Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:13-16 – How To Live In The World As A Temporary Resident

Grace For The Journey

Last Friday we learned five faith facts . . .

Faith works through imperfect people.

Faith means not having to know all the answers.

Faith is acting like God is telling the truth.

Faith is the means by which God does the impossible.

Faith helps us live in this fallen world, sojourning on as pilgrims living in temporary housing.

We learned those things largely from the lives of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham being the man referenced in the verse where we left off, verse 12: “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”  God worked through this imperfect person, Abraham, an especially imperfect husband to his wife Sarah. 

Abraham was a great man of faith, but he was an imperfect husband.  You will remember he lied about his wife Sarah’s being married to him.  However difficult some of the husbands in our church may be to their wives, I do not know a wife yet who has said, “My husband twice lied about our relationship to another!”  God works through imperfect people.  The writer here highlights Abraham’s faith in spite of his failures.  Today we will look at verses 13 through 16.  These verses alert us to the possibility that we could live in such a way that we would be ashamed to be called followers of God.  I pray today that we will learn how to live in such a way that we will not be ashamed to be called faith followers of God.  May God help us to that end for our good and for His glory through the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Digital 3D art was all the rage when it first came out in the 90s.  The way it worked was you look at all a mass of colorful dots and if you looked long enough, and in the right way, you can see a picture in the frame.  What looks like a mass of dotted confusion is actually a picture.  You have got to get your eyes right to see it.  When you do, it is like the light goes on and you smile and say, “Wow, I see it!”  If you have “eyes to see,” you can see a picture.  Not everyone can see it.  You have to see it by looking at it a certain way.

I thought of this when I read this text, because all of these people in Chapter 11 are people who look at things a certain way, living with eyes to see more than the world before them.  They have “eyes of faith,” seeing promises, as verse 13 says, “not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off they were assured of them.”

We will go through these four verses, my favorite passage in the whole chapter, and learn our way through them and then I will give three takeaways after we have studied them.

Verse 13 says, “These all(namely these in the previous verses 8-12, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob)died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  What does it mean that they “died in faith, not having received the promises?”  Abraham and Sarah were promised a beautiful land as an inheritance and innumerable descendants and yet all they had was Isaac when Sarah reached the time of their death.  They died in faith, not having received the promises, but they believed God’s promises, living as sojourners, travelers, and nomads moving from place to place through the land, never getting to see the Promised Land as a permanent home.  Yet, they embraced the promises, remaining faithful even to their death.

Here, then, is an example of living by faith.  Recall the definition of faith in verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Abraham and the others looked forward in faith.  So real was what they saw that you could say it was “substantial” and “evident.”  Faith is the substance of things hoped for or longed, the evidence of things not seen.  Though the eyes of faith, it is seen; seen with crystal clarity.  They could see the fulfillment of the promises and acted on them, acting as if God was indeed telling the truth.

And by their actions they lived out their certain faith, though they had not yet received the promises, they believed the promises, their lives thanking God for granting the substance of the promises to them. 

Remember that if gratitude is thanking God after He does it, then faith is thanking God before He does it.  To thank God before He does it means that we take God at His Word.  We believe His Word.  Remember the nobleman who had a son that needed healing and he took him to Jesus?  John 4:46-50 records what happened, “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.  When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’  The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’  So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” Take God at His Word.  Believe Him.  If you can do that, then you can thank God before He does it.

Abraham and Sarah took God at His Word.  As the writer says in verse 13 not only did they see the promises afar off, but “embraced them.”  The idea the writer is trying to get across with this phrase is, “having seen them and greeted them from afar,” as though Abraham could see all of his future descendants and could greet and welcome the promises as much as if he were greeting and welcoming each of his descendants by name!  He saw them.

They lived by faith,

Their very lives were

A “thank you note” to

God for His promises.

Verse 14 states “For those who say such things(confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth)declare plainly that they seek a homeland (their eyes are fixed upon their true homeland).  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.”  Abraham could have gone back to Haran if he wanted.  If all he was interested in was an earthly homeland, he could have re-traced his steps and gone back to Haran, back to his birthplace in Ur of the Chaldees in Greater Mesopotamia.

In fact history indicates that Abraham’s hometown was an advanced city in many ways, having much more to offer than miles of sand, dust, and dirt, and tents, Abraham’s temporary housing.  The writer seems to be encouraging the Hebrew Christians here that, no matter how difficult it may be on their journey in Christ, it will lead to a far better place than the life from which they left.  In fact, he says in verse 16, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

By implication it seems that God is ashamed of some people, people who do not desire a better, heavenly country.  As we saw last Friday from verse 10: Abraham “waited for (or looked forward to) the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

I want to build on these truths by sharing . . .

How To Live In The World As A Temporary Resident

Three ways . . .

1) Let The “Hereafter” Shape What You Are “After Here.”

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then the Gospel assures you that you are headed to that “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

However many years you live here will be a short time when compared to eternity.  The Bible teaches that Christians either receive rewards or lose rewards based upon how they live as followers of Jesus.  This is not earning our salvation.  No one can earn his way to the kingdom.  We enter into the kingdom of God as those who receive freely the water of life from Christ Jesus.  We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.  But once we are saved, we live our lives for Jesus.  And we will receive or lose rewards in heaven based upon our faithfulness.  2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Let the “hereafter” shape what you

Are “after here” in this fallen world.

Do not fall in love with this world.

Here is evidence of God’s grace at work within our hearts . . .

