Instead of making resolutions for a new year, I like to concentrate on one word. This year the word seems to be surrender. I hoped for a different word. But this is the one that keeps popping up over and over. Every first Sunday of the New Year, my church has a special service to consecrate ourselves to the Lord for the coming year. This year, we received white flags to remind us to surrender. The word didn’t come to me in that moment. It happened while I was reading from AW Tozer’s “Pursuit of God.” It became clear this is my word for the year.
In the second chapter, Tozer writes about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The story is familiar – I have heard it most of my life. Isaac was Abraham’s greatest possession. God asked Abraham to lay Isaac on the altar of surrender. It was a test of Abraham’s total surrender of his heart. “Things” are not meant to take the rightful place of God. Possessions should not possess us. Tozer points out that in the beginning, God gave Adam things to rule over. “Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight.” These things were for use, not possession. Sin introduced us to possession. Possession forced God out of the center of our hearts; His rightful place; the place He designed in us for Him alone.
The central message of this chapter was this: “The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing.” In the words of Jesus, Matthew 5:3 states: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” According to Tozer, “it’s an inward state of paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem – this is the word ‘poor’ used by Jesus.” Abraham found this ‘poor spirit’ through the sacrifice of Isaac. Although he was rich outwardly, he possessed nothing internally.
At some point in our walk with Jesus, we will be asked to remove that thing that possesses us. We all face this testing, like Abraham, and this maybe the year we might have to lay something on the altar which is dear to us. Something will need to be sacrificed. Tozer wrote there won’t be a dozen choices, but just one and an alternative. “Our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.”
Christine Caine spoke at the Passion Conference this year. In her talk, she stated the highest honor is to be the servant of the Lord. In the Bible, there are only four who are given this “title” Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David. These men knew what it meant to lay everything down for the sake of the Kingdom. Each man had a time of testing. They were given assignments, but they first they had a season of preparation. Abraham left everything behind to go to the land God promised as an inheritance; not to mention the wait for the promised child. Moses tended flocks in the desert for forty years. Joshua was Moses’ aide for forty years before he took the possession God promised Abraham. David had many years of being a warrior before he became a king. These men possessed nothing, but the promises they were given.
Jesus is our greatest treasure. This is the one thing that we are to possess for eternity. John Piper said to the crowd at the Passion Conference, “we need to live and die showing Jesus is more precious than life.” We have a wonderful inheritance stored for us in heaven. Whatever we give up in this life is nothing in comparison to what we will receive one day. Abraham left it all on the altar. We can do the same and be called one of God’s faithful servants. What an honor!
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give them to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:20-22