Category Archives: Our Life Group

17. The Head of New Creation

I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered Jesus Christ as the head of the new creation promised by God guided by chapter 17, “The Head of New Creation,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017. The chapter consists of an introduction, three titled sections, and four Reflect questions. Here I’ll summarize the introduction and each of the sections and present the Reflect questions and how we responded to them.

(Introduction)

God has promised a new order that is the opposite of the present order. The present order is marked by temporality and mortality. The new order will come to live and remain forever.

A New Man, A New Creation

The first Adam (the one of Genesis 2-3) was the head of everything in the old order. When he fell, he pulled everything down. The second Adam (Jesus Christ) came to bring God’s promise of an new order. He died, but rising again lives forever. Because he triumphed over sin and death, he is the head of the new creation, which is marked by perfectivity and eternal life rather than by temporality and death.

Waiting for God’s Promise

However people ignore God’s promises. One reason is their almost always being in a hurry and thus becoming interested in other things when the return of Christ is delayed. Another reason is their having so much that they are satisfied with their present condition.

Be Expectant

Moreover too many people have an inadequate view of Jesus Christ and there is confusion among teachers of prophecy. As a result “real Christians, who should know better, are now ‘rethinking’ their faith” (Tozer, Jesus, page 160). Even worse, multitudes of Christians hold the doctrine without feeling any hope for it. We need to try to recapture “the spirit of anticipation that animated the early Christian church and cheered the hearts of gospel Christians only a few decades ago” (Tozer, Jesus, page 161). Although they were wrong about the time of his coming, they were not mistaken in their hope of his coming in God’s time.

Reflect Questions

1. How would knowing that Christ is the Head of new creation inform the way you live your life now?
We felt that knowing that Christ is the head of God’s new creation informs the way we live our lives now.

2. Have you “demoted” Christ in your mind compared to how Tozer portrays Him in this chapter?
We felt that we hadn’t demoted Christ in our minds compared to the way Tozer portrays him in this chapter.

3. Reflecting on the pace of your life, do you find that you are fixed on eternity or are you primarily concerned with the things of now?
We felt although we are occupied with things of now we are also fixed on eternity.

4. What do you imagine the church would look like today if it were as expectant as the early church for Christ’s new order?
We referred to different things, including increased “religious” activity, holiness, and witnessing.

Postscript

Our Life group has now finished working through Jesus : The Life and Ministry of God the Son – Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer. We plan to study the life and writings of Peter next but to wait until the fall to begin it. Here I’ll resume sharing from my personal reading in The Great Books of the Western World guided by The Great Ideas Program (both sets published by Encyclopedis Britannica). To provide variety, I may alternate between readings from the next two volumes in The Great Ideas Program, 3. Foundations of Science and Mathematics and 4. Religion and Theology.

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16. The Second Coming

In this [our living hope] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered the second coming of Jesus Christ guided by chapter 16, “The Second Coming,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017. The chapter consists of a short introduction, four titled sections, and three Reflect questions. Here I’ll summarize the introduction and each of the sections and pose the Reflect questions.

(Introduction)

Tozer opens the chapter by asking, “Are you ready for the appearing of Jesus Christ or are you among those who are merely curious about His coming?” (Tozer, Jesus, page 139) He condemns preachers and Bible teachers who encourage curious speculations about Christ’s second coming and fail to stress the need for “loving His appearing” (Tozer, Jesus, page 139) and claims that every passage in the New Testament which speaks of Christ’s second coming is directly linked with “moral conduct, faith, and spiritual holiness” (Tozer, Jesus, page 140). He closes the introduction by observing that 1 Peter 1:7 (quoted above) links the testing of our faith with Christ’s second coming.

Understanding Scripture

In the King James Version I Peter 1:7 has “at the appearing of Jesus Christ” instead of “at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Noting that “appearing” or a form of it occurs frequently in the KJV, Tozer observes that the original word from which the English was translated has about seven different forms in the Greek. He says that among those seven forms are three particular words that together may have these meanings: “manifest; shine upon; show; become visible; a disclosure; a coming; a manifestation; a revelation” (Tozer, Jesus, page 141).

Referring to cults whose prophetic scheme rests upon the words “appearing” or “revelation” or “manifestation” or “disclosure” and distinguishing between them, Tozer warns against giving any thought to a cult which tries to build on a word’s shade of meanings. He concludes the section by exclaiming, “The appearing of Jesus may mean His manifestation. It may mean a shining forth, a showing, a disclosure. Yes, it may mean His coming, the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Tozer, Jesus, page 144).

