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Hebrews 11:9-16


"By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly:  wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God:  for he hath prepared for them a city."


Abraham's Faith In Regards To His Journey


"Hebrews chapter 11, we've come to the life of Abraham, and we last week began to look at Abraham relative to faith.  And verse 8 said, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."  So we looked at Abraham's faith in regards to his calling.  This evening we want to look at Abraham's faith in regards to his journey, the journey of faith.  So let's begin reading in verse 9, we'll read down to verse 16, then we'll back up and look at that together.  It says, "By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who promised.  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly:  wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God:  for he hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:9-16)  The journey of faith.  Called by faith, now Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, the journey that was attached to their believing.  Remember last week, we said, and it comes to play that a fugitive is someone who is fleeing from their home, a vagabond is someone without a home, a stranger or a sojourner is someone away from home, and a pilgrim is someone who is heading home.  So when we're told here that Abraham here is a stranger and a pilgrim, he was both someone who was away from home, but someone who was heading home.  And you and I are in that condition.  We aren't vagabonds, we're not without a home, and we're not fleeing from our home, but we are strangers and pilgrims, we're foreigners, this is not our home.  So we're away from home, but we're also pilgrims, we are headed home.  And Abraham lived his entire life like that.  It says 'by faith he sojourned in this land of promise.'  To sojourn is a specific word that means to be in a place that you are not a citizen of [Green Card holders, for those in the US under that condition].  It's very specific.  He sojourned, he traveled there.  He left Ur of the Chaldees, he took his family, and he ends up in Canaan, and he sojourns there in the land, literally "the promise" there's a definite article there (in the Greek).  'He was not a citizen, but he was in "the" land of "the promise" as in a foreign country, a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:'  reason being, 'because he looked for' not a city, "the" city which hath" definite article again, "the foundations, whose builder and maker is God."  It tells us in verse 13, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises," and here it is, "but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."  Abraham was someone who was sojourning as in a foreign country, and that was a hundred year sojourn.  He arrives in Canaan when he's 75 years old, he dies in Canaan at 175 years old, and that was a long journey, not having received the promises that he was looking for. 


What Was This Promised Land God Told Abraham To Sojourn In Like?


Now you have to understand, it tells us in Acts chapter 7, verse 2, 'that the God of glory appeared to Abraham when he was in Ur of the Chaldees, and told him to go into this land.'  Now what kind of impression do you think that made on him, what kind of an impression would that make on you if you didn't have a cardiac and you survived the appearing?  'Ah, I'm taking you to this place, I'm leading you to this land,' the God of glory appears to him.  And then he'll journey for a hundred years in that land, and not receive the promise that the God of glory spoke to him about.  And I wonder what he was expecting.  He comes into the land of Canaan.  We're told in Genesis chapter 12, it says, "And Abram 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 Abram," and I'm sure Abraham was glad that he did appear again, "and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land:  and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.  And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Haion [or Ai] on the east:  and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.  And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.  And there was a famine in the land:" (verses 6-10a) and you know the story.  You know, here he comes into this land.  It says the Canaanite was in the land then, that's telling us something specific.  In chapter 14 we're told there that this king Chedolamar and the kings of north came down [out of Assyria, kings of the Assyrian Empire at that time] and invaded the plain and carried away Lot and his family, and Sodom.  And as we study that, we find out that the Rephaims are there, the Zuzims are there, the Emims are there, and we study and find out these are all tribes of giants.  Ah, in the Scripture we find Rephaim, Anakim, Zuzims, and you didn't make fun of a Zuzim because of his name, probably Abraham saw one and said, Zam-Zoomin! that's probably how he got his name.  You know, Goliath is a leftover of the Anakim, of the Rephaim, of these tribes.  It tells us in Deuteronomy that there were 60 cities of the giants in Bashan, in that area.  And Og, who was the king of that area [during the time of Moses], it gives us either his bedstead or his coffin size, it was over 13 foot long.  So Goliath was a small giant at 9-foot-something, ah, some of these 12-foot.  I have a book, of course, on giants, and there's a photograph in there of a mummy they have unearthed in Ireland standing against the back of a boxcar of a train, and he's taller than the boxcar, he's close to 13-foot tall.  [That makes "Wilt the Stilt" Chamberlan look short, a famous basketball player when I was a kid, and Bob Coosey looked like a midget next to "Wilt the Stilt."]  And it's his mummy standing there, unearthed in Ireland.  Everybody's been small since then, I think, but you know [laughter].  But there's all kinds of lore, Custer when he traveled in the American West, one of the physicians that traveled with him was shown a bone that witch doctors kept with them, I forget which tribe is was, and the doctor identified it as a human femur, the large bone in the top of the leg, but estimated that that human was over 20-foot tall.  And the Indians in their folk lore say they lived in ancient times, and they would run into a buffalo herd and could pick up a buffalo with one hand and eat it alive.  So, it's a chipper little subject, I know, the giants.  But the Bible speaks of them, you know, after the Flood.  I have a book called "The Great Cities of Basham", it was written in the 1890s, and it's about the excavations in Bashan, these buildings they found, ah, 16 and 18-foot ceilings, doors, solid stone, carved, with the posts on each end of the door, carved out of the stone, set in posts, and you could still push the door with a finger.  And so Abraham comes into the land.  There are walled cities because there are giants, so there are godless Canaanite practices, and you can go to the University of Pennsylvania and get a book on Canaanites and the Canaanite practices, and they were filthy, they were godless, they were idolatrous.  There's giants in the land, I can hear Sarah 'Are you sure God told you to come here?' and when they get there, there's a famine, when they get there.  This wasn't easy.  And he's living in tents.  You know, if I'm there and there's giants, I want to live in a tank [and I'd make that an M1A1 Abrams tank], not in a tent.  Living in tents, in the Land of Promise, sojourning, as one who was not really a citizen there.  And it says that he camps between Ai and Bethel.  You know, Paul tells us in Romans 15:4, 'the things that were written beforetime were for our learning and our instruction (cf. 1st Corinthians 10:1-13).  Abraham is camped between Ai, which means "heap of ruin" and Bethel, which means "house of God."  And in one sense that's where all of us are camped, that's where all of us are in our journey, we're between the heap of ruin, that described our life before we came to faith, and the house of God, that we're journeying to and toward. 


