But the Bible reads in Genesis chapter 12 Verse 1, "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee, and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." This, of course this is Abraham being called to leave Ur of the Chaldees and to go out of even Haran and to come all the way into the Promised Land. The land that God would show him into Canaan.
Before I go any further go to Galatians chapter 3, I just want to show you how important it is, quickly, to let the Bible interpret itself and especially to let the New Testament be the commentary on the Old Testament. A lot of people take a lot of different interpretations from Genesis 12, 1 through 3, and all kinds of pages and pages of man's wisdom has been written about this, but if we actually read what the Bible says we can get a biblical interpretation of this from Galatians chapter 3.
It says at Galatians chapter 3 verse 6, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham, and the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed.’"
Now back in Genesis 12 He said, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." That's all in one sentence. What's funny is that the Bible very clearly takes that last part about all families of the earth being blessed in Abraham, all nations of the earth being blessed in Abraham. This is worded in a few different ways when we see it in Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 22, where these promises are being reiterated unto Abraham.
It's amazing how people will take the first half of the verse and say, "I'll bless him that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee," and apply that to the physical nation of Israel, and then the last part is clearly referring to the Lord Jesus Christ and the spiritual children of Abraham. Over and over again the Bible says in Galatians that it's the children of faith that are the real children of Abraham, not his physical descendants.
Look, if you would, at verse 16 it says, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ." Jump down to verse 28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you're all one in Christ Jesus, and if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." Nothing could be clearer than the Bible's teaching in Galatians 3 on this subject.
Go back, if you would, at Genesis 12. That's all a sermon in it of itself but I just wanted to stop and point that out as we go through this. God did make a great physical nation of Abraham in the Old Testament but He also told Abraham that Abraham would be the Father of Many Nations, because of the fact that all who believed in Christ are the children of Abraham, and Abraham is our father.
But in this story about Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldees, going into the land of Canaan, and then later going down into Egypt and then coming back out of Egypt, Abraham is the father of all them that believed. He is the father of faith and he's our spiritual ancestor. It doesn't matter if we're red, yellow, black, white. As we study this story this story we can learn from the life of Abraham and we can apply it to our own experience in the Christian life because he went on before us as our spiritual ancestor.
Now look at Genesis chapter 12, if you would, at verse 4, it says, "So Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him and Lot went with him, and Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran, and Abraham took Sarai, his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan and into the land of Canaan they came, and Abraham passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh, and the Canaanite was then in the land, and the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, 'Unto thy seed will I give this land,' and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him."
Don't forget Galatians, who is the seed? Jesus Christ. Eventually that land is going to be ruled and reigned over by the Lord Jesus Christ, and eventually it's only going to be those that are saved that are going to inherit that land, but in the millennial kingdom of Christ, of course. But the Bible says here in verse number 8, "And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord."
Now I believed that this calling upon the name of the Lord is a reference to Abraham's salvation. Let me tell you why I believe that. Go to Joshua 24, Joshua chapter 24. Because the Bible tells us in Joshua 24 verse 2 it says, "And Joshua said unto all the people, 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel. Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor, and they served other gods, and I took your father from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.'"
Jump down to verse 15, it says, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
The reason I point that out is that the Bible is clear here that when Abraham and Terah and Nachor were on the other side of the flood, meaning the other side of the Great River Euphrates, they worshiped other gods. It's not like Abraham just grew in the Ur of the Chaldees in a Christian home where he is being taught to worship the true God. No, Abraham is over there worshiping false gods with his brother Nachor and his father Terah. That's what the Bible says when they're on the other side of the flood. It's when he crossed the River Euphrates and comes into the land of Canaan that he calls upon the name of the Lord.
Now this concept of calling upon the name of the Lord goes all the way back to the end of Genesis chapter 4 when Seth beget Enos and it says, "And then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." This man is all the way into the New Testament when the Bible says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It says that in Acts chapter 2 and in Romans chapter 10 verse 13. We see here that Abraham comes into the land of Canaan, he builds an altar in the Lord and he calls upon the name of the Lord.
But look at verse 9, it says, "And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south," and it says, "There was a famine in the land and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there for the famine was grievous in the land, and it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, 'Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon.' Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, 'This is his wife,' and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake and my soul shall live because of thee, and it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair."
