Thanks to Rebecca Carey for the follow up to yesterday’s sermon I preached on Abraham. You will be blessed by what she writes even if you weren’t there to hear it.
Emptied and Yet Fulfilled
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. —Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)
We never in our deepest contemplations would have thought to seek God on our own. Our own is selfish and corrupted and entirely devoid of any desire that could be considered good. We will attach ourselves to things and cling to them to the ruination of our person. And when God asks us to let go and unseat the throne of our heart solely for Him, we may….but with strings attached. We haven’t really let go at all. Things are our sustenance; the way we survive. If we let go, we would be left with nothing and completely empty! Hold onto that thought and meditate upon it, because that is exactly where our Lord wants us to be.
A.W. Tozer associates Abraham’s inner struggle, in obedience to God in sacrificing his son on the altar, to something other than Christ being on the throne of his heart. He says, “Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us…we have but to look into our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched it may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress.”
The moment Abraham heard those words from the Lord, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love…and offer him…as a burnt offering.” his world must have come to a sudden stand-still. It was a moment that could not be retracted nor escaped. It was a direct command from his Lord, whom he served with all his heart – and yet, all his heart was not what the Lord possessed. For Abraham had something else on the throne of his heart that hindered him from what the Lord was accomplishing in his life: God wanted full possession of Abraham’s heart yet Isaac stood on the very throne; the promised one, the apple of his eye. The goal of God’s command appears to be the stripping down of the very veil that kept Abraham from a relationship so close-knit with his Lord that there would be no knowing where God began and Abraham ended. I have tried to imagine what Abraham’s anguish must have felt like and I could not fathom it. Until things become too personal.
God does not want our services, our gifts, or anything we have to offer Him. In fact, all these things stand in the way of God’s free working and growth of our spiritual lives. All of this that we deem appropriate to offer has a place on the throne of our hearts. God cannot have complete possession of us until all is removed. The things on the throne are veiled behind one tough word to swallow – Self. Self poses as an innocent bystander when in actuality it is cold, fierce, unmoving and governs the throne of our hearts with an iron grip. We must cast away the telescope which shows us only the pretty shimmering clothe of that veil and employ the microscope as God sees things and we will see that self is robed in these ugly, glaring colors:
When self is alive, it is impossible to please God because self suffocates faith – and faith is what pleases God. (Hebrews 11:6) We must return to the poor, aged man wrestling with the very thought of raising the knife to his child and then burning him in front of the God whom he had considered righteous and pure. A thousand questions must have hurled themselves at God from the lips of Self within him. Foul curses and angry threats to the person of Abraham who was called at that moment to dethrone self and all it held onto – namely, his son Isaac. It must have been painful for Abraham, perchance as painful as Christ’s last prayerful moments in the garden when he sweated blood upon the ground in dire agony of what was to come.
And then came the moment when his world gasped a life-giving breath of air as all started moving on its course again; a forever changed course; the moment when Abraham decided that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead to carry out His promises through him. (Hebrews 11:19) At that moment, self was wrenched from the throne of Abraham’s heart and there God graced its seat with His presence – in finality!
What is it in our lives that hides behind the veil of self? What things hold onto the throne of our heart that must be wrenched away with a decision to trust God and His doings no matter what He chooses for our walk? For He as promised not to harm us, but to give us a hope and a future of spiritual prosperity in Him (Jeremiah 29:11-12) with the absolute assurance that nothing can tear us from his hand.(John 10:28) What then do we fear? Pain? Yes, it will be painful to tear self apart from the new creation of you because it is woven so tightly. Loss? Yes, we will lose all – yet we gain all because Christ has won us, and Christ is our All in All. Failure? Yes, self will fail but Christ will prevail as He lifts us higher in Himself, for He reigns on the throne of our hearts.
“Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life, hoping ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and to trust.” A.W. Tozer (The Pursuit of God)
When self is gone, we have nothing to offer Christ – and so He has everything we have to offer. Just ourselves stripped of all pretension and masquerade. Only a pure clay pot, fired and stamped with His mark on our life, painted beautifully by the victory of the testings of a Loving Savior. Don’t you ever wonder what level of faith and joy Abraham gained from losing everything for the sake of a command from his God? I do. And I would welcome the rain on my spiritual life if only for the growth it brings as He reigns upon my heart’s throne.
In Him be emptied so that in Him we may be fulfilled. Amen!