Lessons from A.W. Tozer: The Doctrine of Accepting and Seeking Jesus

I’m currently going through A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God for the second time and in chapter one, I find that simplicity is a common theme as it relates to man’s relationship with God. Tozer has an interesting view on what accepting and seeking Jesus means and I believe his view is one that is severely overlooked and not implemented enough in our modern-day Christianity.

Accepting Jesus in Our Hearts is Not Really Our Responsibility

When we often think of “accepting Jesus” the picture that comes to mind most often is of someone, or several people, standing in the front of a church altar with hands raised in submission, repeating the words of a pastor in what is commonly known as “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Within this prayer is usually the admission of one’s sins against God and the very real need for a Savior to come save the praying person from the wrath of God and promise of Hell, almost always ending with the person deciding and vowing to trust in Jesus for all her needs, both spiritual and otherwise, for all her days to come. There is much rejoicing afterward, for Heaven has gained another soul from the snares of the enemy—a praise-worthy event, indeed! The newly saved Christian is now sent on her merry way, with many people so happy for and proud of her for finally making the decision to follow Christ.

We too often believe that we are the focal point in our relationships. And who can blame us when many of us grow up believing that if we don’t follow God’s voice to the T, we’ll lose our blessings, our right standing with Him and, worse-case scenario, our salvation? We work hard to prove to God and others that we are worthy of love and acceptance. We set our eyes on our sin more than we do the goodness of God and self-flagellate to the point of self-hatred sometimes. This is not at all what the Father intended or desired. Let me help take some of that pressure off you.

We get no credit for coming to God and “giving our heart to Jesus” because He drew us to Him first.

A.W. Tozer says that when it comes to “accepting” Jesus (a term not found anywhere in the Bible), the responsibility is on Him, not us. He writes, “We get no credit for coming to God and “giving our heart to Jesus” because He drew us to Him first… No one can come to me, said our Lord, unless the Father who has sent me draws him, and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming.” I can attest to this. In a previous post, I wrote that my deconversion was thwarted only because God brought me back to Himself; it was nothing of my own doing. If it was up to me, I probably would not—could not—have returned.

Now, just because God draws us, this does not mean that we are free to not actively participate in our relationship with Him; rather, it means that we are not as responsible as we think we are for the initial pull of heartstrings. We know this because the Scriptures tell us in James 1 that if we are to come to Christ and ask anything of Him, we must believe that He exists and is good to those who seek Him. Nonetheless, after the initial acceptance of the risen King as Lord over one’s life, this is not the end of things, but the beginning of everything. The responsibility we have concerning Him now is to seek Him with all fervor and intentionality.

Seek Him While He May be Found

One of the great things I love about Tozer is his language. It is both simple and complex at the same time. Of seeking God, he writes that after the initial butterflies are over of responding to God’s call, that many have been “snared in the coils of a false logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.” His heart, I think, is saddened by the fact that most of the seeking of God has already been done for us by teachers and scholars of past generations. When I first read this, it had been just four months since I had finally answered God’s pull on my heartstrings and Tozer’s assessment made me stop cold. I wrote the following note on my Kindle: “It has been almost four months since I came back—or rather since God drew me back to Him—and I have wondered why I saw no clear, visible changes in my life mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise. I think this is why. I stopped pursuing God. In search of fellowship and community, because that’s how you grow, I just forgot the Greatest One of All.”

The seeking that comes from a genuine thirst and hunger, as a result of being in a relationship with God, has to be personal. No one can seek God for another.

Additionally, when I read Tozer’s words on seeking God, it reminded me of Timothy. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes to Timothy, urging him to “show [himself] approved” to God by teaching His word correctly so that others are not misled. I took that sentiment to heart, not in teaching God’s word but in seeking His face. The seeking that comes from a genuine thirst and hunger, as a result of being in a relationship with God, has to be personal. No one can seek God for another. She who seeks God must come boldly to the throne of grace and she must come alone.

A Final Thought and Tozer’s Prayer

In Philippians 3:8, Paul describes the knowledge of God as “excellency.” There is so much value to knowing the One who created all. It is easy for me to imagine that Tozer wrote the following with tears in his eyes: “Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.” Too many of us are complacent. To reciprocate the longing the Father feels for us may seem like an impossible feat, but all is that is required is a heart that desires Him above all else. In the midst of distractions, whether godly or worldly, be it a promising career or the thirst of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the one who acknowledges the strength of the argument of complacency, and then turns away with tears to some quiet place and cries “O, God, reveal to me Your glory” is the one who is blessed, the one for whom God waits. In that, the Father’s love is reciprocated back to Him. Simplicity is key here. There need not be a desire to impress or wise words spoken to achieve holiness. Rather, an open heart in childlike faith and dependence on the One who can do the impossible.

O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has
both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need of further
grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God,
the triune God, I want to want thee; I long to be
filled with longing; I thirst to be made more
thirsty still. Show me thy glory, I pray thee, that
so I may know thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new
work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up,
my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give
me grace to rise and follow thee up from this
misty lowland where I have wandered so long.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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