Front or Fount?

I was reading an insightful little essay by A.W. Tozer, and happened upon this:

“…the way to escape religion as a front is to make it a fount”.

In saying this, Tozer was, of course, talking about the Christian religion. His advice presumed a problem amongst those who counted themselves followers of Christ. It may seem odd to some, since we who are part of the Protestant tradition (still more, the charismatic Protestant tradition) are routinely thought of as those who have a vital, life-giving faith. How could it be anything other than a well-spring of life, flowing from the work of God’s Spirit within? Truth be told, even those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals, or – horror of horrors – Pentecostals, are still susceptible to religion as a front: an edifice that conceals the inward aridity of a professed believer’s soul. The outward expression of faith in Jesus hides a spiritual apathy towards matters divine and eternal. All that remains is a shell of belief, exhausted by circumstance and trial, habit and acculturation.

Happily, the quote above demonstrates that Tozer was far from being at a loss when responding to the problem. The only way to flee the encrustations of traditional, superficial religion (yes, even Pentecostalism can become an ossified tradition) is to turn it into a fount – a source of life, vitality and spiritual zeal. It requires honesty, to be sure. We need to acknowledge, not only out general spiritual poverty, but those specific times (which can last for years in some cases) where our penury may be so great and all-encompassing, it has paradoxically ceased to be of concern. Moreover, we need to acknowledge our own inability to transform our pitiable conditions. Only the ultimate source of the fount can do that. Later on in the same essay, Tozer wrote:

“Stay with God in the secret place longer than we are with men [sic] and the fountain of wisdom will never dry up. Keep our hearts open to the inflowing of the Spirit and we will not become exhausted…”

It requires a sturdy soul and a resolute will to place oneself in this position. Nevertheless, it is not, in the final analysis, a matter of our own effort. It rests instead on God’s grace: the grace that he first demonstrated to us through the unfathomable sacrifice of his Son, Jesus; and the ongoing grace that is manifested by the inward work of the Spirit, from whom flows an undending river of life that perenially refreshes. When that happens, the Christian religion will no longer be an empty edifice. Instead, we ourselves will have become an edifice (to use a different metaphor) – a sacred temple, full of God’s effulgence, in which his Spirit dwells, transforms, sanctifies and glorifies.

Sounds good to me.


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