New. How would you describe something that is new? Some would say that something that is new looks beautiful – shiny. When I think of something new, I think of the word fresh. When something is new, it is not decayed or rotten – it is fresh. When something is new, it is not rusted but it is brand new – shiny, pretty, and beautiful. When we want a new car, phone, or television, we don’t ever downgrade – we upgrade. So, in other words, new is something we would consider to be better than the old.

Today, I want to focus on the newness of life and to do so, we are going to take another look at Jacob. My key verse for today’s sermon will come from the book of Genesis once again.

It reads:

26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Genesis 32:26 NKJV

Something extra is required to walk in newness of life

In last week’s sermon, we saw that Esau was unwilling to sacrifice his hunger for his birthright. Jacob, his twin brother, was willing to do any and everything for that birthright. As we saw in last week’s sermon, the birthright that Jacob wanted so badly also included a covenant with God. The Lord had promised Abraham a mighty seed that would be a blessing to the world along with land.

After selling his birthright for some stew, Jacob became the holder of this inheritance that included this covenant which was a blessing from God. Now that Jacob held such a inheritance, was he now walking in the newness of life? What did holding this birthright/inheritance mean for Jacob?

Let’s consider for a moment baptism. Baptism, in the Baptist church, is one of two ordinances of the church. (Communion is the other ordinance if you were wondering.) After we are baptized, are we truly walking in the newness of life? I want you to think that question over for a moment while I share some scripture from the book of Acts.

In Acts 8, we read about Philip going into Samaria preaching and baptizing. Let’s understand that Philip was preaching and baptizing in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit/Ghost (Acts 8:5-8, 12). There was a man there named Simon, a magician/sorcerer, that marveled at how the people were following and listening to Philip (Acts 8:13). This man was intrigued by Philip’s power over the people, and so he joined the people in getting baptized and following Philip.

However, the people had not yet had the Holy Spirit come and dwell inside of them. You see, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of all those who genuinely believe in the Lord. The apostles, after hearing of the preaching and spreading of Christ in Samaria, sent both Peter and John to Samaria. Peter and John came to all who had heard the word and been baptized so that they could lay hands on them (Acts 8:14-17). From this, the Holy Spirit would come and dwell with the people.

Simon thought to himself, “these guys are powerful and amazing. Look at how the people are following them!” For Simon, he saw a money-making opportunity. Many people see a money-making opportunity when it comes to the gospel of God but the gospel is not about money. The question that I now ask you is this: does this man sound like he was walking in the newness of life?

Remember that Simon the sorcerer was a man who had been baptized! This man had been baptized but he was certainly not walking in the newness of life. To answer the question from earlier – does baptism equals walking in the newness of life? – the answer is no.

Just because we are baptized it does not mean we are now walking in the newness of life. You see, there is still work for us to do – there is something extra that is required of us. If this is true for us, the same also holds true for anybody who professes to believe in the Lord. Baptism is an outward profession of faith. Jacob had made an outward profession of faith when he made his move to be the holder of the Abrahamic covenant. However, there was something extra required of Jacob to walk in the newness of life.

The deceiver becomes a believer

By the time we get to Genesis 32, we are seeing Jacob as an older man that has gone through some things. When you read this chapter of Genesis, you will notice that Jacob now has two wives, 11 sons (1 daughter), some servants, and he also has cattle which was like money back in that day. Jacob was headed in the direction of walking in the newness of life, but let’s take a quick look at what he went through to get to this point.

Jacob, after gaining the birthright was still a deceiver and conman – meaning he was still walking in his way. Jacob, the owner of the birthright had the right to get a blessing from Isaac – it no longer belonged to Esau. Isaac must have been unaware of this as he was going to give a blessing to Esau (Gen 27:1-4). So, we read that Jacob “stole” the blessing but ultimately it was already his blessing and Esau knew that it was his blessing.

Esau was highly upset because Jacob had bought the birthright and “stole” the blessing. He was so upset that he was ready to kill Jacob (Gen 27:41). So, out of fear, Jacob fled from his brother and went to Laban, his uncle. Jacob would end up staying with Laban for twenty years.

For 14 years Jacob stayed with Laban so that he could marry Rachel (Gen 31:41). You see, the deceiver ended up being deceived himself. Rachel was the youngest sister and in order for him to marry her, he had to marry the older sister Leah. Laban got 14 years of service out of Jacob, and he managed to get another 6 years out of Jacob because Jacob wanted cattle of his own (Gen 31:41).

Jacob managed to deceive his way into gaining more prosperity than Laban. Because of this, he feared that the countenance of Laban had changed against him. The Lord came to Jacob one night and told him to get back home and that He would be with him (Gen 31:3). Jacob, instead of telling Laban he was leaving, decided to flee this man.

