The Eternal Rewards of Living as an Alien (Hebrews Sermon 51 of 74)
January 01, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Walk by Faith, Heaven
Looking for a Better Life
In New York harbor at the base of the Statue of Liberty there is a poem written in 1883 by a woman named Emma Lazarus. She wrote a sonnet that was going to be sold to raise money for the purchase of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and it was erected in 1886, and the poem put there about 20 years later. And the words are very famous. I'm going to read just part of it. The poem says this.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
We know in those days, people were coming by the tens of thousands on ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean from the complexities and the political uncertainties, the economic uncertainties of Europe, and they were coming with their hearts filled with hope that in America they would find a new life, a better life. The American dream was beckoning. Maybe some relatives have gone before them and gotten a toehold, maybe in New York City or Brooklyn or some other city in the US, and they had hopes that things would be better, that freedom would come, and with that freedom would come greater economic opportunities for prosperity.
They were hoping for a homeland. And many of the people that came did find, in fact, through the freedoms and just the economic opportunities, a better economic life. If you would have asked them 20, 30 years later, "Was it good for you to come?" They would say, "Definitely, it was the greatest move of my life." But I say to you, not one of those people found a permanent dwelling place here. And we who are native born Americans, we have not yet found our homeland, not truly. Because the text tells us that we are aliens and strangers, and we are passing through and frankly, the real light that's lifted up, the light of freedom, the light promising a permanent dwelling place, is not the light of the Statue of Liberty, it's the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it's not just for one political nation, but it's for people all over the world, and that light has been spreading for 2000 years. It's a beacon saying to us who dwell in this sin-cursed world, "This world is not all there is." There is a permanent dwelling place through faith in Jesus Christ and it's beckoning to you. Will you not receive it now by faith?
That is the homeland I'm preaching today. And I want to speak to you today about the eternal rewards of living as an alien and a stranger in this world.
The Context of Hebrews 11
Now, the context of Hebrews 11, as we've noted many times before, the author is writing to Jewish people who had made a profession of faith in Christ, an outward profession of faith in Christ, but who were being assaulted by the world because of their profession of faith. And I think specifically in their context, by the Jewish world, by Jewish friends and family and political leaders and religious leaders putting pressure on them to forsake their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and turn their backs on Jesus, and go back to the comfort and the safety of Old Covenant Judaism. I believe if you read between the lines, you look at a few key phrases in the Book of Hebrews, there's a clear indication in those phrases that the temple was still standing at that time, and that animal sacrificial system was still going on, and the priests were still offering animals, and so it was plausible for them to go back to the temple sacrifices, go back to Old Covenant Judaism.
It wouldn't be until AD 70 that the Romans leveled the place and in Providence and time, ended animal sacrifice, giving, I think, clear indication to the acceptability of Jesus Christ, His blood shed on the cross, putting an end forever to animal sacrifice. But that hadn't come yet. And so these Jews were being assaulted with the temptation of forsaking Christ and going backward, of going back to something that they knew and something that was comfortable. That's what was assaulting them. But I say to you that we 21st century Christians, we're not any different, because we have left the world, we have come out of Babylon by faith, we have left Satan's kingdom. We have turned our back on sin and the lust of this age, we have forsaken them, we have made promises in our baptismal vows that by faith in Jesus Christ we will walk in newness of life, and we will put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit, and we will live a new life, but constantly beckoning... Constantly alluring and enticing us back to that country that we left, is the world with all of its temptations.
And so we are being pressed as they were, to turn our backs on Jesus and go back to where we came from. And so this text today, one of the great texts of Hebrews, verses 13-16, speaks of a homeland that is yet waiting for us and that is beckoning to us to come to it, that we should set our hearts and our hopes totally on that heavenly reward, and live as aliens and strangers in this world.
