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Graduation Sunday Sermon May 21, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Bethel, Blessing, Commitment, Genesis, Jacob, Laban, Responsibility.
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Genesis 30:25-31:55

This is the time of year when there are many new beginnings. We have celebrated one of our high school graduate’s new beginning with a small gift and a dedicatory prayer today. There are also a number of young couples throughout this nation who will be starting a new life together, truly a new beginning. With most new beginnings, however, there is also an ending. This is what we see in Jacob’s life. He has spent twenty years working for his uncle Laban and it is now time to go, to close out an old chapter of his life and to undertake a new beginning. In this sermon I would like for us to use Jacob as an example of some things that we should do no matter where in life we find ourselves but especially when we undertake a new beginning.

A. When we start out on a new beginning there are some actions we should plan on taking and on making these actions a daily part of our lives.

1. We need to take responsibility for our own actions (30:25-30). Jacob knew that he needed to commit himself to independence from his uncle.

Jacob had the right desire but he ended up waiting six more years. His commitment to his family was strong. It wasn’t enough, however to bring him to the place where he would start out on a new beginning.

2. We need to return to our commitment to God (31:10-13). Jacob had committed himself to submit to the Lord in worship specifically through his tithes. Now that he had some wealth it was time to go back to Bethel and pay that vow. Whether you realized it or not, when you put your faith in Christ you committed yourself to his service. This commitment to Christ is revealed through specific actions.

Rick Warren tells how “[in] 1943, 100,000 young people in brown shirts filled the Olympic stadium in…Germany, the largest stadium in the world at that time. They formed with their bodies a sign for a fanatical man standing behind the podium. The message read, ‘Hitler, we are yours.’ [Such] commitment allowed them to conquer Europe”

Commit yourself to daily fellowship with believers. That means going beyond church attendance. You should attend a Sunday service but you should also find a Christian group on campus or near campus and commit yourself to them. You also need to find a Christian friend or two with whom you can pray daily, perhaps even study the word together.

Commit yourself to expanding yourself in God’s Word. Go beyond the “Daily Bread” and immerse yourself in God’s Word. Start with those things that interest you, that concern you, that trouble you and proceed from there.

Commit yourself to giving. College students don’t have much money but they do have time and strength and passion. Commit those things to God.

B. When we start out new there are some things we must know.

1. In such times we need to recognize the Lord’s blessing (31:36-42).Where we are now is because of the Lord and where we will be later is because of the Lord.

“The Masai tribe in West Africa [has] an unusual way of saying thank you. Translators tell us that when the Masai express thanks, they bow, put their forehead on the ground, and say, ‘My head is in the dirt.’
When members of another African tribe want to express gratitude, they sit for a long time in front of the hut of the person who did the favor and literally say, ‘I sit on the ground before you.’
These Africans understand well what thanksgiving is and why it’s difficult for us: at its core, thanksgiving is an act of humility” (from Joel Gregory in Leadership, Winter 1993).

2. In such times we need to recognize the Lord is watching us (31:43-50).

“[Jacob] and Laban had to put up a boundary marker called ‘Mizpah’ (which means ‘watchtower’) and swear that neither would cross it and attack the other. ‘The LORD will watch between us,’ they said, which means, ‘God sees what you’re doing, so be careful!’” (Warren Wiersbe in Life Sentences, 2007).

There are high visibility sins and low visibility sins. Everyone sees our high visibility sins. We may or may not be aware of them but they are there for everyone else to notice. God sees the low visibility sins we commit. He sees the secret thoughts of pride, fantasy, envy, lust, jealousy, wild ambition, the desire for money and power, and the resentments that float in and out of our minds. A family had a rule that their daughter could not go to PG-13 movies until she was thirteen. All her friends could go at an earlier age. Every weekend she would ask her parents if she could go to some PG-13 movie. Our minds are like that but we need to resist (adapted from Patrick Morley’s The Man in the Mirror).

We need to set up a watchtower. Part of that is the setting up of a daily commitment to God in the areas of relationships with believers, time in God’s Word and prayer, and giving whatever it is that we have to him.

Does it matter? I think so. Soon Jacob would find himself wrestling with God and being renamed Israel because he wrestled with God and with man and won. Jacob was by no means a spiritual giant but he made some important choices about his actions and his thoughts, choices which God honored by blessing him repeatedly. Jacob received the earlier blessings because of the faith of his fathers. His participation in those blessings would be dependent on his on faith and the God in whom that faith was put.

Next Week: Wrestling with God (Genesis 32-33)

Remember This Place (A Communion Sermon) May 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Bethel, Communion, Covenant, Genesis, Jacob, Jacob's Ladder, John's Gospel, Lord's Table, Promises of God.
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Genesis 28:10-22 and John 1:51

Jesus used the story of Jacob’s ladder at Bethel in order to indicate to Nathanael his significance as the Messiah. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). He was indicating to Nathanael that there is only one place where you can come into God’s house. It is not the church building. It is not the temple. It is not even Jerusalem or Bethel. The only place where you can come into God’s house is that place where you come to Jesus.

