I started reading A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy : The Attributes of God for a small group that I am a part of. The other night we met and discussed the first chapter. In reflecting on the first chapter their are a couple of ideas that really stand out to me.
- The Overall Importance of Theology
In opening the chapter Tozer writes:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (p. 9)
This statements definitely runs counter-cultural. If I took a survey of what people think is the most important characteristic of an individual, their religion would likely not be at the top of the list. In fact, for many religion is a taboo topic. It is nice to talk about in private with some friends, but it does not belong in the midst of public discourse.
Yet since the fall in Genesis 3, the fundamental problem with mankind has been a deficient view of God. The words first spoken by Satan in the garden echo today: “God has not said…” The form of attach has changed over the years, but calling into question the truths God has reveal about himself is a constant strategy of the devil. We must fight for a right view of God.
2. The Importance of Theology for the Gospel
Later in the chapter, Tozer connects the dots for us on the importance of knowing God for rightly grasping the gospel. In speak of the gospels power to lift the burden of sin and guilt, Tozer writes:
“The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them” (p. 11, emphasis added)
This is a pretty bold claim. A proper view of the gospel demands a proper view of God. Let me identify three examples of how a wrong view of God weakness/destroys the gospel.
First, a wrong view of God affects how we understand the fundamental nature of the relationship between God and man. While the Bible paints the picture that man was created to worship and serve his creator, our contemporary culture tends to view God as someone who exists to worship and serve us. As a result, a gospel message that focus on the need for sinners to repent and deny themselves is replaced with a therapeutic gospel in which God exists to meet our needs.
Second, a wrong view of God affects how we understand sin. Again our current culture attempts to tell us that sin is normal. After all to err is human. We all make mistakes. The real problem with sin is that it gets in the way of our fulfillment, our success, and our happiness. It impedes the “American Dream.” Or at least that is what the world would have us believe. The reality is that sin is ultimately a violation of God’s law not man’s good. It is an affront to God’s glory and diminishing of his character. Sin does not just make as bad people, it separates us from God and makes us enemies with Him.
Finally, a wrong view of God distorts the great blessings that come to us in the gospel. When we see God as someone who exists to serve us, the gospel becomes God helping us help ourselves. When sin as a violation of our happiness, the gospel becomes about satisfying our deepest desires. However, if we see God as a holy God and sin as an affront to His glory, then the gospel is about God preserving His holiness and preserving His glory, while at the same time dealing with the punishment that we deserve. The gospel becomes good news, because we regain access to God, who alone is worthy of worship.
The bottom line: How we view God will shape how we view everything else, including why sin is bad news and what makes the gospel good news.