Abraham Was The Man Of The Tent And The Altar---And Knew What He Was Looking For


It tells us here that he was a man that knew what he was looking for.  Verse 10 says, "For he looked constantly for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God." [those definite articles, "the" are in the original Greek.]  His heart was set on eternity.  He sojourned in the Land of Promise, he was the man of the tent and the altar.  That described his life.  When he died, and it's interesting, because it tells us in Genesis 13, he was a man that was overloaded, listen, overloaded with cattle, with goods, and listen, overloaded with silver and gold.  Now it's hard for me to imagine being overloaded with silver and gold.  I guess if you have to lug that all along, I guess if you're a nomad, you could be overloaded.  But he's a guy who could have built a mansion like the Beverly Hillbillies, he could have settled down.  And yet he dwells in a tent.  The signature of his life is the tent and the altar.  When he dies, the only thing in his will is a tent and a grave.  He bought a place to bury his wife Sarah, besides that he had nothing in the land.  And God gave it to him.  [Of course all his wealth in cattle, sheep, goods and silver and gold went to Isaac.  And Abraham, when he sent his children by Keturah off he gave each of them an inheritance of silver and gold.  I've always thought that a person of means should give his children their inheritance before he or she dies, and not after, as a means of giving them a better start in life.  Then if they blow it, that's their problem.  Anyway, Abraham wasn't selfish with his wealth.  I'm sure Ishmael got something too.]  But it defined his life, the tent defined his relationship with this world, and the altar defined his relationship with the next world.  And that's where he lived.  He knew this life was temporary, he knew what he was looking for, and it was eternal.  And he dwelt in tents.  But he knew that God was holy, so everywhere he pitched he built an altar.  Because that defined his relationship with the next world and his hope of ending up there.  It says, verse 13, 'he had seen these things afar off,'  Now that's amazing, I wonder what that was like?  You know, having those things in his heart.  I wonder how much of that Sarah saw.  Paul talks about threatenings without, fears within, I'm sure that Abraham experienced some of those things.  I'm sure that it wasn't easy for him. It tells us that Isaac and Jacob were heirs according to the same promise.  That's a very unusual idea in the Old Testament, for them to be heirs of the same promise.  In the Old Testament your son certainly was the heir, but these are joint-heirs in regards to the same promise, which is unusual for a father and a son and a grandson to be joint-heirs for something in the Old Testament.  But they saw that too.  And it's going to say "These all died in faith, not having received the promises" it's saying something to us about Abraham here. 


