A couple of weeks ago I was writing about A.W. Tozer and his 7 tests for today’s Church to ‘try the spirits’. In that article I covered his first 3 tests and this week I will deal with the remaining 4.
See how you measure up whenever you are confronted with: a new teaching, a strange experience or a different slant or emphasis on your understanding of the gospel.
Tozer says we can prove the quality or the authenticity of a religious experience by its effect on our self-life.
The fallen human self is diametrically opposed to the Holy Spirit. Paul shows us that ‘the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you cannot do the things that you would.‘ Gal 5:17.
Many great Christians of the past have warned that fake religious experiences provide a carnal peace or enjoyment but puff up the heart with self-love.
Tozer says if an experience has humbled me and made me feel unworthy to be in God’s presence it is probably of God. But if it serves to make me feel good about myself it probably is not from God. God’s purpose is to magnify HIS glory.
Our Attitude to Other Christians
Sometimes a Christian may feel he is superior to other Christians in his degree of spirituality or the practice of his faith. He may be honestly convinced that he has discovered the spiritual truth that others haven’t experienced.
This is a dangerous state of mind because he may have received some wonderful new light on the Scriptures that he had never known before and he may lull himself into treating other Christians as lesser beings. This has often been a problem with the clergy, but the condition is not restricted to them. It can happen to any of us, and, if it has, it flies in the face of Jesus’ ‘servant principle’, as expressed in the song, ‘Brother Let Me Be Your Servant’, for example.
His newly-discovered spirituality may have caused him to be less loving to his fellow Christians. In that case, it is not the experience that is at fault, but his reaction to it.
The Lord Jesus and the apostle John make love for one another to be a test of TRUE FAITH.
‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.’ [1 John 5:1-2]
And I find it well to remember that if I tend to look down on another Christian then I am not acting in Christian love towards that person.
Our Attitude to the World
Another test of the origin of a religious experience is to ask how it affects our attitude to the world.
The apostle John said: ‘For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.’[1 John 2:15-16].
This is the world by which we can test the spirits. It is the world of carnal enjoyments and entertainment, of godless pleasures and sinful happiness.
Any real work of God will tend to make us unfit for fellowship with the world. Any religious experience making us closer to our society, its culture or the things it deems important, is a fake religion.
In fact, John Newton, of ‘Amazing Grace’ fame, said when we have to do our essential business with the world, we should do it ‘as if in the pouring rain’ … that is, do your business honestly, quickly and without lingering and getting wet. The ‘rain’ of the world will ‘wet’ or contaminate not only yourself, your clothing and your shoes, but your spiritual walk with the Lord and other Christians. It will do a lot of damage.
Our Attitude to Sin
Tozer’s last test of a genuine Christian experience or teaching is to ask: What does it do to my attitude toward sin?
Paul gives this very clear and plain advice in Titus 2:11-13:
‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ …’
The same grace from God, given as a free gift, teaches that we are to deny worldly lives and live in a godly way. The principle is simple – but the practice requires the strength given by the Holy Spirit.
The test is fairly easy though – a person just has to examine himself honestly and ask: Has this experience or teaching weakened or reduced my hatred of sin, or has it strengthened it?
Tozer concluded: ‘Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine.’ This final one is a very valuable test and I hope you have gained as much from Tozer as I have.
To summarise Tozer’s 7 tests for trying the spirits we may list them below:
1. How has a new religious experience, teaching or understanding affected my attitude to God?
2. How has it affected my attitude to Jesus Christ?
3. My attitude to the Bible?
4. My attitude to my own self-life?
5. My attitude to other Christians?
6. My attitude to the world?
7. My attitude to sin?
We should always be putting this test into action, every day of our lives.