************ Sermon on Genesis 17:1c ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 12, 1999
"Abraham's Consecration to God"
Topic: ConsecrationImagine the commitment and the dedication this took – to do a twisting, triple somersault landing that would scrape bone against bone with the resulting pain exploding like a grenade in the skull. By the way, the routine with its landing did earn him an Olympic gold medal.
In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, a Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, was competing in the team competition. Somehow, during the floor exercises, he broke his right knee. It was obvious to all reasonable observers that he would be forced to withdraw from competition. But they did not reckon with the determination of a true competitor. On the following day, Fujimoto competed in his strongest event, the rings. His routine was excellent, but the critical point lay ahead - the dismount. Without hesitation, Fujimoto ended with a twisting, triple somersault. There was a moment of intense quiet as he landed with tremendous impact on his wounded knee.
Do you have this kind of commitment to God and His kingdom? Are you so consecrated to the Lord that you would be willing to endure this kind of pain?
Or, consider what Newsweek Magazine calls a new wave of "mountain men."
Topic: ConsecrationWhere are the hard men and women for Jesus? Where are those who will bring all their energies to bear for the sake of Christ and the Gospel? Where are those who will consecrate themselves totally to the Lord? That's the kind of people God is looking for in His church and kingdom.
It is estimated that there are some sixty thousand serious mountain climbers in the United States. But in the upper echelon of serious climbers is a small elite group known as "hard men." For them climbing mountains and scaling sheer rock faces is a way of life. In many cases, climbing is a part of their whole commitment to life. And their ultimate experience is called free soloing: climbing with no equipment and no safety ropes.
John Baker is considered by many to be the best of the hard men. He has free-soloed some of the most difficult rock faces in the United States with no safety rope and no climbing equipment of any kind. His skill has not come easily. It has been acquired through commitment, dedication and training. His wife says she can't believe his dedication. When John isn't climbing, he's often to be found in his California home hanging by his fingertips to strengthen his arms and hands.
Genesis 17 speaks to us of consecration. In our text God says to Abraham, "walk before me and be blameless." But I want you to take note of the setting or structure within which that consecration takes place.
From the perspective of overall structure, Genesis 17 is mostly a series of speeches. Abraham speaks twice, once to himself (vs 17), and once to God (vs 18). There are no less than five speeches of God to Abraham (I, vs 1-2; II, vs 3-8; III, vs 9-14; IV, vs 15-16; V, vs 19-21). In three of the speeches (II, IV, V), the focus is on God's commitment to bless. In the remaining two (I, III), the focus is on God's expectations of Abraham. God's major speech on His expectations of Abraham (III, vs 9-14) is ringed by speeches of God's promises to Abraham (II, vs 3-8; IV, vs 15-16).
What does this show us? This shows us that God's demands for consecration must be seen and interpreted within the context of the gracious promises of God. We are being reminded that consecration is a flower, not a root. It is not consecration that saves, but salvation that consecrates. A man is not saved by his consecration, but he becomes consecrated because he is already saved.
This evening, as you know, we are looking at consecration. But we want to do so only within the context of the gracious promises of God displayed to us this morning in the Lord's Supper. In other words, we are following the Biblical example laid out for us in Genesis 17.
I The God of the Consecrated Life
A God demands the consecrated the life. God says to Abraham, and to you, and to me: "walk before me and be blameless." Now, I want you to notice the words of the Lord to Abraham that come immediately before this demand for consecration. God says, "I am God Almighty." We are being reminded that the starting point of the consecrated life is God Himself.
"I am God Almighty." In the Hebrew, "I am El-Shaddai." We looked at these words the last time we looked at Genesis 17. This is a name that tells us how great and mighty our God is. This is a name that reminds us nothing is too hard for the Lord. This is a name that reminds us, for instance, that He is a God Who is more than able to give a child to an old childless couple past the age of having children. This is a name that reminds us He is a God Who can provide His people water out of a rock, Who can make manna appear on the ground 6 times a week, Who can satisfy the people's craving for meat by sending quail. This is a name that reminds us He is a God Who can make a camel go through the eye of a needle and can bring a rich man into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a name that reminds us He is a God Who can make a virgin conceive and bear a child. This is a name that reminds us He is a God Who can do anything, anything He wants to do.
B My brothers and sisters, the God Whom we serve fills all things and has all power and all glory and all might. We can never forget this because if we think little of Him we will have little trust and faith in Him and will give Him little obedience. But if we allow ourselves to dwell on the grandeur and splendor and glory and might and power of God, of El-Shaddai, then we will be inclined to have much trust and faith in Him and give Him much obedience.
We see this illustrated in the life of Abraham. For a while Abraham had a small God. He did not think God could make him the father of many nations when Sarah was old and barren. Therefore he tried to make his servant Eliezer a surrogate son and heir (Gen 15). Then he fell into the error of having a child with Hagar (Gen 16). He did not think God could keep him safe from those who wanted to kill him so they could get at his beautiful wife. Therefore two times he lied about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife (Gen 12; Gen 20). So much pain and suffering because his God was small rather than big. If Abraham had only remembered that God is El-Shaddai – the All-sufficient One, the All-powerful, the Almighty, the God Who can do anything He wants to do – if he had only remembered this he wouldn't have fallen into sin and disgrace. See what happens? Abraham's consecration slackens off because his God is too small.
