44. We Need Cool Heads
In the Church of God two opposite dangers are to be recognized and avoided; they are a cold heart and a hot head. And for downright harmful effects the hot head is often the worse of the two.
The human heart is heretical by nature, and unless well instructed by the Scriptures and fully enlightened by the indwelling Spirit it is sure to introduce some of its own notions into its religious beliefs and practices. It may, for instance, confuse the fervor of the Spirit with the heat of the flesh, and mistake the scintillations of the overheated imagination for the glow of the true Shekinah. And this can be extremely dangerous, especially when it is found among religious leaders.
It is true that Ezekiel on one occasion went in the heat of his spirit; but there is no hint that his mind was anything but calm, for he said also that "the hand of the lord was strong upon me." The steadying hand of God prevents the fever of the human spirit from affecting the critical faculties and leading to extreme and unwise conduct.
In our commendable eagerness to see the fires of Pentecost burn again among us we are guilty sometimes of overstating the facts. For instance, we habitually point to the fervor of the great saints, their passionate love, their flaming desire, and fail entirely to notice another characteristic of their personalities, viz., their calm steady judgment and salty good sense. For it cannot be denied that the reformers, the revivalists, the mystics of yesterday, were for the most part uncommonly poised and self- possessed men. The heat of John Wesley's spirit can still be felt after the passing of the years, but whoever will take the trouble to read his writings will find that he was capable of exercising the calmest and most balanced judgment concerning just about everything. The same may be said of Finney and a host of others whose examples are used today to stimulate the cold hearts of our time to seek after heavenly fire.
It may be said without qualification that there can never be too much fire, if it is the true fire of God; and it can be said as certainly that there cannot be too much cool judgment in religious matters if that judgment is sanctified by tie Spirit. The history of revivals in the Church reveals how harmful the hot head can be. Hardly a revival visited the Church but was stopped in its tracks by the very persons who were trying to promote it. When a spiritual movement becomes large enough to get out from under the direction of the ones God used to originate it, then the danger begins. Extremists who rode to local fame on the wave of revival power now take over; immediately everything goes out of focus. What before was incidental now becomes fundamental; what was a byproduct now becomes the main product. What had been present as something temporary and undesirable is now promoted as being itself the very mark of God on the movement. How many revivals have been killed in this way the records will abundantly show. And many of us know of such instances within our own narrow field of experience which have never gotten into the record at all.
Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely any one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit. For want of this gift many of God's good people continue to chase fireflies in the mistaken belief that they are following the fire and cloud. And this they do to the great harm of their own souls and to the confusion of others.
There will always be those who hesitate to believe that anything is of God unless it has about it some flavor of the weird, or at least of the supernatural. Persons with a certain type of mentality think only in extremes; they can never achieve perspective in anything, but see everything so close as to miss entirely the corrective benefits of distance. They will believe anything as long as it is unusual and just a little mysterious. Their fire is not large, but by holding it always on one fine point they manage to generate a surprising amount of heat, only at that one point.
The priests of the sanctuary, when they went in to sacrifice, were not permitted to wear "any thing that causes sweat." Human sweat can add nothing to the work of the Spirit, especially when it is nerve sweat. The hottest fire of God is cool when it touches the redeemed intellect. It makes the heart glow but leaves the judgment completely calm. These are days of great religious turmoil. We do well to remember that "God bath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Let love burn on with increasing fervor but bring every act to the test of quiet wisdom. Keep the fire in the furnace where it belongs. An overheated chimney will create more excitement than a well controlled furnace, but it is likely to burn the house down. Let the rule be: a hot furnace but a cool chimney.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Reach for the Calling Creator
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your calling be the best.