Here we see Abram, he obeys the Lord, he takes this great step of faith by coming into the land of Canaan, into a land that he'd never seen before, but when he gets there and after he has called upon the name of the Lord he ends up having a bit of a lapse of faith here in a couple of different areas. Number one, he leaves the Promised Land where he was supposed to dwell and he goes and dwells in the land of Egypt, which is always symbolized in the Bible as a bad place.
Now sometimes God specifically tells somebody to go to Egypt for whatever reason, but in general Egypt is considered a bad place, just proof for that would be Revelation 11:8 when it says, "Dead bodies shall lie in the street of that great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." Right there, when God wants to put a bad name on a city spiritually He gives it the name of Sodom and Egypt just to show the spiritual wickedness of that place.
Abraham goes down into Egypt, and not only that, while he's there he lies about his wife and he tells her to lie and to say that she is his sister. This leads him into all kinds of problems because when they get down there it says in verse 15, or verse 14 it says, "It came to pass that when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house, and he entreated Abram well for her sake and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels."
Here Abram is put in a really weird situation. He was just trying to save his own skin because his wife is extremely beautiful and he doesn't want to go down there and have somebody kill him to get to his wife, because he doesn't really know what's going to happen when he gets down there, and instead he says it's his sister. Then they take her from him and say, "Oh, we're going to introduce you to Pharaoh, we're going to bring you to Pharaoh's house." Then they give him all kinds of gifts, and he's kind of like, "Thanks for these stuff." What does he do? His wife is being taken away and they don't realize that she's not single and they don't realize that it's actually his wife but they think it's his sister.
But watch this, this is interesting. It says in verse number 17, "And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife." Now what this shows me is that when we sin we hurt the people around us. A lot of times innocent people around us suffer because of the sins that we commit in our life.
It's easy to just read over that quickly when it says, "Oh, you know the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues." But the Bible says they were great plagues. What does that mean? We're talking about disease, we're talking about sickness, we're talking about some kind of illness that was a great plague that God is tormenting the people of Pharaoh's house with and it really isn't their fault, but rather it's Abraham's fault for lying about the status of his wife.
It says after that that Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, 'She is my sister?' So I might have taken her to me to wife. Now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way, and Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away and his wife, and all that he had." This is a concept that we find throughout the Bible.
One other story that comes to mind is the story of Jonah. When Jonah gets on the ship he has disobeyed the Lord. The Lord told him to go to Nineveh, that great city and cry against it because their wickedness had come up before Him. He goes the opposite way. He gets in a ship going to Tarshish to flee from the presence of the Lord.
God sends that great storm in the sea as Jonah is fleeing in the ship and as a result of that storm the Bible says that the men who were on the ship, the merchants, they not only are stuck out on the sea and going through this great traumatic ordeal, but they have to throw overboard the wares that are in the ship. Their whole business is to carry these wares, to carry the merchandise and they ended up having to throw it all overboard, and just wasting all their money, wasting all their time, losing everything that they have and being put in a very dangerous situation, and it was all because of Jonah's disobedience.
He admits it unto them, he says, "This is happening because of me. Take me up and cast me forth into the sea, and it will be calm unto you," and of course the men don't want to do it. They keep rowing hard and they try to do everything they can to save the ship and they realized they're going to perish. Finally, as a last resort they picked up Jonah and they throw him into the sea, and the moment he hits the water the storm is over. They were amazed by that. It showed them a great miracle so they worshiped the Lord and feared the Lord from that time on because they saw that great miracle, but still they had to suffer. They had to lose much that they had because of the sin of Jonah.
It's a concept that we see all throughout the Bible, where when we commit sin we're not just harming ourselves, we're harming the people around us. Often you see people in the Bible that sin and their whole family suffers. You think of Achan, the son of Carmi, who coveted the Babylonish garment and he stole it, and he hid it under his tent, and what happened? His wife and children were also stoned with him. They were all killed. As a result of Achan's sin his wife suffered, his children suffered. All throughout the Bible we see this over and over again. When a man like Haman goes out and commits sin and then what happens? His 10 sons are hanged upon the gallows.
In the Biblical law of Moses, that the sons are not supposed to be punished for the sins of the fathers or vice versa. Every man is supposed to be punished for his own sins but in practice, the way the world works is that we do suffer when our parents commit sins. We do suffer if our spouse sins. We do suffer when the people around us or our fellow church members commit sin. We get caught in the crossfire. Whenever you sin just realize you're not just hurting yourself but you're hurting the people around you. You could be bringing great plagues upon the people around you and great suffering on those you know.