Returning to Earth

In this section Tozer considers where this appearing of Christ will take place. Noting that those to whom Peter wrote were Christians on this earth, he says that common sense tells us that this appearing could only be on this earth. He also says that since Peter wrote in AD 65 the appearing of Christ would be sometime after AD 65.

Like Before

In this section Tozer argues that if “appearing” is going to mean what it universally means, the future appearing of Jesus has to be much the same as it was when he appeared on the earth the first time. Thus Jesus will appear as a man, although as a glorified man, to living people as he first appeared.

Strengthen by the Word

In this section Tozer returns to an idea that he’d expressed in his introduction to the chapter, “The Word of God was never given just to make us curious about our Lord’s return to earth, but to strengthen us in faith and spiritual holiness and moral conduct” (Tozer, Jesus, page 148). In support of this he quotes from 1 John 3:2-3, “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Reflect Questions

1. Do Tozer’s words on Christ’s second coming line up with what you have thought of it?
2. Are you joyfully anticipating the second of Christ, or do you find yourself conflicted at times with earthly desires?
3. Are you preparing for Christ’s return? What would it be like for you to prepare?

15. Ever with Us

What a joyful experience for us in this church age‒to be part of a congregation drawn together with the magnetic fascination of the desire to know the presence of God and to sense His nearness (Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017, page 130).

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered the presence of Jesus in his body on earth (the church) guided by chapter 15, “Ever With Us,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer (see above). The chapter consists of a lengthy introduction, a section called “Commemorating With Christ,” and four Reflect questions. Here I’ll summarize the introduction and “Commemorating With Christ” and pose and give our Life group’s responses to the Reflect questions.

(Introduction)

Tozer opens the chapter by affirming that the church is not just an institution but a communion, which he defines as “a body of Christians having a common faith [and marked by] sharing and participation” (Tozer, Jesus, page 129), and that Christ is always present with us. He demonstrates from Paul’s account of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 the trouble that we can get into if we don’t recognize Christ’s presence with us. Apparently that church accompanied its observance of the Lord’s Supper with a love feast in which the members were to share as in a potluck. However because of cliques the rich were eating more, some even getting drunk while the poor went hungry. Paul attributes this to their not “discerning the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV), which Tozer equates with not “recognizing the Presence” (Tozer, Jesus, page 131).

Commemorating With Christ

In this section Tozer considers five relationships of Christ:
– his “devotion to” the Father’s will
– his “separation from” men and from their network of trivialities
– his “rejection by” mankind and, when bearing our sins on the cross, by God
– his “identification with” us
– his “acceptance at” the throne of God

Tozer concludes the section and chapter thus: “The same is true of His people. Through Him, we died! Identified with Him, we live, and in our identification with Him we are accepted at the right hand of God, the Father. This is the meaning of our celebration.” (Tozer, Jesus, page 137)

Reflect Questions

1. What are the implications for seeing the church as primarily a communion and not an institution?
Our Life group said that our seeing the church as primarily a communion and not an institution should draw us together as described in the quotation with which I opened this post.

2. Tozer claims that we are in “spiritual trouble” if we do not recognize the presence of Christ. What sort of trouble do you think results from not recognizing His nearness?
Our Life group said that our not recognizing Christ’s nearness could result in the same kind of self-centred behaviour as it did in the Corinthian church.

3. How does Tozer’s description of Christ’s presence encourage or challenge you?
Our Life group said that Tozer’s description of Christ’s presence encourages us to see him in other Christians and challenges us to act as if he were present.

4. How does knowing that you and all Christians are identified with Christ shape the way you view yourself and other believers?
Our Life group said that knowing that we and all Christians are identified with Christ causes us to view all of us as accepted by God.

14. Our High Priest

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered Jesus’ serving as our high priest guided by chapter 14, “Our High Priest,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017. Tozer introduces the chapter by explaining Jesus’ being a priest after the order of Melchizedec. He goes on to consider Jesus’ priesthood and what it means to us in these sections: An Infinitely Better Priesthood, Free in Christ, A New Sacrifice, and Where We Are Going. His exposition is followed by three Reflect questions. Here I’ll summarize the introduction and each of the sections and pose and give our Life group’s responses to the Reflect questions.

(Introduction)

Tozer opens by observing that the letter to the Hebrews makes plain that when Jesus rose from the dead the Levitical priesthood became redundant and that Jesus is now our high priest forever. He quotes these passages from Hebrews:

Jesus has…become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek…. For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well… For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God…. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. (Hebrews 6:20; 7:12, 18-19; 8:7 from the ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Next Tozer describes the appearance of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-20 and explains that when the writer of Hebrews described Melchizedek as “without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3) he simply meant that Melchizedek had no genealogical record through which his origins could be traced. I agree with him, but some commentators claim that the phrase indicates that Melchizedek was a supernatural being and one member of our group agreed with them

Tozer then notes that Melchizedek isn’t mentioned again until Psalm 110:4, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Tozer says this about the verse: “There he is referred to as the type of an eternal priest of God who would yet appear in Israel’s national development” (Tozer, Jesus, page 121).

