Intro: Let me begin today by asking some questions.
Do you recall your first encounter with God? Do you recall the moment when Jesus Christ took on the role of your Savior? Do you recall the emotions you felt when Jesus saved you? Do you recall the exhilaration of the initial days of serving God, when everything was connected to God: the Bible, the church, worship, prayer, and witnessing, beyond your wildest dreams? Do you recall how wonderful the initial days of blessing were? Absolutely, you do! To be honest, how many of us would have to say that our memories are all we have left? How many would have to say that the things of God simply no longer excite us? That most of the time, we really don't care about going to church at all? That we can typically find something else we would like to do? That simply speaking to others about Jesus, praying, and reading the Bible no longer excite us? That we just want to be left alone to serve God in our own way and do as we please? Sad to say, but many believers today are in that state! On any Wednesday night, you can see it. It is visible during the Sunday School period. It is evident in the worship services, where deadness and silence prevail. On altars where tears used to flow freely, it is evident as dust accumulates. If you're in this situation right now, I want you to know that nothing has to stay the same. These verses concerning Jacob demonstrate that God has a plan for you. Jacob was called back to Bethel by God. Jacob's first encounter with the Lord took place at Bethel, which means "The House of God." Jacob's parents knew God and raised him in a home. However, every individual must have a personal encounter with God. According to Genesis 28:19–22, Jacob made vows to God when he met the Lord. These vows do not appear to have been kept. God does not forget, even though Jacob may have forgotten, Eccl. 5:1-5! God is beckoning Jacob to return to the site of the initial blessing in this passage. He is beckoning him back to that starting point; to that location, where God's teachings are new, alive, and exciting. I'm certain that some of the people I'm speaking to today had a good start with the Lord. You started out right and were saved by grace. However, something went wrong in your relationship with the Lord at some point. You are at a place right now that you had no idea existed. Well, today, God is calling you back to Bethel, my brothers and sisters. You should be aware that He is the God of second chances. He is the God who lets things change. He is the God who cares about you no matter where you've ended up in life. Those truths are demonstrated by God's interactions with Jacob. Allow Him to speak to your heart today, I challenge you. As I preach on Getting Back to Bethel, I want to highlight a few truths from this passage. I. v. 1: JACOB HEARD GOD'S COMMAND: A. God commanded Jacob to return to the place where He began His search for God. He was to build an altar, live there, and worship there according to God's command. Jacob had drifted far from the Lord after his Bethel experience had occurred 20 years earlier. He had become involved in idolatry. He had become distant from God; and now he is being called home by God! B. I think it's safe to say that a lot of Christians today are in the same situation! The Christian's life exemplifies this deadness, as do the things of God. This is not a new trend, Ill; refer to Ephesus' church in Rev. 2:1–7! C. God has a message for you if you are in that spiritual state right now. The word He has for you is the same as the advice He gave to the believers in Ephesus. 1. Keep in mind, Isa. 51:5; Eph. 2:1-4a; 11 to 12: Recall where you were found by the Lord and what He did for you when He saved you by grace. Keep in mind that He deserved better than the majority of believers give him! 2. Return: "Return" was God's call to Jacob and the Ephesians. You and I both receive the same call from him. He tells us to return to Him whenever we wander away from Him. 1 John 1:9 says, "Thank God, He will receive us and restore us." The ill-fated Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–24! Mal, He will return to us when we humblely repent and return to Him. 3:7, James 4:8. 