I. Living by Faith When Dying: Not Receiving the Promises
Look at Verse 13. Begins by talking about the people that we have been studying. "All these people were still living by faith when they died." Living by faith when dying, these were those that had not yet received the promises. Who are all these people of verse 13? Well, immediately, the immediate context are the patriarchs, the Jewish patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These were the ones who lived in tents, and who are making their home in the Promised Land in tents moving from place to place. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had not received the promises, they were still living by faith when they died.
But I don't think we would just stop there. I think we can see the same thing in Abel. Abel found in this world no permanent dwelling place. Enoch walked with God and God took him out of this place. Enoch was yearning for holiness, he was yearning for the Lord to send his angels and to clear out all the ungodliness that he was seeing and that grieved his heart in the days leading up to the flood, and God took him out of this world because here he had no permanent dwelling place. And Noah certainly knew that he had no permanent dwelling place because he saw with his own eyes how God destroyed the world that then was. There's no permanent dwelling place for any person living by faith. And we're going to go from here, going on to start looking at the lives of Moses and others. And none of them found a permanent dwelling place either. But all of these people, they were still living by faith. And it says when they died, and so we're zeroing in on the issue of death.
The Deathbed Perspective
Dying grace, the grace to die well. If you look at verses 23-22, we are taken from one death bed to the next, death bed to death bed to death bed, and we'll talk about it, God willing, in the upcoming weeks. But we go to Isaac's death bed, and by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. He's on his death bed when he's doing that. Verse 21, we have the same thing by faith, "Jacob when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and worshipped as he leaned on top of his staff..." Verse 22, "by faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites to Egypt and gave instructions about his bones." By faith we must prepare for our own death. By faith We must prepare for our own death. I think in some evangelical circles, there's so much of an emphasis on the rapture and the second coming, with the Left Behind series and all that, and so people think they're going to skip death, and they actually think it's somewhat faithless to think that you're going to die.
But you know that the vast majority of God's people that have ever lived will have died when all was said and done. It is appointed to each one of us to die, and after that, to face judgment. I know that there's a mysterious final generation that will be walking the Earth when Jesus returns. And they will not sleep, but they will be changed. I know that, and we accept that by faith and it may happen in our lifetime. But I don't think that the Lord would take it amiss for us by faith to prepare for our own death, amen. Because if you're ready by faith to die, then you're ready by faith for the rapture. The two and the end are one and the same, preparation is the same. Living by faith in the promises of God, putting sin to death by the power of the Spirit, living holy and upright and godly lives in this corrupt generation. That's how you get ready for both death and the rapture. And it is not faithless to get ready for your own death, quite the opposite. And so we must prepare to die well, and the way we do that is living now by faith.
So the trial here for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as it will be for all of us, is to not receive the promised goods. We have not received the things promised. They haven't come to us yet. They did not receive, look at Verse 13, the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. They live strange other-worldly lives, these aliens and strangers, they move through the world as though this world were not their home, because it wasn't. And so it is for us today, even in the 21st century as we move through the world by faith, there's just an other-worldly aspect to our lives that just doesn't make any sense. And if you had lost relatives coming around your death bed and you lived a life vigorously for Jesus, courageously stepping out in faith on His promises, I guarantee an aspect or portion of your life will seem very bizarre to the non-Christian relative that comes to your death bed. And they'll wonder why you gave up all that pleasure and fun and ease for your faith.
They are living out even as we speak, this philosophy in 1 Corinthians 15:32. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" and we won't have the chance to eat and drink. And you got to grab it now while there's time, that's the way the pagan mentality. And frankly, if there are no promises yet to come when we die, if for this life alone we have hope in Christ, we are above all people to be pitied, said the Apostle Paul. Well, he could say that because he lived aggressively and courageously by faith in the promises of God, and it cost him much in this world to serve Christ. He went from one beating to another imprisonment to a ship wreck, one after the other, and all that for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For me personally, my goal is to live more and more so that it would be true of me that if for this life alone I had hope in Christ, I would be worthy of pity because it doesn't make sense to have an aspect of my life that makes no sense from an earthly point of view, because my heritage, my inheritance, is yet to come.
