A throne was created deep within the heart of man upon which none was worthy to sit but God. Mankind’s woes began when we forced God from His throne and enshrined in His place were the things which He created for and to be used by man for good and the accomplishments of God’s purposes upon the earth. The pronouns “my” and “mine” are innocent enough, but their constant and broad use with reference to things is significant. They express the real nature of man’s fallen heart. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. God’s gifts now take the place of God on the throne of our hearts and the result is a watering down of the words of Jesus.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23, 24).
Jesus says that it is the “denial of self that saves life”. I believe this is what is referenced by Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The blessed ones who will possess the Kingdom are those who have repudiated the external things and have uprooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. Though free from all sense of possessing, they actually posses all things…”theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
One of the great examples of this principle is seen in the life of Abraham. Abraham was an old man when Isaac was born. In fact he was old enough to have been Isaac’s grandfather. Finally the long awaited son he had been promised was born and no doubt became the delight of his heart. This child represented everything sacred to a father’s heart. Wrapped up in him were the promises of God, the covenants, the messianic dream and hopes of years to come. As he watches him grow up into a young man I can only imagine how close he became to his son. What happens next is beyond our wildest imagination. God shatters the calm and blessed relationship with a command, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2).
Our inspired scribe spares us the agonizing response and questions that may have come in response to this most unusual challenge. I can only imagine the agony of heart and soul that must have been experienced in coming to grips with God’s will. If only the choice was his to die instead of his son, there would have been no contest, for he is now old and death would be no great ordeal, but God had said, “Take your Son, your only son…”
What is the moral of this story? God allowed this old faithful servant to go through with this intended offering of his son up to the point where there would be no retreat, and then did not allow him to continue. In effect he says, “It‘s all right, Abraham, I never intended that you should actually slay your son. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign supreme there with out rival. “…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
After that emotion filled experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never had quite the same meaning for Abraham. Abraham had a lot of things, but he possessed nothing. Here is the spiritual secret to self denial. Laying up treasure in heaven sounds good, but we fear what we cannot see. It is easy to trust in bank balances, net worth, the next promotion, etc. I think this is the reason Jesus says it will be difficult for the rich to inherit the Kingdom. The poor have nothing of material value to hold on to, but the rich, that is another story.
We must learn with Abraham that everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.
A.W. Tozer said, “If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God He will sooner or later bring us to this test. Abraham’s testing was, at the time, not known to him as such, yet if he had taken some course other than the one he did, the whole history of the Old Testament would have been different. God would have found His man, no doubt, but the loss to Abraham would have been tragic beyond the telling. So we will be brought one by one to the testing place, and we may never know when we are there. At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us; just one and an alternative, but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.”
“Father, I want to know You, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from You the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that You may enter and dwell there without a rival. Then You will make the place of Your feet glorious. Then will my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for you will be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.