Dear radio friends,
We are going to begin today a series on the theme “Covenant Godly Living,” sermons which are intended to build us up in our marriage, in raising of children, as well as in our own personal walk of godliness in this world. You ask, “But what do you mean by that theme: Covenant Godly Living?”
The covenant is that truth of Scripture, from its beginning to its end, of the bond of friendship with God given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ in which God becomes our God and we are made His people, who now live unto the blessing of God and desire to show forth His praise in all we do. Covenant, godly living emphasizes that this covenant is not simply an external code, that religion is not merely an outward matter, but that true covenant living is fueled by personal godliness. Covenant, godly living – that is, the truth of God’s gracious covenant as applied to our life in our home, in our marriage, and in every aspect of our walk.
I would like to begin today by laying the foundation of what covenant, godly living is to be. Covenant, godly living, according to the Scriptures is built upon true, experiential knowledge of God. The text that I have chosen, Genesis 17:1, is very instructive on this point. We read, “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Genesis 17 is one of the great chapters in the Bible in the unfolding of the truth of God’s covenant. God is come to dismantle Abram’s hope in his son Ishmael and to tell him that God would give Sarai a son. But if Abram is to embrace this truth, and if Abram, in the broader context, is to live a covenant, godly life, a life of true fellowship and friendship with God, then Abram’s faith must be placed upon a bedrock. What is that bedrock? This: “I am Almighty God to you, Abram. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”
To walk with God, to live a life of fellowship with God, must be built upon this: A deep, Spirit-worked, heart-understood knowledge of the all-sufficient God who loved me, and the desire that in every aspect of my life, I will live for the approval of His eyes. That is covenant, godly living. Is that your life? Is that an adequate description, by the grace of God, of your life today? Do you live a covenant, godly life? That is, do you know God in such a way that you are awed? Your pride is broken down within you. And yet, you feel yourself drawn irresistibly by His grace and love. And, in Christ, you desire to do everything to please Him? Covenant, godly living is to walk consciously before the Almighty God.
Let us emphasize that point. Covenant, godly living is built upon and draws its strength from a staggering, soul-shaking understanding of God as the Almighty God. “I am Almighty God,” says God to Abram, “therefore, walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Mark it down in your heart. Those who have lived most godly, those who have shown the power of faith in their life, those who have lived faithfully in their marriage and reared their children in a holy way are those who have known the majesty of God. And if you and I are to live godly in this present world, a world given over to self and saturated in every form of evil, then we must possess the knowledge of the Almighty God. And if we are to experience the blessing of God in our life, then we must have our life built upon one foundation. “I am Almighty God. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”
You see, in our text, God is saying that He intends His name to be the foundation of Abram’s life. God, in Genesis 17, has come to speak to Abraham of great things, not the least of which would be that He would give him a son at the age of ninety-nine years. But Abram’s ability to believe all these things, and to respond faithfully, would be dependent upon one thing: this faith worked in his heart that God was Almighty God to him.
I am Almighty God. In the Hebrew, the word is “El Shaddai.” The very first time, in Genesis 17:1, that we find the word for God used in Scripture. It is composed of two words: El, or Elohim, the most common name of God in the Old Testament. El, which is simply God – a name which expresses the truth of His greatness and glory as the Creator of all things in six, twenty-four hour days, and as the Ruler of all things. The word “El,” or God, oozes with the truth of His omnipotence, that is, His all-power and sovereignty, that is, He rules over all things (Deut. 10:17, “For the LORD your God (or El, your Elohim) is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward”). As Elohim, God creates all things. As El, He is the One whose being is not dependent upon anything outside of Himself. As God, He possesses, owns heaven and earth. He is God.
those who have shown the power of faith in their life, those who have lived faithfully in their marriage
and reared their children in a holy way
are those who have known the majesty of God.
I am Almighty God. That implies that God says to us and to Abram, “You are dependent. You are insufficient. But I am God Almighty, powerful to pour out My blessing upon you.” And that is the way God uses His name in our text. There had been a period of thirteen years of silence. Abram had now been in the land of Canaan for twenty-five years. Thirteen years earlier, his wife had suggested that he have a son with Hagar, named Ishmael. But now God has come to tell him that it is not Ishmael who will be that promised son, promised to Abram. But Sarah his wife shall have a son. God has waited until Abram’s body is dead. Through the long period of years it had become abundantly clear that they could not have any children. “Yet,” God says, “you shall have a child, Abram, with Sarah. And I will tell you why. Because I am El Shaddai. I am Almighty God. Abram, I’m sufficient. Your life with Me must be built upon that truth.”
And for Abram it was. It staggered Abram, it overwhelmed him, it knocked him off his feet. Look at verse 3 of this chapter, “And Abram fell on his face.” There was imparted to Abram’s faith such a knowledge of God, of God as He is in Himself; there was imparted to Abram such a knowledge of God and such a knowledge of himself as an insufficient sinner – that Abram was staggered. And knowing the bounty of his God and the power of his God, Abram believed in the Almighty God whose promise must stand forever sure.
Now that is the foundation, that is the heart of godly, covenant living. If you are to live a life of covenant, of friendship with God; if you are to live a God-honoring life in your marriage, as a child, in your family, in your church, in your work – it must be built upon this shattering, wonderful declaration: “I am Almighty God to you. I am powerful and able to fulfill all that I have promised and to bless those who patiently wait upon Me.”