The Incredible Faith Of Sarah


And I wonder what Sarah, you know, marriage is tough enough in a culture where we have telephones and dishwashers and electricity, and news, and security systems, and where you're not out there living with giants and Zuzims and everything, in tents, a marriage is tough enough.  What was it like for Sarah?  She comes into the land with Abraham, and Abraham's 75, she's 65, they left Ur, which is a sophisticated city, and they come to this place.  When they go down into Egypt, again, he tells her to lie, 'By the way, tell Pharaoh you're my sister,' she was his half-sister, but that's a full-blown lie.  Pharaoh takes her and puts her in his harem.  And again, that's how Abraham got overloaded with silver, gold, and cattle, because Pharaoh thinks if this is going to be his brother-in-law, let's load him up with all kinds of stuff.  And finally God gives Pharaoh a dream, and he gets out of there by the skin of his teeth, by God's grace, no doubt Hagar coming with them, Lot is with them.  How much respect did Sarah have at that point in time?  [This poor woman.]  He's 75, she's 65, and she's so beautiful at 65, ladies, that Abraham is afraid that somebody might find out she's his wife, because they'd have just killed him, and she'd have been single, available.  Now, I don't know what she looked like at 65, but it's at 90 she's still waiting for this baby.  She tried to help Abraham with Hagar, 'Take Hagar, go on into her,' Ishmael's born.  But that is not what God was waiting for.  If you look down here, in verse 17, it says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac:  and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,"  Well he had Ishmael and Isaac, but God was only recognizing Isaac.  And Sarah is 90 years old.  It says here, "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." (verse 11)  She received "dunamis", she received empowerment to conceive seed.  Now she's 90 years old.  "and was delivered of a child" at 90 you need strength to conceive and to be delivered, that's what it says, "when she was past age," I'd say 90 is past age, "because she judged him faithful who had promised.  Therefore sprang there even of one [Abraham], and him as good as dead," so he wasn't in any better shape as her, at 100, "so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand of the sea shore innumerable." (verses 11-12)  It's telling us about her faith here, Sarah's faith.  She's with Abraham, she's 90 years old, she's been waiting, she's still barren, she's past the age to conceive, obviously.  She wrestles with unbelief, we know that.  When the angels come with the LORD to Abraham's tent in Genesis 18, and they say to Abraham, 'Well, now it's going to happen,' Abraham said 'Eh!?' he couldn't even hear anymore, he was 100.  'Now it's going to happen.'  Well Sarah can still hear, she's only 90, she's listening.  'Next year at this time your wife's going to conceive, she's going to have a son.'  And she did just what you're doing, she laughed.  God said, 'What was that noise in the tent?'  Abraham said, 'I didn't hear anything?'  [laughter]  And God said, 'It was Sarah, she laughed,' she yells out 'No I didn't!' she's eaves dropping.  And God says, 'Really?  Well let's name your son Laughter, just so you can remember you didn't laugh for the rest of your life.'  Isaac, Izak, Laughter.  But it tells us that when Sarah laughed, it wasn't just that she was 90, she said, 'My Lord, he's as good as dead too.'  She was thinking of Abraham.  [not to be too crass, but this is reality, but at that age, without Viagra, many men can't "get it up" anymore.  Of course, I think Abe could, or he was healed and given more vitality, which lasted him much longer, because he married Keturah after Sarah's death, and had many more children, sons and daughters by Keturah, before he died at 175 years old.]  You know, he was just as funny in this situation as she was.  Now there's none of that here, there's none of that here [in Hebrews 11].  Isn't it interesting?  Have you ever laughed at one of God's promises?  You know, look, I'll be honest if you don't want to.  I mean, there have been times where I read something in the Scripture, you know, where God says 'we're justified, sanctified and glorified,' and you're thinking, 'Yea, right!  You know, he must have been thinking of somebody else when he wrote that.'  There are times when we do that, in our barrenness, and we think 'We'll never conceive, we'll never bear, we'll never produce [or never get remarried],' but you know what, there was something in Sarah's heart, so that when we read about her life here, there's nothing about the laughter, there's nothing about her unbelief.  It says 'by faith, Sarah, when she was past age, she received strength, she conceived, she received supernatural strength to deliver,' at 90 you need help, 'Ooooh,' pushing too.  But it tells us why, it says, "because she judged him faithful who had promised."  It says Sarah, somewhere in the equation, becomes more fond of the Promiser than she does of the Promise.  Somewhere in the equation, was she 75, 85, 90, somewhere in there she had decided in her own heart, 'You know what, even if I don't conceive, God is faithful, and he says that he's going to do this, maybe Abraham really does know what he's talking about.'  But she said, 'I don't know, and I don't understand why it hasn't happened, but one thing I know, God is faithful.'  Because when Abraham pitched those tents, and when Abraham built those altars, she was there too, and she worshipped too, and she knew Abraham's God, and she determined he was faithful.  And somehow, somewhere along the line, it seems that the Promiser became more precious to her than the Promise.  And though she didn't see it, it didn't materialize, she considered him faithful.  And so we do the opposite, when we feel like God should do something, or he should give us something, or something should be ours, and it doesn't come, and it doesn't come, and it doesn't come, then we think he's an Indian-giver, he's not what he says, he doesn't deliver, he promises and then he doesn't yield.  And she did the opposite, she said 'Well there is no baby, no conception, but I know God is faithful,' somehow that was settled in her heart.  And that's what we're told about here in Hebrews chapter 11 in regards to her faith.  It was their belief that kept them going, and it told us in the first verse, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." 


