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lwpray
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 The Great Test: Modifying the Truth




A.W. Tozer

THERE IS A GREAT DECISION THAT EVERY DENOMINATION has to make sometime in the development of its history. Every church also has to make it either at its beginning or a little later—usually a little later. Eventually every board is faced with the decision and has to keep making it, not by one great decision made once for all, but by a series of little decisions adding up to one great big one. Every pastor has to face it and keep renewing his decision on his knees before God. Finally, every church member, every evangelist, every Christian has to make this decision. It is a matter of judgment upon that denomination, that church, that board, that pastor, that leader and upon their descendants and spiritual children.
The question is this: Shall we modify the truth in doctrine or practice to gain more adherents? Or shall we preserve the truth in doctrine and practice and take the consequences? If the decision is that we modify the truth and practice of the church, then we are responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be. God already knows what the consequences are, and history has shown what they are. But if we choose to preserve the truth, then God accepts the responsibility.

Business people have to make that choice in business. Everyone has to make it at income tax time. Students have to make it in school. We have to make it everywhere in our lives as we touch society. Shall we preserve the truth and the practice of the truth, or shall we alter it just comfortably in order to be more popular, gain more adherents and get along easier in the world?
Actually such a question should never need to be asked. It is like asking, “Should a man be faithful to his wife?” There is only one answer to that question. When we ask, “Shall we preserve the truth and practice of the church, or shall we modify it for immediate and visible results?” we ought to have only one answer. It is not a debatable question, and yet it is one that has to be constantly debated in the secret prayer chamber. It is constantly debated when conferences meet, when boards meet and when a pastor must make a decision.

A commitment to preserving the truth and practice of the church is what separates me from a great many people who are perhaps far greater than I am in ability. This is my conviction, long held and deeply confirmed by a knowledge of the fact that modern gospel churches, almost without exception, have decided to modify the truth and practice a little in order to have more adherents and get along better. When we make a decision to modify the truth, we bring the consequences of that choice upon ourselves. What have the consequences been?
One has been an absence of a spirit of worship in the church. Many people do not even know what is meant by a spirit of worship. That is tragic. I wish God would either change things a little or give me a sight of His glory among His people. I admit that sometimes I feel like the man of God who said,
Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest—
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert. (Psalm 55:6–7)

Many of the Lord’s people do not know what you mean when you mention a spirit of worship in the church. They are poor victims of boards, churches, denominations and pastors who have made the noble decision to modify the truth and practice a little. But God responded, “If you do, I will withdraw from you the spirit of worship. I will remove your candlestick.”


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/26 14:21Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



Absence of spiritual desire
A second consequence is the absence of spiritual desire. How many people do you know who are all burnt up with spiritual desire and longing after God? How many have tears of eagerness in their eyes when you talk to them? How many say, “Oh, that I might know God better!” Our fathers had spiritual desire, and they spent days with God.
Another result is coldness of heart, which is similar to an absence of spiritual desire. Once you have been baptized with the fire of inward longing, you will never be satisfied with coldness of heart.
G. Campbell Morgan, the great English preacher, went to Wales to see the Welsh revival and then came back to Westminster Chapel. What he saw in Wales so moved the great expositor that he got up and roundly lectured his audience. In effect he said, “You are a cold bunch. You don’t even sing warmly; you don’t even sing right.” Morgan had heard the Welsh sing—they sang the Psalms and nothing else. A man would get up to preach, and in the audience somebody would raise a psalm and off the whole congregation would go, singing a psalm. The preacher would have to sit down in confusion. God had never told him to preach anyhow, and he knew it. Then two or three people would get down on their knees and get converted—no altar calls; they just got converted where they were. The fire of God would fall upon them everywhere.
One man got up and said, “I have a sermon tonight that consists of three Cs,” and he listed his three points each beginning with the letter C. Before he was halfway through the first C, the Holy Spirit fell on the audience. Somebody with a high voice raised a psalm, and they sang him down. He sat down with the other two Cs unmolested. Those people had warmth of heart. But we do not have it because we have made the ignoble decision that we would rather compromise a little bit on truth and practice.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/26 16:43Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



