By: James MacDonald– You and I must return to the crisis of stronghold repentance. I can’t say it any more clearly than that. Where the trouble really comes—it’s not how often you fall at first, it’s how long you stay down, how long you justify it. Let’s say you’ve had a bitter heart toward someone, and God has confronted you. You’ve repented of your bitterness and unforgiveness, and you’ve chosen to forgive the person. Then, a day later, you’re mad again, and you’re thinking the way you were before. Don’t accept those old arguments. Don’t accept those lofty opinions that are exalting themselves against the knowledge of God.
Take every thought captive to obey Christ and say: “I’m not that person anymore. I’m not going to think that way anymore. I’m not going to defend this—I’m going to repent again. And I’m going to pray, ‘God, we made a promise to one another. And You’re going to help me. And I’m not going to excuse this anymore.’”
What do we do when we fall back? Once again we turn to the life we’ve been tracking the last few weeks. When we last spent time with Jacob, he had a life-altering encounter with God. We watched him limp away, disheveled from wrestling all night, with a new and hopeful name.
In Genesis 33, Jacob fell back. In the light of the new day, Esau and his four hundred men still looked scary to Jacob, and he couldn’t resist the stronghold of managing the situation to protect himself. He had met God face to face, but he was still capable of fear. Esau turned out to be the opposite of Jacob’s expectations. Almost three decades had passed, and Esau has gotten on with his life. Jacob was weighed down by his past choices. Things were right with God, but they were not right with his brother, although Esau didn’t care. Jacob didn’t know what to do with the misplaced dread he had developed over the coming reunion. His solution was to avoid and distance himself from a genuinely welcoming brother.
Genesis 34 shows Jacob’s stronghold of passivity, but the main lesson in that chapter has to do with the way Jacob’s sons had picked up family sins and were acting out generational patterns.
In Genesis 35, God confronted Jacob again. Jacob had bought land in Shechem and settled there, only to have all kinds of problems. He was not where God wanted him. “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (v. 1). It was time for déjà vu for Jacob. God reminded him of everything that occurred at the Jabbok River. The Lord was creating a crisis for Jacob by calling him back to the place of his repentance and bringing up the stronghold of fear that had been the subject of his repentance.
It’s important for us to see with Jacob that when we drift or fall back from His way into former strongholds, we will have to repent and say, “This is wrong, Lord. It was wrong before and it’s wrong again. And I do repent. And I’m not excusing it anymore. I’m not thinking the same way about it. I don’t feel the same way about it. I’m forming a plan of action to do differently.”
What we see in Jacob’s response in Genesis 35:1-2, 4 is the first steps we can take when we realize we have failed to think and to act differently. We’re moving in the right direction when we remove stronghold supports from our lives.
Jacob knew he needed to obey God’s instruction, but he realized that there were some immediate steps to take: “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments’” (vv. 1-2). Though we know he had been painfully passive much of the time, when he stepped up and led his family, they actually followed. “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem” (v. 4).
What Jacob did here tells us he asked the three questions we will examine tomorrow:
1) Where did I go wrong?
2) What tripped me up?
3) What needs to be removed?
With God’s help, our answers to these questions will lead us to remove the supporting components from certain strongholds in our lives, diminishing the possibility that they will be back soon or with such control over us.
God will use multiple crises and a long process in your life to bring about all He has planned. Today, thank God for both crises and process. Thank Him in particular for the crisis that first brought you salvation by faith in Christ. Thank Him for the process and progress in sanctification He has been working out in your life. Thank Him for the gift of repentance and His persisted willing to wade into your life and wrestle with you until you get the point