And to live by faith for that. When an unbeliever dies, all of their hopes, all of their dreams, all of their aspirations, all of their achievements, all of their loves die with them. It's over. But not for us. When we die, we step into our hopes and dreams and loves and aspirations forever.
How to Die by Faith: See and Welcome the Promises from a Distance
So, how then shall we die by faith? Well, the text says that these did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. I get the picture here of Moses. You remember the story of Moses, how he lost his temper at one point, and the nation, the Jews, he said, "Must I carry this people like a squalling infant all the way to the promised land? I didn't give them birth. Why did you entrust them to me to be their babysitter?" He had his moments. That anger flashed out and he was supposed to just speak to the rock, it had already been struck once, but he was supposed to speak to it and water would come out, but he struck it again. And God said, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, I will not you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
And he begged and pleaded with God to change his mind, but God would not change his mind. But at the end of his life, God said that he will not let Moses enter the promised land, but he would commission Joshua to lead the people, and would allow Moses to see it. And so he had in Deuteronomy 34, in verse 1, "Then Moses climbed up Mount Nebo from the Plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. And there the Lord showed him the whole land from Gilead to Dan." I think a miraculous kind of vision of the promised land, that he just saw it and it was just beautiful and ravishing to his eyes. And so what he was able to see there, we can see now by faith. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob can see that home and native land, that country that we're going to, that city of God. We see it, but we only see it by faith. You can't see it with the eye. The only saw it and welcomed it from a distance. So you see it. In "Pilgrim's Progress," Christian hopeful are taken to the top of the Delectable Mountains. And they're given a special kind of telescope by which they can see the celestial city, and they are greatly encouraged by that vision.
That telescope is faith, dear friends, it's faith. You read the text, you read the scripture, you find out what heaven is like, and you believe it, and you see it from a distance. You're not there yet, you must see it from a distance, but you can see it by faith because faith is the eyesight of the soul. And so you see it and you take it in, and it says they only saw it and welcomed it from a distance, so they didn't just see, they knew that there's a heaven. They know what it's like, they know what the verses say, it's not that. They welcome it into their heart, it becomes a part of them. And they're yearning for it. And so they saw these things and welcomed them from a distance.
The Importance of Dying Well by Faith
And so this text is calling and beckoning to us to die well. To die well by faith, and what will you need at that point to die well? Well, I would suggest four things. First, you need to believe firmly in life after death. You must believe that this world is not all there is, that death is a portal to another world.
Secondly, you will need to entrust your departing soul into the hands of your faithful Savior, as Jesus did, He said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." And you entrust your soul to Him who has been the lover of your soul.
Third, you must have a firm belief in your own future blessedness and rest, that you have a portion at the table by faith in Jesus. You know that God has reserved a place for you with your name on it, and that portion is yours by faith in Jesus.
And fourthly, that this body that you're leaving behind in the ICU or wherever you'll be, that it will be raised up out of the grave, glorious and holy, just like Jesus' resurrection body and you will be reunited with your body and you will dwell in that body forever and ever. Those four things will stand you well on your death bed. In the meantime, you prepare for that by trusting in them now, and stepping out by faith now.
And you may ask, "Why is it important that I die well? Why is it important that I live by faith so I can die by faith? Why is that important?" Well first, it gives glory to God, does it not? It says in our own text, God is not ashamed to be called their God, people who live like this and die like this, so it brings glory to God.
Secondly, it's a great encouragement to loved ones that stand around your death bed, those that are shedding tears and weeping and will miss you, and some of that weeping is completely appropriate. It's the way it should be, but not too much. As it says in 1 Thessalonians four, "We don't grieve like those who have no hope." And so we seek to strengthen the hope of our loved ones so they don't weep too much. Know that I'm going to my Father and I'm delighted to see Him, and He will welcome me. Not because of any good works I've done, but because of my faith in Jesus.