Lack of spirit of prayer
A fourth consequence is the lack of the spirit of prayer. No child is born until there is labor. When Evan Roberts, whom God used to start the great Welsh revival, was in a prayer meeting somebody said to him, “Evan, never miss a prayer meeting, because the one you miss may be the one when the Holy Spirit falls.” So Evan never missed a prayer meeting. One night when he was on his knees the Holy Spirit fell upon him, and he began to pray, “Oh God, bend me, bend me, bend me.” Another man was praying, and Evan did not want to break in. Roberts described the experience, “I waited for the other man to get through, but it seemed he would never get through; he prayed on and on. Finally, he tapered off and petered out and said, ’Amen.’ “ Evan began to pray, and the place was shaken with his prayer. From there on the revival in Wales was under way.
Now that is the spirit of prayer. When the spirit of prayer falls on people, God answers their prayer and things are done. When a spirit of prayer is not on us, we just mumble on endlessly. But when the spirit of prayer is on us, the Spirit praying in us to the God above us will get things done around us.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/27 2:40Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



No sense of God’s presence
A fifth consequence of modifying the truth is that there is no sense of God’s presence in the average church. I get around quite a bit, but I do not go into many places where I find the sense of God’s presence. There are almost no answers to prayer and almost no divine manifestations. This leads to the deadliest consequence of all: the absence of saintliness.
There are a few saints around who are so sold out to God that you could not keep them still. They are always coming up with something, and you know that they have been in the presence of the Lord. They live their faith regularly and consistently. Everything they do is congruous with everything they testify to.
The spirit of worship should be on us until tears are as common as the snow over Toronto. It is the will of God that we should be burnt with spiritual desire. We should be singing, “Oh Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord, forgive me if I say, for very love Thy precious name a thousand times a day.” We would not be singing hypocritically—we would mean it.
It is God’s will that we should have no coldness of heart. The difference between coldness of heart and warmth of heart is the difference between being in love and not being in love. When a person loves deeply, whether someone of the opposite sex or a baby or a child, it warms the affections. Sometimes our telephone rings at night, and the operator at the other end of the line says, “Would you receive this phone call, please, collect from somebody named Becky?” As soon as that call comes from my daughter I feel something warm inside. I get calls from people for whom I do not feel anything warm. Somebody usually wants me to do something. I like those people, but I am not particularly warm. That is the difference between coldness and warmth of heart.
God wants us to have warm hearts, and He wants us to have a spirit of prayer so prayer is effective. Most prayer is like forever turning a key on a dead battery, and the starter does not even whine. Turn the key for twenty minutes saying, “Our Lord and our Father” twenty nine times, and there is still not a buzz. God does not want us to pray like that. He wants a spirit of prayer to be on the people. You can have that spirit of prayer. He wants to answer your prayer, and He wants the sense of His presence to be upon you. Always remember one thing: When the Spirit of the Lord comes, that is the presence, and you have that presence. God does want to manifest Himself.
Our eagerness to be proper, never get out of order and never have anything fanatical happen continues until nothing happens at all. There is no divine manifestation, and there is an absence of saintliness. Yet God wants us to know His presence and exhibit saintliness.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/27 16:09Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



Usually follow a trend
How did we get into this fix that we are in? Well, evangelicals usually follow a trend. It is dangerous to follow a trend unless your eyes are open and you know where the trend is going. This trend began in the last decades of the last century and carried on with some big names promoting it. In their zeal to make converts and adherents, they oversimplified the Christian faith. That is our difficulty today. We oversimplify it, and yet we never get simple. Isn’t that odd? We oversimplify the truth, and yet we have the most complex, mixed up beliefs.
The average Christian is like a kitten that has found a ball of yarn and has played with the yarn and romped until it is wrapped in a cocoon. The kitten cannot get itself out. It just lies there and whimpers. Somebody has to come unwind it. We have tried to be simple, but instead of being simple we have simplified—we have not become simple. We are sophisticated and overly complex.

We have simplified so Christianity amounts to this: God is love; Jesus died for you; believe, accept, be jolly, have fun and tell others. And away we go—that is the Christianity of our day. I would not give a plug nickel for the whole business of it. Once in a while God has a poor bleeding sheep that manages to live on that kind of thing and we wonder how.
I have traveled through the American Southwest, and I have seen swaybacked cattle. You could count every rib if the train was not going too fast. They stand out there between stalks of long grass, brown and dry and hard. As we sailed by on a fast, streamlined train, I wondered how the poor things ever live. Somehow or other they manage to do it.
You will find a few of God’s people here and there even in that kind of atmosphere. Whole generations of Christians have grown up believing that this is the faith of our fathers living still, in spite of dungeons, fire and sword. The devil would not be caught dead trying to kill anybody for acting like that. It does not bother him—the only thing the devil hates is somebody who is after him.

