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November 28, 2021 | Ed Stetzer
Watch our most recent mid-week message here.
Continuing our study through the Book of Genesis, Pastor Chris Baselice of our Plantation campus shared a powerful and difficult word from Genesis 35 about remembering. In this message, we discovered how to return to God and how to remain anchored in Jesus.
Dive deeper into this teaching on your own, with your family, or in your online group! Watch the video below to see a recap of this weekend’s teaching. You can also scroll down to check out expanded notes and summaries from the teaching, small group questions, and get informed on some of the great resources available to you.
To watch the message in its entirety, click here.
Let’s recap some of the key talking points from Pastor Chris’ message:
This weekend, Pastor Chris recalled an incident that took place while he was snorkeling. While out in the water, he began to drift without even realizing it. It’s truly amazing how easy, quick, and often undetectable drifting can be. It can happen while we’re swimming, while we’re driving, while we’re wandering through a mall, theme park, or sightseeing around a new city . . . and it can happen in our spiritual lives.
In Genesis, we see a profound and tragically difficult example of drifting take place. Back in Genesis 28 and 31, we see Jacob receive amazing dreams from God that reveal what He is going to do in and through Jacob’s life. And Jacob named that place Bethel, which means “house of God,” because it was the place where Jacob encountered God. But by the time we arrive at Genesis 34, we see Jacob has drifted from the God he met at Bethel. In this chapter, we read one of the grimmest, most uncomfortable, and difficult stories in the Bible: the rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah. What happens next is shocking as Jacob does nothing, and Dinah’s brothers exact revenge by killing all the men of the town. By the end of this ordeal, Jacob is filled with pain over his daughter and regret for allowing this all to happen.
Now, this is no doubt a crazy story and certainly a worst-case scenario for what happens when we drift, but the reality is drifting away from God—straying from His purposes and plans, from the security and safety of His will—opens us up and makes us vulnerable to things like this. Drifting from God has the tendency to cause a downward spiral in our lives that can very quickly get away from us and get out of control. Maybe it ends up leading to drug abuse, alcoholism, adultery, porn addiction, or the committing of a serious crime. Maybe it brings us to the point of attempted suicide or self-harm. Maybe it takes us down paths of revenge or into a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s good and perfect plans for us. As extreme as Jacob’s family situation became, the truth is our lives can veer into similar territory. When this happens, what can we do?
Remember Where You’ve Come From (Genesis 35:1): The first verse of Genesis 35 sees God instruct Jacob to return to Bethel. God doesn’t say, “Look at what you’ve done; look at this mess!” He doesn’t say, “I told you so” or “I’m so disappointed in you” or “I guess I was wrong about you.” He doesn’t’ take the blessing away from Jacob and his family. He calls for him to return to the place where he had his most profound encounters with the Lord. Based on human logic, you could see God sending Jacob away and revoking His blessing over Jacob, but instead, God calls Jacob close and invites him to come back to Him.
Jacob had lost everything. This—not deceiving his father, not inciting the wrath of his brother, not fleeing his home in fear of his brother, not the saga with Laban—was the lowest point of his life.
In the past, he had a dream and woke up saying, “God was here and I didn’t even realize it.” So, he called the place “Bethel.” Now, God tells him to go back there.
So, what’s your Bethel? What is the place or the thing God has done in your life that demonstrates His power, reminds you of His faithfulness and His salvation, and brings recall of His purposes and plans for your life? The Israelites set up many altars and milestone markers of remembrance. They established festivals and holidays like Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks, and Hanukkah, and had sights like Bethel, Mt. Sinai, and more for this specific reason. Why? Because we must constantly relive what the Lord has done for us!
It’s so important to constantly remind ourselves of what God did for us, to remember how He saved us from slavery to sin, how He rescued us from the power of death, and to come back to the places where we encountered Him most deeply in our moments of greatest need or uncertainty. For Pastor Chris, it was his “COVID” room in his house where he was quarantined while sick. It became the prayer room where he experienced a powerful heart revival. For you, maybe it’s not a room or a place at all, maybe it’s the memory of a past physical healing, the salvation of a loved one, or the occasion where God gave you a powerful vision or revelation of your calling and what He wanted to do in your life. It may even be a specific area of Scripture that you read that God used to open your mind to the truth and your heart to His salvation! Whatever it is, remember it and return to it often!
If you find yourself in a season of drifting, realize God is not saying, “Look at what you’ve done,” but instead remember where God has brought you . . . remember your Bethel. Go back to that place, return to it! If you feel yourself growing numb, complacent, cynical, bitter, or hopeless, God is inviting you to remember!
Remember How to Get Back (Genesis 35:2–5): So, Jacob instructed all of his household and all who were with him to get rid of the foreign gods they had with them, and to purify themselves and change their clothes. This is a crucial part of coming back to Bethel. It’s not enough to remember; there needs to be purification, rooting out of that which caused the drift. We need to “change our clothes,” so to speak.
