In the classic The Knowledge of the Holy the famous A. W. Tozer laid out seven conditions to be met if we would have the knowledge of God. By this Tozer did not have in mind some kind of special experience or knowledge for only a few but the normal experience of all of those who truly want to “know” God in Jesus Christ. These seven steps are:
Step One: Becoming a child of God requires us to forsake our sins. It is sin that keeps us from a relationship with a perfect, holy, sovereign God who is without sin. Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in hear; for they will see God (Matthew 5:8). There must be repentance and an acknowledgment of our complete inability to save ourselves. We must be “justified.” Note: Tozer links justifying faith to repentance very clearly and plainly. He never separates them since the Bible doesn’t either.
Step Two: After we have turned from our sins, there is a need to make a complete committal of our lives to Christ. This gets to the heart of the so-called Lordship debate. Tozer’s views are clearly on one side of this divide. For him a commitment to “believe in Christ” requires both a personal and spiritual attachment to the Savior as well as an active intention to obey God in all matters. Tozer is not saying that we “earn” salvation but he is saying: “We must repent!” And he is also saying, “We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Both of these are aspects widely missing in our modern context.
Step Three: We must undergo this turning from our sin to the point that we die to sin and become alive in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we must open our heart, soul, mind and strength to the Holy Spirit, who will uphold us and comfort us as we begin growing in our faith. This is the process Protestants call “sanctification.” Tozer made a distinction between justification and sanctification, as Protestants will traditionally and rightly make, but he would never separate them the way modern evangelicals have done.
In tomorrow’s post I will list four other “conditions," or steps, that Tozer laid out for knowing God, or salvation. What I would like to note today is his use of the word condition. What I think Tozer means by this word should be understood in the following way. A condition is something that must be met before we can experience something to the fullest extent. A sentence that would capture this goes like this: “Before you can know complete and final victory and success you must meet the conditions of training and preparation.” Tozer is saying that salvation is genuinely a free gift but it will cost you everything if you intend to have it and enjoy it in God’s grace and operations.
Tozer was a thorough-going evangelical Protestant but he was also using his deep reading in Catholic and mystical writers to frame his thinking. I believe he framed it correctly, at least in most instances. I have a quarrel with some aspects of his mysticism and some of his way of dealing with related matters on holiness but overall I think he was much more right than wrong in the direction of his thought. Anyone who would say the same kind of stuff today would be in even deeper trouble than Tozer was in his time. People in most of our evangelical churches could never handle such talk about “conditions.” Try it and you will see. I have and I know this first hand.