The Pursuit of God is sort of a book on how to be an evangelical mystic, that is knowing and experiencing God as a personality. Since God is a person, we can cultivate a relationship with Him like any other person. In fact, genuine religion is the response of the created personalities to the Creator-personality. God is inviting us to this relationship, but we need to respond for the invitation to blossom into a relationship. When we come, we will find Him most fully when we come simply, not trying to impress Him with anything (such as our righteousness), but seeking Him alone. When we do, and as we explore the relationship over time, we will have “the continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man [that] is the throbbing heart of the New Testament religion.”

One of the barriers to knowing God fully is that our hearts have been given over to things. The “things” were prepared serve us for our usage and enjoyment, but when we rejected God as the occupant of the deep shrine in our hearts, we let “things” occupy that spot. We must remove these things, the process Jesus described as losing our life but finding it; we will have everything yet possess nothing. The process of separating the roots of our heart from the things they have been entwined around is “taking our cross and following Me.” The things can only be torn out violently (for example, Abraham had to come to the brink of sacrificing Isaac after his heart had become entwined around his promised son), but it is this process of renunciation that leads to intimacy with God.

Similarly, the flesh, the self-*, are a veil that separates us from God. Self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-love, etc. prevent us from seeing God. This can only be removed by God, because this is what the flesh is. As we allow Him to remove our flesh, though, we will see the manifest Presence of God, the experiential Presence of God. As we see Him, we will display Him differently, with authority, because we do not just know about Him, but we have experienced Him directly. And our hearts will find the rest which Augustine observes that our hearts are restlessly seeking.

“To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but He remains personally unknown to the individual.” Yet the Bible constantly invites us to experience God personally, takes it for granted, in fact. We are invited to taste and see that God is good and reminded that Jesus sheep hear his voice. So why do you not get this experience in most churches? Because of unbelief—we have separated the world into the material world (reality) and the spiritual world, which is less real. But in reality, the spiritual world parallels the natural world, and as we focus on God we begin to see the things of the spiritual world.

God is everywhere—David says that he could not flee from God’s presence—so why is God not known everywhere? Simply because we do not perceive His Presence; as Jacob said, “surely God was in this place and I knew it not.” Yet some Christians have experienced God’s Presence to a much larger extent than others. These saints are of quite a great variety, and the only commonality between them seems to be that they cultivated an awareness of God’s Presence. “They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”

God is always Present, and He is always speaking, but He speaks in different forms of clarity. One of the least clear is the universal Voice speaking throughout Creation was called Wisdom by the ancient Hebrews. Tozer believes that genius is tapping into that Voice and floundering trying to incompletely express what is heard, regardless of whether the hearer is a lover or hater of God. The Bible is a clearer form of Voice, one that is also continually speaking. God was not silent before the Bible, spoke while it was written, and became silent afterwards; you cannot hear God’s speaking voice in the Bible until you accept that He is speaking, now, and always, in the universe.

The Bible talks a lot about faith, but shows it in action rather than defining it. However, we can get a good definition, nonetheless. Jesus compares belief in him to looking at the serpent Moses made for healing; from this we can conclude that faith is looking at God in a reliant way. We can refine this further by observing that Jesus said that the source of his power was from watching his Father (John 5:19-21). So faith is continually looking to God. (The opposite is true: unbelief is looking at ourself.)  The beauty is that faith, looking at God, is available to us no matter our situation, whether in health and wealth or poverty, oppression, or at death’s door. As we continually look to God, all the things we were trying to fix will start fixing themselves (by the Holy Spirit). As we look at God together as a community, we will grow in unity as well.

Pursuing God requires that we conform ourselves completely to His nature. We owe everything to God, and were created for His pleasure, so the proper creature-Creator is that we exalt God “worshipful submission.” We must choose to exalt God, but we must choose it with our will, not just our mind. Should we be hesitant, we can remember that we are a slave to something, either God or sin, but God’s burden is light. Also, God honors those who honor Him. Tozer also suggests that it is seeking honor from others that gave rise to the Pharisees, and ultimately, to them killing God. When we exalt ourselves instead of God we get self-righteous religion.

An antidote for exalting ourselves is meekness. Meekness is not thinking ourselves as inferior, but thinking of ourselves as God thinks of us. We are weak, yes, but also valued more than the angels. As we see ourselves as God sees us, we can give Him the burden of needing to be validated and we will find rest. This burden is not external, imposed on us, but internal, as we try to protect our self-worth against the slights that come or appear to come against us. Likewise, it delivers us from the burden of pretense, needing for the world to see us without the mess.

Finally, Tozer notes that the (heretical) sacred-secular divide is a major hindrance to rest. We inhabit both the natural and the spiritual worlds, and the Bible does not view our bodies with embarrassment or see our work in the natural life as less than spiritual work. Jesus said that he always did the work of the Father, which included natural acts as well as spiritual ones. It is not the nature of what we do that makes it sacred or secular, but the heart behind it. If we have a heart completely surrendered to God, everything can be sacred. Not everything is of the same importance, but everything can be sacred.

The Pursuit of God is an excellent book. Tozer clearly describes the process of pursuing God and some hindrances, and in so doing he has created a book that really challenges the reader. I found I had to process this book with God after reading one or two chapters, because it was so convicting. I also found that Tozer deftly identified some of the main barriers hindering me from experiencing God, barriers that I sort of was vaguely aware, but which he crystallized out.

I have been a little surprised that evangelicals like this book, partly because Tozer blasts evangelicals and fundamentalists (not extreme conservatives, the branch of evangelicals created in reaction to liberal theology) in pretty much every chapter, while advocating a relationship with God closer to Charismatics or Catholic mystics than the obey-God, do His work “relationship” that was what I experienced in 20 years of evangelical churches. On the other hand, he seems solidly evangelical in that it is the Word that God speaks through most clearly; no direct revelation or conversations of the Charismatics, and no visions and mystical experiences of the mystics. Yet even so, he talks about perceiving God, so regardless of the means of revelation, the experience he describes is decidedly different than the analytical approach of evangelical Bible study.

The Pursuit of God describe the components for a personal, experiential, mystical relationship with God more clearly than any other book I have read. (At least, it seems like it; I do not consider myself to have arrived anywhere close.)  I read a book relating the experiences of a spiritual child of Father Porphyrios, a 20th-century priest who lived in Greece who was recently canonized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church. Father Prophyrios’ relationship with God did not seem to get passed down to the author of the book, which left me wondering what it was that made the saint different. Tozer clearly identifies it, most notably, to my mind, the complete surrender of the will to God in loving exaltation and the possession of nothing (not in lack of ownership, but in the sense of things owning you). The clarity of Tozer’s insights and writing will challenge and direct readers for decades to come.

Review: 10
Tozer has an incisive clarity about knowing God personally and experientially. The writing is excellent, with choice turns of phrase like “Adam sinned and in his panic, frantically tried to do the impossible: he tried to hide from the Presence of God.” Even more important, the topics flow naturally from one to the other, gradually building on each other. The last two chapters are a bit of an exception, I was not sure exactly how they related to the rest. Additionally, Tozer is concise. He takes half the pages of a typical Christian book to say what it takes two or three to communicate hazily. Tozer’s insight, clarity, and excellence of writing are an excellent example of a hundred-year book in a topic that is hard to write clearly about.