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GETTING BACK TO BETHEL
Intro: Let me begin by asking a few questions today.
∑ Do you remember when you met God?
∑ Do you remember that moment when Jesus Christ became your Savior?
∑ Do you remember how you felt when Jesus saved you?
∑ Do you remember the thrill of those early days of serving God, when everything connected with God: the church, the Bible, worship, prayer, witnessing, etc., thrilled you beyond words?
∑ Do you remember how wonderful those early days of blessing were?
∑ Sure you do!
††††† How many of us would have to be honest and say that memories are about all we have left?
∑ How many would have to say that the things of God just donít thrill us anymore?
∑ That we really donít care anything about going to church most of the time?
∑ That we can usually find something we would like to do instead?
∑ That reading the Bible, praying and telling others about Jesus just donít thrill us anymore?
∑ That we would just like to be left alone to do as we please and serve God on our own terms?
††††† Itís sad, but many believers are in that shape today!
∑ Itís evident on any Wednesday night.
∑ It can be seen during the Sunday School hour.
∑ It is clear in the worship services as silence reigns and deadness dominates.
∑ It is clear as dust gathers on altars where tears used to flow freely.
††††† I want you, you who may be in this very condition today, to know that things do not have to stay the way they are. God has a plan for you and it is illustrated here in these verses concerning Jacob. God called Jacob back to Bethel. Bethel means ďThe House of GodĒ, and it was at Bethel that Jacob first met the Lord.
††††† Jacob was raised in a home by parents that knew God. In spite of that, every person must have a personal encounter with God. When Jacob met the Lord, he made some vows to God, Gen. 28:19-22. It seems that these vows were not paid. Jacob may have forgotten, but God does not forget, Eccl. 5:1-5! In this passage, God is calling Jacob back to that place of the first blessing. He is calling him back to that place of beginnings; to that place where the things of God are fresh, living and exciting.
††††† I am sure that I am speaking to some people today who had a good beginning with the Lord. You were saved by grace and you started out right. But, somewhere along the way, things went wrong in your walk with the Lord. You find yourself in a place today that you never envisioned. Well, my Brother, my Sister, God is calling you back to Bethel today.
††††† He wants you to know that He is the God of the second chance. He is the God Who allows U-turns. He is the God Who loves you in spite of where your path in life may have taken you. God demonstrates those truths in His dealings with Jacob. I challenge you to allow Him to speak to your heart today. I want to point out a few truths from this passage as I preach on the subject Getting Back To Bethel.
† I.† v.1 GODíS COMMAND WAS
††††††††††††††† HEARD BY JACOB
A.† God called Jacob to come back to the place where He started for God. Godís command was for him to dwell there, build an altar and worship.
††††††††††† It had been 20 years since his Bethel experience and Jacob had gotten far away from the Lord. He had gotten mixed up in idolatry. He had grown cold toward God; and now God is calling him home!
B.† I think it is safe to say that many Christians find themselves in this same condition today! The things of God have become dead and the life of the Christian displays that deadness. This is not a new trend, Ill. The church of Ephesus Ė Rev. 2:1-7!
C.† If you are in that spiritual state today, God has a word for you. The word He has for you is the same counsel He had for the Ephesian believers.
††††† 1. Remember Ė Isa. 51:5; Eph. 2:1-4a; 11-12 Ė Think back to where the Lord found you and what He did for you when He saved you by grace. Remember, and realize that He deserves better than He is getting from most believers!
2. Return Ė Godís call to Jacob and to the Ephesians was ďReturn.Ē
His call is the same to you and to me. When we wander away from Him, He tells
us to come back. Thank God, He will receive us and He will restore us,
3. Repeat Ė Godís call to Jacob and to the Ephesian believers is exactly the same. They were to do the first works over again. In Gen. 28:16-22, Jacob met the Lord, and when he did, he began his walk with God by performing an act of worship. He humbled himself before the Lord. He called upon the name of the Lord. He dedicated his life to the Lord. Those early steps of commitment by Jacob were essentially the same as the acts of ďfirst loveĒ that God is speaking to the Ephesians about.
