In Genesis 12, we see the ups and downs of the Christian life. First, we see how Abram was singled out. The Lord chose him, came his way, and arrested his attention. Abram was God’s predestined one.
Abram was then called out. He was to leave the land of Ur and follow the leading of the Lord.
At this point, Abram set out. The Lord arrested his attention and his affections, and his heart-change was proven by his actions. Abram willingly followed the unusual leading of his God.
However, the patriarch and his bride were soon stressed out. After being distanced from everything natural and normal, they struggled with life in a strange land, in a severe season of famine, while being surrounded by hedonistic, narcissistic, and dangerous neighbors.
It was then that Abram copped out. The predestined man of God proved to be a patriarchal punk. Moses recorded Abram’s heinous sin:
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. (Genesis 12:10-16)
However, there was good news. The sinful saint and his bride were helped out. God consistently and unwaveringly adored his elect couple. Intimately, he kept his watchful eye on his son and daughter. Powerfully, he used his mighty hand to protect her and their marriage from intense abuse. Mercifully, God responded to Abram’s sin, and graciously he called his sinful saint to see his transgressions and repent. Yes, in the end, the “man of faith” experienced God’s faithfulness despite his wretched unfaithfulness.
And, how did the sinful saint respond? It’s beautiful! It’s how he responded each time his merciful God displayed his unmerited affection — Abram built and altar and called out to God.
And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 13:3-4)
By the way, this is not the end of the story, for the ups and downs of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Lot, and all their family continue — as is the case for all God’s sinful saints. In the following chapters, Moses will record several more episodes of punkish failure. And in chapter 20, Abraham commits the same exact sin; again he prefers himself and sends his bride to the harem of another lusty man. Yes, again Abraham was unfaithful. But again, God was faithful. And again, Abraham led his family in building an altar and calling out to his Loving Lord.
Therefore fellow sinful saint, how have you dishonored your Heavenly Father?
- What addictions have you given into yet again?
- What sins seem to have a hold on you?
- What laws have you transgressed again?
- What have you sworn away only to taste again?
- How have you harmed those most dear to you?
- How have you proven to be foremost in your own affections?
- How have your affections to the Lord wained?
- How have you used your body — the Temple of the Holy Spirit — in profane ways?
- What sinful thoughts have ruled your head?
- How have you not loved Jesus Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Well then sinful saint, what should you do?
Here’s what you should not do — keep your distance from God for a period of time to prove your seriousness. You should not put yourself in a spiritual time-out of sorts. Francis Chan writes of his tendency to do such:
This was a regular pattern for me. I wanted to prove that I was sorry for what I did by being faithful for a period of time. I wanted to develop a good track record before pursuing my relationship with Him again. I wanted God to see that I could be a good servant. Then I felt good enough to talk with God again. (Forgotten God, 113)
No my sin-sick but Gospel-redeemed freed friends, instead of putting yourself in a ego-stroking, never-satisfying, unnecessary, fruitless, and sinful time-out, believe the Gospel and call out to your faithful, consistent, never-temperamental, always merciful, and only gracious Savior. God is the Heavenly Father of prodigals, and he looks your way with a convicting Spirit, watching gaze, feet ready to run, arms wide open, brand new shoes, spectacularly clean robe, new rings for your fingers, and an eagerness to reconcile and feast. (Luke 15) Broken brother and sister, nothing can separate you from your Savior’s undying and unwavering affection. There is absolutely not one hint of condemnation for all of you who are found in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8) Christ has already died and forgiven you, therefore quickly confess your sins and immediately enjoy the experience of his undeserved love. (1 John 1) Go ahead, right now, despite your horrid sins, find your quiet place and commune with God. There they are watching from above and within — the Father, Son, and Spirit — longing for you to enjoy the undeserved riches of the perfect relationship they have secured for you. Leave behind your sin. Turn from your shame. Forget your track-record. Run into the arms of the Gospel-God. Your Abba Father is nearer than you know. Your Heavenly Dad is calling you to his lap. How long will you make him wait?
Oh friend, sin is not cute. It is horrible. It is no light matter. It is not good that you copped out.
However, it is further sin for you to put yourself in some sort of spiritual time out.
It is good to repent. It is good to worship. It is good to call out to the Lord and experience afresh his unfathomable grace.