Abraham here doesn't even seem to suffer for his sin but he causes great suffering amongst those that he's with. This is something that we see over and over again in the Bible. The man who lied about Daniel and wanted to get Daniel arrested and thrown into the lion's den, they get thrown in the lion's den and their families. Now again, I'm not saying that that was a just thing for those authorities to do, but it is the world that we live in.
Let me tell you something, if you're a drunk, you're kids are going to suffer. They're going to have to pay the price for that. If you commit adultery your wife's going to suffer, your children are going to suffer. Whatever sins that you commit, "No man liveth unto himself or dieth unto himself." We need to stop and think really hard about the consequences of our actions because when we sin it's not just us who is going to be harmed, but we're also going to harm the people around us.
Here we see Abraham's lack of faith, his lying, and when I say lack of faith God has told him that He's going to be with him, He's going to prosper him, He's going to bless him but yet he feels the need to lie, instead of just trusting God to protect him and to protect his wife. Perhaps the reason why he didn't trust God to protect him and his wife is because he's out of the will of God. Because he's in a place that he wasn't told to go to, but either way if he would have trusted the promises of the Lord that said, "I'm going to make you a great nation," he would have known that he's not going to be killed in Egypt. Because how can he become a great nation if he's going to be killed in Egypt? It wouldn't work.
It's just like when Jesus told the disciples, "We're going to get in this ship and we're going to pass over to the other side." Then the great storm arises as they're crossing the Sea of Galilee and Jesus is asleep in the bottom of the ship. He already told them that they're going to make it to the other side and they wake Him up and said, "Lord, carest thou not that we perish?" He says unto them, "Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." They should have had faith in the word that Jesus had spoken when He said, "Get in the ship, we're going to the other side. We're going to pass over to the other side of this."
We need to have faith in God to protect us. A lot of people think it's okay to sin or to lie just in order to protect themselves, but honestly this was a ridiculous thing for Abraham to do, and then he does it again later and then his son does it. It really makes absolutely no sense and it always ends badly. He should have just relied upon the Lord.
What we see here in Genesis chapter 12 is Abraham's human weakness. We're all human and we're all going to go through times where we get out of God's will and where we get back sudden, and where we have lapses in faith and make foolish decisions. Every person in this room has done stupid things and made foolish decisions, and you go through spiritual low points in your life, just like Abraham did, even a great man like Abraham. It's almost comforting sometimes when you read stories about these men's failures because it makes you realize, "Hey, we're all human."
It doesn't mean that this is the end of the story for Abraham. It's not just, "Well, you know at the end of chapter 12 God just goes and find somebody else, 'You know, I was going to make you a great nation but you're down in Egypt. You're telling people that your wife is really your sister. She is being taken into other people's homes and on the verge of being given to them in marriage. I have to send a bunch of plagues to stop anything from happening, and now I'm just going to pick somebody else.'"
No, God wasn't through with him, but look what the Bible says in Genesis 13, because this is where Abraham comes back to being in the Promised Land, comes back to a place where he's right with the Lord. It says in verse number one, "And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south, and Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold, and he went on his journeys," and by the way it doesn't seem like he had much to worry about in this famine if he's that rich and has that much cattle, silver, and gold.
But it says in verse 3, "And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord."
Abraham here returns to the altar where he had previously called on the name of the Lord. He goes back to the beginning here. He goes back to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, the Bible says, and we see kind of a spiritual reset button taking place here in Abraham's life. When we look at this story we can understand what we should do when we find ourselves down in Egypt for a while, or we find ourselves spiritually backsliding or lapsing in faith. We need to go back to the beginning. We need to go back to Bethel.
Now what does Bethel mean? Flip over, if you would, at Genesis chapter 28 because the Bible kind of has its own little built-in dictionary, and a lot of these words. A lot of the words in the Old Testament, of course, are Hebrew words, a lot of the foreign words that are in the New Testament are Aramaic words and the Bible defines these words for us to help us understand. We don't even really have to go for a dictionary to understand what the word Bethel means because the Bible has a story to explain to us what that word means.
Look, if you would, at Genesis 28 verse 10, it says, "And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran, and he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows." That sounds like a great pillow, "and lay down in that place to sleep and he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it, and behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, 'I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed, and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south, and in thee and in thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed.'"