A. Where we meet God is significant because of our situation (verses 10-12).
1. We may be alone (27:43-45). Hated by his brother, neglected by his father, sent away by his mother, Jacob was very alone on the night he met God. Jacob understood that he was on his own without anyone to turn to. The Canaanite city of Luz was nearby but he dared not go there. It might not be safe.

Jesus understands what it means to be alone. “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free. He could have called then thousand angels but he died alone for you and me.” Jesus understood what it meant to be forsaken by friend and family. Those who could have helped him had fled. Those who stayed like the women were unable to help. When we remember Jesus today, we remember that he knows our loneliness and he wants to bring us to fellowship with God through his death on the cross. First John 1:3, 7 tells us, “That which we have seen and heard (Jesus) we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

2. We may be uncertain of the future. Jacob was traveling to his Uncle Laban’s care but he didn’t know this man. The way he traveled was long and dangerous and there was no guarantee of acceptance once he arrived. His brother, Esau, might be so full of hatred that he would follow him to Haran.

We also have an uncertain future. We do not know what life may throw at us. James 3:12-14 says, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy…Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

Jesus is the one who provides for our future, whether we trust him to salvation or reject him to destruction. He died to be our Savior but he will judge those who have “trampled the Son of God underfoot, [counting] the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing…’Vengeance is Min, I will repay,’…The LORD will judge His people.’…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:29-31).

3. We may be without comfort (verses 10-12). Lonely, without a certain future, grieving the separation from his family, a rock for a pillow. Jacob had no one to comfort him. He could not even be comforted by physical blessings. The rock on which his head lay seemed to say, “You have blown it now. Esau will now receive everything which God has promised you. You and your mom thought you could trick your dad but look who has the last laugh. You don’t really think that God is going to bless you, do you?

B. Where we meet God is significant because of his promises not the location (verses 13-17).
1. God’s promises are undeserved (verse 13). It is true. Jacob did not deserve God’s blessing. He had tricked his brother. The hatred his brother had for him was well-deserved. Rather than depending on God to keep his promises, Jacob and his mother had attempted to make it happen on their own. Jacob had acted a lot more like the serpent in Eden than he had like the God of heaven. Yet Jacob found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

“Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater-yes, grace untold-Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide-What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide-Whiter than snow you may be today.”
Julia H. Johnston

2. God’s promises are in Christ (verse 14). That is what Jesus was saying to Nathanael. I am the Son of Man sent from God. I am the seed of Jacob through whom the world will be blessed. I am the bread of life given to bring life to those with no hope. I am the light of the world sent to bring light to darkness. I am the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me. I am the ladder by which you come to God. There is no other.

3. God’s promises are kept daily (verse 15). Before Jesus left he said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” There is nowhere you can go and there is no time in your life when my promises to you are not kept. Trust me and I will bring you through.

C. When we meet God we should respond appropriately (verses 18-22).
1. We submit in worship (verses 18-19, 21). The problem with God’s promises is that they demand we submit ourselves to God. The worship that Jacob involves himself in was appropriate to his time. The pillow becomes a pillar. The bed becomes an altar. The place of rest becomes a place of submission, LORD you shall be my God.

2. We submit in confidence (verses 20-21). “If…then…” does not imply that Jacob is hedging his bets. This is not a cool negotiation between God and man. This is the recognition of God for who he is and Jacob says, “If you do what you say, then I will serve you.” I remember well the prayer I prayed when I trusted Christ, “Lord, I’ll do anything if you will save me.” I was not negotiating. I was desperate. I was going to hell. I was throwing myself on the mercy of God. I had confidence that I could not save myself but that he could save me and I was placing my confidence for the future in Jesus Christ. I think that is exactly the attitude that we see in Jacob’s life here.

3. We submit with all we have (verse 22). Jacob set up the pillar as reminder to himself of God’s grace and promises. What would he do when he was not at Bethel. He would give to God a tithe. There was no priest available. We do not know how Jacob fulfilled his promise but we know that he committed everything he had to God by giving to God a significant portion of the blessing which God has given him. How significant of a place does God play in your budget? Ten percent? How significant of a place does God play in your schedule? Ten percent. I can’t calculate your finances for you but I can tell you what ten percent of your time would be. Almost two and a half hours a day. Let’s suppose you sleep eight hours a day. God has blessed you with sixteen hours. Can you give him an hour and a half a day, eleven hours a week? How about your relationships? Do you give God a significant portion of your relationships? The body of Christ is here for that very purpose. If this Sunday morning service was taken away, would your relationships with these people suffer?

What am I saying? To remember the place where we met God, that is Jesus Christ, begins with Communion but it goes beyond Communion to taking up our cross and following Jesus Christ. This ritual is the setting up of the pillow as a pillar and pouring olive oil on in. What, however, are you giving to the Lord in submission to his promises?

Next Week’s Sermon: Two Wives on Mother’s Day (Genesis 29:1-30:24).