“Removing the Veil” – Thoughts on the 3rd chapter of A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”

All of Scripture rings with the idea that God wants to be with us.  God created a place, the Garden of Eden, where He could be with us and we could know Him.  Even after humanity walked away from God, God keeps reaching into our sinful world and calling people to be where He is and to live in relationship with Him.  In the Exodus the Presence of God was with His people in the Tabernacle – the King dwelling at the center of His people.  It is no accident that Christ is called “Immanuel” which means, “God with us.”  Even in the church Jesus promises “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  In Acts, the Holy Spirit – the Presence of God – is poured out on His people who have been saved through Jesus.  Finally, at the end of time and the beginning of sinless eternity, the book of Revelation records, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Tozer writes that we were created to be in God’s Presence.  Every longing we ever have is in some fashion a longing for God.  Every sin is an attempt to fill the void that was left when we turned away from Him.  But the Old Testament Tabernacle stands as a reminder that there is a barrier between us and God.  There, in that structure that was a physical representation of  our relationship with God, the veil that separated the Presence of God from His people was a constant reminder of the sin that separates us from Him.  The thing that stands in the way from that for which we are created – to be in God’s presence worshiping Him forever.

How profound that when Christ died on the cross, the veil that hung in the more permanent Tabernacle – the Temple – tore in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).  The thing the veil represented had been defeated on the cross and the way was open for us to come, through Jesus Christ, into the very Presence of God.  But Tozer asks a good question, “With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without?  Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God? … What hinders us?” (43).

Tozer goes on to describe that the veil was not just an external thing.  It is a symbol of the things we all hold on to that separate us from God.  It is the “veil in our hearts…. the veil of our fleshly, fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated” (44).  He goes on to say:

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit.  They are not something we DO, they are something we ARE, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.  

To be specific, the self sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.  They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.  (45)

Because this “veil” is a part of us – our very nature – it’s removal is not easy nor is it painless:

There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free.  We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us.  We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. … To tear [the veil] away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed.  To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all.  It is never fun to die.  To rip through the dear and tender stuff for which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful.  Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free. …God must do everything for us.  Our part is to yield and trust.  We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. …The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective.  It does not keep its victim hanging there forever.  There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies.  After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the living God (46-47).

I remember reading this as a teenager and being cut to the core.  There were (and still are) so many things that I held on to and, though I wanted to “accept” Jesus as my savior, I did not want to give him everything of me.  There were parts I demanded be left untouched.  Salvation does not work this way.  We are not allowed to put up “keep out” signs when we invite Christ into our lives.  I have also learned since that there are the veils we see and know and cling to, and then there are the hidden veils that lie deeper in our lives and though they are real they are as yet unknown to us.

This is part of the wonderful gift of faith.  By faith we can ask God to show these things to us.  By faith we can, however painful it may be, repent of those things when they are shown and allow God to rip away that veil as well.  By faith we know that though the ripping hurts, God knows exactly what He is doing and we are safest when we are completely laid bare under His skillful hand.

Some of us have richly decorated our veils until they have become acceptable to us and their ripping is that much more difficult, but they must be torn down and we must come to God and ask Him to do it.

Tozer ends this chapter with the following prayer:

Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man.  Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life.  Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple.  we would draw near in full assurance of faith.  We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. (47)

Picture from Flickr user failafo0sa

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