With Heart Abandoned

Heart-shaped Christmas ornament.I’ll stand

With arms high

And heart abandoned,

In awe of the One

Who gave it all.

—from The Stand, Hillsong United

I recently read a devotional that said encountering Jesus’ love prompts people to whisper promises and make vows. The idea isn’t wrong, and yet, it seems somehow incomplete. When I read the Bible, I discover people who encounter God and abandon everything in response.

Consider:

  • Hannah abandons appearance. She prays so fervently at the temple that the priest, Eli, thinks she’s drunk.
  • Ruth abandons her home. She leaves Moab and follows Naomi to Israel, not knowing how they would provide for their daily needs. God provides and grafts Ruth into Jesus’ lineage through her marriage to Boaz.
  • Mary abandons social norms. She knows people will think she betrayed her vows to Joseph, yet she accepts God’s word for her life.
  • Joseph abandons a certain future. Joseph likely possessed a semi-successful carpentry business. He gives it up—because of God-sent dreams.
  • The shepherds abandon their sheep. The shepherds hear the news about Jesus, and they leave their sheep. Although they likely left someone on watch, their actions show a willingness to sacrifice their livelihood.
  • The wise men abandon their studies. The wise men most likely were astronomers or scientists of some sort. They abandon their life’s work and scholarly reputations to follow a star.
  • The disciples abandon their nets. Many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. They leave their fishing nets to become fishers of men.
  • Zacchaeus abandons his tax collection. Zacchaeus collected taxes from the Jewish people. (He also stole from them.) He returns the funds, with interest, after meeting Jesus.
  • Nicodemus abandons the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, sets aside his position with the religious elite to follow Jesus.
  • Mary abandons security. When Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, she abandons a financial safety net. The perfume equated to eleven months’ wages.
  • Paul abandons identity. Paul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus and is utterly transformed. He considers his identity as a Jew to be of no import in light “of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:1–11).

I include Old and New Testament examples purposely because whole-hearted abandonment has always been God’s call. He makes it explicit in the first two commandments given to Israel. God states they shall have no other gods before him, nor shall they fashion idols. Rather, they must serve and worship him alone.

Jesus makes the same statement in the New Testament, albeit with different words.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

And he who does not take his cross and follower after Me is not worthy of Me.

He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37–9)

Jesus continues the message delivered by God because he is God. God does not change. He has and always will require love that involves all the heart, mind, soul, and strength.

The difference between the Old and New Testaments lies in how that whole-hearted abandonment occurs. In the Old Testament and under the old covenant, people rely on their own efforts. They make sacrifices and attempt to follow the commandments.

They inevitably fail, explaining why Jesus had to come. No animal sacrifice would clear the people’s sin and guilt. No amount of “right” living could satisfy the holy God. Only a perfect, sinless sacrifice could accomplish those things.

Jesus makes that sacrifice, forever changing how people relate with God—the new covenant. No more sacrifices are necessary. Only belief in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is.

That fact is good news. It prompts people to cry, “I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all.” Jesus gave it all, and he gave it all first.

He demonstrates love to sinners and enemies so that they can believe and love God holistically. Jesus metamorphoses them, and that metamorphosis makes all the difference. They abandon everything in response to his great love for they have discovered that there is no greater joy or reward than knowing Jesus and being known by him.

Image: kaktuslampan (Creative Commons)