I love A.W. Tozer. He was ahead of his time. Below is a great essay that he wrote regarding the waning influence of authority that Christ is experiencing among His churches. It's sad, but it's a real problem. A great number of things can exert pressure on the authority of Christ within His church: headstrong members, financial problems, narcissistic and egotistical pastors/staff, deacons/elders trying to manhandle every situation, clinging to historical traditions, becoming subservient to strong willed opinions, toleration of malicious gossip, glorification of a building or a particular ministry, etc... Whatever the reasons, we often see the church today subjected to authority that is far from that of Jesus Christ. It's authority that is often meant for the good, but when Christ is not the authority, nothing of spiritual worth can be obtained.
Christian, be careful to whom you submit authority to in your life, because very few deserve it...very few, and ultimately Christ is the final authority. Be very aware of who is in authority at your church. If Christ is not the head, then you're not going to a church, you're going to a social club. And be aware of who in authority in your life. If it's not Jesus Christ, then you're playing games at the foot of the cross. Authority is important, and it needs to be in the right hands...resting solely in the hands of Jesus Christ.
Below is an essay that Tozer wrote regarding the diminished authority of Christ within the church. It's worth your time.
The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches
An Essay by A.W. Tozer
Here is the burden of my heart; and while I claim for myself no special inspiration I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit.
If I know my own heart it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches.
I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.
Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals.
It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church.
The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term "the Crown") is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.
Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" is the church's national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden" or "Let not your heart be troubled," but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.
Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.
But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln's long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.
The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.
What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ.
To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament we take refuge in a liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry is not the possession of Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid the sharp point of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality and make the words of Christ of none effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically only after they have been weakened by interpretation.
Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with "problems" and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them to avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and to their own ids. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people.
But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.
What church board consults our Lord's words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or "a season of prayer;” after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.
What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, "operations" and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.
Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.
What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the “scriptural-ness” of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn't even have a vote.
In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.
What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?
What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.
The causes back of the decline in our Lord's authority are many. I name only two.
One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.
The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I'll explain.
Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.
He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.
For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.
What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.
Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.
90 Minutes of Not Much
The post below was written on Monday night during the first Presidential debate of the year. I've received a lot of messages regarding this post, so I thought I would share it here on my site for those who aren't on Facebook...
I'm sitting here watching the Presidential Debate, and I'm not pleased with what is being displayed. It's rehearsed ignorance, and it's glorified. Neither of these two individuals bring anything of worth to a country, and a world, being torn apart by hatred, terrorism, immorality, global war, and unapologetic Godlessness.
We're living in a country that has lost its way. Morals, values, character, and common sense have been set aside and replaced with a fear of offending anyone for any reason. We're living in a day where we think it's sane for an individual to wake up one morning and make a determination that they would choose to be identified as the opposite sex for the day. The spending of our elected officials has driven our nation into unimaginable debt. Entitlement mentality has altered the very character of our citizenry. Tension between races has never been higher, and politicians use that tension as tool to continue their lucrative careers ruining this country. Hardee's can't seem to sell a hamburger without scantily clad women, and we have "safe zones" on college campuses where pathetic and sissified young adults can hide from the opinions that scare them. Let's not even address the internal holocaust of millions of unborn children slaughtered at the hands of convenient medicine. And now, we've whittled down our presidential candidates to a pompous and self absorbed business man, and a lifetime politician who has an incredible propensity to lie. These two are far from the great hope of a deteriorating nation.
What I've typed probably offends a great number of you. If it did offend you, then let me encourage you to either grow up, or find a "safe zone." The cure for America's problems will not be found among the ranks of the Republican or Democratic Parties. It will not be found hiding behind a fat paycheck in the halls of Congress. The cure for racism and immorality will not be achieved through laws; one cannot legislate the evil heart of mankind.
The cure for this country is Jesus Christ. In Him, and only in Him, will it ever find peace.
Do you know Him...or is your hope in the failed political system and the governance of man?
I pray for both of these candidates, because one will be victorious, and, frankly, their victory will only add to the mounting tensions we already face. God loves Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Christ died for them both, just as He died for me. And, although I see no promise of a bright future on display in our current election, I do know that our only hope is Jesus...and, He's coming back!
Let me remind you of this verse…
"He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."
