I was going to go a different direction with this post, but re-reading the second chapter of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God this statement stood out to me: the tyranny of things.
In the context of the things of this world displacing God on the throne of our hearts, Tozer writes, "Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said this to His disciples, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.'" (pg 18)
Of course these words of Jesus from Matthew 16 are familiar to us. Toby Mac even had a best-selling song from the following verse about gaining the world but losing your soul. But maybe we have become too familiar with this verse; so familiar that we miss just how radical Jesus' teaching is. That's why the word "tyranny" stood out to me. We know Jesus sets us free from sin, but he also sets us free from things.
How many times does Jesus call others to give something up? In the other example of Jesus talking about finding your life only to lose it in Matthew's gospel, Jesus is following up on the offensive statement, "anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37) When Jesus called the first disciples, they gave up their careers (Luke 5). Other examples: the guest of honor must give up the seat at the head of the table (Luke 14), the rich young ruler must give up all his possessions (Matthew 19), the worshiper must give up their gift at the altar to be reconciled with others (Matthew 5), the sinner must even give up body parts! (also Matthew 5). Luke doesn't mess around, quoting Jesus saying, "any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33)
The life of following Jesus is one of ongoing sacrifice. I was meditating on this the other day in the context of Jesus ushering in his Kingdom. He calls us to a life of slavery where we give up all of our rights, all of our possessions, all of our dreams, all of our things, and submit to his Lordship within the walls of his eternal Kingdom where he provides everything we need. We even give up our citizenship and call heaven home.
So we are given two choices- a life where our things mean nothing, living in the Kingdom under the Lordship of Christ, or a life where we are under the reign of the tyrant of all our things. There is no middle ground. Tyranny or Lordship, things or Christ.
This blog is part of a book club reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Please join the discussion here and at our hosts, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. Need a copy of the book? You can get it for free on Kindle.