Now, again, we have some of the same statements that were made to Abraham, and you say, "Well, Pastor Anderson, you know, Jacob is the grandchild of Abraham, so if these promises are being made to Jacob that proves it's the physical descendants." No, wrong. Go to Romans 9. Sorry, I just have to take these little commercial breaks. Go to Romans chapter 9. I just want to lay this doctrine clearly because it's ... just really lay it to rest because the Bible's so clear on this.
What's Jacob's other name that he's given later? Jacob's name is changed to Israel because he's a Prince with God. Look at Romans chapter 9 and see a statement again that tells us who these promises apply to. It says in verse 6, "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel." What does that mean? It means that every person that descends from Israel isn't considered Israel in the eyes of God. "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but In Isaac shall thy seed be called, that is, they which are the children of the flesh. These are not the children of God but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
The same thing we saw in Galatians 3, isn't? Whether we're talking about Abraham or whether we're talking about his grandson Israel, it's not the children of the flesh that are counted for the seed, and when God says to Abraham, "I'm going to bless you and your seed," and when He then turns around and says to Israel, "I'm going to bless you and your seed," that is not the physical seed of those men. Because otherwise it would be all the wrong people that would be blessed today. It would be a bunch of godless unbelievers that will be blessed instead of the true spiritual descendants of Abraham.
Look, nobody on this planet has a genealogy that goes back to Israel, where they could show, "Hey, Abraham beget Isaac, Isaac beget Jacob, Jacob beget, beget, beget, beget ... beget Steven Anderson. Nobody has that. It just isn't there and what matters today is if we're in Christ.
Let me give you my genealogy today. Abraham beget Christ. Christ beget Steven Anderson. That's my genealogy. It's very short but that's the only genealogy I need, and that puts me in the right family and the right bloodline to get all the promises of God, and to be a first-class citizen of the kingdom of God. Not second-class to those that are Jews or ... There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.
Back to Genesis chapter 28, I just want to point that out. When He said, "In thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed," that's Christ, that's because Jesus Christ is going to come from the seed of Abraham and from the seed of Israel, that's where the blessing is going to come from. It says, "And, behold, I am with thee," verse 15, "and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land. For I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of,’ and Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not,' and he was afraid, and said, 'How dreadful is this place!'"
"This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven and Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it, and he called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of that city was called Luz at the first, and Jacob vowed a vow saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God, and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.'"
When Israel or Jacob sets up this stone and this pillar he calls the name of the place Bethel because he says in verse number 22, "This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house," and that's what Bethel means. It means the house of God, God's house. It's interesting that the New Testament says that the house of God is the pillar and ground of the truth. What do we see him setting up here? A pillar and a stone. A rock that is the foundation. God is showing us here that Bethel symbolically represents the house of God in the Old Testament.
Now, in the Old Testament eventually the tabernacle would be the house of God, and then later the temple would be the house of God, but in the New Testament the Bible says, "That ye might know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God." The church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. One of the basic truths that we can learn from this story about what to do when you're lapsing in faith, backsliding, when you get away from the Lord.
One of the most important things to do is to get back into church. Get back into church. Go back to Bethel. Go back and get in the Lord's house. Honestly, people get backsliding and they get out of church, and when they get out of church they get out of the habit of being in church. Then they're kind of just not used to going to church and it's a big step for them sometimes to come back to church. Another thing that could happen is they might feel embarrassed about coming back to church because they've left and they feel like, "Well, you know, if I go back people are going to walk up to me and say, you know, 'Where have you been for the last three months?'"
By the way, if somebody comes back to church don't walk up to them and asks them that. If somebody's faithfully coming to church and then they're gone for a while, don't come up to them and say, "Hey, where have you been? What liberal church were you going?" No, I'm kidding. "Where have you been?" "Oh well, you know, I just haven't been going anywhere." I mean, you're just embarrassing people. There's no point. If somebody comes back to church you should just greet them and just be glad to see them, and let them know that you're glad that they're there and be friendly to them and nice, and not make a big deal out of the fact that they haven't gone.
