Total Commitment To Christ: What Is It?
By A. W. Tozer
In the first chapter of Colossians we read that Jesus Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell” (vv. 15-19).
Then in Ephesians, the first chapter, Paul says that God’s power “wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (vv. 20-23).
Now before we talk about our union with Christ and our conscious and volitional attachment to Christ in total commitment, we must look at who Christ is and what His relation is to the redeemed company we call the church. In one of the passages I have read you will find this truth set forth, which I may imperfectly condense into three words: centrality, basicality, preeminence.
Within the church Jesus Christ the Lord is central. The old writers used to say that Christ is to the church what the soul is to the body – it is that which gives it life. Once the soul flees the body there is nothing that can keep the body alive. ...In the church of Christ – any church anywhere, or any denomination – as long as Christ is there imparting life, being the life of that redeemed company, you have a church; for Christ is central in His church. He holds it together.
Then there is the next work, basicality. Jesus Christ is basic to the church. He is underneath it – the whole redeemed company rests down upon the Lord Jesus Christ. ...I think we might be able to go around the world and simply cry, “Christ is enough!” Jesus Christ is enough.
There is a weakness among us in evangelical circles – we put a plus sign after Christ: Christ plus something else. It is always the pluses that ruin our spiritual lives personally, and it is always the additions that weaken the church. God has declared that Christ, His Son, is sufficient. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. He is the wisdom of God and the power of God and He gathers up in Himself all things and in Him all things consist. So we do not want Jesus Christ plus something else.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken” (Isa. 1:2). And what He has said is, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him” (Mark 9:7). So the Lord Jesus Christ is enough. We of the evangelical faith should not preach Christ plus science, or Christ plus philosophy, or Christ plus psychology, or Christ plus education, or Christ plus civilization; but Christ alone and Christ enough. These other things may have their place and fit in and be used. But we are not leaning on any of them; we are resting down on Him who is basic to the faith of our fathers.
Then there is the word preeminent. Christ is preeminent. He is
above all things and underneath all things and outside all things and inside of
all things. As the old bishop said, He is above all things but not pushed up,
and He is beneath all things but not pressed down, and outside of all things but
not excluded and inside but not confined. He is above all, presiding; and
beneath all, upholding; and outside all, embracing; and inside of all, filling.
Now our relation to Him is all that really matters. A true Christian faith is an attachment to the Person of Christ. The attachment of the individual person to Jesus Christ is intellectual and volitional and exclusive and irrevocable.
To follow Christ in complete and total commitment means that there must be an intellectual attachment to Christ. That is, we cannot run on our feelings or on wisps of poetic notions about Christ. There are a great many bogus Christs among us these days, and we must show them for what they are and then point to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. John Owen, the old Puritan, warned people in his day: “You have an imaginary Christ and if you are satisfied with an imaginary Christ you must be satisfied with imaginary salvation.”
In finality there is only one Christ and the truly saved man has an
attachment to Christ that is intellectual in that he knows who Christ is
theologically. For you know there is the romantic Christ of the female novelist
and there is the sentimental Christ of the half-converted cowboy and there is
the philosophical Christ of the academic…and there is the muscular Christ of the
all-American halfback. But there is only one true Christ, and God has said that
He is His Son.
I like what they say of Him in the creeds – that He is God of the substance of His Father, begotten before all ages; Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect Man of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; equal to His Father as touching His Godhead, less than His Father as touching His manhood; who although He be God and Man yet He is not two, but one Christ; for as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ. This is the Christ we adore and we must have this knowledge of Him. That is, we must have the Christ of Christian theology and we must have an intellectual attachment to Christ. We must believe in the Christ of God, that He is what God says He is.
There is also the volitional attachment to Christ. If I am going to follow Christ in complete and total commitment I must do it by a continuous act of my will. A Christian who tries to live on impulse and inspiration, who hopes to sail to heaven over the undulating sea of religious feeling, is making a bad mistake. A man who lives on his feelings is not living very well and is not going to last very long. The old writers used to tell us of the dark night of the soul. There is a place where a Christian goes through darkness, where there is heaviness. God is not going to take us off to heaven all wrapped in cellophane looking as if we ought to be hanging on a Christmas tree. God is going to take us there after He has purged us and disciplined us and dragged us through the fire and has made us strong and has taught us that faith and feeling are not the same – although faith, thank God, brings feeling sometimes.
We used to sing, “High heaven that heard my solemn vow, that vow renewed shall daily hear.” People are afraid of that kind of thing now, but I believe just as Daniel determined that he would not eat of the king’s meat, and as Jesus set His face like a flint, and just as Paul said “This one thing I do” (Phil. 3:13), the true follower of Christ must be a man whose will has been sanctified. He dare not be a will-less man. I never believed that when we teach the deeper life we should teach that God destroys our will. But God unites our will with His will and our will becomes strong in His will, and sometimes as we go on in God we hardly know whether it is our will or God’s that is working at a given moment.
Our attachment to the Person of Christ must exclude all that is contrary to Christ. These are the days when we are trying to be 100 percent positive [i.e., accepting and affirming]. But the Scripture says of Jesus, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” (Psa. 45:7). That was said of the very Holy Christ Himself, who is higher than the highest heavens and separate from sinners.