An Infinitely Better Priesthood

Tozer identifies three things that the writer of Hebrews tries to make clear to the troubled Hebrew Christians of his day in the section of Hebrews quoted from above:

First, he declares that the Mosaic law and the Levitical priesthood were not established by God as permanent and perfect institutions. Second, he makes it plain that the eternal and sinless Son came to assure believers concerning His superior and enduring priesthood.… Third, he wants his readers to know that the plan of salvation for sinful men and women does not rest upon earthly sacrifices made by Levitical priests, but upon the eternal sacrifice and high priestly mediation of Jesus. (Tozer, Jesus, page 122)

Free in Christ

Tozer points out that this means that we are free of the law and quotes from what Paul told the Galatian Christians in this regard: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified1 by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:1, 4).

A New Sacrifice

Tozer says that the tearing of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Jerusalem temple as Jesus gave up his life on the cross (Matthew 27:51) was God’s indicating that Jesus’ death brought about a change in order:

The priesthood, the priests, the old covenants, the altars, the sacrifices‒all that had been involved in the Old Testament system of law‒was done away with. God had eliminated it as useless, powerless, without authority. In its place He instituted a new Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. God instituted as well a new and efficacious altar, this one eternal in the heavens, where Jesus lives to intercede for God’s believing children. (Tozer, Jesus, page 125)

Where We Are Going

Tozer argues that rather than emphasizing what we are saved from, our sins, we should emphasize what we are saved to, an eternal home with God. Although our group appreciated what he said, we felt that believers’ sharing what they were saved from adds impact to their testimony.

Reflect Questions

1. Are there any ways in which you have lost sight of the freedom you have in Christ?
Our Life group answered that we didn’t think so.

2. Do you live your life knowing that you have instant access to God through the priestly ministry of Jesus?
Our Life group answered that we do.

3. How different would your life look if you contemplated more regularly the assurance you have of being with Christ in heaven someday?
Our Life group answered that we didn’t know.

13. The Ascended Lord

Our forgiveness and cleansing by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ is only part of the good news. Jesus died, but He rose from the dead. And after His resurrection, He ascended to be seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. In an era of declining morality and open rebellion against God and His Anointed One, we can take great comfort in this revelation that a majestic, overruling Presence resides in glory. (Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017, page 111).

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered Jesus’ ascension guided by chapter 13, “The Ascended Lord,” of Tozer, Jesus (see above). The paragraph quoted above opens the chapter’s brief introduction. The chapter goes on to expand on its message in these four sections: A Real Man in Heaven, Joined to Jesus, Believe Every Truth, and Looking to Where Christ Is. It is followed by four Reflect questions. Here I’ll summarize briefly each of the sections and pose and give our Life group’s responses to the Reflect questions.

A Real Man in Heaven

Tozer asserts that the risen Jesus is a man, not a spirit, quoting Luke 24:39 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6 in support.

Joined to Jesus

Tozer affirms, “[Jesus] is a victorious Man, and if we are in Him, we too can be victorious” (Tozer, Jesus, page 113)

Believe Every Truth

Tozer observes that three major epochs can be noted in Christ’s life: his birth, his death, and his ascension and considers which we should emphasize. He concludes:

Christ was born that He might become a man and became a man that HE might give His life as ransom for many. Neither the birth nor the dying were ends in themselves. As He was born to dies, so did He die so that He might atone, and rise that He might justify freely all who take refuge in Him. His birth and death are history. His appearance at the mercy seat is not history past, but a present, continuing fact, to the instructed Christian the most glorious fact his trusting heart can entertain.” (Tozer, Jesus, page 115).

Looking to Where Christ Is

Tozer encourages us to shift our emphasis from the manger and the cross to the enthroned Christ.

Reflect Questions

1. Why is it significant that Jesus as a real human being is present in heaven?
We said that as a real human being Jesus could truly relate to and represent us. Earlier when our family discussed the question, we said that Jesus being present in heaven as a real human being means that we too will be human beings when we go to heaven.

2. How does Tozer’s description of Jesus in this chapter alter your perception of who He is and what He does?
We said that Tozer’s description of Jesus in the chapter didn’t alter our perceptions of who He is and what He does.