††††† ††††† God is calling His people back to the place where He is first and foremost in their lives. He wants us to come back to the place where our souls are aflame with love for Him. Remember those days when just the mere mention of the name of Jesus was enough to bring tears to your eyes? Remember those days when ďAmazing GraceĒ made you want to shout? Remember when you could think about Jesus dying on the cross, rising again from the dead, saving your soul by grace and nearly have a shouting spell? That is where the Lord wants to bring you back to! Remember when you loved the church, the Bible and the brethren? Remember when God was first, and He got your best? That is where He wants you to return to. Godís plan is for us to rekindle that deeply burning first love, rebuild the altars of our worship and serve Him faithfully!
4. Removal Ė The Ephesian believers are warned that if they fail to rekindle the old flame and love Jesus first, that they will face His chastisement. I just want to remind you that those who are saved by grace are saved forever! You can never be removed from the Lordís family. But, you can count on this: if you choose to walk away from God, and you refuse to return to Him, you will face His chastisement in your life! That is His Word; that is His promise Ė Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:5-11.
D.† Here is a man who has not walked with the Lord as he should have for 20 years. But, I find it interesting that he can still hear the voice of the Lord. And, I am sure that there is no more miserable person in this world than a believer, who is away from the Lord spiritually, but who can still hear His voice and His call. How hard it must be to remember the good days of walking with the Lord, while being so far away from Him today. That must be how Adam felt when he heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden, while he hid in shame because he was no longer right with the Lord, Gen. 3:8-10.
††††††††††† You donít have to live in that misery any longer! You can come home right now. You can return to the Father and He will receive you and forgive you, 1 John 1:9. He will restore you and bless you again! Can you hear Him calling you? Jacob did and his life took a new direction!
† I.† Godís Command Was
††††† Heard By Jacob
†II. v.2-5 GODíS COMMAND †††††††††
††††††† WAS HEEDED BY JACOB
A. †Jacob knew that if he was going to get back to Bethel, some changes would have to be made in his life. By the way, God isnít the One who needs to make a change; we are the ones who need to change!
B. †Jacob caused his family to make some changes before they began their journey back to Bethel. I would like to point those changes out if I can. By the way, isnít it interesting that Jacob took the leadership role in the family?
††††††††††† Sir, it isnít your wifeís responsibility to be sure the family makes it to the house of God for worship. Itís yours! It is your responsibility to ensure that your household operates according to the standards of Godís Word! You, sir, will give an account of how well you lead your family in the things of the Lord. I donít know about you, but that makes me tremble! Notice:
1. They Cast Off Their Deities: Ill Rachel and her stolen images - Gen. 31:34-35. Our idols must go
2. They Cleansed Their Dirtiness: All filthiness, inward and outward had to be cleansed. A dirty life hinders worship - Psa. 66:18, a clean life brings blessing - Psa. 24:3-4. God expects His people to turn away from the wickedness of the flesh Ė Col. 3:5-11.
3. They Changed Their Dress: Ill. Their garments were spotted by sin -
4. They Created Some Distance: These things were buried not so they could be reclaimed later, but so they would be gone forever.
††††††††††† What they did is a picture of repentance! Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of direction in life. When a person repents of something, they change their thinking about it and the turn and walk away from it, putting some distance between themselves and that thing. Repent means to turn and never return!
††††††††††† Some of Godís people need to do that very thing today. There are some things in your life that need to be repented of today. You need to change your mind about those things and then you need to change your direction in life and walk away from those things, or those people, that are causing you problems in your spiritual walk. You need to put some distance between yourself and those evil things!
C. †It is interesting to note that they were protected as they journeyed to meet God, v. 5. Those who will seek the Lord have a dedicated and determined enemy, 1 Pet. 5:8, but no foe can prevent the honest heart from getting right with God - Psa. 145:18, Pro. 8:17.