3. Reiterate: God's call to Jacob and the believers in Ephesus is identical. They were required to repeat the initial works. Jacob met the Lord in Gen. 28:16–22, and when he did, he began his walk with God by giving thanks. He lowered his head in front of the Lord. He prayed to the Lord's name. He made the Lord his life's work. Jacob's initial acts of commitment were essentially identical to the acts of "first love" about which God is speaking to the Ephesians. God is beckoning His people to return to the place in their lives where they place Him first and foremost. He desires that we return to the place where our hearts are ablaze with affection for Him. Do you remember the days when you were moved to tears at the mere mention of Jesus' name? Do you remember the times when listening to "Amazing Grace" made you want to scream? Do you remember the time when you could almost shout when you thought about Jesus dying on the cross, rising from the dead, and saving your soul by grace? The Lord intends to bring you back there! Do you remember how much you valued the Bible, the church, and your fellow believers? Do you remember when God was first and got the best of you? He desires that you return there. The plan of God is for us to rekindle that fervent first love, rebuild our altars of worship, and faithfully serve Him! 4. Removal: The believers in Ephesus are told that they will be punished by Jesus if they do not rekindle the old flame and put their love for Him first. I just wanted to point out to you that those who are saved by grace will always be saved! You will never leave the Lord's family. However, you can rely on this: You will face His rebuke in your life if you choose to walk away from God and refuse to return to Him! His Word says that; that is His promise, according to Rev. Heb. 12:5-11. D. This man has not followed the Lord as he ought to for 20 years. However, I find it fascinating that the Lord's voice can still be heard. A believer who is spiritually separated from the Lord but still able to hear His voice and call is without a doubt the most miserable person in the world. How difficult it must be to recall the good times of walking alongside the Lord when we are so far from Him today. That must have been Adam's reaction when he heard the Lord's voice while hiding in shame in the garden because he was no longer right with the Lord (Genesis 3:8–10). You are no longer required to endure that misery! You can immediately return home. 1 John 1:9 says, "You can go back to the Father, and He will accept you and forgive you." You'll be restored and blessed once more by him! Do you hear His voice calling to you? Jacob did, and his life changed in the process! I. Jacob II Obeyed the Commandment of God. v.2-5: JACOB A RECEIVED GOD'S COMMAND Jacob was aware that he would need to make some lifestyle adjustments in order to return to Bethel. Moreover, God is not the one who requires change; Change must come from within ourselves! Before they started their journey back to Bethel, B. Jacob caused his family to change some things. If I can, I'd like to point out those changes. Moreover, isn't it fascinating that Jacob assumed family leadership? Sir, it is not the responsibility of your wife to ensure that the family makes it to God's house for worship. You own it! You are responsible for ensuring that your family operates in accordance with God's Word! Sir, you will be held accountable for how well you lead your family in God's ways. That makes me tremble, and I don't know about you, but I do! Notice: 1. They disregarded their gods: Gen. 31:34–35: Ill Rachel and her stolen images 1 John 5:21 says that our idols must also go; 1 John 2:15. Ill. Col. says that if we want God's blessings on us, we must get rid of everything that takes our love and devotion away from Him. 3:1-2. ( Ill. Your god is whatever consumes your time, money, and devotion!) 2. They got rid of their filth: It was necessary to get rid of all filth, both inside and out. Worship is hindered by a filthy life - Psalm Psalm 66:18 says that a clean life is blessed. 24:3-4. Col. says that God expects His people to turn away from fleshly wickedness. 3:5-11. 3. They wore new clothes: Ill, their clothes were stained by sin—Genesis 34. Separation is symbolized by clean clothing. 1 Peter says that if we want to ever be where the Lord wants us to be, we must dress in the Lord's holiness. 1:16; 2 Cor. 5:17: "The child of God who desires to draw near to the Lord must reject this world and all that it embraces." Styles of clothing (Ill. I dread summer coming!); music; entertainment; etc. – Ill. 1:27 of James 1 Tim. 6:14.) 4. They separated themselves: The purpose of burying these items was to ensure that they would never be found again. They did something that shows they are sorry! Repentance is a mental shift that alters one's course in life. Remorse involves changing one's perspective on something and then turning away from it, putting some distance between oneself and that thing. To turn away and never return is to repent! That is exactly what some of God's people need to do right now. You need to apologize right now for some things that have happened in your life. You need to change your mind about those things, then you need to change your life's direction and get away from the things or people that are making your spiritual journey difficult. You must maintain some distance from those evil entities! C. It is interesting to note that they were shielded on their way to God, verse 5. 1 Peter warns those who will seek the Lord that their adversary is devoted and steadfast. 