We're All Living In A Tent, Just As Abraham Did, As Strangers & Pilgrims


Abraham content to continue.  Now you can say 'Look, I don't live in a tent, what in the world does this have to do with me?'  Well, you do.  Paul says "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2nd Corinthians 5:1) saying that presently what we're living in is a tent.  You may live in a mansion, you may live in an apartment, but you live in a tent whether you like it or not.  And you are also on a journey.  Now we take good care of our tents, we nip them and tuck them now.  'Boy, that tent's 70?  You'd never think that tent was a day past 65, that tent looks great.'  We put all kinds of work into our tents, and when we come to church we look at the other tents.  [laughter]  'Look at that tent,' [he laughs]  We put a lot of emphasis on those tents, too.  But we are living in something temporary, and the lesson for us I believe, as we look at this, we all live like Abraham did.  You know, it says here, "These all died in faith," verse 13, this is death-faithThis is not good for the positive-confession guys, because they go their whole life and don't receive, you know, the 'Blab it and grab it' guys that are out there.  No, here's Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, they all lived in faith, and died in faith, having not received, "not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them," that's important, "and embraced them," it literally means 'they greeted them, they expectantly embraced them,'   "and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" that they were both away from home and headed home.  You look at what's going on in our culture, you look at what's going on in our society, you see some of the insanity, you look at the world news, you look at evening news, you look at news in Philly, you see children abused, you see sexual things embraced, you hear them debating whether minors should be able to go to summer nudist camps without their parents permission.  You listen to some of this stuff and you think 'I am a stranger and a pilgrim, man.  This is not my country, I am away from home, but I am headed home.'  And you feel out of place.  That's ok, because you should.  We're sojourners, we're pilgrims, we're passing through, our citizenship is not of this world, it says, "For they that say such things" What?  "they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."  Verse 14, "They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country."  It says "a country" in the King James, it's "a fatherland", that they're seeking "the fatherland."  But it's very specific, it's "our Father", "the Fatherland."  "And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned." (verse 15)  "mindful" is continually thinking about where they came from.  They had opportunity to have returned if they wanted to, "But now they desire a better country," they're looking ahead, "that is, a heavenly [one]:  wherefore [notice this] God is not ashamed to be called their God:  for he hath prepared for them a city." (verse 16)  "God is not ashamed to be called their God" isn't that interesting?  Because sometimes you would think he would be, wouldn't he?  We get caught in a certain circumstance, or behaving a certain way, and somebody says, 'Hey, aren't you a Christian?  I thought you were a Christian.'  And you only expect to hear from heaven, 'He's not mine, not mine.'  He's not ashamed.  And look, Sarah laughed.  Abraham went down to Egypt, made his wife lie, you read about all the stuff that's not [written] here, 'but God's not ashamed' it says, "to be called their God:  for he hath prepared for them a city."  Isn't it interesting, sometimes you and I are ashamed, to speak up, to give testimony, ashamed of God, ashamed of what we believe, ashamed to confess that we're strangers and pilgrims.  It says that God is not ashamed.  See?  [loud laughter]  You can interpret that however you want, I don't know.  [he must have done something onstage that evoked that laughter]  They could have looked back, they could have looked backwards it says, but they were headed towards another place. 


Every Believer Has Three Cities In His Life, The City We Came From, A City Beside Us, And The City Ahead Of Us


Now, the lesson I think for us in some ways is this, all of us, every believer has three cities as it were in his life.  There's a city we came out from, we got saved, God called us out of a scene, a set a standards, a place, a past that we came out of.  There's a city beside us, and there's a city ahead of us.  Abraham came out of Ur, that was the city behind him.  And he didn't look back.  And one of the things we get caught up in is looking back.  He didn't look back.  There was a city beside him, that was Sodom.  And he didn't look around.  There was a city ahead of him, and he looked up. 


