A Perfecting Program
“I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).
God always sounds out His resources before he asks anything of any man. His is the “I am” before He calls Moses to take the people out of Egypt and unto Canaan land. He is the “I am” and “The Almighty God” before He calls Abraham to leave his own people, his own country, his own plans, his own choices, his own ways and walk before Him and be perfect.
Whenever God calls for a great conquest He shows His own glory, for all that God asks us to do is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord.” Our great part and battlefield is this: Will I let God be Almighty to me? Will I believe Him so that I lean not to my own understanding?
Moses threw up to God the fact that he wasn’t eloquent, that he (Moses) was slow of speech and a slow tongue, and he wanted someone to talk for him. And for this cause the Word of God says, “and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.” God knows His own ability and asks our attention to that and not to our own inability. His perfecting program is to lead us to perfect trust. When a man sees the promises in Jesus for him and against this sees his own utter inability to duplicate any of it, then and then only does he see that his part is to trust the ability of Jesus, the grace of Jesus, the program of Jesus.
Dr. Scofield says of the expression, “Almighty God,” in our text: The etymological signification of Almighty God (El Shaddai) is both interesting and touching. God (El) signifies the “Strong One,” the qualifying word (Shaddai) is formed from the Hebrew word (Shad) meaning the breast, invariably used in Scripture for a mother’s breast. Shaddai therefore means primarily “The breasted.” God is Shaddai because He is the Nourisher—the Strength-Giver, and so, in a second sense, The Satisfier, who pours Himself into believing lives. It is on every account to be regretted that Shaddai was translated “Almighty.” “All Sufficient” would far better express both the Hebrew meaning and the characteristic use of the name in Scripture.
You are wondering how God can expect perfection from Abraham. Can Abraham walk perfectly before God if God is El Shaddai: The All-Sufficient God? It isn’t a question of how well Abraham can walk. It’s how well he will allow the All-Sufficient God to make him walk. And all the darkness in the discussion of perfection, holiness, and sanctification, comes just here, in putting the emphasis on our inability instead of the ability we have allowed Him to exercise in our lives. It is not our sinless perfection. It is His sinless perfection who has come to take up His abode in us. God counts us perfect when we give up completely our own way, despise our self life, see that it is sin, and count on His life to live itself out in us. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). This is holiness to allow Him who is Holy full right of way and trust Him to be your victory. To walk in Him is to walk in holiness and victory. Paul says, Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Yes, no condemnation. This is that blessed Canaan Land in Christian experience where the grapes of Eschol grow; in this land of the Spirit. Walking in Him and not in the self life. There is soul rest in this life. Those who find it cry for joy and stretch their tired souls because the burdens of struggling self life to pattern after Christ have dropped off and they walk in Him and He walks in them and He lives His own All-Sufficient life within. The crisis is over when we refuse to hold onto our own ways. Thus not withholding anything from Him, He can become our life. And His life is victory. He giveth us the victory.
Precious blood-bought victory.
As Jehovah liveth,
Strength divine He giveth
Unto those who trust Him
For His Victory all the time.”
Self Shown Up.
It takes the Spirit a long time to teach the great majority, the great majority of Christians that there is no victory whatever in themselves. It is because of this fact that the Spirit must allow even Christians to fail and fail and get tangled up and not know which way to turn, so that at last they will cry, “I just can’t go on like this.” Oh, how glad the Spirit is to have us come to the place where we see that the victory is not in our working, our striving nor in our best planning and efforts, but in Him, for He is “The God All-Sufficient.” Why wander on allowing the self life to dictate when His All-Sufficient life is crying within our new born hearts “give the right of way.” When we are born again the Spirit puts a new heart within us, a new house, and the Spirit wants to come in His fullness and fill and furnish that heart with His All-Sufficient life, and He will when we get to a place where we see His All-Sufficiency and the inability and sinfulness of the self life.