And so thirdly, you will strengthen the faith of existing Christians, whether loved ones or family members. As they stand around your bed, their own faith will be strengthened by your comments and by your demeanor. And you will be a witness, fourthly, to lost people who are standing around your bed, who don't have your kind of confidence, who are themselves secretly in fear of death. They're actually in that bondage that Jesus came to deliver us from. In slaves all their lives to fear of death, and Jesus is the deliverer. And look at your testimony, the smile, the joy on your face, the demeanor that you're carrying. And so there are nurses bustling in and out trying to keep your dying body alive. At some point you want to say, "Stop. I am going to my Father, and this body you're working so hard on, in an instant God will heal it and make it glorious." So, obviously appropriate medical effort should be made. We understand that, life is precious. We should do that. But there comes a point in which by faith you can say to the nurse and the doctor, "I have a resurrection body coming. Do you? Are you ready? Are you ready to be raised in glory through faith in Jesus?" You can give a testimony.
II. Living as Aliens and Strangers on Earth
And so, to get ready for that you have to live now as aliens and strangers on earth. Right now I seek to loosen your affection for this world now. I want to just pour acid on the bands that are connecting you in this world and I want to free you and liberate you to live by faith as aliens and strangers in this world. It says in Verse 13, "They admitted or they confessed that they were aliens and strangers on earth." This is a strong assertion by faith. They are confessing this. Basically this is how it works. God speaks to the soul, the soul speaks the same thing back, that's what confession is. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, He speaks to us and says, You have sinned. And when you confess your saying it with Him, Yes, Lord, I have sinned.
I said the way it is with all confessions and so now God is speaking to you and telling you you are an alien and a stranger on earth. And so these confessed it back to God. And they spoke the words. Think about when Abraham was dickering with the Hittites over a cave where he could bury his dead wife, Sarah. And so, in Genesis 23, and verse 4, he said to them, "I am an alien and a stranger among you, sell me some property for burial site here so I can bury my dead." So, he confessed that he is an alien and a stranger on earth. So also, Jacob said to Pharaoh, in Genesis 47 and verse 9, "The years of my pilgrimage are 130, my years have been few and difficult and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers."
So the idea of a pilgrimage is just moving through or going from place to place to place, have no permanent resting place here. Now, you may think that once the Jews enter the promised land of this alien and stranger language finished, they had now received their promises, right? Well, that's actually not true at all. 500 years later, David, King David in Jerusalem in the Promised Land, confessed that he was an alien and a stranger.
In Psalm 39:12. "Hear my prayer O Lord, listen to my cry for help, do not be deaf to my weeping, for I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were." We already learned from the book of Hebrews chapter 4, that Joshua didn't give them rest. It wasn't any permanent dwelling place he was given, it was symbolic. They had not entered their rest. 1 Chronicles 29:15, David again, we are aliens and strangers in your sight as were all our forefathers, our days on earth are like a shadow without hope.
Psalm 119:19, "I am a stranger on earth. Do not hide your commands from me." So these even after entering the Promised Land confessed they were aliens and strangers. And then in the New Testament, the same language is used of Christians. In 1 Peter 2:11. "Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful lusts which wage war against your soul." What a powerful text that is and more on that later. And so, we are aliens and strangers. What that means is, we have no permanent dwelling place in this world, we are just moving through... We have no final citizenship here. We're very much like some that I've had the opportunity to minister to in Romania, the gypsies called the Roma, who go from place to place, from country to country, generally despised and rejected.
And praise God for missionaries that are now seeing great inroads reaching them with the gospel. I don't think it's hard to convince them that their aliens and strangers, they've lived like that for centuries. And so we're like that we're just moving through, we don't have a permanent dwelling place here. So, how then do we do this? How do we live as aliens and strangers on earth, how do we renounce earth and embrace heaven? I think it starts in the mind, it starts in the way you think. Romans 12:2, it says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern in this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." You have to have a transformed mine, you have to look at things differently than the world does.
You have to confess like Philippians 3:20 says, "Our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Our citizenship is not here, it's in heaven. And we are to renounce, 1 John 2, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. These things are what Peter tells us are waging war against our soul, fighting against us for everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. So do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. This is very difficult. How do you obey, 1 John 2, and not be legalistic, that's a question, but I'd like you to step up and engage the text.
