A.W. Tozer continues to be a voice within the Christian community. Well after his death in 1963, his passion and message continue to influence us. If you google Tozer you can find MP3 copies of sermons that he preached. I read The Pursuit of God when I was in college. I was first introduced to Tozer through the introduction that I wrote in Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries
This week I came across an editorial that Tozer wrote in The Alliance Weekly (now called Alliance Life), in 1954, entitled “The Terror of the Lord.” He made some absolutely poignant statements regarding theology and ministry in this short one page article. Let me share just a view excerpts and my comments.
A truth fully taught in the Scriptures and verified in personal experience by countless numbers of holy men and women through the centuries might be condensed thus into a religious axiom: No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God.
An accurate, biblical understanding of the fear of God sets the context for and understand of God’s grace. The fear/terror/dread of the Lord gives you a right perspective to see how amazing this grace is that we all sing about. If your theology does not make room for the holiness, awesomeness, wrath, anger, justice, terror of God, then grace seems puny and sentimental. God’s fury and terror makes his joy and grace look that much greater.
Until we have been gripped by that nameless terror which results when an unholy creature is suddenly confronted by that One who is the holiest of all, we are not likely to be much affected by the doctrine of love and grace as it is declared by the New Testament evangel.
He restates my previous comment with a great deal of eloquence here. We have to be “gripped” by terror in order to comprehend the doctrine of love.
The effort of liberal and borderline modernists to woo men to God by presenting the soft side of religion is an unqualified evil because it ignores the very reason for our alienation from God in the first place. Until a man has gotten into trouble with his heart he is not likely to get out of trouble with God.
This statement is still true 52 years later, except that the temptation to lure people to God by preaching the “soft side of religion” has crept into conservative, evangelical churches. I know that there has been more than one occasion that I preached the soft side, because I did not want people to be frightened off by the hard side of God. I love the way Tozer words this: “Until a man has gotten into trouble….” This is great. We need to see that our sin has gotten us into trouble with God.
As indispensable as is the terror of the Lord, we must always keep in mind that it cannot be induced by threats made in the name of the Lord. Hell and judgment are realities, and they must be preached in their Biblical context as fully as the Bible teaches them, no more and no less; but they cannot induce that mysterious thing we call the fear of the Lord…. The Holy Spirit alone can induce this emotion (of fear) in the human breast.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to “scare the hell out of people.” I have no problems with Judgment Houses and other Christian outreaches that use dramatic presentation to tab into the Halloween vibe of late October in order to demonstrate the realities of sin, judgment and hell. I think Tozer is rather referring to preachers, pastors and Christian communicators who constantly use guilt and manipulation to try to make people feel afraid of God. All we have to do is preach the truth. Let’s let the Holy Spirit fill people with the terror of the Lord.