The First City: Don't Look Back Into The City God Called You Out Of


That's a challenge for us.  Not to look back, not to look around, to look ahead, to look up.  And we all have temptation.  You know Jesus said, 'Any man who looks back, after putting his hand to the plow, is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'  It doesn't say you're lost.  You know, you put your hand to the plow, the way that you plow a straight furrow is by setting your eye on a particular thing on the horizon and never taking your eye off of it, as you plow and go straight towards that.  [steering a ship is the same way, either setting your eye on the horizon or a compass in front of you.]  If you look back, crooked row, every row then crooked.  Any man who looks back, not fit, no straight furrow.  Paul said, 'Forgetting those things that are behind, I press forward to the mark of the high calling of Christ Jesus,' Paul the same thing.  Looking back, yea, there's stuff he could have bragged about, Circumcised on the 8th day, tribe of Benjamin, Jew of the Jews, Pharisee of the Pharisees, but also when he looked back he saw the Church that he slaughtered, the people that he made blaspheme the name of Jesus, Paul was not into looking back.  He said, 'Forgetting those things that are behind, I press towards the mark of the high calling of Christ Jesus.'  Israel had a constant problem of looking back, didn't they?  They're delivered miraculously, passing through the Red Sea, out of Egypt, and they're in the wilderness, in fact it's the Wilderness of Sin, that's just the place it's called, but part of that, there were still areas of Goshen that were visible, and here they are, they constantly looked back.  The funny thing about looking back is this, we have selective memory when we look back.  Israel in the wilderness doesn't look back and say 'Man, we are glad we're outa there.  Remember that taskmaster's whip?  Remember them killing our male children [babies]?  Remember the bricks and when they laid the double-load on us, and we had to work longer and gather our own straw?  Remember the bitter tears?  You remember how terrible it was?'  No, you remember what they do in the wilderness when they looked back.  They said, 'Remember the garlic?'  What!?  And somebody said, 'And the leeks, you know, the onions too, the leeks, the onions, ya the fish,' wait a minute, they got scars all over their backs, they're all beat up, and they remember the garlic.  You know, we're out of our minds when we look back, and our memory's selective.  [I remember that I chose to get out of the Submarine Service when the time came to make a choice, yet all my memories about being on the Boat are good ones.  Now don't get me wrong, God tricked me into getting out of the submarine service so he could draft me for his own purposes, but there was both good and bad experiences on the Blenny, and yet I just remember the good times, all written about in my "Sea Stories."  I'll will admit, most of my experiences were good though.]  'It was so good back there,' it wasn't good, I was stoned, I was drunk, I was fist-fighting, I was lost, I was going to hell.  If Jesus would have come then I would have been lost forever, there were not good old days at all.  But when we struggle in our journey, then we get this selective memory and we think back, 'Oh, it was easier when I was back there.'  It was not easier, you're out of your mind.  It was torturous, it was empty, it was lonely, it was dark.  But we forget.  Jesus when he warned the disciples, he said to them, "Remember Lot's wife."  Remember Lot's wife, we don't know her name.  There's only like fourteen words in the whole Bible about her, and he's talking to his disciples who are all men, "Remember Lot's wife."  What do you remember about Lot's wife?  She looked back.  She got turned to a pillar of salt.  She was warned by angels.  She got up on a day, and that day was no different than any other day of her life, in fact it says when the Lord comes it will be like the days of Lot, there will be building, there will be new housing starts, there will be things going on, and there was nothing to separate that day from her except the Word of God.  And she looked back.  Now we don't know what she was like.  You know, it tells us when the angels came into Sodom that Lot had to prepare the food, you know.  Maybe she was hard to get along with, maybe Lot said, 'Hey Honey, look at that!' [pointing back to Sodom]  You know, we don't know [loud laughter].  Just lightening things up here.  But in all of our lives there's this city we've come out of, and it says here Abraham had opportunity to go back if he wanted to, but he was looking for another city, he knew what he wanted.  You know, we hear all this nonsense people are so heavenly minded they're no earthly good, you know, that's crazy.  Most Christians are so earthly minded they're no heavenly good.  Where are our affections set and what is ahead of us, what are we supposed to be looking for?  What is supposed to motivate us?  So there's a city behind us in all of our lives, it's a scene sometimes, Philly or whatever, there's something behind us that we left when we got saved. 


