“In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within Him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.
But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.” – A.W. Tozer.
We all have an Isaac in our life, we have all once been in the place of Abraham. Sitting on a mountain, our beloved idol in our arms, God commanding us to put an end to it. While that idol may not be a sin in the life of another person (Isaac was not a sinful thing, but a precious, God-given child, but he had become an idol.) anything that takes up a place in our shrine which should be for God only is an enemy. We have all been there, begging God to change His mind. I imagine this must have been hard for Abraham, to offer his own son up. The son that God had promised him. The son that he had waited for. The son that he had prayed for. Loved. Taught. I’m sure he thought to himself, “God, won’t you take me instead?” But God commands us to burn down all of our idols, to remove anything from the shrine in our hearts that is not a part of God Himself, so that there may be room for Him to sit. God can not sit on His throne if an idol, if an enemy, if a sin, is in His way.
We all have a pet sin, perhaps not a person, a relationship, like Abraham’s, but a sin. Perhaps yours is addiction, whether it be drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling. The list could go on. Perhaps you are having sexually immoral relations outside of a marriage. Perhaps you are cheating on your spouse. Perhaps you are caught in a lie. Gossiping. Whatever it is, there is a sin in your life that you enjoy a bit too much to get rid of. You love that sin, regardless of how it may be harming you and your relationship with God. Because addiction, as evil as it is, always gives us a high that makes it seem worth it. Cheating on your spouse gives you temporary happiness, and so on. Our sin, that pet sin, gives us temporary happiness, and we can’t seem to let it go easily. We aren’t aware of how serious it is. We don’t see it as a big deal. We all have an enemy that we tolerate at our own peril. Because whether we like to see our sins as such or not, our sins, no matter how small they are considered in the eyes of the world, are enemies of God. As Tozer said in his book The Pursuit of God,
“To allow this enemy to live is, in the end, to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal.”
The only way to remove these idols once and for all is to accept them for what they are – dangerous enemies of God. The only way to defeat these enemies is through the cross. Matthew 16:24 says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We must deny ourselves, our temporary pleasure, and replace it with Him and our eternal gain. Our relationship with God means far more than our relationship with the enemy, for a relationship with the enemy will cause our destruction.
The only way we can truly know God is if we get these enemies out of the way so we can know His heart better. How could we even think about having a relationship with Him when we have so many things in our way? We seem to think that our seeking after Him ends after we are saved, and we can simply float on the waters now. But no, our seeking has just begun. We must deny ourselves, let ourselves be poor in Christ, so that there are no distractions between us and God. No enemy between us, grasping at our hands and convincing us to pray less, to read the Bible less, in order to have more time with our sin. If we want to possess His Kingdom, we must first deny this world and its riches! We must forget about being slaves to our idols in this world and instead, find our chains in Christ as Paul did! Abraham was willing to surrender his idol, his son, to the Lord, so that he could please God. We know that God is loving, and He loved Isaac, and would not have truly put the boy in danger, but Abraham had to have had such conflict in his mind, just as we will when we are fighting against Satan. We will have moments where we want to sit at the altar and beg God not to make us let go of this certain idol. We will put it off, we will tolerate this enemy until, God willing, we see that it is destroying us. It is time that we put off the things of the world, for our possessions here on earth are actually possessing us, not the other way around.
God had to remove Isaac off of the throne in Abraham’s heart, to remove him out of the shrine, so that He could take His rightful place once more. One day, God is going to demand that you make a choice – either take your idol out of the shrine, or allow it to lead to your destruction. Tolerate the enemy long enough, and you will lead yourself to your own peril.
We live in a world that is focused on pleasing ourselves – we have books all about self. Books on self love, self help, self, self, self. We like using the words mine and my, but it is time we seek God and His things, give everything to Him, and let go of the self, of the mine, of the my’s. Our possessions are possessing us, although we claim that we own them, it is surely the other way around. Abraham was possessed by his son, we are possessed by our idols, too. These selfish thoughts are natural, but that does not make them any less sinful. Remember, the blessed ones who will end up possessing the Kingdom of God are the “poor in spirit.” The ones who have given up everything for God, and have ended up truly rich. Their rewards are in Heaven.
I ask you…what is in your shrine?