deeper life

Tozer on the Deeper Life

9 February 2023

7.1 MINS

Reading Tozer never disappoints. His reflections on cultivating a deeper spiritual life are timely exhortations for us today.

One can argue that pretty much everything A. W. Tozer wrote about or spoke about had to do with the deeper life: that is, with intimately knowing God not just in an intellectual sense, but with the whole person. This was a driving passion of Tozer. For those who know nothing of this famous American pastor, see this piece.

While he wrote only so many books and articles in his lifetime, and delivered only so many sermons and talks, there are always new collections of his material appearing. The recent book, The Deeper Life: Go Beyond Knowledge to Experience Spirit-Filled Living (Moody, 2022), is one of them.

It consists mainly of articles he wrote in the 1950s for Moody Monthly and Christian Life magazine. As expected, this short volume of nine chapters contains plenty of gems that can be mined, so here I present a number of key quotes from it.

The Deeper Life - TozerGod’s Grace

“Here is an odd fact: the weakest believer holds in his hand all that the mightiest saints ever possessed. He has at his disposal every grace that made them what they were. This weakest believer actually believes the same things that made an Augustine, a Nicholas Herman, or a Samuel Rutherford. The difference is not one of creed, but of emphasis and experience.” p. 15

“In our praiseworthy effort to preserve correct doctrine and to magnify the finished work of Christ, we have unconsciously created the impression that Christianity is an objective thing, consisting of certain acts of God done outside of us and apart from us in time and place. We have stressed objective truth to the near exclusion of subjective experience. We have led people to believe that if they accept the historic truth of Christianity, they do indeed possess its true spiritual content. I submit that the historic facts of Christianity do not constitute the faith of our Fathers. They constitute instead only one-half of it. The other half consists of the contemporary acts of God done within the souls of men, based upon and springing out of the historic acts already accomplished.” pp. 17-18

“If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian, He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them, the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful. To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Everything you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be. This is not to teach the sanctifying power of poverty. If to be poor made men holy, every vagrant on park bench would be a saint. But God knows the secret of removing things from our hearts while they still remain to us. What He does is to restrain us from enjoying them. He lets us have them, but makes us psychologically unable to let our hearts go out to them. Thus they are useful without being harmful.” pp. 21-22

Sacrifice and Sanctity

“Religious leaders have adopted the techniques of the advertisers; boasting, baiting and shameless exaggerating are now carried on as a normal procedure in church work. The moral climate is not that of the New Testament, but that of Hollywood and Broadway. Most evangelicals no longer initiate; they imitate, and the world is their model. The holy faith of our fathers has in many places been made a form of entertainment, and the appalling thing is that all this has been fed down to the masses from the top. That note of protest which began with the New Testament and which was always heard loudest when the Church was most powerful has been successfully silenced. The radical element in testimony and life that once made Christians hated by the world is missing from present-day evangelicalism. Christians were once revolutionists — moral, not political — but we have lost our revolutionary character. It is no longer either dangerous or costly to be a Christian. Grace has become not free, but cheap. We are busy these days proving to the world that they can have all the benefits of the Gospel without any of the inconvenience to their customary way of life. It’s ‘all this and heaven too’.” p. 30

“We must have a reformation within the church. To beg for a flood of blessing to come upon a backslidden and disobedient Church is to waste time and effort. A new wave of religious interest will do no more than add numbers to churches that have no intention to own the lordship of Jesus and come under obedience to His commandments. God is not interested in increased church attendance unless those who attend amend their ways and begin to live holy lives.” p. 32

“We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross-bearing: these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct. We must cleanse the temple of the hucksters and the money changers and come fully under the authority of our risen Lord once more.” p. 33