D. Are you heeding the command of God to return to your Bethel?
† I.† Godís Command Was
††††† Heard By Jacob
†II.† Godís Command Was
††††† Heeded By Jacob
III. v. 6-7 GODíS COMMAND
†††† WAS HONORED BY JACOB
A. †When Jacob returned to Bethel, he rebuilt his altar and worshipped the Lord.
B. †When we hear and obey the call of the Lord; prepare our hearts and lives for worship; then we can rebuild the old altars and worship the Lord again in Spirit and truth. That is where the Lord wants to bring each of us. And, it is where the redeemed heart wants to be.
††††††††††† If you have heard all of this and your response is something like: ďWell, preacher I donít really care about changing anything. I am as happy as I can be in the situation I am in right now. I donít want to be any closer to the Lord. I donít want to change a thing in my life. I just want to be left alone so I can enjoy myself and so I can do the things I want to do.Ē I would suggest to you that you probably arenít even saved! If you know Him, there will be a hunger somewhere in your soul to be closer to him than you are. There will be a desire to worship Him; to love Him; to be near Him. If that heavenly tug is absent, then He is probably absent as well. You donít need to get back to Bethel; you just need to get there the first time and be saved!
C. †The altar Jacob built was symbolic of several things. When we return to our Bethel and rebuild our altars, we will find they stand for the same things.
1. †It Spoke Of Worship - At the altar God was adored. God must be adored by His people if there is to be real worship. That simply means that we must come to a place where we are willing to humble ourselves before Him; confess our sins; claim His forgiveness; and lift His Name in our praises. Worship is about us becoming less, while He becomes more!
Spoke Of Love Ė At that altar, Jacob gave his best and, ultimately, he
gave himself. He proved that he loved the Lord by doing what God told him to
3. †It Spoke Of Service - People came to the altar to make vows of service to the Lord. God is looking for people who will selflessly serve Him; who will put His first in their lives; who will give their all for Him and to Him.
4. †It Spoke Of Obedience - God told Jacob to build the altar and nothing less would have pleased the Lord. He demands total obedience - 1 Sam. 15:22.
Spoke Of Obligation - Jacob owed the Lord a debt of gratitude for all
the Lordís blessings upon his life. He paid that debt at the altar! We are
indebted also! Think of all the Lord has done in your life, and think of how
little you have done for Him in return. God does not require us to serve Him as
repayment for all He has done for us; but the redeemed heart that loves God
cannot help but serve Him out of gratitude! (Ill. Mary Ė
6. †It Spoke Of Sacrifice - The altar was a place for sacrifice. The Bible doesnít record it, but Jacob certainly offered a sacrifice to the Lord, Heb. 9:22. The altar still stands for sacrifice, but God isnít looking for blood. The Blood has already been shed back at the altar of the cross, one for all, Heb. 9-10. God is looking for living sacrifices - Rom. 12:1-2. He is looking for those people who will place all they are and all they have one the altar for Godís glory. It is those people who will enjoy the best God that has to give in this world; and who will hear Him say, ďWell doneĒ in the next world.
Conc: God changed old Jacobís life after he came back to Bethel. God changed his name from ďtricksterĒ to ďprince with GodĒ, v. 10. God renewed all the promises that He had made to Abraham and Isaac and gave them afresh to Jacob, v. 11-12. God did this all because Jacob obeyed Godís call and came back to Bethel.
††††† Letís be honest today, some folk in this room need to come back to Bethel. You need to rebuild those old altars and get cleaned up and worship the Lord one more time. Wouldnít you like to have that peace that comes from serving God once more? Wouldnít you like to be able to come to church and worship instead of coming in with a sense of guilt and shame? Wouldnít you like for your prayer life to be powerful; your witness be clear and your joy to be full? You can have that and much more if you will only get back to Bethel.
††††† Some of you need to come to Bethel for the first time. You know that you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior. You know you need to be saved. Well, that can happen today, if you will come to Him.
††††† Whatever the need, you can rest assured that the supply will be found in Jesus! Get to Bethel today and get what you need from God.