By Faith Abraham
Hebrews 11:8-10 • Jeff Crotts •
Martin Luther said about these three verses:
It was hard to leave his native land, which it is natural for us to love. Indeed, love for the fatherland is numbered among the greatest virtues of the heathen. Furthermore, it is hard to leave friends and their companionship, but most of all to leave relatives…And then it is clear that with his obedience of faith Abraham gave a supreme example of evangelical life because he left everything and followed the Lord. Preferring the Word of God to everything and loving it above everything.
One of the great differences we experience, living in Alaska, is being far from loved ones.
- The sacrifice of distance.
- I vividly remember the weight of saying goodbye and driving away from my parent’s home when we moved here over ten years ago. Tears and sadness.
- Though, for the previous ten years, living two day’s drive and having six kids that far away, the implications of relocating 5,000 miles away was just then sinking in.
- Many of you likely understand this powerful dynamic.
It is very normal to ask people, “How they ended up here?”, “How long you have lived here?”, and “How long do you plan to stay?”
- Most people have some reasonable idea of why they are here. Their story.
- Born and raised. Job transfer. Family need. Need for adventure.
- Your story or your “why” (trend of the moment) is part of what motivates you.
More than anybody else, Christians should strive to put their stories in the context of God’s bigger plan.
- Understanding “why” God has you in Alaska.
- God does not tell us all of “why” we are in the situation we are in.
- However, God’s Word gives us some clarity for our path.
- In fact, all Christians have the most significant “Why.”
- Our “why” is not sourced in geographical moves.
- Though the Crotts’ moved up here to join this church, we are speaking of something more foundational than circumstances.
- Christians knowing their “Why” is sourced conversion.
This brings us back to Abraham.
“What makes Abraham distinct as the next hero of the faith?”
- Abraham follows in the wake of Abel, Enoch, and Noah.
- Who all knew God.
- Enoch and Noah, explicitly, “walked with God.”
What makes Abraham unique in Hebrews 11 is that he models gospel conversion.
- Why Abraham is called “The father of faith.”
- The premier model for early Jewish believers.
- Never a more esteemed Old Testament saint.
- Abel, Enoch, and Noah were pre-flood.
- Abraham’s ethnic connection and “faith-heritage” could not be stronger.
Abraham was celebrated in the Old Testament:
ESV Nehemiah 9:7-8 You are the LORD, the God awho chose Abram and brought him out of bUr of the Chaldeans cand gave him the name Abraham. 8 aYou found his heart faithful before you, band made with him the covenant to give to his offspring cthe land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. dAnd you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
Heaven was described in terms of Abraham’s whereabouts.
ESV Matthew 8:11 I tell you, amany will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven
ESV Luke 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by athe angels bto Abraham's side.1 The rich man also died and was buried
Abraham, more than his sons and more than Moses plays the role as the Jew’s seminal connection to God.
Like everything else, this high estimation turned idolatrous, at zenith in the heart of the Pharisees.
- They claimed “Abraham” as their safety net.
- Jesus tells the Pharisees they needed to be “free from their sin”
ESV John 8:32 and you will aknow the truth, and the truth bwill set you free."
ESV John 8:33…51-53, 56-59 They answered him, a"We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?"
- Jesus asserts he supersedes Abraham’s authority.
51 Truly, truly, aI say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never bsee death."52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon! aAbraham died, as did the prophets, yet byou say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never ctaste death.'53 aAre you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?" John 8:51-53 ESV
- Jesus exposes Abraham’s mortality.
56 aYour father Abraham brejoiced cthat he would see my day. dHe saw it and was glad."57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"158 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, aI am."59 So athey picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
You can guess, much of the New Testament teaching, fill out Jesus’ corrective for this false teaching! Abraham is not the Savior! Abraham is immortal!
- We do not follow Abraham’s morality!
- Why his mistakes are also recorded.
- Abraham was not perfect!
- No! What we follow is Abraham’s faith!
- Specifically, his Conversion!
ESV Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say was gained by1 Abraham, aour forefather according to the flesh?2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but anot before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? a"Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."
ESV Galatians 3:6-9 just as aAbraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?
7 Know then that it is athose of faith who are bthe sons of Abraham.8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that aGod would justify1 the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, b"In you shall all the nations be blessed."9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Both sections quote Genesis 15:6 when Abraham was justified!