We might put it this way. A miner is there in the earth below. He is the victim of an explosion, and a great cave-in so that the way into all the activities of life on the earth—his family, his business, his friends, his food and water is cut off. After great sacrifice a friend digs down until he can roll food down a pipeline and poke a hose through the pipe to bring him water. The imprisoned miner yells back his testimony up the tube. “I am alive and I get the bread and water. I am safe.” They yell back, “Are you satisfied?” “No,” he answers, “I would like to have perfect liberty from this cave. I want to walk in the life up there.”
No Self Effort.
In a few days they have sunk a hole and let down the big bucket. Now he does not stop to talk of his satisfactory or good enough surroundings. He is sick of the old hole though he is alive. He forsakes all and gets in the bucket. All his self-effort now is useless. All he needs to do is to sit in the bucket. He does not need to try to destroy the cave. He sits in the bucket. He trusts all to the bucket and the strength above lifts him into light, full light, liberty, full liberty. It is the all-sufficiency of the life above the cave that has done the work. This is a picture of a victorious sanctified life. Sanctify means to set apart, or in other words, take your hands off, stop your struggle, let God undertake. When you reach the “get in the bucket” place and rest there in Him you will find He lifts. He liberates. He takes out. He satisfies. A converted person has life, but the caved-in self life hinders, oh, so greatly. Then the light of God’s sanctifying grace comes to them and says I am the way out of all this cave-in and failure. Get into the Spirit. They do. They let go and let God, and He brings them into Canaan land and victory. And they walk on learning better every day how to trust Him and not themselves. What pulls the bucket from the hard holes of self? Oh, His wonderful grace. The blessed abiding Comforter. The Spirit in whom we may walk is our Canaan Land of peace and victory.
There was life given to the man in the cave but he never got the liberties and joys of that life until he left all and stepped in the bucket. Just so there is perfect life in a grain of corn or a grain of wheat, but until it yields itself and falls in the ground and dies, it abides alone, but when it falls into the ground and dies it springs up to bear fruit. This is God’s perfecting program also. He imparts life to a believer. He is regenerated and he cries that God is his father. He knows he is alive in Christ Jesus. But now comes the crisis hour, shall he walk on to glorify himself or shall he yield all to Jesus, reckon himself to be dead to sin (the flesh) and step into the bucket or the Holy Spirit life and let the life of the Spirit be manifested in his body, and walk in that Spirit and bear the fruit of that Spirit. This is the victorious life to yield the fruit of the Spirit.
God’s program calls for fruit bearing and the Spirit must have full right of way before this fruit comes forth. The Spirit is All-Sufficient and can produce if He is given the right of way. That is why God brings about the crisis in the Christian life that will break with the self life. Reckon it dead by faith with Christ on the cross. Then reckon on the life that arose from the grave for the life All-Sufficient.
The Program With Abraham
God’s program with Abraham was just the same as this program with us. He brought him to a place where he did not withhold anything from God. Not even his own son did Abraham hold back from God. Remember, too, that this was the son of promise: the only source through whom God could raise up children unto Abraham and fulfill His promises made to Abraham.
God had to test Abraham with the asking for the dearest thing Abraham had in order to bring the crisis in Abraham’s life. This crisis would show whether or not Abraham’s faith was in Isaac or in God.
Our self life is our Isaac. We will put up the last great battle with God to preserve the dear, proud, covetous, ease loving, flattery seeking bad self and good self. We love self. Abraham loved Isaac.
Look At The Program
Let us see, then, God’s program with self life and its crisis. Let us look together at the 22nd chapter of Genesis and the 2nd verse, and hear God’s command about self:
“Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.”
Oh, how we love to back away from that command. Just step on the proud toes of some Christians and instead of caring to see pride humbled or offered in sacrifice, they arm it with vitriolic words and send it forth with a sword of sarcasm to let it fight for itself and down another and wound and grieve another. Oh, how we need to take this self life to Mount Moriah, but it pulls back. You will have to see that it’s a ruined, caved-in affair before you’ll ever be willing to have anything done with it.
Abraham obeyed. He “rose up early in the morning” and with Isaac and a little company he “went unto the place of which God had told him.”
Brother, God has been telling you about this place a long, long time and you haven’t even started for it. You started in other directions suggested by the devil and friends to get out of going up to Mt. Moriah to deal about this self life business. When are you going to mind God and come back with His victory.
