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Lowell Brueckner

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Personal Power and Group Pride



As I prepare and share radio programs on the Old Testament kings, I am made aware, once more, of man´s inability to handle power, no matter how great his character and spiritual maturity. We need constant reminders of the propensity of a common fault in human nature. David fell and a long line of Israel and Judah´s kings followed him. I just studied good King Uzziah, of whom it was said that “he became exceedingly strong… he was marvelously helped till he became strong.” But then, “When he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction.” He became furious, when the priests tried to advise him for his own good, and ended his life alone and in disgrace.

 The apostle Paul understood this defect in human nature, even in those born again, and was humble enough to write of his own personal experience: “Lest I should be exalted above measure… a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

 Don’t think that Tozer chose this text, looking for a sermon for his Sunday morning service in his church, or that he prepared it for preaching in one of the annual “Councils” (as they called them) of his denomination. That is, he wasn’t motivated by an urge to have an interesting text to catch the attention of the thousands of people attending from all parts of America and representatives of various parts of the world.

 We lived within 300 miles of Chicago, where Tozer was pastoring a church. I was only 19-years-old when Tozer died and I don’t remember ever hearing him in person, but I have read every book I could find of his and listened to dozens of his tapes. My dad heard him on various occasion in these “Councils”, that I mentioned, or in pastoral conventions, because he belonged to the same denomination. Also, I communicated for at least ten years personally, by letters and by telephone with a good friend of Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill. Len preached in Tozer’s church, prayed alone with him and considered him his mentor.

 No, from what I know about Tozer, he didn’t write this chapter because its theme would fit nicely into his book. He wrote it because he knew personally some of these “kings¨, just like the one described in Ecclesiastes, and I suspect that he found some of them in the organization that he belonged to. Tozer had enemies, who didn’t like him, because he brought to light the situations that he knew on his back doorstep. I had a friend, who was a student at a Bible school under the same denomination. Tozer came to talk to the students at the school’s “spiritual life week”, and afterwards was severely criticized by some of the professors.  


 I know what happened to my father, when his convictions didn’t allow him to obey his superiors, after being under them for over 30 years. I also know more than one of these “kings” that have experienced success and now they cannot be contradicted or have anyone introduce thoughts or practices than are different from what they have taught. They have forgotten that God in His grace has allowed them to have a part in His great work, but not so that they could insist that their own ways and opinions should be preserved. Their followers, then, must like what they like, pray as they pray, and believe and work as they do.  He intended that they should lead their followers to Christ, as John the Baptist did, so that they would freely serve Him, as He would guide and teach them. Paul told the Corinthians, “I have espoused you to one Husband”, and in Acts 14:23, we see Barnabas and him putting his words into practice, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”  Paul and Barnabas went on to another region. The church is the bride of Christ; it is a great error for a man to take possession of her.

 The short vision of these people does not allow them to see the extensive plan of God. They only can see, what they have done and have invested, and they do not look behind at the history that is always behind every one of the purposes of God. If we look at God’s big picture, it will humble us and we will see that our part, whatever it may have been, is so small when contrasted with His whole plan and we will also see the great need of receiving counsel and help in light of such eternal greatness. Let’s be thankful for those God has used to admonish us! May God receive the glory and may we be looking fixedly to Him for the development of His work in the future. 


“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice...”  Ecclesiastes 4:13 from A. W. Tozer’s book, The Root of the Righteous, chapter 7

 On Receiving Admonition

 AN ODD LITTLE PASSAGE in the Book of Ecclesiastes speaks of "an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished." It is not hard to understand why an old king, especially if he were a foolish one, would feel that he was beyond admonition. After he had for years given orders he might easily build a self-confident psychology that simply could not entertain the notion that he should take advice from others.

 His word had long been law, and to him right had become synonymous with his will and wrong had come to mean anything that ran contrary to his wishes. Soon the idea that there was anyone wise enough or good enough to reprove him would not so much as enter his mind. He had to be a foolish king to let himself get caught in that kind of web, and an old king to give the web time to get so strong that he could not break it and to give him time to get used to it so that he was no longer aware of its existence.

 Regardless of the moral process by which he arrived at his hardened state, the bell had already tolled for him. In every particular he was a lost man. His wizened old body still held together to provide a kind of movable tomb to house a soul already dead. Hope had long ago departed. God had left him to his fatal conceit. And soon he would die physically too, and he would die as a fool dieth. A state of heart that rejected admonition was characteristic of Israel at various periods in her history, and these periods were invariably followed by judgment. When Christ came to the Jews He found them chuck full of that arrogant self-confidence that would not accept reproof. "We be Abraham's seed," they said coldly when He talked to them about their sins and their need of salvation.

 The common people heard Him and repented, but the Jewish priests had ruled the roost too long to be willing to surrender their privileged position. Like the old king, they had gotten accustomed to being right all the time. To reprove them was to insult them. They were beyond reproof.

 Churches and Christian organizations have shown a tendency to fall into the same error that destroyed Israel: inability to receive admonition. After a time of growth and successful labor comes the deadly psychology of self-congratulation. Success itself becomes the cause of later failure. The leaders come to accept themselves as the very chosen of God. They are special objects of the divine favor; their success is proof enough that this is so. They must therefore be right, and anyone who tries to call them to account is instantly written off as an unauthorized meddler who should be ashamed to dare to reprove his betters.

 If anyone imagines that we are merely playing with words let him approach at random any religious leader and call attention to the weaknesses and sins in his organization. Such a one will be sure to get the quick brush off, and if he dares to persist he will be confronted with reports and statistics to prove that he is dead wrong and completely out of order. "We be the seed of Abraham" will be the burden of the defense. And who would dare find fault with Abraham's seed?

 Those who have already entered the state where they can no longer receive admonition are not likely to profit by this warning. After a man has gone over the precipice there is not much you can do for him; but we can place markers along the way to prevent the next traveler from going over. Here are a few:

 Don't defend your church or your organization against criticism. If the criticism is false it can do no harm. If it is true you need to hear it and do something about it.

 Be concerned not with what you have accomplished but over what you might have accomplished if you had followed the Lord completely. It is better to say (and feel), "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

 When reproved, pay no attention to the source. Do not ask whether it is a friend or an enemy that reproves you. An enemy is often of greater value to you than a friend because he is not influenced by sympathy.

Keep your heart open to the correction of the Lord and be ready to receive His chastisement regardless of who holds the whip. The great saints all learned to take a licking gracefully – and that may be one reason why they were great saints.



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