It was in my library somewhere. It had been there for many years, actually about 45 years. I had, on occasion, taken it off the shelf to read it again. But this time, it was exactly what I was about: The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer.
pursuit of a 24/7 conversational relationship with God was just that – my pursuit of God Himself. And I wanted to hear from others who had gone before me in that same pursuit. While on his way home from the Akron, Ohio tire company where he worked as a teen, young Aiden Wilson Tozer overheard a street preacher say, “If you don’t know how to be saved…just call on God.” Upon returning home, Tozer climbed into the attic and heeded the preacher’s advice. In 1919, five years after his decision to follow Christ, and without formal theological training, Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. This began forty-four fruitful years of ministry during which he authored more than 40 books. “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love,” wrote Tozer.
I knew I was on the right track in the first three paragraphs of the first chapter. “. . . . before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.”
“Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
“We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge that spurs us to the pursuit. ‘No man can come to me,’ said our Lord, ‘except the Father which hath sent me draw him,’ and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out-working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: ‘Thy right hand upholdeth me.’"
Tozer reminded me that Moses “used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better.” ‘Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight.’ David’s life was “a torrent of spiritual desire,” wrote Tozer. In the months that followed, God would teach me to understand as never before that Moses and David, including Abraham, Elijah, Elisha, Paul, Peter and many others we have considered to be “heroes of the Bible” were never intended by God to be anomalies of faith. We are told about these everyday men and women because God intends them to be examples of the norm for those who pursue an intimate walk with Him. To be less is to be subnormal.
It was that norm that I ached for, so Tozer’s words tugged at my heart.
“ . . . . there are some who will. . . . hunt some lonely place and pray, ‘O God, show me thy glory.’ They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.”
Since reading those words, I have found that lonely place, and God in His indescribable grace and goodness has allowed me to taste, touch and see just a little of His wonder. The more I have tasted, the greater the desire has grown to taste, touch and see more of Him!
As I wrote in an earlier post, I was determined to know Jesus more fully than ever before, so I focused much of my study on the Gospels. I needed help in those studies, and once again the Holy Spirit supplied that need in an unlikely place – a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. I say “unlikely” because so many commentaries are (perhaps appropriately) focused on helping preachers and teachers prepare sermons and lessons. The only sermon being prepared was my life. I wanted to know Jesus better.
The Spirit’s answer was a Vietnam war veteran who had come to Jesus and is now a seminary professor. More importantly, his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew is focused on Jesus! He is in love with Jesus, just like I want to be! His name is MichaelJ. Wilkins and his commentary is The NIV Application Commentary on Matthew.
He wonderfully explains Jesus’ words, intent and spirit, such as this commentary on the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:
“This does not teach that humans must forgive others before they can receive forgiveness themselves; rather, forgiveness of others is proof that that disciple’s sins are forgiven and he or she possesses salvation. Disciples are to forgive those who have wronged them to maintain a joyful experience of our salvation. Doing so serves as evidence that a person has truly been forgiven his or her debt of sin. If we don’t forgive, it is evidence that we haven’t experienced forgiveness ourselves.”
As the Spirit of God bore me along through Matthew’s Gospel and all 972 pages of Michael Wilkins’ commentary, He began to teach me that what Jesus was describing in the “Sermon on the Mount,” for instance, was not what I had to do to be a disciple of Jesus, but what I would do if I was a disciple of Jesus. And Michael Wilkins introduced me to another teacher/author who was to have a profound impact on my life, with quotations like these:
“The ultimately lost person is the person who cannot want God. Who cannot want God to be God. Multitudes of such people pass by every day, and pass into eternity. The reason they do not find God is that they do not want him or, at least, do not want him to be God. Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”
This quotation is from Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart, which I am currently readying for the second time. Dallas Willard’s books and lectures (available on YouTube) were going to have a dramatic impact on me (which I plan to describe in future journal entries). It was Dallas Willard whom the Spirit of God used to begin to teach me that the actions and attitudes exhibited in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” are descriptions of - not what His disciples are supposed to do – but descriptions of what His disciples will do – without thinking. These attitudes and actions are the irrepressible product of the individual in whom Jesus is being formed.
I was about to begin the next and incredibly exciting leg of my journey: learning how to become an apprentice of Jesus!