And not say, "Well I don't want to be legalistic so I'm going to throw the text out." The world is a threat to your soul and you need to fight or it's going to have its way with you. Religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless as this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and then comes a powerful little word "and," you see that word and, just meditate on that word "and." I can't believe that the pastor of First Baptist Church, he meditated on the word "and" in the pulpit. Okay, so if you look after orphans and widows in their distress, but you don't keep yourself from being polluted by the world that's not religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless. Neither is it enough to just be pure and not look after orphans and widows, but there's an "and" in there and we must be pure from this world and we have to fight to do it.
If you just relax, if you let go and let God, you'll be swept downstream. You must stand firm and fight. The New Testament tells you to fight, to put on your full armor and fight, not relax. So we have to fight and we have to think about the way we think about the world, we have to consider what is my mindset toward the world? Can I say what the apostle Paul says in Galatians 6 and verse 14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has become crucified to me and I to the world." The world and I both agree, we are each, sees the other as dead. That person's dead. They are not interested in any of the stuff we're interested in, and we say, Yeah, the world is dead to me, there's nothing here that's attracting me, and drawing me.
And so as I quoted before in 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31, "what I mean brothers is that the time is short.” Do you hear those words? The time is short. We don't have much longer. "From now on then, those who have wives should live as if they had none, and those who mourn as if they did not, and those who are happy as though they were not. And those who buy something as though it were not theirs to keep. Those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." That's how you live as an alien and a stranger, to realize there's nothing you interact with, not a spouse, not a child or a sibling or parent, not a friend, not a church as you presently understand it. Not a possession or a position or a privilege that is permanent. Hold on to it loosely because it's passing away. So, are you living as an alien and a stranger here or are you too much at home in this world?
Are You Living as an Alien and Stranger Here?
And I would just urge you to go back to 1 Peter 2:11, and just say, "Am I fighting the worldly loss that are assaulting my soul, am I fighting the materialism, am I fighting the sexual immorality, am I fighting the carnality, that is assaulting my soul that's how we live as an alien and a stranger?"
III. Faith’s Progression: Seeing, Seeking, Yearning, Confessing, Receiving
And so we see right in this text, faiths progression moving from one step to the next to the next, seeing, then seeking, then yearning, then confessing and then finally receiving, amen.
So first, we'll see it. We will see it and welcome it from a distance, we'll see what God is holding out for us, the new heaven and new earth, home of righteousness, see it, immerse your mind in scripture, and see what God is giving you by faith. So see it. And then seek it. Look at verse 14. "People who say such things, show that they're looking for a country of their own." They're looking for it or seeking it, they're yearning for that country of their own, they want to have an inheritance they want it, and so they're seeking it. Hungering and thirsting for it. We should be ambitious, amen. We should have strong desires, not weak ones. We should be yearning every day, burning with desire, but for what God is intending to give us in the next world, yearning for it.
And so therefore yearning for heaven, homesick desirous to be there, look at Verse 16. "Instead they were longing for a better country.” Do you see that? Longing for it. The heavenly one. And this leads to as a result, a clear confession to this world that this world is not my home. You're confessing with your mouth, you're confessing with your lifestyle, with how you spend your money, how you spend your time. Are you spending like an alien. Clear confession that this world is not your home, but Heaven is and if you live like that then you will receive heaven as your portion. As I've been saying, Hebrews 11 is not extra credit Christianity. This is not for the super-duper Christians, this is what faith is. This is what justification by faith, this is the faith that justifies it, lives like this. Now, all of us can grow and develop, but this is what the faith that justifies is.
IV. Constantly Resisting Returning
And so we have to constantly as the patriarchs did, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we have to constantly resist returning back to the place we left. Verse 15, "If they'd been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return."
