Thursday, February 20, 2014

“Abraham built an altar…; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar…” Genesis 22:9

There is a constant battle waging within every follower of Christ: the battle between the old and new man.  The old man struggles to maintain the former desires of ‘self’ while the new man, empowered by the Spirit of God in him, advances ever forward replacing the former desires with those from the heart of God.  This struggle is fought on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, and while certain desires of the old man are blatant areas requiring spiritual eradication, others are better at hiding.  Such desires often mask themselves within numerous good intentions or noble facades; these also pose the greatest resistance to eradication within our hearts. 

Abraham is a perfect example of how our hearts can take what is good, right and natural to love and very quickly create an idol there.  For the patriarch it was his son Isaac.  It is both expected and right for a father to love his son, especially when you consider the circumstances surrounding the birth of Isaac.  He was the promised heir, the physical manifestation of God’s covenant with Abraham.  Wrapped in the right and good affections of a father, however, the idol factory of Abraham’s heart was fast at work.  God in His divine omniscience knew full well what was developing in the heart of Abraham.  With the spiritual expediency only God can operate with, He pulled no punches and went directly at the issue hiding within the patriarch’s soul and asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. 

The reality is that anything that diverts our heart’s worship from it’s ONLY worthy recipient cannot remain unchecked if we are to call ourselves His disciples.  This is true no matter what the object, be it insignificant or monumental.  God does not share His throne with any other.  Period.  When we cling to the idols of our heart, specifically those that seem right and good, He will challenge them as He did with Abraham.  He will ask us “What possesses the affections of your heart?  Am I enough for you?  If this was to be taken from you, would I still be enough?”  At this point we are drawn to a place of soul questioning introspection and that is a terrifying and uncomfortable place to be.  We are there forced to make a conscious decision, to worship God or worship our manufactured idol.  

In his work The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer explains that this process of idol renunciation is an essential aspect of the Christian experience, saying:

"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." 

When we are faced with this choice, what will our response be?  Will we walk in painful, perhaps agonizing, obedience?  Will we say ‘Lord You alone are my portion, You alone satisfy?’  Or will we cling to our heart’s idol, effectively telling God ‘sorry, this is just too dear.’  

by Matt Gould