The Crucified Life by A.W. Tozer Book Review

the crucified life

The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience. By A. W. Tozer. Bethany House Publishing, 2011, 220 pp. $14.99 (Paperback).

Part I

Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897–1963) is considered by many to be one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Tozer was a pastor of Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in Toronto and Chicago. However, it was not until 1950, when he became the editor of Alliance Witness that he began to put word to paper. Much like John Wesley, he was, “a man of one Book, but a student of many.”[1] Tozer, in an effort to demonstrate how to live out a deeper Christian experience says, “The crucified life is a blessed but lonely life that no man can walk for someone else.”[2] This statement is profound as it demonstrates Tozer’s understanding that every believer must experience a paradigm shift in their own personal life and it provides a glimpse of why Tozer sought to illuminate this truth to all of his readers. This work can be unpackaged into four key areas: the foundation of the crucified life, the dynamics of the crucified life, the perils of the crucified life, and the blessings of the crucified life.

The foundation of the crucified life is formulated by defining what a true Christian is and to Tozer this meant, “One who sustains a right relationship with Jesus Christ [and] enjoys a union with [Him] that supersedes all other relationships.”[3] Having a strong foundation is key and by answering the important question of what Jesus Christ means in the believer’s life, it becomes the baseline to what is most important to the believer. Tozer explains the cost of the crucified life was paid for by Jesus, but he then shows that does not mean once one becomes a Christian they get a free ride. Instead, he challenges everyone who believes Christ is alive to do something about it.[4] Tozer then illustrates, “Our goal is to see Christ face to face, [but] too many Christians are satisfied with the status quo and being just satisfied causes many not to go on doing. While our objective is to finish the race, many begin, but few ever cross the finish line.” The final part of the foundation is to know God and this comes only through grace and is, “The longing for God without any other motive than simply reaching God Himself.”[5]

The Dynamics of a Crucified life deals with the natural man, the spiritual man, and the carnal man. Tozer demonstrates areas of all these stages within the Israelites as they wandered the desert for forty years. Tozer then reveals, “God was with them [despite their fear of death and doubts, but] He did not destroy them. [Instead,] He let them die one at a time.” This illustration is powerful to symbolize the perpetual circles many spend their entire life walking in. Despite God’s extraordinary deliverance of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage and providing multiple divine encounters and miracles, they still grumbled and even worshipped idols.

The perils of the crucified life deal with, “When God calls a man to follow Him, He calls that man to follow Him regardless of the cost.”[6] The church has a long history of martyrs, leading to Tertullian’s famous quote: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Tozer explains, “A crucified life is an expensive proposition, one in which the believer is willing to forsake safety, convenience, fun, popularity, and worldly success. Christ paid the price for salvation, so now we must pay the price for our full identification with Him and our walk towards spiritual perfection.”[7]

The blessings of the crucified life demonstrate that Christ came to do two primary things: to help mankind and to put an end to self.[8] Tozer explains, “The purpose of God is not to save us from hell; the purpose of God is to save us to make us like Christ and to make us like God.”[9] This divine exchange takes off the old-self and puts on the new. When this happens, Tozer demonstrates, “God will give us His beauty, His joy, and His Son.”[10] The ultimate goal of this exchange should lead to revival, which Tozer breaks into three levels: personal, church, and community. The last level is the where the work of the Lord extends out of the church and impacts the whole community. There is nothing wrong with the personal or church revival, because until God acts in those two areas, it is impossible for the Spirit to overflow into the community.

Part II

            In The Crucified Life, “This book was strong medicine for what Tozer considered a serious malady. The more serious the condition, the more radical the remedy; and for this reason, Tozer was willing to uncompromisingly confront people with the message of the crucified life.”[11] While Tozer recognized the importance of living crucified life, he also knew the immense challenges it would present to anyone who tried. For Tozer, a crucified life is, “A life wholly given over to the Lord in absolute humility and obedience: a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.”[12] This is the foundation component, which illustrates every believer must put God first in his or her life. When this happens on the individual level, it is only natural to see it take place in a corporate setting as each member of the body finds their giftings and talents and submits them to God in order to bring proclaim the gospel and ultimately bring glory to Lord.

