“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
- Luke 12:49-53
“Tozer saw the evangelical and fundamentalist churches of his day selling out to the world, just as the liberal churches did before them, and it disturbed him greatly. …
“It was an era of what many called “easy believism.” Simply put, the idea was that if you said you believed in Jesus, everything else would be all right. You did not have to change anything, for God loved you just the way you were. This kind of message stirred Dr. Tozer greatly. And Tozer was at his best when he was stirred.”
- James L. Snyder, in the Preface to The Crucified Life (written and edited from the writings of A. W. Tozer)
When I read this quote from the beginning of The Crucified Life, crediting A. W. Tozer as the author, I had an eye-opening revelation about something that has bothered me for roughly 50 years.
When I became born-again during the Jesus Movement, there were family members that became intensely angry, an anger that remained under the surface until death. In a family where my brother was an ordained minister and every member of the family had always been active in the church, this reaction seems in contradiction to everything that I had been taught while growing up.
But the reaction, then my ‘new-reborn’ reaction to the reaction, led to an uneasiness when around certain people.
The Scripture is one that makes people uneasy. If Jesus is all about love, how can He bring division? How can He bring family members to be at odds with one another? How is this possible? Is it possible that one sees God’s will and actively follows it and the other sticks to the safe religion of a small town?
I know, looking back, that I did not handle the situation well and made it worse. If I had handled the situation better, as a mature Christian, it might have not led to such animosity. But I had just accepted Jesus as my Savior. I had not been a Christian long enough to handle such things. And I never expected such a reaction.
Then, roughly 50 years later, I hear about “easy believism” for the first time. I have heard preachers preach this kind of religion. These preachers seemed to be the best at church politics, keeping as many as possible happy. And those that were happiest were the ones who could easily make a simple statement of “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” And then move on as if nothing had just happened. Maybe because nothing happened.
Tozer writes in the first chapter of the book about someone saying that he is a Christian because when he was born, people told him so. It is a shame that when he dies and comes before the Judgement Seat, he’ll find out that he never was a Christian.
I have been in churches that would come to arms over that last paragraph, mainly because the church was filled with that type of “Christian.”
But now I know why. People that have fallen prey to easy believism , one of Satan’s most diabolical arrows in his quiver, are ready to fight anyone who disabuses them of the notion that Jesus wants more than a few words. Jesus wants us to accept God’s program of a day-to-day relationship with Jesus and a step-by-step walk with the God of the Universe. They want to say the words, and place God on the bookshelf, only pulling him down when they need some help. Then God better come through or else!
Do we, who follow Jesus daily, stumble? Yes, we do. But we have a God who loves us and helps us get back on our feet.
I recently finished Kay Warren’s Choose Joy. In the book she talks about how the Puritans felt it sinful to express Joy. They had taken a hard turn away from the beliefs of the Church of England. As a result, they lived a very austere life where fun and frivolity had no place at all, and in the process, there was no room for Joy.
I bring this up as an example of seeing the wrong in a religious practice and doing the opposite as a correction.
But doing in either case was the wrong thing to do. They needed, as we need, to be…
We need to turn to Jesus. The “What Would Jesus Do” movement simply justified some worldly concept of ‘do-gooding’ and added a label, and then marketed bracelets, etc. We really need to study the entire Bible as a whole and learn to be more like Jesus.
And the only way to do that is through total surrender to Jesus and trust in His power to pull it off. We cannot do it on our own power.
Maybe that is why those close to me fifty years ago were afraid of what this reborn stuff might do to me – create some odd creature that simply does not fit in this world. Then again, C. S. Lewis mentioned in at least one of his writings that Jesus did not fit in as a well-adjusted adult either.
Will I meet those loved ones on the other side? I have no idea. I can only live my life as I see God directing me to do so as I dig deeper into His Holy Word.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.