It's a constant pull to shrink back. Remember the very end of chapter 10. You can look there on the text if you want or just hear it, but the very end of chapter 10, which leads into Hebrews 11, this is why the author's writing Hebrews 11, the threat is shrinking back from Jesus. And so he says in 10:38, "my righteous one will live by faith…" Justified by faith. "My righteous one will live by faith and if He shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him, but we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed [that's hell] but of those who believe and are saved." We can't shrink back, we must go on. And so, you must live as an alien and a stranger constantly resisting the country you left.
Now you remember how Abraham, when he wanted to get a wife for his son, Isaac, got his servant ready and gave him some instructions concerning Isaac's potential wife. And so they're going back and forth, and at one point the servant asks a reasonable question. Servant is a bright guy, he really is and he says... Okay, so what we're trying to do is we're trying to convince a young woman to leave her father's household, and her home and come here and meet some man that she's never met and marry him and live with him forever.
Okay, what if she doesn't want to come? I mean suppose I meet someone nice and everything's fine, everything's in place, but she doesn't want to come or she liked at least meet Isaac first. And that's reasonable, isn't it? Can I come back and get Isaac and bring him back there? And you almost see elderly Abraham getting up out of his chair, no, no, don't bring him back there.
The God who has been my portion, my Shepherd, he will help you and he will enable that woman to come, He'll give her the faith to come but even if he does not, do not bring my son back there. And what's going on there? This is what the text is talking about. They had opportunity to return, but they didn't go back. You would not go, why is this important? Well, in every generation, there are apostates that turn away from Jesus and go back to the life of sin they originally left.
Peter talks about them in 2 Peter 2, he says, "A dog returns to its vomit, and a sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." I don't want to go back to vomit and mud, amen. That is wicked sinfulness, it's evil. I don't want to turn back to it but do you not feel the pull on your soul, because Satan's very good at making vomit and mud look very appealing. But I am not a dog and I'm not a pig, and I am not going to go back to my vomit and my mud, and neither will you, but you must fight so that you don't go back to the country that you left. Jesus said in Luke 9:62, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Don't begin plowing with me and then change your mind.
And he said even more pointedly with three unforgettable words, Luke 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife." Wow, you know Lot's wife, don't you remember what happened to her? The angel came and rescued Lot and his wife and two daughters, and he warned them do not look back at Sodom and Gomorrah. Don't look back. Well, she didn't want to leave. He didn't want to leave either, it was all they could do to get that family out of Sodom and Gomorrah. It's amazing how Sodom can wrap its tentacles around the heart of a godly man and he was godly. But Peter says he was a godly man, and he was grieved by the godless things he saw day after day. But still, it was hard to leave. And it was very hard for his wife. And as they're fleeing, at one point, just out of yearning and idolatry, she turned and looked back and instantly was turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus picks up on that and warns Christians don't do that, don't look back, don't look back at what you left. There's nothing there but destruction, don't yearn for the food you ate when you were a slave in Egypt.
Don't yearn to go back. And you have to be strong-minded to do this. Not only do you have to fight wicked lust, which you know are wicked and are assaulting your soul, but you have to be careful about lawful pleasures as well. Lawful affections, if they get in the way of serving Jesus. John Owen, put it this way,
"It is in the nature of faith to modify not only corrupt in sinfulness but our natural affections though in themselves innocent if they are not in any way, if there are in any way un-compliant with the duties of obedience to the commands of God, if they ever get in the way of what God's calling you to do. Our lives, parents, wives, children, houses, possessions, our country are the principal proper lawful objects of our natural affection. But when they stand in the way of God's commands, if there are hindrances to the doing or suffering of anything according to His will, faith mortifies and weakens them even to the point of comparatively hating them."
That's right. So we have to watch over the affections of our hearts, not only for wicked and evil things, but for those good things that God gives which may occasionally get in the way of serving God more fully. Alright, so that's the life of faith, that's how it is to live as an alien and a stranger. What do you get for that kind of life? It's a fight every step of the way.