When speaking on the dynamics of a crucified life, Tozer contrasts the Israelites desert wandering with the condition of today’s church and how God wants to pour out His Spirit, but man is content and satisfied with mere words.[13] Tozer explains, “As great and wonderful as these moves of God are, it does not take long to drift back into externalism, [meaning] institutionalism begins to take over.”[14] There is a divine necessity to completely forsake the world, in order to overcome the great obstacle to living a crucified life, which is self-trust. Only by trusting in God alone did Tozer find, “The more my trust rests in God, the less I trust myself.” This is the fundamental difference between following Christ versus asking Christ to follow the believer. Daily, every believer must make time to spend in God’s Word and His presence. When God becomes the focal point of the believer’s life, a daily reliance upon His mercy and grace is formed. As believers come together with this attitude of faith, God is able to do mighty things in a corporate setting. It is the difference between wandering in the desert for forty years and getting to go into the promise land.

Tozer brilliantly displays the cross as an instrument to accomplish God’s purpose, but he also uses the imagery of the refining fire to burn away all the bondage imposed by the world, thus accomplishing the Lord’s purpose in the lives of Christians. The hotter the fire, the purer the outcome will be and this is often the case with trials Christians face. God gives them just enough of what they need to make it through that day. He does this to ensure His followers keep their daily reliance upon Him. This same principle was demonstrated with the Israelites as they wandered the desert for forty years and the Lord provided manna from heaven. While relying on God is an important lesson for the individual, these seasons of trials also present opportunities in the corporate setting to come alongside others and share one another’s burdens. The perils of a crucified life in today’s western Christians is vastly different from other areas in the world where people are being persecuted with fear of death based on their religious beliefs. The sad reality is, “A great many Christians are not going to have a thing to show God [because] they are simply not willing to pay the price.”[15] When someone accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, they must be willing to sacrifice their all, just as Jesus did. This can be a tough principle to teach as it is often one learned over time, but it is interesting to witness the church thrive in areas under greater persecution while in areas of tolerance more churches are closing than opening. God will sustain, equip, and empower each believer for anything He calls him or her to do. This must be the ethos of every believer from the moment of salvation until they are present with the Father.

Lastly, Tozer illustrates, “Christians are infamous for trying to put God in a box, [but] the God who fits in the box is the God who can be controlled by man.” This is so true in today’s culture where people look to everything but God to find their purpose, value, and meaning in life. If God were something that could be held or quantified, it would contradict His divine and infinite nature. The revelation Tozer highlights is by submitting in obedience to the Lord, the believer lives a crucified life in which God can do His work.[16] This area truly shows the believer how to live a life with a much deeper experiential relationship with God. From this intimate relationship, the believer is then able to pour into the lives of others, as long as they continually go back to the source to be filled up again. The crucified life is one in which the believer recognizes Christ died on the cross, so they could become more like Him and to embody the life of Christ means to share His love, acceptance, and forgiveness with a lost and hurting world.

Bibliography

A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, (Redding, CA). “Who is Tozer?” (accessed July 19, 2016).

Tozer, A.W. The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience. Minneapolis: MN, 2011.

 


[1] A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, (Redding, CA), “Who is Tozer?” http://tozer.simpsonu.edu/Pages/About/Tozer-AWTozer.htm (accessed July 19, 2016).

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2011), 57.

[3] Tozer, The Crucified Life, 24.

[4] Tozer, The Crucified Life, 30-31.

[5] Ibid., 49.

[6] Ibid., 115.

[7] Ibid., 122-125.

[8]  Tozer, The Crucified Life, 158 & 160.

[9] Ibid., 164.

[10] Ibid., 165.

[11] Ibid., 10.

[12] Ibid., 15.

[13] Tozer, The Crucified Life, 76.

[14] Ibid., 77.

[15] Tozer, The Crucified Life, 121.

[16] Ibid., 206.

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One thought on “The Crucified Life by A.W. Tozer Book Review

  1. Larry Ratliff says:

    Excellent synopsis of what we (I) should be doing if we (I) truly believe in the work of the cross and should embody the life of Christ in our daily walk. So many times I find myself doubting my personal faith and how I should be living the life of Christ rather than doing my own thing. Sometimes it’s tough to juggle my personal life, work and family life only to find I come up short in my walk with Christ.

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