When people show up and they've been gone I just act like they weren't even gone. I just act like they've always been ... You know, "Welcome home," and not make people feel uncomfortable. I want you to know that if you're ever in this situation, and this sermon might not apply to you right now because at this point you might be just living for the Lord and everything's going great and you're fired up and excited, but everybody's going to go through a low point. Hopefully, it doesn't take you all the way out of church, but honestly, a lot of people that are under the sound of my voice right now, will eventually, at some point get out of church for a while. I'm not saying everybody will, God forbid, but some people in here will get backsliding.
A lot of times what happens is people will start committing sin and then they feel guilty about it and then they think, "You know what, what's the use? Why even go to church? You know, why even try?" They just kind of give up on it. They fall away and it gets harder and harder to come back the longer that they've been gone, but honestly if you want get right with God one of the biggest steps to getting right with God is to come back to Bethel. Come back to the house of God. Church will do a lot for you spiritually.
I don't know about you but church does a lot for me spiritually on a weekly basis. I wouldn't be able to succeed without church. I need church and I think you probably need church too, because when you get out of church for a while you get discouraged, you get down, and it's so refreshing to come to church. I just like to come to church ... Go, if you would, to John 21. I just like to come to church and sing the hymns and it gives me joy, and it helped me to get things in perspective spiritually, and to listen to the preaching of God's word and just to get around God's people, and just to talk to people that are refreshing to talk to because they believe the same things that you believe and to have fellowship with them.
What do the word fellowship mean? Fellowship means that we have something in common. If you take the word fellowship and think about the ending on their 'ship', this isn't something that sails in the sea, ‘ship’ on the end of the word. Think about these words, friend-ship, companion-ship, relation-ship, workman-ship. Those are all taking a type of person, and then when you put ship on the end of it, it explains to you what those people have. For example, friends have friendship, that's their status of being friends. Then we talked about companions, have companionship, that's what they are, they're companions.
If you think about it fellowship would have to do with fellows, and what are fellows? If I stood up and said, "My fellow Americans," what am I saying? I'm saying an American and you're an American. If I got up and said, "I'm speaking to you, my fellow Christians," what am I saying? We're both Christians. We have something in common and if we have fellowship it means that we are fellow, fellow what? Fellow believers, fellow Christians, fellow children of God, it means children of God. It means that we have something in common together. That's why the Bible says, "Light has no fellowship with darkness." They don't have any fellow ... Because does light have anything in common with darkness? No way, they don't have fellowship together.
What it means when we talk about coming to church and we use this as a verb too. In 2014 this word has evolved into a verb where we talk about fellowshipping, where we kind of turned that grammatically on its head but it is a great word to say, "Hey, we're going to stay after church and fellowship a little bit. We’re fellowshipping.” What does that mean? It means that we're spending time with people that we have something in common with.
That's what so important about getting in a Bible-believing church where everybody loves the Lord and where people are serious about serving God and where people loves soul-winning and are King James and all of that because of the fact that you have a lot in common with them. You can fellowship with it, and it's refreshing to get around people that believe in the same Gospel you believe in, and they have the same vision for soul-winning that you have, and they want to live a similar lifestyle than what you what to live, clean, godly, and raise their children the way that you want to raise your children.
That's what it means to have a fellowship, otherwise if we're all going to assemble together and we all believe different things, and we all live in totally different lifestyles we don't really have fellowship. That's why we should have unity then we're going to have great fellowship with one another. That's what it means when we talk about fellowshipping or having fellowship one with another. It means that we have something in common. Come to church to hear the preaching. Come to church to sing the songs. Come to church for the fellowship.
That's why staying home and downloading the sermon is not a substitute for church because you can't download the fellowship. You can't download being here and just the camaraderie and the singing and the atmosphere. You can't download the whole package. You can only just get the preaching and the preaching is only a part of it. You need to physically go to Bethel. Physically get back in God's house and that would do great things for you spiritually. I'll bet if you're at a spiritual low point and you don't even feel like going to church and you just drag yourself to church, I think that will help you spiritually alone. Just that alone will help you. Just to show up and walk through the door.
I'm sure if I had a raise of hands of who could testify of just people who just feel lousy, upset about something in their life, and come to church and just walk out feeling a lot better, and just rejoicing and refreshed because it put things in perspective for you.