“Significant, isn’t it, that of all who hold the evangelical position, those Christians who lay the greatest store by Paul, are often the least Pauline in spirit. There is a vast and important difference between a Pauline creed and a Pauline life. Some of us who have for years sympathetically observed the Christian scene feel constrained to paraphrase the words of the dying queen and cry out, ‘O Paul! What evils have been committed in thy name.’ Tens of thousands of believers who pride themselves on their understanding of Romans and Ephesians cannot conceal the sharp spiritual contradiction that exists between their hearts and the heart of Paul. … Many today stand by Paul’s doctrine who will not follow him in his passionate yearning for divine reality. Can these be said to be Pauline in any but the most nominal sense?” pp. 36-37

“When the apostle cries, ‘That I may know Him,’ he uses the word know not in its intellectual sense but in its experiential sense. We must look for the meaning — not to the mind, but to the heart. Theological knowledge is knowledge about God. While this is indispensable it is not sufficient. It bears the same relation to man’s spiritual need as a well does to the need of his physical body. It is not the rock-lined pit for which the dusty traveler longs, but the sweet, cool water that flows up from it. It is not intellectual knowledge about God that quenches man’s ancient heart-thirst, but the very Person and Presence of God Himself. These come to us through Christian doctrine, but they are more than doctrine. Christian truth is designed to lead us to God, not to serve as a substitute for God.” pp. 38-39

Where Your Treasure Lies

“To speak of the ‘deeper life’ is not to speak of anything deeper than simple New Testament religion. Rather it is to insist that believers explore the depths of the Christian evangel for those riches it surely contains, but which we are as surely missing. The ‘deeper life’ is deeper only because the average Christian life is tragically shallow.” p. 40

“It has been the unanimous testimony of the greatest Christian souls that the nearer they drew to God, the more acute became their consciousness of sin and their sense of personal unworthiness. The purest souls never knew how pure they were and the greatest saints never guessed that they were great. The very thought that they were good or great would have been rejected by them as a temptation of the devil.” p. 42

“More than a quarter of a century of pastoral work has taught me that most Christians simply will not cultivate their souls. They will not discipline their lives to bring them under control of the Spirit. They will not die to self. They will not make the knowledge of God the single passion of their days and years. A few will and do, and they are the salt and seed of the truth in every generation.” p. 58

“It may be set down as an axiom that our spiritual state perfectly corresponds to the intensity of our desire. Each of us enjoys as much grace as he actually wants. Where there seems to be a discrepancy between what we possess and what we desire to possess, we may safely conclude that our desire is not as great as we had supposed. We want God, it is true, but we want something else more. And we get what we want most.” p. 60

“The mighty among Old Testament believers were always those who were haunted by a deep discontent, a yearning after God which knew no limit nor end. The Bible saints were almost every one ridden with this holy inward burden. Deep dissatisfaction with their own progress, painful self-disapprobation, determination to know God more perfectly and intimately — these characteristics marked the great of the Bible.” p. 64

Spirit and Faith

“Religious work can be done by natural men without the gifts of the Spirit, and it can be done well and skilfully. But work designed for eternity can only be done by the eternal Spirit. No work has eternity in it unless it is done by the Spirit through gifts He has Himself implanted in the souls of redeemed men.” p. 74

“We have yet to see what God would do for His church if we would all throw ourselves down before Him with an open Bible and cry, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word’.” p. 76

“Before there can be fullness there must be emptiness. Before God can fill us with Himself we must first be emptied of ourselves.” p. 82

“God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be — provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you are always looking in your hand to see if it is still there. If it is God’s, you no longer need to worry about it.” p. 91

“That is very dangerous ground indeed — seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.” p. 94


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Arina Krasnikova.

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One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery 9 February 2023 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    And your article is a refreshing read Bill.
    I take my days and nights in stages of accessing His word and……. following the money trial .
    The money trail is ugly and sordid often resulting in more than one shower a day and grief that burns into my skin. Its so easy now, to see and understand why and how the enemy is trying to destroy the Word of God. Its absence leaves our children our Nation and all those we love open to the enemy who wants to steal The Seed of God because it lacks the capacity to create.
    Thank you for your clean uncontaminated nourishment during these terrible days and may God continue to have mercy on us all. May He continue to show us and love us and teach us, Through His word and each other.

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