V. Faith’s Reward #1: Esteem from God
What rewards will come to you? Well, there are three in the text. I want to mention briefly first, esteem from God. Esteem from God. That God would esteem you, that God would honor you, that God would praise you. Now let's put in the negative in Verse 16. It says "God is not ashamed to be called their God." Do you realize the weight of those words? It's put negatively, but it's making a positive assertion. In effect, it's saying here, God is pleased to be called their God and it's so amazing when God actually identifies himself that way. Think what he said in the flames of the burning bush. Who shall I say is sending. "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." How could the eternal infinite God, the God who is spirit, the God who dwells in unapproachable light, identify himself with flesh and blood and dust, sinful human beings, but he's not ashamed to do so. He is not ashamed to identify himself, I am Abraham's God, I am Isaac's God and I am Jacob's God.
Jesus said it in opposite sort of way in Mark 8:38, "If anyone is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation of him, will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in His Father's glory with his angels." I don't want Jesus ashamed of me. So I must not be ashamed of Him in this sinful generation. Amen? Let's speak His name. Let's speak Jesus's name, let's be bold in evangelism, let's reach out and not be ashamed to own the name, because He will not be ashamed to call you His. As a matter of fact, it says in Isaiah 49:16 that he has engraved your name in the palm of his hand. Isn't that incredible. And then in Revelation 22, in verse 4, it says, "His name will be on their foreheads." So there is the incredible unity of the soul with Almighty God. Our name engraved on his hand, His name written on our foreheads, and we are together.
VI. Faith’s Reward #2: A Heavenly City
Faith reward number two. How about a heavenly city. Amen? Amen. Look at verse 16, "Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." Now the city was already described earlier in verse 10, a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. God has laid the blueprints for it. God is building it. It says in verse 16, He has prepared a city for them. It is described beautifully in Revelation 21 and 22, this new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven as a bride beautifully prepared and dressed for her husband. Now for myself, I don't love cities. I'd rather see nature than urban. There are others of you that may disagree. I remember having a debate with somebody. I was on a mission trip in the Czech Republic, and they went on and on about how beautiful Prague was.
Well, I have to be honest, I'm not meaning to offend any American cities, but Prague is the most beautiful city I've ever seen with my eyes. At night time especially. There's this one bridge that goes across to this castle, and it's glowing and it just looks incredible, it's beautiful, really. And so I could never deny that human beings can make beautiful things. I just always felt that nature was more beautiful. But still in the scripture, cities have generally a negative connotation. The first city that was ever built, was built by Cain, the murderer, as he lived east of Eden and he built the city there and named it Enoch in honor of his son. Something creepy about that whole thing there. That's how cities started. After the flood there is Nimrod, this mighty hunter, who built Babel. And so the city of Babylon becomes a symbol of human wickedness and sin throughout all of scripture. But the city that God prepares is not so. It is a beautiful, holy, majestic place that defies language and description. We cannot describe it, it's so beautiful. And it says that God has prepared a city for us, and He has prepared a place for us at the table. In Jesus's Father's house there are many rooms, he's gone there to prepare a place for us.
And so, He's preparing the city and preparing a place, and the wedding banquet has been prepared. The oxen are fat and cattle had been butchered and everything is all prepared. And so, He is preparing a specific place for you. Remember how James and John wanted to sit at Jesus' right and his left. Remember that? And he said, "You don't know what you're asking. Can you drink the cup I'm going to drink?" "We can," they answered. "Well, you don't know that either but let me tell you, you will drink from my cup. But to sit at my right and my left is not for me to grant. Those places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." You see, God is preparing everything, and he's preparing it, I believe by the advance of the Gospel, by good works that we do, which God prepares, there's that word again, in advance for us to do. So God gets these good works ready for us to do and gets us ready to do the good works and as we do them, He is preparing this majestic city and the good works are flowing in and the city is rising to become a dwelling in which God lives by His spirit. How beautiful is that?
And God is preparing this glorious city, and meanwhile the bride, the city, the new Jerusalem, is preparing herself. In Revelation 19:7, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the wedding of the lamb has come and the bride has prepared herself." How beautiful is that?
