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Lowell Brueckner

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Who Should We Listen To?


I will not try to hide the fact that one of my favorite authors, if not my favorite, is A. W. Tozer. There are several reasons for this. First of all, Tozer belonged to the same denomination, in which I was raised as a boy, so I especially appreciate some of the truth that they emphasized (just to mention two favorite verses… “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “not I, but Christ in me”). Secondly, Tozer lived near enough to this generation to speak of trends that are still in the forefront in our day and he knew where they would lead us. Above those two reasons, Tozer had a gift of expression, when he spoke or wrote about God and His Son that warms my heart more than any other writer. Of course, I consider the material of many more authors to be valuable. We need the body of Christ, the saints of all ages, which comprise the Church, whether they are alive or have already passed on to Glory. We only see a small part of the whole spectrum of truth. Others in our day see other things, and down through time, men of God saw gems of scriptural truth, which can enrich us today. We need to read good books… lots of them! The people of God have always done that.

At the same time, I find things in which I disagree with Tozer, although they are not many and certainly not vital matters. I mention Tozer, because you will see that I have presented some of his thoughts previously and I want to do some again. Here are some things that Tozer had to say concerning loyalty and following man. Tozer was a pastor, principally in two churches in his lifetime, one in Chicago and the other in Toronto, so he is speaking on this subject from a pastoral standpoint. He always pointed his people to Christ alone:

In Rut, Root or Revival, chapter five, he said: “Faith in Jesus is not commitment to your church or denomination. I believe in the local church… I believe in the divine assembly. We ought to realize that we are, as a group of Christians, a divine assembly, a cell in the body of Christ, alive with His life. But not for one second would I try to create in you a faith that would lead you to commit yourself irrevocably to a local church or to your church leaders.”

“You are not asked to follow your church leaders. You are not asked like a little robin on the nest to open your innocent little mouth and just take anything I put in. If what I put in is not biblical food, regurgitate and do not be afraid to do it. Call me or come see me or write me a letter. But do something about it. Do not, by any means, swallow what your leaders give you. Here is the book, the Bible; go for it."

In chapter four (Listen to the Man Who Listens to God) in the book The Root of the Righteous, Tozer speaks on the importance of choosing our teachers: “In any group of ten persons at least nine are sure to believe that they are qualified to offer advice to others. And in no other field of human interest are people as ready to offer advice as in the field of religion and morals…. Bible history gives examples of men who made a failure of their lives because they took wrong advice.”

“No man has any right to offer advice who has not first heard God speak. No man has any right to counsel others, who is not ready to hear and follow the counsel of the Lord. True moral wisdom must always be an echo of God’s voice. The only safe light for our path is the light which is reflected from Christ, the Light of the World.”

“It is especially important that young people learn whose counsel to trust.” Usually examples can be given about those who have not listened to counsel and have married the wrong person. I can give those examples, too. But it also works the other way. A lady, now happily married for many years, told me that when she was seriously contemplating marriage, a leader, who was opposed to the marriage, asked her if ‘she was going to stop listening to the devil’.  By the way, he had no scriptural support for his advice. When you hear of leaders taking it upon themselves to decide who should marry whom, outside of Scriptural reasons, they are fulfilling Paul’s prophesy of those who ‘forbid to marry’. I heard about a would-be prophetess, who tried to detain a wedding, because of a dream that she had about the couple, who were going to be married. I would define that as fanaticism!

“The rule of listening only to those who have first listened to God will save us from many a snare. All religious projects should be tested by it. In this period of unusual religious activity we must keep calm and well poised. Before we follow any man in any activity that has not upon it the marks of the cross… God has His chosen men still, and they are without exception good listeners. They can hear when the Lord speaks. We may safely listen to such men, but to no others.”

In The Price of Neglect, in the last chapter (called The Law of the Leader) he makes the distinction between cattle and sheep and points that the cattle are driven, but the sheep are led. To be driven is to feel a strong coercion from the part of the leader to obey and, if you disobey, a strong reaction of disapproval, alienation or even a threat of expulsion.

In The Set of the Sail, there is a chapter about The Right Attitude toward Our Spiritual Leaders, Tozer comments: "We make a serious mistake when we became so attached to the preaching or writing of a great Christian leader that we accept his teaching without daring to examine it. No man is that important in the kingdom of God. We should follow men only as they follow the Lord and we should keep an open mind, lest we become blind followers of a man whose breath is in his nostrils.”(Is.2:22)

     We have just read truth and few would argue with it. Yet many will go right on listening to those who have not heard from God, somehow blinded to the fact that they are doing it. That is part of the deception under which they are accustomed to live. It is time for a thorough examination of ourselves and our circle of fellowship. It´s wake up time; the alarm is ringing! Paul said it long before I did… Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Ro.13:11), or "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Eph.5:14).


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