A reader emailed to say that I had taken Tozer out of context in my quotation from his book The Root of the Righteous. I had asked, “We must die on the cross in order to be born again?” Then I said, “That sure seems to be what Tozer was saying.” Yet what Tozer was saying, the reader suggested, was that we must take up the cross in order to please God. The issue was sanctification, not justification.
I checked and I was wrong. While in my opinion Tozer is less than clear whether he was talking about justification or sanctification, the scales tip toward the latter. See The Root of the Righteous, pp. 34-37, available online. Here is a quote from The Root of the Righteous just before the one I gave in the last issue that shows the ambiguity in what he is saying:
The cross affects its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.
With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (emphasis his). So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.
This, and nothing less, is true Christianity… (p. 34).
Tozer in those words certainly appears to be saying that the truly regenerate person is one who has died to self and who is denying himself, taking up his cross, and following Jesus.
However, here is a quote from a few pages after the quote I cited that sounds like the issue is not justification, but sanctification:
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. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. 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 within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.
If we will not die then we must die, and that death will mean forfeiture of many of those everlasting treasures which the saints have cherished. Our uncrucified flesh will rob us of purity of heart, Christ-likeness of character, spiritual insight, fruitfulness; and more than all, it will hide from us the vision of God’s face, that vision which has been the light of earth and will be the completeness of heaven (pp. 36-37).
Notice that he is speaking of “every Christian’s heart” and of “gospel believers today.” He did not qualify this by speaking of professing Christians or of professing gospel believers. And the outcome for the Christian who fails to put himself on the cross is not eternal condemnation, but “shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility” and a lack of spiritual insight and fruitfulness.
My apologies for misrepresenting what Tozer had said. I am delighted to have Tozer on our side on this point, at least in this portion of this book. I would welcome someone to do more research about Tozer. His views on the condition of everlasting life would be worthy of a journal article or even a book.