3. If all our hopes are built upon three main pillars, what kind of hope does the epoch of Christ’s ascension into heaven give us?
We said that Christ’s ascension into heaven gives us hope that we too shall ascend into heaven. Earlier when our family discussed the question we also suggested two other main pillars, Christ’s ministry and his resurrection. When I shared this with our Life group, one of us quoted 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (ESV).

4. Does your thinking about Christ and His ministry need to take a shift?
We said that we didn’t think that our personal thinking about Christ and his ministry needed to take a shift, Earlier when our family discussed the question, two of us said that they felt that they should think more of Jesus’ resurrection and quoted 1 Corinthians 15:14 (quoted in question 3 above).

12. The Resurrection

The Man who died on the cross died in weakness. The Bible is plain in telling us this. But He arose in power. If we forget or deny the truth and glory of His resurrection and the fact that He is seated at the right hand of God, we lose all the significance of the meaning of Christianity! (Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017).

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered Jesus’ resurrection guided by chapter 12, “The Resurrection,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer (Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017).

The paragraph quoted above closes the chapter’s brief introduction. The chapter goes on to expand on its message in these three sections: A Change of Direction, Where the Power Is, and Demonstrating the Resurrection. It is followed by three Reflect questions. Here I’ll comment on the each of the sections and pose and respond briefly to the Reflect questions.

A Change of Direction

5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where h lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

The section focuses on the women’s change in direction from coming to the tomb to going from it, encouraging us to change our direction from the dead Christ to the risen Christ.

Where the Power Is

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Tozer asks these questions about the passage: “If Christ is sovereign over all the world, what about the world condition?” and “When Jesus announced that ‘all power is given unto me in heaven and earth,’ what did he expect His followers to do?’” (Tozer, Jesus, pages 103 and 104, respectively). He answers that God has a plan and remains in control and that Jesus expects us to evangelize and disciple the world.

Demonstrating the Resurrection

Tozer refers to Matthew 28:19-20 (quoted above) and affirms:

So, the moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation, the responsibility and the privilege of carrying the message and telling the story, of praying and interceding, and of being involved personally and financially in the cause of this great commission. (Tozer, ,Jesus, page 106)

Reflect Questions

1. What would your life look like if you lived in greater awareness of the power of the resurrection of Christ?
We said that we’d show more confidence in our Christian life, particularly in our witnessing.
2. Have you ever considered that Christian mission is connected to the resurrection? How does your knowledge impact the way you live your life today?
We said that it should make us more a active in our ministry. We observed that Matthew 28:19-20 refers to teaching as well as to evangelizing and lamented the neglect of teaching in today’s churches.
3. What would demonstrating the reality of the resurrection look like in your own life?
We answered much as we had to question 1.

11. Our Mediator

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Yesterday evening the Life group which meets in my wife’s and my home considered Jesus’ serving as our mediator guided by chapter 11, “Our Mediator,” of Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son–Collected Insights from A. W. Tozer (Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2017).

The text for the chapter is Hebrews 9:27-28, which I quoted above. Tozer opens the chapter by distinguishing between physical death and spiritual death. In the rest of the chapter he explains that sin results in and ends at death in “Sin Ends in Death,” that we can be pardoned our sin and reconciled to God in “Reconciled to God,” and that we can receive “pardon, forgiveness, cleansing, fellowship, and the promise of eternal life” (Jesus, page 97) by accepting in faith God’s free gift to us. The title of the chapter emphasizes that by dying for us Christ became our mediator, standing between God and mankind.

In the meeting I considered the text (quoted above) before leading a discussion of the Reflect questions at the end of the chapter.

Hebrews 9:27-28

We noted these comparisons/contrasts in the passage:
– People die once (because of their sin), and Christ was sacrificed once (to deal with sin).
– Christ came the first time to deal with sin, and he will come a second time to save those who have accepted what he did.

Reflect Questions

1. Why does God no longer hold our sins against us if we trust in Him?
God no longer holds our sins against us if we trust in Him because Christ’s death on our behalf satisfied His holiness and justice

2. What do you think of Tozer’s explanation for the assurance we have in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice?
We agreed that Tozer’s explanation in “Reconciled to God” is Biblical and encouraging. He opens the section thus:

If you are a believing, trusting, joyful Christians, never let anyone rob you of this assurance and consolation. Allow no one to edit or change this basic truth‒trying to make it more acceptable to philosophy or literature or art or religion. Let this wonderful truth stand tall in its beauty and effectiveness. Christ died, and in the giving of His life, He died vicariously! (Jesus, page 96)

3. How exactly do we benefit from Christ’s death?
After observing that Christ’s death brings us forgiveness and eternal, we considered Tozer’s more complete list of benefits: “pardon, forgiveness, cleansing, fellowship, and the promise of eternal life” (Jesus, page 97).