When my friend Alan Redpath shakes your hand to say goodbye, he smiles and says, “Well, K.O.K.T.D.” That stands for “keep on kicking the devil.” The devil does not mind if you are not a bother to him, and most of us are not. The devil looks at us, smiles and says, “That poor little emaciated weakling can’t do my kingdom any harm.” A whole generation has thought this to be Christianity. That is the faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon fire and sword. Nobody ever put people like that in a dungeon—they are already there. They were born into it. Nobody ever threw them to the flames, because they are harmless.
There must come a reformation, a revival that will result in a fresh emphasis on neglected truth. I do not preach any new truth. I do not have a new doctrine, and if anybody would come here preaching a new doctrine, I would say, “I’m sorry, but we already have our doctrine.” I would not allow that preacher in the pulpit. We do not want new doctrine—we want fresh emphasis on doctrine already well known by all of us.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/28 1:56Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



Revival that will mean purity of heart
We must have a revival that will mean purity of heart as a normal standard for everybody. We must be clean people, and not only clean outside. Average evangelicals do not smoke, and because they do not, they feel they are doing God’s service. Thank God they do not smoke—that is a start toward clean living. But purity of heart goes deeper.
Purity of heart is taken for granted, yet we must have it to be clean people. Even in my lifetime—and I have not lived 500 years yet—I can well remember that when people lost their tempers they had to go to an altar and get cleansed. People knew they were out of victory and were not right with God. People were supposed to have a pure heart. We need and must have a revival that will mean divine energy to give our Christian witness power.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8a). It is frustrating to talk to people about the Lord and not get anywhere at all, to not have any power at all.

In addition to becoming people with clean hearts, we must become a fellowship where there are frequent answers to prayer and the calling out of Christian missionaries and preachers. I would like to see our young people feel the call of God on them until they have to leave us and begin preaching. I would like to see the Spirit of God move upon us until our young people cannot afford to sit and figure out who they are going to marry and when. That will come in its time, but they will be thinking, Where can I serve God? Then one day, suddenly, the hand of God will be laid on their shoulders and off they will go. How many young people like that have I seen? Many young people do come to me and say, “I feel that God has His hand on me.”
A man I knew during World War II was something of an oddball in temperament. I never thought he would amount to very much. He went off to the war, was wounded and was tumbling over a cliff. He would have fallen to his death below. Before he went over he said, “I am called to Ethiopia.” As he was tumbling and sliding slowly toward certain death, he knew he was called to Ethiopia. A great big old tough sergeant saw him, grabbed him as he was going over and hauled him back, and he recovered. He came back after the war but nobody wanted him; he did not have the proper schooling. Finally, a well-known missionary society sent him to Ethiopia. He went over there and has been preaching there ever since.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/28 14:52Profile
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 Re: The Great Test: Modifying the Truth



We need revival and reformation
I believe we desperately need revival and reformation to come. In Exodus they came to the end of 400 years of Israel’s defeat. I read of Hezekiah, the son of an evil father, Ahaz, who had brought Israel to the lowest moral condition that it had been in for a long time. Ahaz died and his son Hezekiah reigned in his stead. Hezekiah was a holy man and sought God immediately. He threw the dirt out of the temple and sent word throughout all Israel and said, “Come to the meeting.” Israel began to be blessed. They cleansed the temple and started the fires again. The first thing they knew they had a revival on their hands. It was also Hezekiah who prayed when Sennacherib came down like a wolf on a foal with his cohorts all gleaming in purple and gold. It was under Hezekiah that the breath of the Lord smote those thousands and delivered Jerusalem.
When the Israelites returned from Babylon God spoke to a man who cared, a man with a concern, who was cupbearer to the king. The king said, “What’s the matter with you? You haven’t been gloomy like this before.” Nehemiah responded, “Your majesty, pardon me please, but I can’t help it. My heart is broken. My father’s city is in rubble and the foxes run over the walls. The glorious temple where we used to worship Jehovah has been razed to the ground and the religion of Israel is gone into decay.” King Artaxerxes, not knowing that God was working in his life, said, “You go back to rebuild Jerusalem.” That was the beginning of the return from Babylon.

Since Bible times we have had these periods of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. I just happened to notice a comment in a book I was reading today on this subject. The writer said, “God added a postscript to that.” Here it is: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
Everyone has a private battle going on, a private fight. You are in the midst of a wicked and adulterous generation, but you have got to overcome. He who overcame indicates that you also can overcome, but He indicates that not all do. You can overcome your own flesh, which will be the hardest. You can overcome tradition and custom, which will be the second hardest. You can overcome all things. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” ( Revelation 2:7b).
The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God—not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice.

END

From Rut, Rot or Revival


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/28 17:04Profile





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