The Second City: The City Beside Us, Sodom


And then there's a city beside us.  For Abraham it was Sodom.  It was beautiful, it was lush.  We consider our culture today when we think of Sodom of course, crazy.  Abraham had a relationship with Sodom, and yet he lived outside of it.  The Bible doesn't call us to isolation, it calls us to separation, we're to live in this world, and to be separate.  Not to be isolated.  We're told not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world.  In fact it says the world is passing away, it's already in the state of fading and passing away.  James says 'Pure religion and undefiled is this, to remain unspotted from the world,' he goes on further to say in his fourth chapter that friendship with the world is enmity with God.  Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12 'not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed through the renewing of our minds.'  So, we're in the world, the Bible says, but we're not of the world.  Philly's around us, there's a culture around us.  What do we do, do we ignore it?  No, no, no, they're not going to hear the Good News except from us.  The Bible says, 'You' and it's emphatic in Matthew 5, 'You alone are the salt of the earth,' nobody else, not the Buddhists, not the Krishna's, no, 'you alone are the salt of the earth, you're the preservative.'  Salt is a preservative.  'You alone are the light of the world,' [see for a good study on being salt and light to this world.]   And all of the unsaved millions in the Delaware Valley, we're here for them.  We're to be, separation is to characterize us, not isolation.  Lot of course, lifted up his eyes, but he chose Sodom, didn't pray, then his tent was pitched towards Sodom, the next thing we find him part of Sodom, part of the government, living in Sodom [the term "sitting at the gate" was a term denoting someone who was a judge or elder of the city, and it said Lot sat at the gates of Sodom, this denotes government office or standing.]  But he had lost everything.  Imagine what he could have had.  If he had just stayed with Abraham, he could have said to people, 'Hey, you know who my uncle is?  Abraham, God's friend, don't mess with me.  You think you're connected?  My uncle is God's friend.'  He lost it, he lost his witness, his testimony, because when the angels come he says to his daughters who were married to some of the men, he tells them 'We need to get out of here,' they laughed at him.  He had no testimony.  He had lost his testimony.  He lost his wife.  He lost his home.  He ended up losing his daughters, he lost his purity, he lost everything, lost everything.  Because Sodom was around him, it doesn't say he was lost, his righteous soul was vexed, and Peter said 'God knows how to separate the righteous from the wicked when he destroys,' but everything was lost.  His testimony was lost, his family was lost, he lost everything.  So yea, there's the city we came out of, but there's the city that's beside us too.  And it's always beckoning, it always calls us.  Not to evangelize, but to find fellowship in it.  You know, we're not to be holier than thou, and cut off our friends and relatives.  You know, we're their link, their potential connection to eternity, we're to share God's love with them.  But you can't find fellowship with them, light and darkness doesn't have any fellowship with each other, you can't go hanging out with them and expect to find fellowship with them, because they're not going to build you up, but we have to love them and share Christ with them.  But you can't find fellowship with them, because their fellowship is based on something different.  But we can't abandon them.  Say you're going down the road, you're a Christian, there's a car wreck or somebody slides off the road on an icy day and a car crashes on the side of the road, and a guy's trapped behind the steering wheel, and you get out of your car and go down there and say 'Are you saved or not?  Are you a believer or an unbeliever?'  You don't do that, do you?  [see]  'I'm a believer.'  'Are you a charismatic or a fundamentalist?'  [laughter]  'Are you a Calvinist or an Armeniest?   Before I pull you out of there I want to knowÉ'  no, no, to a fellow human being, our testimony our witness is to help, that's why the programs we do here with the clergy and the programs we do with the Red Cross and the chaplaincy training is so important, because if the world's crashing out there, we have a responsibility to go help.  [see and]  Abraham, when Lot and the men of Sodom were carried away by the five kings of the north [five kings from the Assyrian Empire], Abraham heard about it, he got 318 servants that were trained in his own house, he pursued them, he overtook them, he destroyed them, and he took the men of Sodom and the king of Sodom and set them free and brought Lot back, and their belongings and their stuff.  He was a preservative.  He was separated but not isolated.  So yea, the world's around us, Paul says you're in the world, but you're not of the world.  And our beck and call is to evangelize, we have a reason for being here.  The world stinks, I know that.  But they're made of what we're made of.  If you never went outside these doors you'd find enough problems right here in the church.  It was Augustine that said, "You know, the Church is a lot like Noah's ark, if it wasn't for the judgment outside you wouldn't be able to stand the stink inside."  [he laughs]  That's what Augustine said about the Church.  [Comment:  That's true within the true Body of Christ, but even more so of the 'Church' Augustine was a part of.  See,]  You know, we're all in-process, we're sinners saved by grace, we shouldn't begrudge the lost world at all, but we can't find fellowship with them.  There's a city behind us, there's a city beside, alongside of us, and Abraham lived in right relationship with both of those. 


The Third City: There Was A City In Front Of Abraham, The Same City Is In Front Of Us


