The Larger the Heart, the Less It Holds

You can’t get past the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar.

It’s in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 22. If you want to read the Bible, you have to deal with it early on.

God put this giant stumbling block in the beginning of the path.

If you want to do more than just read the Bible, if you want to know God, trust Him and love Him, you have to deal with this story.

A. W. Tozer deals with it in the second chapter of The Pursuit of God.

In that chapter, titled “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing,” Tozer tells the story of Abraham and Isaac in three steps.

1. He Starts with Jesus

Actually, he starts with sin, but he quickly gets to Jesus as the only answer. After quoting Jesus’ blessing on the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), Tozer spends 318 words on what he calls “an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble.”

It’s the “tyranny of things.” It’s the “tough fibrous root” of possessiveness that has pushed God out of His rightful place in our hearts.

Then he gets to Jesus, and His teaching about taking up the cross and following Him.

2. He Tells the Story

How do you tell the story of Abraham almost killing his son?

There’s more than one way to do it.

You can tell it with types and symbols. This event was God’s way of teaching us about His Son, and the way Moses related the story is filled with prophetic imagery.

But that’s not the book Tozer was writing. He said in the preface that he had a different aim. He wanted to help Christians experience God:

“Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.”

You can also tell the story by way of apologetics. You can place this story in its cultural and historical context. You can address the objections of the skeptical. If there is a God, could He really have done this? How can this be the God Christians profess to know and love?

Tozer wasn’t writing that book either. He would go on to say in the third chapter that he wasn’t writing for the skeptic:

“For such a man I have no message. My appeal is addressed to those who have been previously taught in secret by the wisdom of God; I speak to thirsty hearts whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them, and such as they need no reasoned proof. Their restless hearts furnish all the proof they need.”

He was writing for those who are already in pursuit of God. He was writing to help them along their way.

So how do you tell the story of Abraham and Isaac to such people?

You just tell it.

The story speaks for itself.

That’s what Tozer does. He tells it vividly. He focuses our attention on Abraham’s crisis, and he tries to keep us from looking away.

3. He Tells Us What to Do

Once you have identified the “Isaacs” in your life—the things you possessively cling to—how do you lay them on the altar?

Tozer gives us some instructions here, but they’re more about attitude than process.

Do not defend yourself. Be vulnerable before God. Be honest. Be earnest. Don’t take it lightly. Get specific. Name things one by one. Be ruthless with yourself.

These instructions come with the promise that a serious disciple “can shorten the time of his travail from years to minutes and enter the good land long before his slower brethren who coddle their feelings and insist upon caution in their dealings with God.”

We can do in minutes what normally takes years. That’s a big promise. It may be just the encouragement we need at this point.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. This is one of the most enduring proverbs the English language has given us.

Because it’s true.

And so Tozer, having led us readers to the altar, leaves us there.


NEXT: God Tore Down His Veil, We Protect Ours


This Post is Part of a Chapter-by-Chapter Look at A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God

  1. This Voice from the Past is Still Calling for the Seekers
  2. The Larger the Heart, the Less It Holds
  3. God Tore Down His Veil, We Protect Ours
  4. We Walk by Faith Not by Sight, Not by Imagination
  5. Three Tips for Cultivating Spiritual Receptivity
  6. Has Everybody Heard the Speaking Voice?
  7. Seeking a Practical Definition of Faith
  8. Victorious Spiritual Experience Summed Up in Three Words
  9. Laying Down the Burden of Self
  10. Learning to See All of Life as Worship