Christian without being a disciple. The idea that I can come to the Lord and by grace have all of my sins forgiven and have my name written in heaven, and have the carpenter go to work on a mansion in my Father’s house, and at the same time raise hell on my way to heaven is impossible and unscriptural. It cannot be found in the Bible."

Here's the table of contents for this one:

  • Marks of Discipleship
  • True and False Disciples
  • "Accepting" Christ
  • To All Who Received Him
  • Obedience Is Not An Option 
  • You Cannot Face Two Directions
  • Crucified with Christ
  • Take Up Your Cross
  • Loving Righteousness, Hating Evil
  • Be Holy
  • The Importance of Deeds
  • Preparing for Heaven
  • Go and Tell

I loved this one. I crazy-loved it cover to cover. I loved each chapter more than the last--and I didn't even think that was possible. Tozer was a passionate preacher, a zealous believer who was on a mission for God to wake up Christians or "Christians." He writes, "If I could stir Christians around me to love God and hate sin, even to the point of being a bit of a nuisance, I would rejoice."

You cannot read him without thinking, reflecting, contemplating. His words are straight-forward, no apologies, challenges to all of us. I find his honesty compelling and refreshing. But above all I find Tozer relevant. Perhaps his real mission was to reach us--"the future"--fifty years after his ministry "ended." Why is Tozer relevant or more relevant than you might expect? Because what he taught--what he wrote--was tied so closely to the Bible, to the study and application of the Word of God. Because Tozer breathed the Bible--his words have relevance to us today. Every biblical preacher with a written legacy--emphasis on biblical--can be relevant no matter the generation gap.

Here's what he has to say about the Bible, "Every problem that touches us is answered in the Book—stay by the Word! I want to preach the Word, love the Word and make the Word the most important element in my Christian life. Read it much, read it often, brood over it, think over it, meditate over it—meditate on the Word of God day and night. When you are awake at night, think of a helpful verse. When you get up in the morning, no matter how you feel, think of a verse and make the Word of God the important element in your day. The Holy Ghost wrote the Word, and if you make much of the Word, He will make much of you. It is through the Word that He reveals Himself. Between those covers is a living Book. God wrote it and it is still vital and effective and alive. God is in this Book, the Holy Ghost is in this Book, and if you want to find Him, go into this Book."

Favorite quotes:
The notion that just anybody, at any time, regardless of conditions, can start from religious scratch, without the Spirit’s help, and believe savingly on Christ by a sudden decision of the will, is wholly contrary to the teachings of the Bible. What we tend to overlook is that the word “whosoever” never stands by itself. Always its meaning is modified by the word “believe” or “will” or “come.” According to the teachings of Christ no man will or can come and believe unless there has been done within him a prevenient work of God enabling him so to do.
In the sixth chapter of John our Lord makes some statements that gospel Christians seem afraid to talk about. The average one of us manages to live with them by the simple trick of ignoring them. They are such as these: (1) Only they come to Christ who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:37). (2) No one can come of himself; he must first be drawn by the Father (John 6:44). (3) The ability to come to Christ is a gift of the Father (John 6:65). (4) Everyone given to the Son by the Father will come to Him (John 6:37).
Where a hungry heart is found we may be sure that God was there first. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).
I have never considered it a very great compliment to the Christian church that we can generate enthusiasm on such short notice. The less there is in the kettle, the quicker it begins to boil. There are some who get converted on enthusiasm and backslide on principle! 
Long ago I came to the conclusion that if Jesus Christ is not controlling all of me, the chances are very good that He is not controlling any of me.  As for myself, I do not want to be a half disciple. I want my whole life—all of me—under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was an old English preacher who used to say, “If Christ cannot be Lord of all, He will not be Lord at all!”
Have you ever heard of “chameleon” disciples? They can change color with the environment. There are even some preachers like that. They can talk the language of the crowd they happen to be with. If they are with liberal thinkers, behold, they begin to sound liberal. If they were with evangelicals, they sound evangelical. They are “adaptable,” they say. “We believe in adjustment.” They do not need adjustment; they need God! 
Now, the particular attitude revealed here about “accepting Christ” is wrong because it makes Christ stand hat-in-hand, somewhere outside the door, waiting on our human judgment. We know about His divine person, we know that He is the Lamb of God who suffered and died in our place. We know all about His credentials. Yet we let Him stand outside on the steps like some poor timid fellow who is hoping he can find a job. We look Him over, then read a few more devotional verses, and ask: “What do you think, Mabel? Do you think we ought to accept Him? I really wonder if we should accept Him.” And so, in this view, our poor Lord Christ stands hat-in-hand, shifting from one foot to another looking for a job, wondering whether He will be accepted. Meanwhile, there sits the proud Adamic sinner, rotten as the devil and filled with all manner of spiritual leprosy and cancer. But he is hesitating; he is judging whether or not he will accept Christ. The question ought not to be whether I will accept Him; the question ought to be whether He will accept me! But He does not make that a question. He has already told us that we do not have to worry or disturb our minds about that. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). He has promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be. But the idea that we can make Him stand while we render the verdict of whether He is worthy of our acceptance is a frightful calumny—and we ought to get rid of it!
Strong’s concordance shows very definitely that the word accept is never used in the Bible in the sense of our accepting God or accepting Jesus as our Savior. It does seem strange that while we do not find its use anywhere in the Bible, the phrase, “Will you accept Christ?” or “Have you accepted Christ?” have become the catchwords throughout our soul-winning circles. The words accept and acceptance are used in the Scriptures in a number of ways, but never in connection with believing on Christ or receiving Christ for salvation or being saved.  
To accept Christ in anything like a saving relation is to have an attachment to the person of Christ that is revolutionary, complete, and exclusive.   
To accept the Lord means to accept His ways as our ways. We have taken His Word and His teachings as the guide in our lives. To accept Christ means that I accept His rejection as my rejection. When I accept Him I knowingly and willingly accept His cross as my cross. I accept His life as my life—back from the dead I come and up into a different kind of life. It means that I accept His future as my future. I am talking about the necessity of an exclusive attachment to His person—that is what it means to accept Christ. 
This is the situation of the people of God: the most intolerant book in all the wide world is the Bible, the inspired Word of God, and the most intolerant teacher that ever addressed Himself to an audience was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. On the other hand, Jesus Christ demonstrated the vast difference between being charitable and being tolerant. Jesus Christ was so charitable that in His great heart He took in all the people in the world and was willing to die even for those who hated Him. But even with that kind of love and charity crowning His being, Jesus was so intolerant that He taught: “If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you do not believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins.” He did not leave any middle ground to accommodate the neutral who preach tolerance.
“Follow me” is an invitation and a challenge and a promise. The cross has been the end of a life and the beginning of a life. The life that ended there was a life of sin and slavery; the life that began there is a life of holiness and spiritual freedom.
We can always be sure of the most important of all positives: God is God and God is right. He is in control. Because He is God He will never change! I repeat: God is right—always. That statement is the basis of all we are thinking about God.  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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