But most importantly there was a city in front of Abraham, there was something ahead of him, and he lived in relationship to that.  'Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.'  Heaven, I never heard about heaven when I was growing up, I wasn't saved, and I wasn't in a denominational system, I didn't know anything about heaven.  When I got saved I read Revelation chapters 21 and 22, when I read some of the things in Isaiah about the Kingdom, when I read what Jesus had to say, my mind was blown, heaven is not just a destination, heaven is a motivation, heaven is a motivation.  And we should be familiar with it, we should understand it.  [Comment:  In Isaiah he's talking about the Millennial Kingdom of God. see to learn more about this.  Heaven is a term that would denote where God's throne is, which is in reality that heavenly city Abraham looked forward to, the New Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21:1-23, which ends up coming down to earth just after the creation of the new earth and new heavens.  When we go up to "heaven" right after or during the process of the 1st resurrection to immortality, we will be traveling up to this heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God, and then in a short span of time, we'll be traveling back down to earth with Jesus Christ as part of his conquering army to subdue the armies of the world, bringing World War III to an end, just before all life on this planet would be destroyed (cf. Revelation 19:1-21).  That's when the Millennial Kingdom of God will be established on earth, and it will last for 1,000 years (cf. Revelation 20:1-6).  And so, heaven in the most accurate Biblical sense is that New Jerusalem, as well as being that alternate and more real reality which God lives in outside of Space & Time (see the first transcript in this series on Hebrews 11).]  We should look at the descriptions that the Scripture gives to us and set our affections on those things, we're told, because the heart is what will set ultimately the direction of your life, not your IQ, and not your intellect.  The heart, guard it with all diligence, because from it flow the issues of life.  Desire is a much more powerful force than thought.  The heart will always make a convert of the mind.  People start to desire the wrong thing, and I don't care if they have three PhD's, they start to desire the wrong thing, in their heart they if they play with that, and they know it's wrong, sooner or later they're making excuses in their mind why it's ok for them to have, and why that's ok for them to do, and the heart will make a convert of the mind, always.  We're told to set our affections on things above.  Not just our thoughts, our affections.  It's not the physical heart that beats in our chests, it's the spirit, we're heart-driven, the core of our being is deeper than our intellect.  And we're to set our affection on things above, and let heaven [the Kingdom of heaven, wherever that ends up being] not just be a destination, but a motivation.  There's at least six places in the Gospels that says if we're willing to loose our life for Christ and his sake, we'll find it.  If we're willing to loose our life in this world, that we'll find it in the next.  Jesus is very clear about heaven and hell.  But people are so selfish.  People are so, not just for things, but just self-focused.  Isn't it interesting, there's over six billion people [now seven billion people] on the planet, over six billion people, and psychologists and psychiatrists tell us the greatest plague in our culture is loneliness [I can agree with that].  I don't understand [go through a divorce, and you will, man was not made to dwell alone, God told Adam, before Eve was created.]  There's not enough food, we're polluting the air, there's too many of us, every other time they're talking about this, there's too many of us, and loneliness is the greatest plague?  No offense to you guys, I long for an hour alone somewhere.  Sometimes I look at my cell-phone and think 'Human beings were never meant to be this connected.'  [I still refuse to get one.  That may change soon, if that right girl comes along, then I'll have to get one of those nasty things.]  I need a disconnect here, for an hour or two, somewhere.  You know, a vacation, the ultimate vacation, you know, just a cabin in the mountains, without a phone, nobody knows where I'm at, a pot of tea, and my Bible.  [I've been up in Maine, all alone, working on my mother's summer house, and transcribing these wonderful sermons (1st Peter through Hebrews 11), a stack of them, for this website, for the past 5.5 months, all alone basically, with only a landline phone, no Internet, cell phones, they don't work up here.  Too much of a good thing, Pastor Joe, can be a curse.]  Three days, I'll be reported to missing persons, I understand all that, but just.  But isn't it interesting, people can be jammed into a crowd of other people, and because they're self-ish, they're lonely.  Where the Bible tells us, and Jesus tells us, we should set our affections on heaven.  'Father, I will that those that you give me be with me where I am, that they may behold the glory that I had with you before the foundation of the world, that they may be one,' Jesus says.  Isn't it interesting, heaven unifies.  [And heaven is a term, more than a place, representing a place where God is, and God will ultimately end up on earth, when that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem comes down to earth, to reside there forever, earth becoming the Headquarters planet of the new universe, cf. Revelation 21:1-23.]  You know right now in heaven John Calvin and John Wesley are sitting down talking.  Wesley probably saying, 'You only got in because of your commitment, that's why you were secure,' Calvin's probably saying, 'You know, you were predestined to be an Armenian,'  Think of the people that are there.  You know, isn't it amazing, there are people that I don't agree with [doctrinally speaking] that are going to get into heaven.  That's astounding, isn't it?  I have to spend eternity with them, and they're wrong [or you may be]  [loud laughter].  It's just a joke, you know.  Our future is secure.  The city behind us is not.  The city alongside of us is not.  How quickly things might change.  You see what's going on in the news.  But I have news for you, we hear so often, you know, people struggling, and I understand struggles because I've struggled.  But I mean, I'm not struggling with anything that would disqualify me in the ministry that God's called me to, and God's called us all to the ministry.  [how?  See and and just to see a few ways God has called us all to the ministry.  We're all in the royal priesthood of Melchisedec, a royal priesthood, an holy nation (cf. 1st Peter 2:9-10, Hebrews 5).]  Isn't it interesting, somehow we think we can get involved in something, and we can escape scrutiny?  That we can just play with it?  And then when a 9/11 happens.  I can listen to people over and over, yea, I'm involved in pornography, I just can't get victory.  Yea, I'm drinking [alcoholically], I just can't give it up, I'm going to Atlantic City gambling, I just can't get victory.  Let me tell you something, if you knew a nuclear bomb was going to go off in seven days, and you were going to be burned to a cinder, you would have seven days of victory before that bomb went off, I guarantee you that.  [You want to see how insane this world has gotten, just in the realm of nuclear weapons, order off "TRINITY & BEYOND:  THE ATOMIC BOMB MOVIE"   The city we live next to, our Sodom, has a future, the same future Hiroshima and Nagasaki had, which is well-documented on film in that movie.]  If the fear of God was back in your life, you would have complete victory.  Where is our affection?  Is it on eternal things? 