It reminds me of Psalms 73 where Asaph talks about the fact that he's discouraged. He starts envying the wicked and asking himself why he's even serving God. He's looking over at the other side of the fence, of living the way the world lives and seeing that the grass is greener over there, from where he's standing. But then he says, "But then I entered into the house of the Lord," then he says, "Then I understood there end." He says, "God has set them in slippery places." Then once he's done at God's house, Asaph says in Psalm 73, "I've been a fool. What a fool? Why was I thinking along those stupid lines?"
But you know what? We do the same things. Sometimes when we start thinking about stupid things and getting backsliding and losing faith and when we come to church it all comes back into perspective, the priorities, what's important, what our life is about, and our love for the Lord comes back anew, and we are spiritually recharged. Go back to Bethel, is what we learned from that story in Genesis 13.
Now in John 21 we read another famous story about a guy who gets backsliding and that's Peter. Peter, the reason that he falls away is because the fact that he has committed a grievous sin. This is why a lot of people get out of church. I can think of a lot of examples of people who are going to church, everything's great and they get out of church and you wonder why, and it turns out they've committed a grievous sin. Therefore they're ashamed of themselves and therefore they get this defeated attitude, "What's the use? I'm a failure. I can't serve God. I'm just going to go back to whatever."
But look what it says in John 21, it says in verse 1, "After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias and on this wise He showed Himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, 'I go a fishing.' They say unto Him, 'We also go with thee.' They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately and that night they caught nothing."
Now Peter had been told previously that he's done fishing. He said, "From henceforth, Peter, thou shalt catch men," and Peter forsook the net. He forsook the ship. He gave that up to become a fisher of men with the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we see after Peter has denied the Lord Jesus Christ, a few chapters earlier, he is discouraged and he goes back to the old way of life. He's going fishing. He's not going to be a fisher of men, he's just going physically fishing, and of course, when he goes he takes a bunch of people with him.
By the way, when you quit church, when you get out of the will of God, you're going to take other people with you, people that are looking to you, friends of yours. There are a lot of people in this church that are friends with each other. If one falls away it's more than likely than the other could go with him and you've got to think about that too. Just like we talked about earlier, other people being plagued because of your sins and now we talked about other people being led astray by your bad example if you quit on God and get out of church.
They all just go out fishing and it says, "They entered into a ship immediately and that night they caught nothing." You know what that tells me? When you go back to the old lifestyle it's not the same as it used to be. It's not what it's cracked up to be as it were, because you remember the glory days of, "You know what? Things were going better for me before I got in church. I think I just need to go." Obviously, you're still saved, you still believe in Jesus but you're just thinking to yourself, "You know, I'm just going to go back to the way of life that I had before. Things were going better for me then," but you know, you get there and it's not what it's cracked up to be.
I don't think that these guys were really just excited, "Hey guys, let's go out fishing and let's just catch nothing. Let's just fish all night and catch nothing. It's going to be great. Do you guys want to go?" Obviously they're expecting to have success but what's interesting is that when we read this it says, "But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, 'Children, have ye any meat?' They answered him, 'No,'and he said unto them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.' They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it in for the multitude of fishes. Therefore," what does therefore mean? Because of what we just read, "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, 'It is the Lord.'"
Why did he say it was the Lord? Because they cast the net on the other side of the ship, caught a great multitude of fishes. Here is why I'm turning to this story. You say, "What does this have to do with Abraham? What does this have to do with going back to Bethel?" Because the Bible says that Abraham went back to where he was at the beginning, back to Bethel, and if you think about it, Jesus is taking Peter here to back where he was at the beginning. Because remember the story where Jesus came and called Peter, was a story just like this story.
Because if we go back in time we could read about it in Luke chapter 5, for example, and if we go back in time to Luke chapter 5, Peter toiled all night and caught nothing. Jesus showed up and preached out of His boat, told him to cast the net on the other side and he found a great multitude of fishes. Jesus is taking Peter back to the beginning here and reminding him of how it all started, and reminding him of the original miracle that he saw of the great multitude of fishes when he first forsook the net and followed Jesus and was told from henceforth, "Thou shall catch men." In this story we see Peter going back to Bethel in a sense, back to where he was at the beginning.
This also reminds me of Revelation chapter 2 when He talks about the church at Ephesus that lost their first love. He said, "Repent and do the first works. Go back and do the first works so that you will regain the first love." We need to, sometimes go back in our mind and push a reset button and go back to where we were at the beginning and remember what it was that first got us in church in the first place. What it was that made us want to go soul-winning in the first place?
