Yesterday, I started reading A.W. Tozer’s The pursuit of God in which he delves into the concept of things and I will like to share with you what I have learnt.
Before God created man he prepared for man’s arrival by creating a world full of useful and pleasant things for man’s sustenance and delight. These things were always external to man. Within man was God’s throne and external to man were the gifts God showered him with. Sin, however, changed everything! The devil convinced our first parents that the things were more important than God setting the world on a course where God was forced out of the heart of man and things were allowed to enter. The heart of man covets things with such deep and fierce passion embodied in the words “my” and “mine”. There is no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in this life. Unfortunately, it comes so naturally (even my one year old uses those words) it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is. In the old testament, we see Abraham fall into the pitfalls of possessions.
Abraham had Isaac in his old age and he loved Isaac with every ounce of strength in him. Isaac represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years, and the long messianic dream. The love for his son was so strong that it bordered on the perilous and God had to step in to save both father and son from this uncleansed love:
“Take your son,” God said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will show you. Gen 22: 2 Berean Study Bible
God made Abraham go as far with the sacrifice to the point of no retreat and then he intervened and asked Abraham not to lay a hand upon the boy. In effect, God was saying to Abraham, “I never intended for you to slay Isaac, I just wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart so I may take my rightful place and rule unchallenged. I wanted to correct the perversion in your love.” Isaac was his prized possession, the culmination of all he was and the embodiment of all he possessed and God had in a sense taken that away from him. That night on the mountain, God showed Abraham the difference between having things and possessing them. Abraham lost all his possessions but ended up gaining everything.
…declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will multiply your descendants like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the gates of their enemies. And through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” Genesis 22: 16-18 Berean Study Bible
Abraham had everything but truly possessed nothing. When we take a critical look at all of Jesus’ teachings as recorded in the gospels, most of them focused on not allowing things to take front and centre in one’s heart but rather to allow God to take his rightful place in the hearts of men.
Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness [allow God to establish his rightful place in your heart. Let the things be external like it was in the beginning] and all other things will be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 [Interpretation mine]
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29
He demonstrated this in his parables, in his interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees, in his instructions to the rich to sell their possessions and more figuratively with the cleansing of the temple. In that story, we see people allowing material things to be the central focus in the temple; the seat of God’s presence. Jesus chases them away in a bid to restore order to God’s temple where God is enthroned in the heart and minds of people (my house will be called the house of prayer [communion, fellowship, relationship with God]).
Today you are the temple of God. Is the Kingdom of God within you? Does God sit unchallenged on the throne of your heart? Or does He contest with things, the gifts he showers you with? As we go into a new year my prayer is that we make a commitment to let go of the things that have taken a grip over our heart and allow God to be our one true treasure.
“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose, he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever.” (from “The Pursuit of God (Updated, Annotated)” by Aiden Wilson Tozer, A. W. Tozer, Ruth Zetek)