A.W. Tozer on the Veil of Self

I can’t think of a more vivid description of the “crucifixion of the flesh” (Gal 5:24, Rom 6:6) than that provided by A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God.

In a chapter entitled Removing the Veil” Tozer offers an explanation for why the experience of God is so often hidden from us. For Tozer, what prevents us from knowing God’s presence is a “veil” of sin. Just as Christ’s death tore the veil in the temple, signifying that we have access to God’s presence through faith once-and-for-all, the experience of that presence is hindered when we fail to deal with sin in our lives.

Tozer describes the veil in this way:

“It is the veil of our fleshly fallen nature living on unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for those reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross.”

These “self-sins” are “self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them” which manifest themselves as “egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion.”

As an aside, it is striking to me that Tozer describes “self-confidence, self-love, and self-love” as sins of the flesh. In our society these are lifted up as the highest of virtues.

Tozer continues:

“Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us… We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us.” -Click to Tweet

So what does this “deadly work” look like?

“Let us remember: When we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetic, almost pleasant; but there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experienced that veil is made of living spiritual tissue, it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole being consists, and to touch it is to touch where we feel pain. To tear it 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.”

Tozer concludes his chapter with this prayer, which I think is a fitting close to this post as well: “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.”

Book Recommendations
The Pursuit of God

The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life