5:8, but the Psalmist says that no adversary can stop an honest heart from getting right with God. 145:18, Pro. 8:17. D. Are you following God's instruction to return to your Bethel? I. Jacob II Obeyed the Commandment of God. Jacob III followed God's instruction. v. 6-7 JACOB HONORED GOD'S COMMAND When Jacob got back to Bethel, he rebuilt his altar and paid God worship. B. When we hear and respond to the Lord's call; get our lives and hearts ready for worship; Then we can reassemble the previous altars and worship the Lord in spirit and truth once more. The Lord intends for each of us to arrive there. Additionally, the redeemed heart desires to be there. If you have heard everything and responded in the following manner: I really don't care about anything changing, preacher. Given where I am right now, I am as content as I can be. I don't want to get closer to the Lord any more. I don't want anything in my life to change. I just want to be left alone so I can have fun and do what I want to do. I would suggest that you might not even be saved! If you are familiar with Him, you will have a deep-seated desire to be closer to him than you are. A desire to worship Him will arise; to admire Him; to be close to Him If that pull from above isn't there, He probably isn't either. You are not required to return to Bethel; To be saved, all you have to do is arrive on time! C. Jacob's altar represented a number of concepts. We will discover that they represent the same things when we rebuild our altars and return to our Bethel. 1. It spoke of worship—God was adored at the altar. For true worship to take place, God's people must adore Him. This simply indicates that we need to reach a point where we are prepared to humble ourselves in front of Him; Recognize our errors; plead for His pardon; and sing praises to Him in His name. Worship is about Him growing bigger while we shrink. 2. At that altar, Jacob gave his best and ultimately gave himself, and it spoke of love. By complying with God's instructions, he demonstrated his love for the Lord. Ill. John 14:15: Nothing demonstrates our love for the Lord more than our observance of His commands! 3. People came to the altar to swear to serve the Lord, and it spoke of service. God seeks those who will give of themselves to serve Him; who will prioritize His needs above all else; who will sacrifice everything for Him and for Him. 4. God told Jacob to build the altar, and nothing less would have pleased the Lord, so it spoke of obedience. 1 Samuel says that he expects total obedience. 15:22. 5. It Speaked Of Duty: Jacob owed the Lord a debt of gratitude for all of the blessings he had received throughout his life. At the altar, he paid off that debt! We are also in debt! Consider how little you have done for the Lord in return for all that He has done in your life. We are not required to serve God in return for everything He has done for us; However, the grateful heart of the redeemed cannot help but serve God! Mary ill – John 12:1–8; Mark 14:8.) 6. The altar was a place for sacrifice, and it spoke of sacrifice. Although it is not mentioned in the Bible, Jacob did, in fact, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, Heb. 9:22. Even though the altar is still there for sacrifice, God is not seeking blood. One for all, the blood has already been shed at the altar of the cross. 9-10. Rom. says that God is looking for living sacrifices. 12:1-2. He is looking for people who will sacrifice everything they have for God's glory by congregating around an altar. Those are the people who will take advantage of everything God has to offer in this world; and who will hear Him congratulate Himself in the following world? Conc: When old Jacob returned to Bethel, God changed his life. According to verse 10, God changed his name from "trickster" to "prince with God." In verses 11-12, God gave Jacob all of the promises He had given to Abraham and Isaac again. Because Jacob responded to God's call and returned to Bethel, God carried out all of this. Let's face it: some people in this room need to return to Bethel today. You need to clean up, rebuild those old altars, and worship the Lord once more. Wouldn't it be nice to have that tranquility that comes from once more serving God? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to worship and go to church without feeling guilty or ashamed? Would you like to have a powerful prayer life? your testimony be crystal clear and your joy be complete? If you can just get back to Bethel, you can have that and a lot more. Some of you need to make your first trip to Bethel. You are aware that you have never placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior. You are aware that you must be saved. If you will come to Him, that is possible today. You can rest assured that Jesus will provide for whatever you require! Get to Bethel right now and ask God for what you need.

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