James applies Abraham’s justification as proven by “works.”
ESV James 2:21-23 aWas not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that afaith was active along with his works, and faith was completed bby his works;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ab"Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a bfriend of God.
Reference after reference proves Abraham is the progenitor of faith.
- Not elevating Abraham as more or less than anybody else.
Abraham’s faith is the model for the cost of discipleship!
- As Bonhoeffer coined, saying our conversion is never “cheap grace” but “costly!”
- Abraham models the cost of truly living “by faith!”
Prop: True conversion which comes by faith
1. Leaving the world (v. 8)
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place” (v. 8).
Understanding where Abraham left proves the significance of what it meant.
- Let me give you a broad ramp and runway to understand what it meant that Abraham at age 70 left “Ur of the Chaldees” (Gen. 11:31-32).
- Roughly from 2165 B.C. to about 1990 B.C.
- 2,000 years past creation.
- New era of post-flood history has begun.
Before this, there was no language barrier with God!
- Building the Tower of Babel interrupted and corrupted all connection with God (cf. Gen 11:1-9).
- The pride of man shattered communication with God and each other.
- Society revolted and God abandoned it (first round of Romans 1).
- No spoken or written revelations and God speaks!
ESV Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Long ago, ayour fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and bthey served other gods.
- God spoke to Abraham! Abraham who was Pagan!
How bad was Ur?
- Abram (19th Century B.C.) was a citizen of the city of Ur, located on the Euphrates River, what is today southern Iraq.
- Ur boasted an elaborate system of writing, sophisticated mathematics, higher education and facilities, businesses, and multi-faceted religion.
- Ur was dominated aby a massive three-staged Zizzurat build by Ur-Nammu during the second millennium B.C.
- Each section colorated, with the top containing a silver one-room shrine to Nammu, the moon-god.
- Dark paganism with human sacrificing.
- A demonic, false religion.
- What Abraham was converted out of.
God spoke directly to Abraham and it was in “glory.”
ESV Acts 7:1-4 And the high priest said, "Are these things so?"2 And Stephen said: a"Brothers and fathers, hear me. bThe God cof glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, dbefore he lived in Haran,3 and said to him, a'Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.'4 aThen he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And cafter his father died, bGod removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.
Abraham was not a secret believer of the one true God, among pagans.
- The Tower of Babel had spread paganism abroad.
- Salvation came by Sovereign intervening grace! Isaiah said as much!
ESV Isaiah 51:1-2 a"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for ahe was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.
Abram, probably around 70 years old, and around 140 miles from Babylon when he was transformed.
- Like the Thessalonians, he had to turn away from it all!
ESV 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of areception we had among you, and how byou turned to God cfrom idols to serve the living and dtrue God, 10 and ato wait for his Son bfrom heaven, cwhom he raised from the dead, Jesus dwho delivers us from ethe wrath to come.
- You say, “But Abram was not ‘justified’ or ‘counted righteous’ until later?” (Gen. 15:6).
- However, God’s promise in Genesis 12 and 15 are the same.
- Moreover, everything that is descriptive in the Old Testament narrative is not prescriptive in terms of our experience.
- Still, our salvation experience may seem similar.
- When you believe, you are immediately “justified” (Rom. 1:17).
Abraham forsook worldliness.
- By the way, worldliness as its core is more an attitude and less an action!
- Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:4.
We must be willing to go outside of the camp!
ESV Hebrews 13:13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear athe reproach he endured.
God’s glory condescends to come to a pagan in the midst of thousands. To post-flood Garden of Eden and commands him to go! The language of Hebrews 11:8 leaves no room for hesitation. He left home. Severed ties. Abandoned comfort and familiarity to embrace total uncertainty! [MacArthur]
Jesus demands nothing more and nothing less than complete commitment to follow him!
ESV Matthew 10:38 And awhoever does not take his cross and bfollow me is not worthy of me.
The trade of an uncertain life for God!
- When the Gospel of God is your “Why”, everything in life scales into a real and lasting priority!
- And, vise-Versa!
Following God’s call transforms your mindset about life.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through – My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;”
2. Living as a sojourner (v. 9)
“By faith, he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land” (v. 9)
ESV Genesis 12:1-9 Now athe LORD said1 to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.2 aAnd I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.3 aI will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and bin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."14 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from aHaran.5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,6 Abram apassed through the land to the place at Shechem, to bthe oak1 of cMoreh. At that time dthe Canaanites were in the land.7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, a"To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of aBethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.