Remember when we first started soul-winning and get back to that place of just the simplicity and the basic beginning of our walk with God, and understand that the same way that we got with God in the first place is the same way that we're going to get right back with God. Just through basics. Just through reading the Bible. Getting in church, praying.
You know what? It's never too late to start over and to forget those things which are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before, and maybe even you tonight that are sitting in church right now, you may be sitting here physically but maybe spiritually you're not where you need to be, and you realize that, "Wait a minute, you know I have drifted away from God. I need to get back where I was at the beginning."
You know there was a time in my past when I was reading the Bible a lot more than I'm reading it right now. There was a time in my past when I was a lot more excited about soul-winning and serving God than I am right now, and there was a time when I was living a purer and cleaner and more holy life than I'm living right now, but at this time I've drifted.
You might be in that position that I ... You need to realize that it's never too late to push that reset button. Go back to Bethel and say, "You know what? I'm going to start over. Start over. Here I am. I'm in church. I'm going to start over. I'm in the house of God where I was at the beginning, all the way back when I called upon the name of the Lord, or all the way back when I first became a fisher of men, or all the way back when I first got into Faithful Word Baptist Church," or whatever the church, where you got in church and started getting serious about serving God.
You need to go back to that point and realize that tomorrow morning is a brand new day and you can start out tomorrow morning and you can read your Bible, and you can pray, and you can live a life that would be pleasing and honoring to God and not give up.
Honestly, every single one of us had a lot of failures in our life. Every single one of us. I just think of for example, memorizing the Bible. I've had so many goals about memorizing the whole New Testament, memorizing the Bible and goals ... I can tell you how many times I've said, "You know what, I'm starting over on Bible memory. I'm going to pick up this thing where I ..." Because I just dropped it for months and months and I've forgotten all kinds of chapters. I'm like, "Okay, I need to assess where I'm at here. I need to figure out which chapters I still remember. I need to figure out which ones I've forgotten, and I need to just start over and do it again. Start over and do it again. Start over and do it again."
Listen, my journey of memorizing the Bible has not been just a continuous unbroken, always upward, "I'm pressing on the upward way, new hikes I'm gaining every day." I love that song but honestly it's not always going to be like new heights I'm gaining every day. Life isn't like that. Your spiritual life isn't like that, where it's just getting better every day, every day, "Upon the path that's winding always upward." It's not always upward, my friend. Sometimes you go down into Egypt. You make mistakes and you fail.
Honestly, before I read the Bible cover to cover for the first time I failed a few times. I said, "I'm going to read the Bible cover to cover." Failed, quit, but the difference is that I started up again another time and said, "I'm going to pick up where I left off." By the way, if you've tried to read the Bible in the past and didn't finish it, don't go back and start in Genesis 1 again, please. Pick up where you left off, for crying out loud. Genesis 1, the most read chapter in the Bible. Matthew chapter ... I mean, they've been read by more people than any chapter. You know what I mean. Everybody's read Genesis 1 many times because they're, "Ah, January 1st, let's do it." Genesis 1 through 3, Matthew chapter 1, let's do it, every year.
But honestly, I have failed multiple times trying to read the Bible cover to cover before I finished it and completed and achieved that goal I constantly failed at Bible memory where I'll be going great, going great, going great, and then just drop the ball. Then months later have to try to pick up the pieces and figure out where I'm at but it seems like every time I do that I get a little further. I'm able to add a little bit more to what I know and I can keep picking it up and adding it and keep going.
Everybody makes mistakes and fails and messes up, and even a great man like Abraham, even a great man like Peter. Peter did something pretty bad when he denied that he even knew the Lord Jesus Christ. That's pretty embarrassing, if you think about it. Can you imagine yourself in a situation where somebody asks you, “Are you a Christian?” And you say, “No.” Wouldn't you feel pretty ashamed of yourself, you'd feel pretty rotten. You'd feel like a loser.
I bet a lot of people would even question their own salvation if they do that. They're probably wondering, "Am I even saved if I did such a thing?" Of course it doesn't mean that you're not saved because Peter was obviously saved and he did it, but the bottom line is that we're going to make mistakes in life. Hopefully, you don't make huge mistakes. Hopefully, you don't commit a huge sin like David committed where he's committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed.