In the Book of James, the apostle talks about how when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, but it also talks about the need for cleansing ourselves. Maybe something has gotten in the way of your worship—an idol. You see, idols are not just objects like statues of Baal or Krishna in our home that we worship; they’re not even deep addictions or vices. Sometimes, they are good things we’ve placed higher than God . . . things like our families, our money, our politics or patriotism, our ethnicity or gender, our career, or even our calling. We need to put these in their proper place under the Lordship of Christ and in the worship of Christ, and we need to make our way back to Bethel.
While in his “COVID” room, Pastor Chris realized he had gotten distracted and turned his attention to God. In the pigpen, the prodigal son realized how far he had drifted and fallen from where he was in his father’s house, and he needed to repent (literally “to turn from” or “change direction”). What about you?
Remember It’s About a Person, Not a Place (Genesis 35:6–7): Jacob remembers that Bethel was about the God he met there, not the place. For us, right now in this season where many churches are not meeting in person, we need to always remember the Church is not a place, it’s a people! The Church is a body whose head is Christ! The reason the early Church grew so much wasn’t because they got to meet out in the open in large gatherings. In fact, the early Church, from the very beginning, was plagued by persecution—first it was the Pharisees and the Jewish ruling council, then in 64 AD, only around 30 years after the Church was founded, the official Roman persecution began, which drove the movement more underground. This meant no large group gatherings; the Church thrived and grew in difficult circumstances through a powerful house-to-house movement, through the community of believers.
In Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, He reminds her that worship is not about a place, but a Person. God is Spirit; His presence is not contained to a single location or a time period. He is with us wherever we go! This makes it easier to return to God.
Consider that, while on earth, Jesus was limited in a sense by place and time, but the Spirit is not. Whenever and wherever we want to go to God, He is there with us. No matter how far you’ve drifted or fallen, God is not far from you! This is a beautiful and encouraging thing to know.
Remember Who You Belong To (Genesis 35:9–13): If and when we find ourselves drifting, falling, or running like Jacob, we need to realize to Whom we belong. As believers, we belong to God! We also need to remember that He didn’t make us His own because of anything we’ve done.
We didn’t earn our standing with God; we don’t deserve it by our merits or our righteousness. We were gifted the righteousness of Christ and given right standing with God by the blood of Christ. God made us His own, His children, adopted and redeemed us by His love and grace through the saving work of Jesus.
In the Old Testament, we see that a holy veil kept the people of God from His holy presence in the temple. But Jesus tore that veil. We were far from Him so He came near to us (Immanuel means “God with us”). John 1 tells us He who dwelled in heaven came down to earth and made His dwelling among us! He made it possible for us to come near to God and He made it so we’re never too far away to come back to God. Why? Because as Romans 8:35–39 (NIV) reminds us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We need to be reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of God because of what Christ has done. No matter how far we drift, we can come back to Him.
Quote to Remember: God’s presence is not limited to a particular place.—Pastor Chris Baselice
As you think about this weekend’s teaching, here are a few questions to reflect on and consider with your family, your circle of friends, or in your group.
Ice-Breaker: Pastor Chris shared a story about how he ended up drifting while snorkeling. Have you found yourself drifting? Maybe while driving you drifted off the path and ended up in the wrong place? Maybe you drifted from your family while at the mall or a theme park? Share your drifting story with the group!
Discussion Question 1: This weekend, we were encouraged to remember where we’ve come from. For Jacob, it meant going back to Bethel, where he built an altar to the Lord after first encountering Him in the vision of the ladder (Genesis 28). Where did you come from? What’s your Bethel? Share your God story!
Discussion Question 2: If we want to get back to where we were before we began drifting, we simply need to remember the way back! In Genesis 35, Jacob tells his family to put away their idols, to cleanse themselves of all the things that have driven them away from God. What are some areas that we often find ourselves drifting towards? How do we come back?
Discussion Question 3: Pastor Chris reminded us that our “Bethel” is not a place, but a Person . . . Jesus, the One we belong to! What are some things we can do to remain anchored in Him? To prevent drifting seasons?
Ponder: What areas do you need to purge like Jacob did with the idols in order to keep from drifting or to come back to God?
Practice: What’s one practice or habit you can add to your routine or develop further to help you remember and remain?
Pray: As you pray this week, ask the Lord to search your heart for any areas of drift, for any idols that may lie hidden in your heart. Ask Him to purify and purge you of these things.
We have several exciting Bible plans available for you to subscribe to! From a new reading plan on faith for women to plans on experiencing peace, overcoming anger, or dealing with pride, we have a variety of awesome resources for you to grow in your faith and study the Word of God.
To view our reading plans, click here.
As we continue to track the news and information about COVID-19 and its effects both worldwide and right here in our surrounding cities, this week we will continue to hold services ONLINE.
Join us this Wednesday evening for part two of the powerful Alpha class, or sign up for one of our other great classes. From apologetics to essentials of the faith to finances, these online classes will help you get to know Jesus and learn valuable and practical ways to experience the life God created you for.
Then on the weekend, we’ll continue our study through the Book of Genesis as Pastor Duane Roberts of our Boynton Beach campus teaches from Genesis 37–38. In this message, we’ll begin our exploration of one of the most fascinating stories in all of Scripture: the life of Joseph.
We look forward to spending another awesome week with you!
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Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.