As you can imagine, this upset Laban greatly. After catching up to Jacob, the two men made a covenant and Jacob would no longer return to Laban’s land. So, by the time we see Jacob in Genesis 32, let’s understand that this man was stuck between a rock and a hard place. You see, there was a man that was going to be waiting for Jacob when he returned home – Esau. So, Jacob was in a place where he could not turn around and go back to Laban – he had to face Esau after all he had done.

Jacob wrestles with God

In Genesis 32, we see that Jacob is making preparations to face his brother again. In our responsive reading (Gen 32:22-32), we find that Jacob can’t even fall to sleep with this meeting on his mind. I believe we have all been in this place a time or two in our life. The older and older we become, we have nights where we become very reflective as we think towards the future. Jacob had moved his family across the brook (v.22-23) and now he’s all alone.

You know, when you’re all alone, that’s when you are most reflective. Jacob was probably thinking to himself, “how am I going to get myself out of this mess?” Then out of nowhere, we are told that a Man was with him.

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the [gbreaking of day.

Genesis 32:24 NKJV

When you believe that you’re all alone, I tell you that this Man is always there with you. When you have made decisions in the past without ever consulting the Lord, I tell you that this Man is still there with you. When you think that nobody is around, and you have a moment to think to yourself, I tell you that this Man is with you and that He’s even listening in on your thoughts! To Jacob, this Man was the pre-incarnate Christ – God.

Scripture tells us that this Man (God) and Jacob “wrestled” until the breaking of day. This sounds like quite the wrestling match, right? The stamina Jacob must’ve had to be able to wrestle that long of a match! When I was little, I thought they were wrestling WWE style, but let me share something with you. Jacob was not the physical, wrestling type – this wasn’t that type of wrestling match.

You see, many of us have wrestled with the Lord a time or two whether you realized it or not. Many times we have wrestled with the Lord in our mind and in our head. Many times we have been thinking one thing and the Lord is right there telling us something that is completely the opposite – we end up wrestling Him. I say these to you from experience!

Really, all Jacob was doing was holding on to this Man (God) with all that He could. Let’s revisit our key verse for today’s sermon.

26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Genesis 32:26 NKJV

You see, Jacob was simply holding on to the Lord just as we should do ourselves! God says to Jacob, “let me go” and Jacob replies, “you can forget that! I ain’t letting go of you today!” The old deceiver was tired of not depending on the Lord and he’s now fully ready to depend on and hold on to the Lord. A change had come over Jacob and He’s ready to let go of his ways and walk in the newness of life.

Notice that Jacob says, “I’m not going to let you go unless You bless me!” Jacob was no longer looking for his blessings to come from the world but for them to come from the Lord. Many of us get baptized or say that we believe in Christ, but we still look for our blessings to come from the world. We have to be willing to let go of this old world and tell God that I want You to bless me!

A new name and a new walk

I absolutely love the soap opera that is Jacob’s life and I love to share his story with folks. Many people hear the name Jacob and they instantly think “deceiver”. Jacob knew exactly what he was – that’s why he was so terrified of returning to face Esau. Jacob, after being deceived knew what Esau felt like to have been deceived. So, returning home, to Jacob, had to feel like a chance for him to start over or make things right. We go into every new year wanting to start anew and make things better in our life. No better place to start than with the Lord – Jacob was starting in the right place.

While wrestling, God and Jacob speaks for a moment. Let’s take a look:

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but [iIsrael; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Genesis 32:27-28 NKJV

God already knew Jacob’s name, but Jacob had to acknowledge who he was. You see, when we come to the Lord, we have to be able to acknowledge who and what we are. Jacob acknowledges who he is, and notice what the Lord does. God says, “No, that’s not your name anymore. Your name is now Israel because you have struggled with Me and men, and have prevailed.”

Let us understand this statement from the Lord. We have all struggled with the Lord and mankind by living in this world. We have to fight against the desires that we have and to fight against those desires means we have to deny those desires for the Lord. There are times when such a fight includes a struggle with the Lord. However, because we choose the Lord, God says to us, “your name is no longer what it used to be – it is brand new”.

Understand that you have a new name. I am no longer “old Leo” but “new Leo” and the same holds true for you. Not only does our name change but our walk changes as well! We are now walking in the newness of life my brothers and sisters in Christ. What does this mean? This means that you see things differently and that you live differently. Your outlook on life itself is now through the lens that Christ has done this wonderful thing not only for you but others as well.

We, mankind, must choose to walk in this newness of life. Scripture tells us (John 1:12) that we have the right to become the children of God, but we must choose to do so. Let’s also understand that such a choice does not happen overnight for anybody. It took Jacob some 20 years to get to the starting point of walking in the newness of life.

I was baptized when I was 8 years old and there is no way I was walking in the newness of life at 8 – it took me many years to get to where I am now. It not only took you time to get to where you are but understand it will take others time to walk in the newness of life so be sure to give them their time to walk in such newness. Every deceiver has the right to become a believer and we should not deter them in their growth.

Listen to today’s sermon

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