Hopefully, you don't do anything of that magnitude, but I think that God even puts stories like that in the Bible just to show you that if you're a child of God, if you're saved, no matter what the magnitude of your sin, you can still go back to Bethel and you could still get it right. Even the guy is 1st Corinthians 5 who is guilty of such a grievous sin, of committing fornication with his father's wife, with his stepmother. He committed that wicked sin, of course that was not his blood relative but it was still adultery, fornication, it was a wicked sin. Even he was restored. Even he dusted it off and got back.
Look, of course there's going to be consequences for our actions that we're going to have to live with. I'm not saying, "Oh yeah, you just dust it off and come back to Bethel and then everything's perfect from there." A lot of times the scars will always remain from the time that you spend backsliding, the time that you spent in Egypt. You picked things up down in Egypt that stayed with you, like maybe a handmaid named Hagar. You pick up things when you're out in the world and it's temptation and it's bad memories and it's all kinds of just earthly consequences of the time that you spend away from the Lord.
But you know what? It's never too late to get back in the fight and to get back to Bethel, to go back to the very beginning, to go back to just the basics of the Christian life. Start over. Get back to Bethel. Get yourself in church and get right with God. Think of Samson. Doesn't it seem like it was over for Samson? When they punched out your eyes, your eyes aren't coming back. He's permanently blinded. When somebody puts a poker in your eye and your eyes are gone, that's it. You're done. You're not going to be a great warrior again.
When you see him bound up, enslaved by the Philistines, he has no more of his great strength that had brought him so far. He doesn't even have his eyesight. He doesn't have any freedom. He has no prospect of a good life ahead of him, humanly speaking. He's enslaved. He's grinding at a mill like an animal, like a beast of burden would be used to turn a millstone. He's only brought out of that wretched condition just to be made sport of, just to be mocked by his enemies. He's pretty much just a loser anyway you look at it but yet the hair of his head began to grow again.
God still had something else for him to accomplish. It wasn't over. The story wasn't over and he was able to, at least, revenge his enemies by slaying the Philistines, by bringing down the house by pushing on the two pillars, and not only that, but he's able to basically free the children of Israel from bondage. Because they've been brought into subjection under the Philistines and by Samson doing that he delivered them from the Philistines. He was able to do one more thing for God.
It's never too late, and I just want you to remember, you're all here in church now, some people might be struggling spiritually and need this sermon right now, but others might need this down the road. You need to just tuck this away in your mind and remember, "You know what, if I go out and commit a big sin it's never too late to confess our sins and to get it right, and to get back to Bethel, and to get in church and to just pick it up and start again."
The Bible says that a just man falls seven times and rises up again. It doesn't say that just man never falls. It says he falls seven times but he rises up again. The people who serve God for decades are the ones who realize, "Hey, if I sin, if I make a mistake, you know what? I'm just going to move on. I'm going to keep going. I'm not going to let it take me out of the fight. I'm not going to add sin unto sin."
Committing sin is bad enough, why add the sin of getting out of church? Why add the sin of failing to preach the Gospel unto the lost? Why add the sin of failing to read your Bible? A lot of times you'll hear the saying also that sin will keep us from this book or this book will keep us from sin, and when we're living a life of sin a lot of times we don't desire to read the Bible. When we read the Bible it will keep us away from sin and it will guard us. The Bible says, "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee."
It's never too late to go back to Bethel like Abraham did, like Peter did, that's the formula for getting right with God when you’re backslid. Get to the house of God. Get back to the basics, back to the beginning, back to Bethel.
Let's bow our heads and have a word of prayer. Father, we thank You so much for the teaching that You have in Your word. First of all, just warning us about sin and how sin is going to harm everybody around us, and when we get backsliding we're going to take other people with us, Lord. But help us to realize that when we do fall, when we do lose faith and commit sin and make stupid decisions, Lord, help us to remember there's always a way back. We can always just go back to Bethel. It's still going to be there when we get back. It's always going to be there for us, Lord, help us to always remember that it's never too late to come home and to just start over and go back to the beginning, Lord.
Help everybody here to remember this sermon, Lord. I know it's easy to hear sermons and forget them, Lord. But I just pray that somehow this sermon would be ingrained in everyone's memory so that 6 months from now, a year from now, 10 years from now, when someone is away from You, Lord, that this sermon would stir their mind and they say, "You know what, I'm going back to church. I'm going back to Faithful Word Baptist Church. I want to go back to Bethel."