...To be 100 percent positive would be as fatal as to inhale steadily all your life without exhaling. The human body requires that you inhale to get oxygen and exhale to get rid of the poison. And so the church of Christ has to exhale. When the church inhales the Holy Ghost she must exhale everything that is contrary to Him.
…I do not think any man can love righteousness unless he hates sin; for the
Scripture leaves us with the belief that in order to accept there are some
things you must reject. In order to affirm there are things you have to deny;
in order to say yes you have to be able to say no.
For my part I have long ago come to the conclusion that I cannot get along with everybody. In an effort to please everybody you will succeed in pleasing nobody. I do not want a watered-down Christianity. I want to be able to say no. I say no to the devil and no to everybody who has anything to say that is contrary to the Lord whom I adore and to whom I am attached with an intellectual attachment that is theological and with a volitional attachment that is final and with an exclusive attachment that would exclude everything that is contrary to Christ.
Then there is the inclusive attachment. What do I mean by that? Well, that is the inhaling. That is all Christ is and does and says and promises and commands, and all the glories that circle around His head and all the offices He holds and all the shining beauties and varied facets of His infinite nature. All that He is and all that He has said and all that He has promised – I take all that, I include all that. In addition, since I am identified with Him, I accept His friends as my friends. I love all the people of God, and preach to them all – and some of them listen!
You know, the Lord has some odd friends, really. ...The old bishop said the Lord has His treasure in earthen vessels and some of the vessels are a bit cracked. You have got to be willing to own the friends of the Lord wherever they are. His friends are my friends and His enemies are my enemies. This “togetherness” that everybody is talking about – I don’t like it. I want to know what you stand for: whom do you love and do you hate?
A definition of a Christian is somebody who is back from the dead. I think that Paul was one of the oddest and strangest and one of the most glorious of all the Christians that have ever lived, and he gave us a little text that no contemporary editor would ever accept in a manuscript without recasting it. “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live….” Now how did he get that way? “I am crucified with Christ.” He is dead. “Nevertheless I live.” He is alive. Is he alive or is he dead? “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). See Paul contradicting himself there. And yet within all this contradiction there is the synthesis of a marvelous and glorious truth: that a Christian is one who was crucified and is alive, being joined to Jesus Christ as He joined humanity to the Deity in the hypostatic union forever – the eternal God joined to the nature of man never to be reversed.
So all the members of the Body of Christ joined to His body share in some measure in that hypostatic union; so that we are united with Him [in His death on the Cross and in His resurrection from the dead], and when He went to the right hand of God we went to the right hand of God with Him. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above” (Col. 3:1). And it is written that we “sit…in heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6), which means we are with Him where He is, members of His great Body. How wonderful!
Then there is the irrevocable attachment. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Lord does not want any experimenters about.
...Christians ought to be those who are so totally committed that it is final. This weak looking back over your shoulder to see if there is not something better – I can’t stand it. One time a young man came to an old saint who taught the deeper life, the crucified life, and said to him, “Father, what does it mean to be crucified?” The old man thought for a moment and said, “Well, to be crucified means three things. First, the man who is crucified is facing only one direction.” If he hears anything behind him he cannot turn around to see what is going on. He has stopped looking back. The crucified man on the cross is looking in only one direction and that is the direction of God and Christ and the Holy Ghost and the direction of biblical revelation and the direction of world evangelization and the direction of the edifying of the church, the direction of sanctification and the direction of the Spirit-filled life.
And the old man scratched his scraggly gray hair and said, “One thing more, son, about a man on a cross – he is not going back.” The fellow going out to die on the cross doesn’t say to his wife, “Goodbye, honey, I will be back shortly after five.” When you go out to die on the cross you bid goodbye – you are not going back! If we would preach more of this and stop trying to make the Christian life so easy it is contemptible, we would have more converts that would last. Get a man converted who knows that if he joins Jesus Christ he is finished, and that while he is going to come up and live anew, as far as this world’s concerned he is not going back – then you have a real Christian indeed.
The old man went on, “Another thing about the man on the cross, son; he has no further plans of his own.” I like that. Somebody else made his plans for him, and when they nailed him up there all his plans disappeared. On the way up to the hill he did not see a friend and say, “Well, Henry, next Saturday about three I’ll come by and we will go fishing up on the lake.” He was going out to die and he had no plans at all.
Oh, what busy-beaver Christians we are with all of our plans, and some of them, even though they are done in the name of the Lord and evangelical Christianity, are as carnal as goats!
It is beautiful to say “I am crucified with Christ,” and know that Christ is making your plans. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, twenty minutes on your knees in silence before God will sometimes teach you more than you can learn out of books and teach you more than you can even learn in churches. And the Lord will give you your plans, and lay them before you.
If the boards of the churches would only learn to spend more time with God and less time debating, they could save all those midnight meetings where everybody leans back weary from discussing things. I tell you, you can cut down your time in debating and discussing if you spend more time waiting on God. He will give you the Holy Ghost and He will give you and teach you His plans.
Now I think that is all I want to say: We are to be joined to Jesus Christ, intelligently joined by knowing who He is; we are to be volitionally joined and not to try to live on our feelings, though thank God there will be a lot of feeling going on with it! And we are to be exclusively attached, excluding everything that is contrary to Him; and inclusively attached, taking in everything that He surrounds Himself with; and irrevocably attached so we are expendable and are not going back.
Reprinted from Total Commitment To Christ by A. W. Tozer. www.MoodyPublishers.com