The Christmas gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Anticipation grows for that day when loved ones will gather together to give and receive gifts. We srimp and save, plan and pursue those things we hope to bring joy to others, and we can hardly wait to see their reaction.
But what would happen if the gifts stayed under the tree, unwrapped, unused, undiscovered? Would they give the joy they were intended to bring? Would the love and kindness of the giver ever be known if the gift is left untouched. How do we show our gratitude if we never receive and take the gift as our own?
While it is unimaginable that our Christmas presents would go unopened, how often do we treat the gifts of God’s grace like that? We hear the promise of the Gospel proclaimed and we tell ourselves, “Well that’s good to know. If I ever need a savior, I’ll know where to turn.” We treat God’s grace like something that can be shelved and stored for later, and we never really take it in and apply it to our lives.
A. W. Tozer, in his book, The Pursuit of God, writes that God’s gift of saving grace in Jesus Christ must be received and cultivated in our lives. While never waivering from the teaching on the sovereign grace of God in our salvation, Tozer does warn that it often leads to a “sterile passivity.” Written in 1948, Tozer seems timeless in his analysis of the contemporary stagnation of the Church and it’s remedy.
The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-growing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. (My emphasis. Doesn’t this describe much of what we call “devotion time”? Will the “smartphone” age swipe right for God?!?)
The tragic results of this spirit are all [around] us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasireligious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.
For this sickness that is upon us no one person is responsible and no Christian is wholly free from blame. We have all contributed directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor, average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.
It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done… What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.
Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.
Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. (Moody Pub.; Chicago, Ill. 2006) pgs 75-77.