We are dead center in the most consumer-driven season, quickly approaching the day we cumulatively remember the incarnation of our Savior. We must question our hearts and our intent of possessing what this world has to offer.
Tozer begins his second chapter of The Pursuit of God with the most essential doctrine to anthropology: total depravity. When Adam and Eve were created in the garden of Eden they were perfect. Everything God had created was perfect and designed for man’s pleasure. When Adam sinned, he brought corruption to everything that God had made.
“In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him… Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and ‘things’ were allowed to enter.” *
The chapter goes on to point out the most telling words of our pride and greed: my and mine. The very things which were meant to be for our pleasure have become the source for our lust: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We are rooted to this world and so closely intertwined with all that it has to offer that to free ourselves can only be done through the painful efforts of forsaking them. Nothing is free from our possession. We must leave mother and father and deny everything in our pursuit of God.
” …there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril… To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything.” *
If we see the task as ‘too hard’ we will be brought ever so much more under the power of this world that it will destroy any spiritual life we have left. There is a war going on over our soul for the most primal position in our hearts. What we feed will inevitably win. We say we want to know God and we want to honor Him, but when He asks for the things we love so dearly, we refuse to let go.
The story of Abraham and Isaac stands as a universal testament to the idols of our heart and the painful efforts God will take to remain on the throne. Tozer, in his richest poetic language, recalls the story in the most powerful commentary to the Bible I have ever read. In the end he concludes that this testing of Abraham’s faith was for the sole purpose of remaining uncontested.
“I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.” *
I’m led to ponder what idols have overtaken the alters of the church where Christ desires to be the center of our attention. The tug of war over music and other practices is the chief point of contention between the generations who desire to cling to their culture. There is no valid reason to cling to the abstract except that they are rooted to the ‘things’ that have no place on the throne of our hearts. I wonder if God Himself is testing the veracity that many hold to these traditions. The battle will continue to be waged until God’s people will return to Him and renounce the idols of their heart.
This is the subtle difference between asceticism and renunciation. Asceticism seeks to achieve holiness by the effort of living with less. Renouncing them is not to rid them from one’s life, but to make them subservient to the LORD. This is where man’s best efforts to manufacture this response err. Only those with the ‘burning heart’ will understand the difference.
“The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.” *
Asceticism requires that we live simply and have little. In renunciation, we don’t have to worry about doing without.
“Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” *
Abraham was still rich in earthly terms. We can still have and appreciate our traditions. We don’t need to worry about losing anything because we have given them all over to God. This is not easy. If it was simple, everyone could do it with no trouble. Instead, we fight with God on every issue. We want to justify our possessions.
“Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.” *
Tozer suggest that we pray to God and ask Him to break us free of all earthy possessions. It will be painful and bloody, like ripping out a rotten tooth, but it must be done and better to be done swiftly than over time. No one can avoid the painful process of being refined by the fire.
“If he will become drastic enough he can shorten the time of his travail from years to minutes and enter the good land long before his slower brethren who coddle their feelings and insist upon caution in their dealings with God.” *
There is a great piece or blessedness when we realize that we possess nothing. When God has everything in His control, we can be certain that it will be safe and secure.