C Too many times I have seen the same thing today. Someone has financial difficulties. He forgets that God is all-sufficient and more than able to carry him through. So he resorts to shifty methods and tricks of the trade. Or, a man is poor. He forgets that God Almighty is His portion. So he envies the rich and becomes discontented with his condition. Or someone becomes bored, forgetting that God is his all-in-all. So he pursues the pleasures and vanities of the world. Or someone forgets that El-Shaddai sees all things and knows all things. So he pursues sex outside of the marriage relationship. Or someone forgets that God is the husband of the widow and the father of the fatherless. So she becomes desperate, depressed, lonely, bitter, and suicidal. Someone becomes sick. Loved ones forget that God gives food to the hungry and sight to the blind. So they resort to desperate measures with quack doctors and pretend treatments.
Problems and sin are always the result when our God is too small.
But our God is El-Shaddai: the Infinite, the Almighty, the Powerful, the Unchangeable, the Invincible. How can we wander from such a God?
Great holiness springs from a great, big, mighty God! So come to God. Ask to know Him. Meet Him in all His majesty, splendor, power, and might. For then and only then can you begin to lead the kind of consecrated life that God demands.
II The Call to Consecration
A El-Shaddai, God Almighty, comes to Abraham with His gracious covenant promises. And, within the context of His grace and His promises He says, "walk before me and be blameless." On this Lord's Supper Sunday, within the context of His grace and His promises, He says the same thing to us: "walk before me and be blameless."
"Walk before me." The consecrated life is a walking before the Lord. This phrase usually expresses the service or devotion of a faithful servant to his king. It means to have a continuous sense of the presence of God. It means to consider God in all actions. It means to put all of life in subjection to God. To walk before God is to be dominated by the Lord Jesus, and by considerations of what is pleasing to Him. The controlling motive of every thought, act, and deed is Christ's sake and God's will. Maybe you have seen bracelets with the initials "WWJD" – they stand for, "What Would Jesus Do?" That's the question of those who walk before God.
As you know, there was a time when Abraham had walked before Sarah and before Hagar and before himself. But now he is told to live as if every place is the audience chamber of the King of kings. His heart's desire should now be to only do what is pleasing to the Lord.
B The next words are, "and be blameless." That word "blameless" was first applied to Noah (Gen 6:9). The same word (in the LXX translation) is used to describe the parents of John the Baptist (Lk 1:6) and Paul before he became a Christian (Phil 3:6). In the Hebrew the word is used frequently in the sections of the Old Testament dealing with ritual and sacrifice. It means that the lamb or sheep or goat or bull brought for sacrifice must be perfect or unblemished.
"And be blameless." Does this mean, in response to His grace and His promises, that God requires us to be perfect? Does God require of us something we sinful creatures are unable to do? Or does God simply want us to be as good as we can possibly be? Does God, for instance, settle for 99% perfection? To put this in perspective, would you settle for 99% or even 99.9% perfection?
John Maxwell shares these startling statistics from some of his research:
If 99.9 percent is good enough, then two million documents will be lost by the IRS this year; twenty-two thousand checks will be deducted from wrong bank accounts in the next sixty minutes; 1,314 telephone calls will be misplaced by Telecommunications Services every minute; twelve babies will be given to the wrong parents each day; 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next twelve months, all if 99.9 percent is good enough.
My brothers and sisters, it is inconsistent with the character of God for Him to require anything less than perfection from us. Nothing less than perfection can be the requirement of a perfect God. Jesus says,
(Mt 5:48) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The model, the example, that our heavenly Father has given us is the perfect image of Christ. Perfection is what we are to wish for, pant after, and shall at last obtain in glory. We do not and we can not and we must not have the Law and standards of God toned down because of our weakness.
C El-Shaddai comes to us and, within the context of His blessing and His grace (as seen in the Lord's Supper during this season of advent), He says "walk before me and be blameless."
Is this your wish? Is this the longing of your soul? Is this your heart's desire? I hope so and I pray so. I hope and pray that this is the goal of your life. I hope and pray that you are striving to model yourself after Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that your desire is to make every thought, every word, and every deed captive to Jesus Christ.
D El-Shaddai comes to us and, within the context of His blessing and His grace (as seen in the Lord's Supper during this season of advent), He says "walk before me and be blameless."
If you look at yourself openly and honestly, then your response will be exactly like Abraham's in our Scripture reading: he fell facedown before the Lord (vs 3). Abraham fell facedown in shame, in sorrow, in repentance because he knew he has not always walked before the Lord and been blameless.
In over 20 years of ministry I have met only one person who thought she was perfect. There are others whom I suspect of thinking this way – but they were smart enough to never say it out loud. The fact of the matter is, though, that like Abraham none of us have walked before the Lord and been blameless. We all have gone astray like a lost sheep. We all have forgotten the Shepherd's almighty presence. We all have a gap between wanting and doing, between desire and action. Like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, we have to admit that we may want to do good and desire to do good, but instead we too often end up doing what is evil.
But this does not mean that God will lower His standards. He comes to us as El-Shaddai, He comes to us within the context of grace and blessing, and He keeps demanding, "Walk before me and be blameless." So for this we have to keep striving, keep working, and keep praying. And when we fail, like Abraham we must fall before the Lord!
In conclusion I want to read something written by an anonymous writer about the consecrated life.
Topic: ConsecrationThat's the consecrated life! Before El-Shaddai, within the context of grace and blessing, does this describe you?
I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed." I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I've stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals! I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let go, or slow up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops. And when He comes to get His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.
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