"When the Psalmist saw the transgression of the wicked, his heart told him how it could be. 'There is no fear of God before his eyes' he explained, and in so saying revealed to us the psychology of sin. When men no longer fear God, they transgress His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone." -- A.W.Tozer "The Knowledge of the Holy"
I was a freshman in college when I first read A. W. Tozer. My roommate was reading it for a class and he read one quote to me and I was sold. Tozer writes from a different perspective than today’s Christian authors. He wasn’t looking for fame or acceptance. He wasn’t out there, writing his books and preaching his sermons, hoping to win friends and influence people. He was a clarion call. He was consumed by the Holiness of God and by the changes that automatically brings in the life of any who encountered it.
Tozer did not mince words or soften the blow of an encounter with a holy God. For him, it was a total surrender or it was nothing at all. I never met Tozer, he died the year before I was born, but I think he would have approved of my often-used description of the cross of Christ as a “head-on-collision.” An inescapable totaling of your person. Your frame is bent and needs to be straightened. Your metal gets wrinkled. The outward skin that shone and gleamed is ruined. It all needs to be redone. That is the Cross. A place where humanity runs headlong into the face of Christ, dying a most vicious death, and realizes that it was for them He died, and that this death requires change. Total, complete, to-the-heart change.
Tozer would never have written books like “Your best day ever” or “The Shack.” He never would have abided smiling, slick-haired game-show hosts, passing themselves off as pastors. He would be the first to address the heresy of Osteen and Hinn. He never would have approved of someone like Lentz Instagramming himself doing shots with Justin Bieber. In fact, he would have been the first to be in Lentz’ face, thundering the enormity of his sin and the depth of his mockery.
He would not have remained silent while “Kanye West’s pastor” hawked himself to Oprah and preached something that permitted West to continue to act like West.
Tozer, Ravenhill, Graham, these men did not preach a Gospel of “everybody is okay.”
They preached a Gospel that demands change. That commands different living. A Gospel that requires saying “yes” to all the Bible, not just the parts that speak of God’s love and make us feel giddy. He would reject, entirely, this gospel that says it’s okay if we sin and it’s no big deal since Jesus covered that at Calvary and God is just a big old sugar daddy who shakes His divine head at the sin of his children and somehow thinks it’s cute.
He doesn’t. He is offended. It insults His holiness. Those who call The Name, and for whom the Cross has become a turning point, are obliged to live differently. Those who preach this Gospel are obliged to preach the holiness it produces and the expectation of that Holiness it demands. Obliged to preach it. You must.
This is a lengthy introduction for this article. This bears all the markings of a challenge to Holiness, but that is really the introduction. This is about Charlottesville.
Yesterday was a black-eye on America, but not in the way most folks see it. Yesterday, while a protest march became a war in the streets, I watch in horror as the left used this event to once-again attack President Trump. He instigated this, they said. He didn’t condemn it strongly enough. When he issued a statement and it wisely and properly called for all people to unite, he was attacked again by the left. Why? Because he wanted unity and after eight years of a “president” preaching division, this message is dangerous. What if we really did unite? The game would be up.
But back to Charlottesville…
I watched in sadness as certain voices from the Christian Left immediately started attacking The Church, as if latent racism is their fault. They immediately made statements like “Racism has no place in Christianity!’ Who ever said it did? I know the fringe racists claim the Faith, but nobody takes them seriously. The leftists who claim Christianity is racist, do so only when they have nothing else to complain about. Yet they’ll take the aid given by Christian churches as soon as the next disaster hits, and never notice whether it was delivered by a black hand or a white hand.
The notion that Christianity in America is inherently racist is a farce and an insult. I’ve heard the same tired statements about “Church is the most segregated hour in America…”
Only by choice. And so what? My preference in worship style and doctrine has nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with personal taste. I love black Gospel music. The classics at least. I loved Andrae Crouch. I loved Sherman Andruss. I wish we had that style in the church I attend. But I love my pastor’s teaching and doctrine and music is secondary to me where church is concerned. I don’t go to church for the music, but there is music there when I go.
But what does all this have to do with holiness?
Yesterday I watched as Christian after Christian puked apologies all over social media. I saw the hand-wringing and the self-loathing for being born with white skin. I watched the same voices attacking the church again and the church responding from the defensive. Guilted into confessing some sin they never committed. The Church folk kept reminding everyone how the Church doesn’t abide racists. The sad fact is…yes, they do. But not in the way the Left claims.
The Church hates racism. Let’s be clear. They don’t approve of racial hatred, bigotry, hate, or any such thing. The church is guilty of allowing racism to simmer under the surface because the church no longer preaches holiness.
The church no longer preaches about a God whose very presence would destroy such sinfulness. They abandoned the message that proclaims a God who will never abide anyone considering His handiwork something less. Something wrong. God created man. He created all man. His creation is Holy. His choice to make some men white and some black and some Asian and some Hispanic, was His Holy Decision. That makes race sacred. It’s sacred. Nobody chooses their skin color. It is divinely chosen for them and that makes it sacred. A person with a healthy, correct view of the Holiness of God would not be able to permit himself to view anyone of any color as something different…something less. A person with a proper view of the holiness of God would never presume to speak ill of a man’s race, because to do so is to speak ill of the man’s Creator!
The church, in her recent mad dash for popularity, has long forsaken preaching about real personal holiness. The holiness that comes from a long, life-altering encounter with the Holiness of God.
Instead, she has taken to hip, trendy, man-made methods of integration, with the hopes that somehow familiarity will breed acceptance. But familiarity does not change a heart. Only a head-on collision with the Cross and the subsequent holiness it engenders can do that. My sinful human nature will never accept anyone or anything different than me or other than what meets my approval unless it is broken and rebuilt by the Holiness of God.
Paul challenged us to “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:5)
And there is no question that the true mind of Christ would never abide racism. Not from white nor black. But how often do we hear about this mind of Christ anymore?
When was the last time you heard a sermon about real holiness? Real Godliness. Total change at the Cross? When did you last hear someone preaching a message that grabbed your soul and demanded a trip to the front of the church and drove you to your knees in repentance. The church these days is not guilty of racism…she’s guilty of something far more sinister. She’s guilty of false humility. She’s guilty of a soft-soap gospel that washes the outside a little but leaves the inside full of disease and evil. She has “forsaken the Holiness of the Lord, which He loves.” (Malachi 2:11)
She has become a boneyard full of glad-handing flock stars who refuse to preach the uncomfortable Gospel of Holiness and heart-change.
Until she gets back to the thundering voice of Holiness and righteousness, until the words of Tozer, and Ravenhill, and others of a different generation are heard, and accepted and until she repents in dust and ashes for her callous acceptance of a good-time Gospel…nothing is going to change. Nothing. Not racism, not fascism, not hatred, not greed or avarice or lust or adultery.
Racism is the result of a sinful, fallen heart. It’s not a product of white skin. It’s a product of a black heart. The same black heart we were all born with. It’s a symptom…not a disease. The disease is sin. The cure is the Cross. The healing process is painful, as much medicine is. But there is only one cure for this and it is going to require…to demand, that the Church gets herself back to the beginning. Back to the Cross. Back to the call for holiness that says, “You cannot hold to this sinful ideal and call yourself by The Name!” Read Tozer's quote at the start of this article. The "psychology of sin" is that when men no longer fear God they transgress His laws without hesitation." Men -of any color- no longer fear being racist. Because they no longer grasp the Holiness of God. Because the Church has gone silent on the matter.
Until she once again stands against the tide, she will continue to be swept out to sea by it.