“On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off.” I’m afraid that’s the case with lots of folks today. I meet many who see this place. They see it in the Scriptures for them. They see it in other lives about them. But they’ve never been up there yet. When are you going to start? Oh, get down on your knees and start now.
Next, “Abraham said unto his young men, abide ye here with the ass and I and the lad will go yonder.” There comes a time in God’s perfecting program when folks can’t be of any help to you. Sermons and songs are laid aside. Influence and money won’t work. The crowd must be left behind and you go alone, on alone with God. It is a Gethsemane time, and the disciples are fast asleep. No one can watch with you. God is dealing with self. How you would love to run for props, or turn to a fleshly enjoyable thought that would break this gloom of condemnation on self. But if victory is to come you must go on. It is here that many a soul has sung to the self life dragging at him to turn back.
I’m going through,
I’m going through;
I’ll pay the price whatever others do,
I’ll take the way with the Lord’s despised few.
I’m going through, Jesus, I’m going through.
See the further steps of the program in that sixth verse: “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife.” You see, Isaac only carries the wood. Self can only carry that. Abraham who represents God dealing with self must handle fire and a knife. You could not kill self even if you wanted to: only God’s fire could find it out, and only His knife do any cutting. If you tried crucifying yourself, you could nail two feet and one hand, and at the crisis hour the free hand would pull the nails and let you free. Oh, get out of your mind that your harsh treatment of your flesh can alter its character. Only God in Jesus’ death on the Cross is sufficient for dealing with self.
You Carry The Wood
In your self life now and its tangle the cross is carried. Your pride has brought a situation about that is a very part of you, and on this crisis self will hang. Is it a love that is of the flesh? You will fight out your “I will” with God on this. You may shift but the Spirit will bring this up again and again. Your yieldedness will depend upon your “I will” or “I will not” about this loved one. It may be a business deal. It is the wood upon which self will meet its crisis through Him and you yield to Him and say “I will.” You are carrying the wood now. What is it? Where is it you will not say yes to God? You are withholding something from Him.
It is His to send the fire that burns the dross. It is His to say just the sentence from His Word that will cut me like a knife and sever the last objection I had to make. It may be the reading of a love sentence that will be self’s undoing. It may be a word of judgment. But only God’s Word can cut this tough heart string. I have seen souls struggle for weeks, not willing to give up and saying “I don’t know what is keeping me back. I believe I’m yielded,” when suddenly the knife would fall from His glorious Word and do the cutting that would turn them into the Spirit to walk and live.
I remember one case of a proud fellow preacher who kept telling me that he was sure he was given up, but he did not like the word sanctification. He had been arguing to himself that it was all a man’s doctrine, and so he had been able to argue with men about it, beat them in the argument and go on as before. But seated one day in his study he was reading God’s Word, First Thessalonians, and came to the fourth chapter. He started in “Furthermore, then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk, and to please God,” he stopped, he said, for a long time over that phrase, “and to please God;” he even walked the floor for an hour. Then he came back and read on: “So ye should abound more and more. For ye know what commandment we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God even your sanctification.” The knife, God’s two-edged-sword, went in. Men’s opinions were out of it now. It was between himself and God. He saw the miracle now and left men behind and reached the mount. The knife brought a big “I will” and he was able by faith to step from the old dead life of sin and self and the flesh into the Spirit.
But how shall we reckon with self when we are ready to turn it to the death? Oh, this is the vision of Mount Moriah. Not your sacrifice of self. Your death to self is not your work, but your acceptance of the death to self on Mt. Calvary. God held Abraham’s hand and showed him a ram to take the place of Isaac. Gold holds your hand just now and points to Mt. Calvary and the dying Lamb of God, who took the place of self and sin for us and offers the Spirit in its place which came in fullness at Pentecost. He wants you to reckon His death your death and turn to the open tomb and reckon His life your life.
Let’s repeat it again “likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then walk down from the mountain reckoning it done. He is our victory. We can walk before God in Him complete.