- When Abraham left Ur he knew nothing as to his destination.
- He had to entrust himself to God’s direction.
- First, being unaware of where he was going!
- Second, having no knowledge God was going to give this as an inheritance for his descendants.
- God revealed more from Haran (Gen. 12:6, 7).
Abraham operated on faith in the bare Word of God.
- Hearing from God was enough!
Abraham trusted God, never owned property in Canaan, never became a citizen, never built a house, and lived as a stranger (except a burial plot for his wife, Sarah, Gen. 23:1-20).
- Stephen said in Acts 7:5:
ESV Acts 7:5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised ato give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, bthough he had no child.
Still, Abraham and his family moved from Mesopotamia, along the fertile crescent, southward along the Mediterranean Sea.
“living in tents” – “living as a stranger.” “Tents” are portable.
“Abraham…dwelled in temporary residences. Shechem (Gen. 12:6), Bethel (Gen. 12:8), Hebron (Gen. 13:18), and Beersheba (Gen. 22:19). Abraham’s son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, were coheirs of the same promise, had to exercise the same faith as Abraham…awaiting a promise that did not come in their lifetimes.” [Kent]
Their lives represented impermanence.
- Living life as campers, nomads, sojourning, walking God’s Promised Land, as if laying claim to it, without ever possessing it!
- In a word, this is dissonance!
- An “in-betweenness” in life.
- Abraham just waited and waited!
William Carey (late 1700s) spent 35 years in India and saw only a handful of converts. Yet every Christian missionary who has gone to India since that time owes a debt to Carey. He planted for the harvest. He translated the Word of God into Indian dialects, so the missionary effort was based on his pioneer work.
Similarly, David Livingstone (19 March 1813 – 1 May 1873) was a Scottish physician, Congregationalist, and pioneer Christian missionary with the London Missionary Society, an explorer in Africa, and one of the most popular British heroes of the late 19th-century Victorian era.
I remember hearing Conrad Mbewe speak of tracing his conversion back to Livingstone.
How we are called to think and do as New Testament believers.
- We know our commission from Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Never have all the pieces of “WHY” we live where we live, work where we work, stay single, get married, have children, don’t or can’t have children, the relationships we have and do not have.
- In the main, not afforded the luxury of those answers.
However, we do know our mission.
1 Peter 1:1-4 gives us our identity!
ESV 1 Peter 1:1-4 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of athe dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,2 according to athe foreknowledge of God the Father, bin the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and cfor sprinkling with his blood: May dgrace and epeace be multiplied to you.3 aBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! bAccording to his great mercy, che has caused us to be born again to a living hope dthrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4 to aan inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and bunfading, ckept in heaven for you
- We walk the earth among the Canaanites.
- People without the Spirit of God inside.
- We witness.
- We also await a time when this world becomes the New Heavens and New Earth.
- Our Promised Land.
“If we knew that Christ would come in a month, it would be easier to forsake sin, pray hard, witness boldly, serve others, all to God’s glory. Devoting a month isn’t as hard as your whole life.”
“At the same time, locking into a sojourning mindset, really helps you to keep from being dragged down.”
“The mentality has to be that even when we do not know how God is using you, sowing seeds you may or may not see the fruit of”
3. Looking for heaven (v. 10)
“…the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (v. 10).
“Designer” [Technician] and “Builder” points to the One who actually does the work!
You have heard it said:
“You should not be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.”
- However, in a deeper sense, it is impossible to be of any real earthly good unless we are heavenly minded.
ESV Colossians 3:1-3 aIf then you have been raised with Christ, seek bthe things that are above, where Christ is, cseated at the right hand of God. 2 aSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For ayou have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
- Heavenly mindedness is where you accept that you are an alien, a stranger, on a particular mission.
- Knowing you are a part of God’s greater plan is the number one cure for discouragement, fatigue, and self-pity!
- Knowing you will spend eternity in glory, with full satisfaction in the Lord’s city forever!
ESV Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw aa new heaven and a new earth, for bthe first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2 And I saw athe holy city, bnew Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, dprepared eas a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, athe dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will bdwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.34 aHe will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and bdeath shall be no more, cneither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Our “Why” is that we are “in Christ.”