God Has Prepared A City For Abraham And For Us, The New Jerusalem


Abraham sojourned, as someone who was not a citizen, as someone in a foreign land.  He was looking for the city that God had set before his heart.  And he saw it, it says, afar off, and he embraced it, and it drove him through his entire life, so that all he had at the end was the tent and the altar.  Though he was overloaded with silver and gold, he never owned any of Canaan, except the cave of Machpelah to bury his wife in.  And we constantly hear of his faith.  And it says because he took hold of the promises of God and let those things direct his life, that God is not ashamed to be called his God, because it says, in fact, God has prepared for him, and for us, a city.  In fact, that's the truth of the whole thing.  God has prepared a city.  You know, before I got saved, I thought heaven, what I knew about heaven was what I saw in a cartoon, you know, the cat gets run over by a truck, and then he's on a cloud playing a harp with a halo.  You study the Scripture and see what the Scripture has to say about our inheritance, undefiled, incorruptible, that fadeth not away, about the order of things that will be there, about what it will be like to stand around the throne of God (cf. Revelation chapters 4-5), and again, reunited with loved ones and friends, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with a great multitude around the throne, with the Lamb that was slain in the midst.  And in the ages to come, still learning of his mercy and of his grace, him always being infinite, and us always being finite, always approaching and never fully arriving, filled with wonder every second [and seconds will be a relative thing outside of Space & Time, if they exist at all].  What might there be to do [for eternity], I don't know that.  [Look at what God did, in just creating our physical universe, and then when he recreates it all over again, God had plenty to do, he'll be the originator of more projects probably more awesome than that, so I wouldn't worry about that one.]  The foundations, twelve different stones, different colors, the walls clear as jasper reflecting all of those colors, the streets gold, pure, like crystal, the stream flowing from his presence from the center, unimaginable.  And yet, 'though eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love him,' it says, 'by his Spirit he's made those things real enough, real enough, real enough that we can set our affections on them.'   We can actually be desirous.  Yup, there's a city behind us, and it should be, that's good.  You know, we made a break, there's a whole scene there, it seems foreign to me.  When I look and think back at my life, that seems like somebody else now, when I think of that life, immoral, when I think of the violence and drugs, when I think of that, it's somebody different.  There's a city beside us, and there's allurement every day in regards to that.  I'm looking forward to the Eagles this year, the Rapture will probably happen right before, to the Eagles this year, they'll finally get to the Super Bowl, be kicking the last field goal, right when it's ready to go through the uprights, and we'll be getting Raptured, and that's fine with me.  But you know, the thing is, when I look at that, you can't even watch the commercials anymore, I have to trust my kids to turn them off, because they're so seductive and they're so, the world that we live in is washing over us, it comes into our homes in so many different ways now, it surrounds us, Sodom is all around us.  And yet you and I have this call, God's called us to these last days, for such a time as this, to love this lost world, to love the pimp and the prostitute on the street, to love the drug pusher, to love the Muslim downtown in our city, to love the politicians, and I know I'm really stupid, to just love this lost world around us, to be light and to be salt, to be separated, not isolated [again, see], and to infect our culture and not have our culture infect us.  There's a city always beside us.  But what determines our worth is again the city that's ahead of us.  Faith doesn't look back.  Faith doesn't look around, it looks up.  And when the difficult things come, and the painful things come in life, what does heaven mean then?  When the most painful things come, death itself, what does eternity mean then?  What does heaven mean then?  What does resurrection mean then?  What does glory mean then?  It means what it always means.  It means what it could have meant to us every day of our lives if we'd have paid attention and let the Holy Spirit speak to us.  And how wonderful and how gracious God is to us, to grow us, to feed us, to lead us on, to conform us into the image of his Son.  And even the image of his Son, also a destination, not just heaven [or the kingdom of heaven] but an image is a destination for us alsoÉ[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Hebrews 11:9-16, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


related links:


'We are the salt & light of the world.'  We have a reason for being here.  See,


'Abraham was looking for the city whose builder and maker is God.  see,

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