VII. Faith’s Reward #3: A Heavenly Country
The third reward, the esteem of God is the first. A heavenly city is the second. And the third is a heavenly country. Look at verses 14 to 16. "People who say such things, show that they're looking for a country of their own. If they've been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one." Three times the word country is used. The word literally means home land. When you think of your home land don't you think of its beautiful sites and sounds and smells? Of the contour of the coast line and of the mountains and all that? Isn't it beautiful?
One of the great central themes of classic literature is a return home, like Homer's Odyssey, or Lord of the Rings. They just want to get back to the Shire. They're just trying to protect it from the evil that's encroaching. Or how about Apollo 13 the movie? And they're in a broken spaceship halfway between the Earth and the moon, and all they want to do is go home. And we're told from this text, we don't have a permanent home here. That doesn't mean we shouldn't want to go home. And so we have a home land waiting for us, we have a country that will be our very own. And now I bring you finally to a mystery. Maybe you haven't even noticed it, but I want to bring you to this mystery. All these people were still living by faith when they died, they did not receive the things promised. I want you to zero in on Abraham for a minute. Do you remember how in Genesis 13, God took Abraham through the land after Lot left him to go down to Sodom. He said, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. " Fast forward decades, decade, decade, decades, now he's on his deathbed. What happened to that promise? And this text tells us he died not getting it. Did God break his promise? What's going on with that? Oh no, he got something better. He got the ethereal heaven, the disembodied experience of being in the presence of God, absent from the body, present with the Lord. Stop. God made him a promise concerning the land. What happened to that promise? In Acts 7:5 Steven says, "He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground." That's how clear Stephen was on this. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. He died without a foot of that promised land. What happened?
Well, can I say to you, the promise is still outstanding and will be fulfilled. Let me tell you something about being a parent, if you ever promise your child something, you better do it. I had a chance to go ice skating with Jenny this week. What was that, six years ago I promised to take you ice skating? Six years. For six years she did not forget that promise. What is it with kids that remember promises and forget commands, how is that? I don't understand. That seems unfair to me as a parent. But they remember those promises, don't they? Has God broken his promise to Abraham? No, he just doesn't have it yet. Is he going to get the land? There's the mystery, the answer is absolutely.
He's going to get the land, the same land. But the mystery comes when you read about it in 2 Peter we're told that everything is going to melt in the heat, and all the elements are going to just be destroyed and everything will be laid bare. So, I believe for this very reason, for the text we're studying this morning, I believe in a resurrected earth similar to a resurrected body. I link the two together. The Earth will be resurrected and the body will be resurrected so it is that body that's resurrected. It is that Earth that is resurrected and Abraham will get his inheritance. And we, the children of Abraham who come under that promise, we'll get it too. And frankly, it's been expanded. He will get that land and the whole world besides, because in Romans chapter 4, it calls him the heir of the world.
So God can be even more generous than he was at that moment in Genesis 13. He'll give him that, and the rest of it too. And so the meek will inherit what? What will we get? The earth. So can I just urge you to kind of let it go now guys, just let it go. You're going to get it and it's going to be improved when you get it back. It's going to go through the fire and it's going to be resurrected and it's going to be perfect like your resurrection body, so let you go. Live like an alien and a stranger on earth. Trust in Jesus, the one who shed His blood on the cross for you. I don't know if you have been saved, I don't know if you're a guest here, a visitor, I don't know if you've ever trusted in Christ. I'm asking you to trust in Him right now. He shed His blood for sinners like you and me. If you trust in Him, He'll give you an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
And if you've already by faith received the promise of that inheritance, live like it. Spend your money like an alien and a stranger. Amen? Spend your time like an alien and a stranger. This world is not your home. Don't grieve over the things that come and go in life. They're going to come and go. Be happy in the promises of God and above all, please fight to be holy. Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers on earth to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul, and reach out with the Gospel to those who are lost, who are living like this world is all there is. Share with them so that they may come into that inheritance too. Close with me in prayer.