The Necessity of an Encounter With God

by A.W.Tozer on January 7, 2020


The Necessity of an Encounter With God
by A.W. Tozer

We are in tune with the plain teachings of the Bible when we attach great importance to genuine Christian experience. But I will take immediate objection to the charge, "Tozer preaches experience!" I do not preach experience. I preach Christ. That is my calling, and I will always be faithful to that calling. 

 Nevertheless, I insist that the effective preaching of Jesus Christ, rightly understood, will produce spiritual experience in Christian believers. Moreover, if Christian preaching does not produce spiritual experience and maturing in the believer, the preaching is not being faithful to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures!

Let me say it again in another way. The Christ of the Bible is not rightly known until there is an experience of Him within the believer, for our Savior and Lord offers Himself to human experience. 

Our shortcoming in spiritual experience is our tendency to believe without confirmation. God Himself does not need to confirm anything with His being. But we are not God. We are humans, and in matters of our faith we need confirmation within ourselves.

Why are so many Christian believers ineffective, anemic, disappointed, discouraged? I think the answer is that we need confirmation within ourselves, and we are not getting it. I have no doubt that God, in love and grace and mercy, awaits to confirm His presence among those who will truly hunger and thirst after righteousness.

For a long while I have been on record insisting that true spiritual experience is conscious awareness,  illustrated early in the Old Testament by Abram's personal realization and knowledge of the presence of God.

In the Christian Church, genuine spiritual experience goes back to the apostles---actually back to our Lord Himself. I do not refer to a dream while a person sleeps. I do not refer to something a person has buried in his or her subconsciousness. I refer to a conscious intelligence, an awareness.

The human personality has a right to be consciously aware of a meeting with God. There will be a spiritual confirmation, an inward knowledge or witness.

 I repeat: Experience is conscious awareness. This kind of confirmation and witness was taught and treasured by the great souls throughout the ages.

 Conscious awareness of the presence of God! I defy any theologian or  teacher to take that away from the believing church of Jesus Christ .But be assured they will try.

And I refer not just to the liberal teachers. God has given us the Bible for a reason. That reason is so it can lead us to meet God in Jesus Christ in a clear, sharp encounter that will burn on in our hearts forever and ever!

Genuine Christian experience must always include an encounter with God Himself. The spiritual giants of old were those who at so some time became acutely conscious of the presence of God. They maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives.

The first encounter may have been one of terror, as when 
"A horror of great darkness" fell upon Abraham or as when Moses at the burning bush hid his face because he afraid to look upon God. But reading  on, we learn that this fear soon lost its terror and changed rather to a delightful awe. Finally, it leveled off into a reverent sense of complete nearness to God. The essential point is this: These were 
 men who met and experienced God! 

Is it not that indeed they had become friends of God? Is it not that they walked in conscious communion with the real Presence and addressed their prayers to God with artless conviction that were truly addressing Someone actually there?

 The Spirit of God has compelled me to preach and write much about the believer's conscious union with Christ -- a union that must be felt and experienced. I will never be through talking about the union of the soul with the Savior, the conscious union of the believer's heart with Jesus. Remember, I am not talking about a theological union only. I am speaking also of a conscious union, a union that is felt and experienced.

For men and women who have met God, we may say that the sun --  the Son -- has come up in their hearts, and His warmth and light have given them a distinguishing radiance. They have the inner witness. Perhaps you will agree with me when I say, sadly, that the average evangelical Christian is without this radiance. Instead of an inner witness, he or she too often is found substituting  logical conclusions drawn from Bible texts. There is no witness, no encounter with God, no awareness of inner change. The whole point I am trying to make about the fellowship of a person with God is this: where there is a divine act within the soul, there will be a corresponding awareness. This act of God is its  
own evidence. It addresses itself directly to the spiritual 

It is within this context of awareness and fellowship 
and communion with God that I would comment on three abiding elements of Christian experience and spiritual life. These are elements that are a always  the same among men and women who have had a personal meeting with God.

First, these great souls always have a compelling sense of God Himself, of His person and of His presence. While others would want to spend their time talking about a variety of things, these godly men and women, touched by their knowledge of God, want to talk about  Him. They are drawn away from a variety of mundane topics because of the importance of their spiritual discoveries.

Second, it is plain that the details and the significance of their personal experiences remain sharp and clear with true spiritual meaning. I am not referring to any need or formula for identical Christian experiences. We ought to be fully aware that in the body of Christ we are not interested in the production of "cookie-cutter" Christians. God has given each of us an individual temperament and 
distinct characteristics. Therefore it is the office of the Holy 
Spirit to work out as He will the details in Christian experience. They will vary with personality. 

 Certainly, [though], we can be sure of this: whenever a person truly meets God in faith and commitment to the gospel, he will have a consciousness and a sharp awareness of the details of that spiritual transaction.

The third element is the permanent and life changing nature of a true encounter with God. The experience may have been brief, but the results will be evident in the life of the person touched as long as he or she lives.

We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires. That is why I am always a little suspicious of the overly bubbly Christian who talks too much about himself or herself and not enough about Jesus. 

 Then, I am always a little worried about the "hope-so" Christian who cannot tell me any of the details of his or her Christian experience. 

 And, I am more than a little concerned about the professing Christian whose experience does not seem to have resulted in a true inner longing to be more like Jesus every day in thought, word and deed.
(Adapted from Chapter 1 of the book Men Who Met God, published by Christian Publications, Inc.)