Book Review: “The Crucified Life”

“The Crucified Life – How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience”  by A.W. Tozer.

Bethany House

  • Critical read
  • Must read
  • Good read
  • Read if you want
  • Read something else

Why:  Aiden Wilson Tozer is a great author, because he is a great thinker.  Warren Wiersbe once said of Tozer: “Woe to the pastor who does not read Tozer!”  Strong words.  How else can you speak of a man who is considered by a great many people to be perhaps the greatest Christian thinker of the 20th century?

That Tozer is thought to be such a great thinker is fascinating since he never went to college or seminary.  He was a self-taught theologian, and a powerful one at that.  Thinking Wiersbe’s admonition, one of the questions I like to ask pastors is, “So what Tozer books have you read?”  The answers range from something like, “I don’t think I have read any,” to “I think I had to read one when I was in college…or was it in seminary?”  If one reads Tozer honestly, one’s views on church, worship, holiness, and especially the nature of our personal relationship to our God will be challenged. More like upended.  Most pastors are not in the upending business.  And so Tozer is the author of some of the greatest Christian books never read.

“The Crucified Life” is one of the five most important books I have ever read.  I read a lot of books, and only those chosen because of their potential to be of great importance.  Hear the opening lines of this book:

“Nothing weighs heavier on my heart that the subject of this study.  If it were not such a crucial Bible teaching, one could ignore the controversies and go on to something else.  However, such is not the case.  The subject of the crucified live is vitally important to the health and growth of the Church.”

Originally a series of studies on the topic, the book was complied from these sources by James L. Snyder, a student and organizer of Tozer’s writings.  A number of other books by Tozer are compilations, including two of my favorites, “That Incredible Christian,” and “The Root of the Righteous.”

Point: This book cuts right to the core of new covenant Christian living.  So much of what passes as modern, North American Christianity is rooted in either old covenant religiosity or in various forms of worldly or human-derived religious practices.  It is rare that I see or read about true new covenant Christianity practiced and taught in a congregation. The core of new covenant Christianity is the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual disciple.  The pathway to that Holy-Spirit controlled life is what Tozer is writing about in “The Crucified Life.”  Tozer launches us into this study with Galatians, 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; 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.”

An important conclusion in this book is that we cannot experience the fullness of the life of the Spirit of Christ in us if we are calling the shots in our lives, if we are on the throne of our living.  One of my favorite quotes from Tozer is this explanation of the necessity for crucified living:

“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”

Each chapter in the book builds on the scriptures that speak of our need to submit to crucified living if we would know our God and His power in our living. Two chapters that spoke loudly to me were “The Loneliness of the Crucified Life,” and “The Case for Going On Into The Promised Land.”  The cost of our own crucifixion daily, and the glory of moving from being a natural person or a carnal person into being a true spiritual person were rich and important conversations.

Impact:  The crucified life is the Christian life.  “If any would come after me,” Jesus said, “let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.  For whoever would find his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.”  The context of these words is not those who are martyred, but those who yield total control to our God and do not retain the control of their life.  There is no alternate path to the crucified life.  Our modern Christian religion knows little of the crucified life.  If one is searching for gritty, real, disruptive faith in the God who wills to transform us into His image and likeness, this is a way-point on that journey.  That makes this book, perhaps the best I have found on the subject, a critical read for any Christian.

Quote: “Every man who stands in the shadows and slanders the deeper spiritual life is slandering the sunshine.  Every man who refuses to enter into the holy life is in the wilderness, slandering the homeland of the soul.  For 40 years, Israel wandered aimlessly about.  God was with them.  He did not destroy them; rather, He let them die one at a time…I refuse to be discouraged about anything, but it gives me a heavy heart to walk among Christians who have wandered for 40 long years in the wilderness, not going back to sin but not going on into the holy life.  Wandering in an aimless circle, sometimes a little warmer, sometimes a little colder, sometimes a little holier and sometimes very unholy, but never going on.  Habits have been acquired and are hard to break, and it makes it certain that they will live and die spiritual failures.  To me this is a terrible thing.”

Similar: “The Pursuit of God” and “The Pursuit of Man” by Tozer.  “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.  “The Mystery of Godliness” by Ian Thomas.

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