– Revelation 22:20
If your hope is grounded in anything other than the redeeming power of the purposely shed blood of Christ, then you have no hope. Hopelessness was on display for 90 minutes tonight, and it was watched by millions.
Christ waits for your attention...what more will it take?
More on Faith
'Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.' — C.S. Lewis
Just a simple thought for the rest of you day...
So much in our life is dictated by our particular mood at the precise moment of contact with a situation. If our mood is reasonable, both the good and bad things are met with optimism and forward thinking. If our mood is poor, the good things are met with diminished effect, and the bad things in life are made much worse. Optimism through adversity should be a natural state of mind for the follower of Christ. Although the story of the Bible is typically one of great struggle, we have a reason, as Christians, to be optimistically forward thinking.
Name for me a time that God has ever failed?
Look throughout scripture and find an occurrence where God's power and might fell short of the goal?
It's never happened, and it never will.
Faith is often a balancing act of the recognition of God's unfathomable strength and abilities versus the faith-killing distractions and fragile moodiness that we often experience in our weakness. The reality is, God's power isn't diminished by our weakness and bad moods, and thank God for that! God's Word says that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:9).
You can't base your faith on how you feel. What would have been the outcome if Jesus Christ would have based His love for mankind on how He felt...specifically at the moment when mankind was driving nails into His innocent body? What if God's love for us was based on how He felt when He had to turn His gaze away from Christ on the cross because of our sin?
God's love for us isn't based on our silly, childlike and destructive moods, and our perception of the power of faith shouldn't be altered by our momentary bad attitudes. If our mood diminishes our faith in Almighty God, then our mood has become our God...if only for a moment. And, in that moment, Satan scores a victory, and we take a step away from God.
Do you have a circumstantial faith? If your faith is dictated by your current situation, then you're in for a life of disconnect from the power of Almighty God. If so, how is your relationship with Almighty God? English evangelist, Anthony Farindon, once said, “Talk what we will of faith, if we do not trust and rely up Him (God), we do not believe in Him.” Could that be the cold hard truth for many whose faith is only as strong as the circumstances would dictate? Possibly…however, I don’t believe that every person who struggles with faith is lost. But, I would submit that those who struggle with faith are struggling in their walk with God. Like me, and everyone else, our personal walk with the Almighty is often hindered by the tragedies of this life. Distraction, confusion, and a robust sin nature often all work in tandem to damage a healthy walk with Christ, and, thus, diminish the effectiveness of our faith.
God has greater plans for us all, and be aware that those plans will often require a tedious walk through adversity. It's coming, so prepare for it with diligence. When you meet that adversity, be optimistic. Find some foundational peace in the promises of God and let faith arise. Child of God...remove the scowl from your face, quit whining and complaining, stop rolling around in self-pity and ignorance, and let God's plan proceed and produce in you something of worth! We often live as if the tomb is still occupied. Live in the reality that “His body isn’t there.” Have some faith. Christ overcame death; what circumstance do we perceive that is beyond His ability?
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." — 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
Days here can seem long, but life is short. In fact, when compared to the eternity before us, life is but a whisper. So, the troubles here are only momentary, but, for those who have made Christ Lord, there’s an eternal glory coming. But, do we live our life as an eternal being, or are we trying to squeeze the Joel Osteen “your best life now” mentality out of our numbered days here on this earth? Frankly, I don’t care to have my best life now; I would prefer my best life to start when I enter into the presence of Jesus.
Earthly life is full of circumstances. As of late, most of those circumstances are ominous. If our delicate security, happiness, and faith is held in the hands of the ever changing circumstances of this life, then we are not secure at all, and we’re certainly not happy. We won’t even discuss how our faith is often very loosely tied to the above examples, but, needless to say, our faith, when we’re insecure and unhappy, is also shaken. Consequently, if we are living our life as an eternal being, and our foundation is grounded in the sovereignty of God, then let the bad circumstances come. We can’t stop Satan from trying to ruin our day, but we cannot allow him to let earthly circumstances dictate our eternal faith.
Live life as a conqueror, because you are! Be reminded that God’s Word says this regarding our response, in faith, to life’s troubles…
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
Defeat is only one weak moment of faith away. Victory is found in the renewing of your faith daily. Keep the promises of God closer to your heart than the disabling fear of circumstances. The words of the verse above is a firm promise that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. The bigger question: Is Christ Jesus Lord?
“The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials.” – George Muller
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!