Letting God Do It All
When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
God did not say this to the strong Abram, he who in Ishmael could produce a son. He waited until his servant was quite incapable, even had he wanted to, of repeating the action. Then, and then only, God came to him with this new unveiling of himself as God Almighty.
There is no sign that Abram had repented of his action. Rather does it appear that Ishmael was becoming more precious to him. Had he then not realized his error? Had he not sought after God? If indeed he had not, we might say that from a human standpoint there was not much hope for him. Hope, however, depended not so much on whether he wanted God but on whether God wanted him. And God certainly did! He was still at work in his servant. He had not let him go. “Learn that I am all-powerful,” God said, “and then walk in the light of that knowledge.” For “be perfect” means, among other things, “be perfect in weakness,” letting God Almighty do it all.
When we say “let God do it all” there’s no implication that we sit down n idleness. The truth is that we work together with God, fully cooperating with Him in His plans and purposes. It was God who created the Garden for humanity could not do such a thing; yet once Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden, they were tasked with tending it. God had done what only He could do and then Adam responded with the abilities that God had placed within him.
When Adam sinned, it was God who initiated his redemption and ultimately covered his sin, but Adam had to respond to God’s grace with repentance.
In the book of James we are given the means to live the “perfect” life. James in the fourth chapter and the seventh verse says that in order to live such a life, we are to first submit ourselves to the authority of God. In other words, we ask God to instruct us, guide us, and help us to live the kind of life He has designated for us to live. We may know how we should live and what we should or should not do, but most of the time our ability to do so fails miserably. Paul tells us in Romans that even those who were given the law by Moses found themselves unable to keep it. He says that when we should do good we don’t and when we should resist evil we can’t. He says that often we find ourselves doing the exact opposite of what we ought. In that moment of soul-searching, Paul cries out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” He has become aware that in spite of his training and knowledge, and desire to live the “perfect” life, he has no power to do so. But he gives the solution as he says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” That’s the secret that James is giving us. When we place ourselves under the authority of God, we tap into His power. James says that when we first submit to God, we are given strength to resist the devil.
None of us have the capacity to withstand the devices and deceptions of the devil. I think most Christians, if they are honest, would admit there have been times when they felt they were doing well only to have the Holy Spirit turn the light on and then they see their errors. Thank God for the One who searches our hearts so that we don’t remain deceived.
In the simplicity of salvation, we find that we are totally dependent upon God. First of all, it is the Holy Spirit who initiates our redemption as He comes and convicts us of our sins. We err if we believe that salvation comes through some human means. While it is true that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word, and the preaching of the gospel is the assigned task for the church, mere sermons aren’t sufficient in themselves. But when the Holy Spirit acts upon the words spoken and the heart that is listening and by His power connects the two, the sinner is convicted of his sins and convinced of his need for salvation. That sinner may respond to an invitation and someone may help him pray a prayer of repentance but again it is God who does the work for only He can make us “new creations in Christ Jesus.”
The story of the potter and the clay found in the book of Jeremiah paints a portrait of the work of God. The vessel of clay on the potter’s wheel has no power to shape itself. At best, it can only yield to the hands of the potter. It is the potter who picks up the lump of clay and places it on the wheel to be shaped into a vessel of the potter’s choosing. In the story we read that this particular clay was discovered to have become marred or misshapen in the hands of the potter. How often it is that we find ourselves conforming to the world rather than the image of Christ-marred. Though the marring is obvious and the clay fully aware of it, the clay has no power to restore itself. Humans passing by would think that clay has no value or future use and would discard it in the scrap heap. But not the potter! Instead, he crushes the clay back into a lump, wets it down and begins to spin the wheel again. From the lump there appears a new vessel and as it emerges it is no longer marred but is now a vessel that can be used. Jeremiah uses interesting words to describe the process: “He made it again another.” That describes the work of “letting God do it.” This is mirrored as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”
The story of Abraham reveals a man who is trying to walk with God, sometimes successfully and at others not so much. In our text today, God gives us the same command and reveals the same secret to carrying it out. God doesn’t begin by saying “be perfect.” He begins by saying “walk before me…” That’s what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “If anyone is in Christ Jesus.” Our perfection or the lack of it stems from our position. If we are “in” Christ Jesus- submitting our thoughts, actions, and deeds to Him, then we are given the power to walk pleasing to God- perfect. The moment we step out from under His authority and choose our own way we become “marred.” In Christ, our old nature isn’t suppressed or covered over lurking beneath the surface and waiting for a weak moment to rise again. In Christ our nature is changed, transformed, and “made again another.” Paul insists that being in Christ causes our old self- the old things to pass away- die, become vanquished- and that in their place we become brand new creations as Christ makes all things new. God doesn’t patch us up, put a coat of paint to hide the flaws, instead by His power the lump of clay is made into a totally different thing. Same old clay but not the same old flawed vessel. Same clay but new vessel in which the things that marred the clay have been brought to surface, removed and discarded.
In Abraham we find that in spite of his past failures, God, as Abraham walked before Him, made him into the “Father of Israel and Faith.” None of this came about by Abraham’s doing. He was just the clay submitted to the hands of the Potter.
We have been given greater means to become “perfect” for now Christ has broken the power of sin over us and has provided for us the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. If Abraham in the Old Covenant could walk before God and be perfect as God perfected him, how much more accessible is that place for us now through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
What’s our part? We confess and He forgives and cleanses. We submit and He gives us power to resist the devil. We stay on the wheel and He makes us again another. We walk before Him and He makes us perfect.
Anybody can, everybody should, and no one can’t.
Dr. John Thompson