The title here is not original. I’m currently reading A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, and this phrase from chapter five struck me. Preceding Tozer’s proclamation that we all sit on a stolen throne, he surmises this position is perfectly natural to us when he writes:
Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, “I AM.” That is sin in its concentrated essence; yet because it is natural it appears to be good.
I’ve often felt a slight discomfort when a sinner approaching repentance does so with mention of this sin or that. As if giving up smoking and drinking will make him right with God. I’ve done it myself, knowing deep inside that my list of sins is not the problem. Recognition of offense is not a bad gesture in the eyes of God, and in the life of a Christian it’s a necessary part of moving toward righteous living. But my assortment of daily failures is not what originally put space between my Creator and me. The Sin of taking my seat on the throne is what caused the problem, and it was as natural as my first breath, my first step, my first deviation away from God’s law. As Tozer puts it, I was born a rebel.
Rebellion is the Sin that causes us to seize the throne. The list of sins builds from there. But why the rebellion? God envy? Pride? Can’t we be like Him? Shouldn’t the creature possess all the power of his Creator?
This brings two considerations to mind. First, am I still sitting on a throne that belongs to God? I envision Him on the throne. I accept that He is King of all. I confess my Sin, and my continual sin. But are there times and situations when I won’t step down?
Second, I find a bit of a turn in the way I view the unredeemed. Though it’s not new to my thinking to empathize their lost condition, if I see their falling away from God as a natural thing, something that to them seems to be good, then I must approach the issue with a deeper understanding of why they cling to the usurped throne. I was rescued from the same condition. And now, if I no longer sit on the throne, self-righteousness must be let go.
It seems right and good to take control of one’s self. The fact that the self-throne is crumbling becomes a matter of denial, perhaps even complete unawareness. Tozer writes: Yet so subtle is self that scarcely anyone is conscious of its presence. So I must be wary of my own self-throne, and keep an understanding of why others have assumed their positions. I must express the grace of God, even to those who strongly oppose the Christian faith, who seem to be my enemies. They’re in need of the same rescue God freely offered me. This is where the self-throne gives way to the Gospel. In my rebellion, I couldn’t grasp that dethroning was what I deserved. In my redemption, I gratefully accept it is exactly what I needed.
Another excerpt from The Knowledge of the Holy, chapter five:
The earliest fulfilment of these words of Christ was at Pentecost after Peter had preached the first great Christian sermon. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” This “What shall we do?” is the deep heart cry of every man who suddenly realizes that he is a usurper and sits on a stolen throne. However painful, it is precisely this acute moral consternation that produces true repentance and makes a robust Christian after the penitent has been dethroned and has found forgiveness and peace through the gospel.