Apply that now to your soul. The single most determinative factor in your Christian life, in your living a holy life, in your marriage, in rearing your children is to know and to tremble in faith before El Shaddai and to hear Him say, “I am Almighty God to you.” If you are to be pure in your body, if you are to keep your head above the water of materialism and self-worship, then you must hear, deep down in the chambers of your own heart: “I am Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Right now that is the most important factor in your covenant living. It will be simply the most important factor when troubles start to come and darkness closes round about you and the world’s love appeals to your flesh. But, no! You must have this right now, before your affection for your wife or husband begins to cool; before the world begins to hold out more attraction to you as a young person with its parties, its money, its good times; before your child becomes a stranger to you and communication becomes a problem. Before all of these things arrive, you must, today, live in the knowledge that God is Almighty God to you.
Are you close to God? That is a simple question. What is your answer? Are you close to God? Do you live your life as if you are standing right before His feet (for you are)? Do you read the Scriptures? Do you engage in prayer? Do you attend church faithfully? You say, “Well, no, but I’m too busy.” Too busy with what? God is our business! People of God, there is one thing that we are upon the earth for. That is to know El Shaddai, to base all of our life in Him as the Almighty God.
Notice that God is saying to us that He is sufficient. He is sufficient for everything. And that is the experience of all the saints. God, then, is sufficient. “I am El Shaddai. I am sufficient for you today.”
Therefore, He says, “walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Now, there is a figure of speech here that God is employing with Abram. He simply means to say to Abram (and to you and to me) that we must live our life for the eye of God, for God’s approval. That makes sense. If He is El Shaddai, Almighty God, totally sufficient and completely sovereign, then every part of our life must be lived to please Him. Our walk in the Bible refers to the way in which we live. But not simply the external part. That, for sure. But more than that. Our walk of life is our life as we live that life from the heart. Our walk of life is not just the outward part that is seen. The outward part could be your act of life. It is possible to go through the acts of a Christian life and then to have it said “that person walks as a Christian.” But that is not necessarily true. For the Christian walk is not only the outward. No, the Christian walk of life is our life as we live it from the heart. And that is our walk. What you are in your heart is what you are. Your walk of life is your life as regulated from the heart. And the Christian walk of life is that life regulated from the new heart that God has given by His Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.
Now God says, “Walk before Me, that is, walk in the consciousness that I am before you and do everything in your life to please Me.”
Let me put it as simply as I can. To walk before God means that God’s smile upon your life is the one thing you covet the most. And God’s frown upon your life would be the one thing that you would dread above all others.
Walk before Me, Abram. You and I, walk before Him in the consciousness that He is before us and that we desire to please Him in everything that we do.
upon your life is the one thing you covet the most.
But, as children of God, we are free. Now the only thing that matters is what God thinks about us. And we are free to serve Him from our hearts. That means that we will regulate our words, our actions, and our thoughts as if we are in the presence of God. Indeed, we are in the presence of God! Is God, God to you? How much so? If you simply say what you want to in your anger and in your frustration and in your irritation, and if you say, “Well, I’m free to think what I want to about that person,” and you harbor evil thoughts and resentments, then God is not God to you for all your insistence. Oh, no. When God is God to us, that will regulate our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
“Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” The word “perfect” here is not sinless. But it means complete and whole. Be sincere. Be wholehearted. “Do not try to serve Me,” says God, “with a divided affection. Don’t try to give half of your heart to Me and half of it to the world, half of it in church and half of it somewhere else. Serve Me undivided, with one heart. Devote all your love and all your heart to Me.”
Walk before Me, Abram, and be thou perfect. Do you know that blessed experience? I am Almighty God. Every part of this is evil to the wicked. “I am Almighty God.” The wicked, unconverted man gnashes his teeth against that. He says, “There is no power over me. I don’t need God’s aid. I’m my own man and I’m self-sufficient.” And so he continues apart from God’s grace in his course of folly.
“Walk before me and be thou perfect.” The unconverted man says that is the greatest dread. “I don’t want God to see me. I don’t want to think about the fact that I must appear before God. I want everything to deny God and to hide from me the truth that I live before Him.”
But, by the grace of God (and here’s the mark of God’s grace), we reckon with this word: “I am Almighty God. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.” Do you reckon with that in your heart? That’s God’s grace. And that is the most blessed of all experiences. To trust in El Shaddai, to trust in the living God – not a god of man’s imagination, not a god of wood and stone, not a god who was made by men – but the God who remains unmade, and eternal, and who has made all things and upholds them by His own hand and has promised to be all-sufficient to us. To walk before Him, to know that He sees me every moment in my trials and afflictions, that He holds me within His hands – ah, that is godly, covenant living! What a wonder.
And then the comfort is this: It is not so much that we always see Him and are conscious of Him, for we must confess today that in our sin we do not. We should, but we do not. But the comfort is this: He sees us. He is almighty God to us, not first by our initiative, but by His almighty initiative. He has made Himself known to us in Jesus. And now He calls us to walk before Him. God grant it.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word today. And we pray that Thou wilt bless it unto our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.