That we are not too comfortable in this world.

As long as we are alive we live as temporary residents living in temporary housing.  Do not play the fool’s game of living for “the here.”  Do not live for your job, your career, nor even your family.  These are important things – it is not like we are supposed to be hermits in this world. 

The point is not to love these things

More than Christ and not to clutch

To them as though our identity

Is wrapped up in this world.

We are sojourners, pilgrims, and temporary residents living in temporary housing.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do not fall in love with this world.  Remember the warning of Jesus when, in speaking of the judgment to come said, “Remember Lot’s wife!”  It was Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis who looked back longingly to the land of Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).  Do not fall in love with the world.  Let the “hereafter” shape what you are “after here.”  Spend time in God’s Word each day, read Hebrews 11 each day this week.  Ask God to speak to you as you read His Word.  There is light in the Word of God, light to shine in the darkness of this world.

I am afraid some of us may prefer the light of our TV or cell phones to the light of Christ.  We bask in the light of phones and screens instead of living in the true light of Jesus.  Let the “here after” shape what you’re “after here.” 

Secondly . . .

2) See Beyond Your Present Circumstances.

Remember that however bad it is here it will all be better there.  No matter the trials and battles you have here, they will all be forgotten there.  God is working through all of our present circumstances – good and bad – to make us more like Jesus Christ.  This is the point of Romans 8:28-29.  In His children, in Christians, God works all things together for the good of conforming us to Christlikeness.

This is largely where the writer is headed after he mentions all these folks in chapter 11 who lived by faith.  He will say in chapter 12, “Therefore we also, since we are surround by so great a cloud of witnesses … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross …”  Then in verses 3 and 4 he concludes, “For consider Him (Jesus) who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you also become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”  In other words, it has not killed you yet, has it?!  Your battles and struggles in this world, like your struggle against sin?  See beyond your present circumstances.  Look to the joy set before you.  Remember that however bad it becomes here, it will all be better there

Finally . . .

3) Keep Your Eyes On Jesus . . . Be Captivated By Christ

Abraham looked forward by faith, keeping His eye on the city which has foundations.  He knew, as verse 16 concludes, that God “had prepared a city” for him.  Jesus commends Abraham in a way that is even more praiseworthy.  Jesus said that Abraham could even see the coming of the Messiah, the coming of Christ.    Remember when the unbelieving Jews were arguing with Jesus in John 8?  They spoke of their father Abraham and his greatness.  And Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”  Even Abraham had spiritual eyesight to look beyond his present circumstances and could see by faith the fulfillment of the promises of a coming Savior. 

You are either living with your eyes on Jesus or your eyes somewhere else.  Some of you have got your eyes on the passing pleasures of sin, on pornography, on recreational drug use or alcohol, on bad relationships, on your money, on your investments, and on your stuff. 

Get your eyes off of sin and self and follow Jesus.

God created you to joy in Christ, to joy in Jesus, the Savior, the way, the truth, and the life!  You can have life abundant and eternal in Jesus Christ. 

Never forget you are a temporary resident here.  This world is fading away.  One day it will be completely remade.  One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  One day there will be, as Revelation 21 teaches, a new city, an eternal city where Christians will live forever and ever.  We sojourn on until we reach that city.

All week-end long I have had this song playing in my head, “Sweet Beulah Land,” do you know that hymn?  It was written by Squire Parsons.  The Gaither Vocal Band sings it often.  It is a song about sojourning on or traveling on through this temporary world, looking for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.  Beulah Land is mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah as the place God’s people will go to once they are freed from Babylonian exile (Isaiah 62:4).  They once were “forsaken” but now they are “married (Beulah).”

In John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan describes Beulah Land as a beautiful and peaceful place where sojourning pilgrims await entrance into the Celestial city.

The song goes:

I’m kind of homesick for a country

To which I’ve never been before.

No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

For time won’t matter anymore.

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you

And some day on thee I’ll stand

There my home shall be eternal

Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land

I’m looking now, just across the river

To where my faith, shall end in sight 

There’s just a few more days to labor.

Then I will take my heavenly flight.

We sojourn on until we reach that city, letting the “hereafter” shape what we are “after here,” seeing beyond our present circumstances, keeping our eyes on Jesus; being captivated by Christ.

You know how you are able to see the image in this digital 3D art?  Rather than looking at it, try to look through it, like looking through a window.  Looking beyond the mass of dots one is was able to see the image out there, ahead, and able to see depth and dimension.  It is seen by looking beyond the confusion.  Look beyond your present circumstances, like through a window, see the City up ahead.   See the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Christ.  See beyond the confusion and see Christ.

Every single one of us is either following Jesus or we are following something or someone else.  We are either living for the Lord or living for the world.  Take your eyes off sin, take your eyes off your circumstances, and look to Christ.  

Some of you need to be saved today.  Turn from sin in repentance and take hold of Jesus.  Maybe you are wondering, “How exactly do I do that? “  The Bible teaches that we simply have to be aware and admit that we are sinner and that we cannot save ourselves.  It is not our self-worth or self-efforts that make us acceptable to God.  It is His grace that gives us the gift of redemption and eternal life.  Then, accept what Jesus has done for you, in your place, and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.  Or maybe you  have more questions about spiritual things.  Do not get hung up on the “whys” and “wherefores.”  It is not answers that you need, it atonement for your sins.   One we settle that issue, the Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth that will help us through everything we cannot understand or figure out and help us keep our focus on Jesus and Him alone.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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