Quote #1: “There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets ‘things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant…The roots of our hearts have grown down into things and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die.” -A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Quote #2: “The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things.” -Tozer, Pursuit of God
Quote #3: “There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic. We are often hindered from giving up treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.”
Let’s talk for a moment about these quotes and the ideas they present. But first, some context. Tozer in this chapter focuses on the letting go of things in our lives, both good and bad, and uses the story of Abraham and Issac (Gen. 22) to explain his points. In the story, God called Abraham to let go of Issac, so to speak – actually, it was more like sacrifice him on an altar…no big deal. Abraham and his only son travelled for days up to Moriah. Once they arrived, “Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Gen. 22:9-10).
To put it simply, Abraham let go. In this moment of letting go, God intervenes and says this: “‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ He said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'” Tozer imagines God saying it this way: “It’s alright, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might remain unchallenged there.” This leads me to ask my two questions:
Question #1: What are the “Issacs” in my life? What things might be taking the seat of God in the temple of my life and thus robbing me of fully experiencing His presence?
Question #2: How can I tell the difference between God’s tests and experiencing the natural consequences of my sin?
Of course, this whole idea of latching on to things, good or bad, isn’t new. Ever since the first humans in the creation story exchanged the glory and presence of God for something other than God, this has been the defining condition of the human heart. Someone put it this way: “The human heart is an idol-making factory.” It’s difficult for us to realize, truly, if we have Christ, we have everything. In order to have Christ and experience Him fully, we have to both establish Him at the center of our hearts and destroy the things that we latch on so closely to.
Lose your life, to find it? Empty yourself, to be filled? Poor in spirit, to inherit the kingdom of God? Yes. Yes. Yes. May we become aware of just how much things insulate us from experiencing God’s presence and, through the power of the Spirit of God, begin to uproot the tight grasp that these things have on our hearts and lives.