If you’ve never read any of the “Christian classics,” I highly recommend you do so. I began reading authors like CS Lewis, AW Tozer, Andrew Murray and George Muller and the book Pilgrim’s Progress late last year and cannot tell you how inspiring I found them to be. I actually read CS Lewis a couple of years ago and have yet to finish all of his works, but it definitely left me hungry for more. As I read or listen to respected Christan leaders, I take note of references to these early Christian authors and keep a list to read. I am now working my way through my collection, sometimes reading 2 at a time! You can get entire collections in one book and because most are no longer on any Best Seller lists (but should be!), you can generally get them for a little bit of nothing. My only regret is that I bought most of them to read on my Kindle so I cannot pass them along to others to read!
I do have to warn you, many people find it a bit challenging to stay in them long enough to get hooked but if you can stick with it and get used to each of the authors’ idiosyncrasies, it is well worth it. For the older authors and books, the language is not what we are accustomed to, but that is part of the attraction for me. We have so butchered and “dumbed down” the English language! To read it as it was once spoken and written can take some getting used to but it is like listening to great music! Experiencing the beauty of words and phrases seldom used anymore is heavenly (pardon the pun)! I read that Tozer wrote much of his work in a cramped upstairs apartment in the middle of Chicago – whether that’s true or not I haven’t taken the time to confirm. But, if true, I agree with one commentator I read – it’s hard to believe such inspired work came out of such a familiar, everyday place.
Numbers 21:9 (NIV):9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
It’s not only the language, it’s also their treatment of Scripture that we seldom see in modern-day authors. In contrasting the classics with modern-day works I think Tozer hits the nail on the head. We are so busy defending the faith or outlining how to get it into our lives that we seem to have lost the only real answer: fix our gaze on God; remind ourselves continuously of His presence. Just as in Numbers where God directs Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole in sight of all the people so that those who have been bitten can gaze upon it and live, so should we simply “look” constantly throughout our days upon Jesus as if He is sitting at our side. I guess this wouldn’t sell many books or programs. Living a life of faith, and experiencing the many blessings God promises us, according to Tozer, is simply this: looking at Him, for looking is believing. The first chapter would be the last chapter. As we move farther away from the simplicity of it, we are inundated with book after book and method after method of how to get our faith into our lives. I know I sound like a broken record when people come to me seeking relief from a burden in their lives. I can think of no other answer but to remind them to look to Jesus, keep your eye on Him, abide in Christ, remind yourself of Him every minute of every day.
As I began to grow in my faith, I sought out mature Christians, writers, speakers, preachers to help me understand what living for Christ should look like in my life; how I could rely on an unseen being to bring me comfort. It was overwhelming: I was introduced to all kinds of lists of things I should do; the beginning letter of each item on each list would begin with the same letter to help me remember the things I should be doing. But I couldn’t keep it all straight and my life became very similar to what it was before I found Christ – constantly working at developing better life habits. There was just one habit they failed to tell me about: reminding myself every minute of every day of Christ’s presence in my life (a.k.a. the Holy Spirit). This truth became clear to me as I read Andrew Murray’s “Abide in Christ.” It became clearer as I read Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God.”
Each of the authors I have read so far has given me a gift – Lewis has brought me extended knowledge and new ways to think about Scripture; Murray has added a level of peace to my life I never thought imaginable; Pilgrim’s Progress formed truths about our walk with God into visual pictures for me. I’ve not read enough of Muller to find what impact his writing is going to have. But Tozer has left me with a concept that I pray all Christians would grasp hold of and can be included in all of the things mentioned here: spiritual receptivity – our willingness to accept that the unseen spiritual world is as real as the physical world we can see.
I ran across Tozer’s concept of spiritual receptivity in his book The Pursuit of God and in my mind it answers the question as to why these works have lasted, why one person stays in the Bible consistently while another does not, why one Christian can truly find peace with Christ while another does not, while one finds it “normal” to walk with God while another struggles to stay in that place, why one struggles with handling their emotions while another has learned how to act on them in a Biblical manner . We must understand and KNOW that the spiritual realm of God is an unseen reality, and though we cannot experience with any of our five senses, it is no less a reality. One can believe in the principle of God, but not in the reality of Him. As long as I have even the slightest doubt about the reality of Him, I have no real being on whom I can rely. Though I tell myself I hand my burdens over to Him, if I do not truly believe there is anyone really “there” to see to them, I am left with nobody to take care of them.
I have spent the last 4 years desperately trying to understand what living out my faith should look like in my day-to-day life. I felt it shouldn’t be something that changed with my emotions or the circumstances I found myself in each day. It needed to be so ingrained in me that, when external things threatened my peace or my joy, I overcame it no matter what the threat was. I wanted God’s presence in my life to be so entrenched in my minute-to-minute living that when I found myself feeling the consuming fear I had lived with for so long, I would be able to turn loose of it because I truly trusted God and His working in my life. I reached that level of trust and faith as I read Andrew Murray (Abide in Christ; The Two Covenants). His revelations were reinforced by Tozer’s concept of spiritual receptivity (The Pursuit of God and Man: The Dwelling Place of God). I found I can live more spiritually not by checking things off of a list of behaviors that all beginning with the letter “P” but by keeping my mind on Christ as much as possible. As I read my Bible each day, I formed a “book club” with Murray and Tozer. Their written words elaborated on what I was reading in God’s Word, emphasizing the points I wasn’t paying enough attention to, pasting together the verses that I needed to see in one place about living this Christian life.
If you want to accept my challenge to begin reading the Christian classics, I recommend starting with Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. The prayers at the end of each chapter are amazing. I truly believe you will find a new level of spirituality as you gain insight from these amazing followers of Christ!