A Better Possession

f4da16649da99747564d29661ca7fbc8Let me close with the words of Heb. 10:34. “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” The writer recalled how they suffered with other people of faith. They visited those in prison for their faith. They lost their property. But they joyfully accepted it. They knew that they had a better possession, a lasting one.

That is how people of faith view their earthly possessions. It’s okay for them to lose their earthly properties. They know that they will receive a better and eternal property.

To live by faith is to prioritize the things of heaven. You will not live according to the priorities of this earth.

Conclusion

Re-order your priorities according to the priorities of heaven. Re-focus your life from earthly things to heavenly things. Reform your life so that you will live according to the will of God.

A Heavenly Homeland, the City of God

In Heb.11:14, the writer calls the place of Abraham’s inheritance a “homeland.” “For 6014370307_3b5e15fa92_bpeople who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return” (Heb. 11:14-15). This homeland is not the land from which people of faith had gone out. It is not their physical homeland. Rather, it is their spiritual homeland.

He adds, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). This homeland is a “better country.” It is a “heavenly one.”

Then in v. 17, he calls it a “city” prepared by God. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son” (Heb. 11:17). Abraham was looking forward to this heavenly homeland, this better country, this heavenly city of God.

What is your favorite city in the world? I have two favorite cities—Bacolod City and Hong Kong. Bacolod City has wider streets vs. Cebu. Less traffic. Great food—chicken inasal, manokan, Calea cakes, Cansi, batchoy, etc. Great mountain spring resort—Mambukal Resort and new resort today—Campuestuhan.

Hong Kong is also a great city. Well-lighted streets. Fast trains. Comfortable subways. Easily accessible places at low cost. Great food. Great shopping—the very expensive and the very cheap. Disneyland. Ocean Park. Kowloon Park. Cheaper than Singapore.

But Hong Kong is nothing compared to the Heavenly City of God. If you walk by faith, you will have this attitude of looking forward to this heavenly city. You belong to this heavenly city. You are a permanent resident of this heavenly city. Paul said in Phil. 3: 19-20, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we wait a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

People of this world live by their belly. Their belly is their god. They worship their belly. Their belly gives them physical pleasure. They worship physical pleasure. Isn’t that a good description of this world? Worldly people live by their belly.

Worldly people set their minds on things of this world. But heavenly people set their minds on the things of heaven. You think according to the perspective of heaven. You stop thinking according to the worldview of this earth. You know that you belong in heaven. Your citizenship is in heaven.

Coming Up to the City of God

heb-12-22-23-but-you-have-come-forward-to-Mount-Zion-and-to-the-city-of-the-living-God-the-heavenly-Jerusalem...and-to-the-church-of-the-firstbornIn the Book of Revelation, the holy city, the new Jerusalem is pictured as coming down from heaven to the believers (Rev. 21:1-4). But in the Book of Hebrews, the believers are pictured as coming up to the city of God.

Heb. 12:22-24 reads,

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Abraham was looking forward to coming up to the city of God. He was not looking at a temporary tent but a permanent city. He was not looking at the earthly land, but a heavenly land.

That is the attitude of faith. Faith does not look at the things of the earth. Faith looks at the things of heaven. Faith does not look at the things that are temporal. Faith looks at the things that are eternal. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 4:17-18, “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (NKJV)

Abraham was looking forward to the city of God—to live in that eternal city.

Looking Forward to the City That Has Foundations

2206712-the-bedouins-tent-in-the-sahara-morocco“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9). Why was Abraham living in tents? Abraham lived in tents because he planned to move on. He did not plan to stay forever in the land. With a tent, you can transfer from place to place. Abraham lived in tents because he wanted to move on to another land—the city of God.

You ask, “Did he not inherit the promised land?” The answer is No. The martyr Stephen said No. Acts 7:5 reads, “Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child.” God gave Abraham “no inheritance” in the promised land. It was to be his possession. But it was not to be his inheritance. Abraham knew this.

That is why in v. 9, he lived as in a foreign land, living in tents. He knew that the promised land was not to be his inheritance. Rather, the city of God is to be his inheritance. In v. 10, the writer speaks of Abraham looking forward to the city of God. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). It is “the city that has foundations.” What does he mean by this? Well, a tent has no foundation. (Bengel in Ellingworth)

Near our office at IT Park, there is an ongoing project to build a building at the next block. I saw a large backhoe machine digging soil. Workers were laying large steel beams and steel rods. They were laying down a foundation before building a big building. Soon, they lay down concrete for the basement.

A tent has no foundations. But a city has foundations. You are temporary in a tent. But you are permanent in a city.

Thus, the writer may be speaking of permanence. Abraham is looking forward to living in a permanent place—the city of God, which is not on earth but in heaven.

Just Passing Through

indexAbraham went to live in the land of promise. “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9). Again, the emphasis is on the place of Abraham’s inheritance. But the place of Abraham’s inheritance is not the promised land. In v. 9, he lived “as in a foreign land, living in tents.” Abraham was not a permanent resident in the promised land. Rather, he was a resident alien, a foreigner. He was a temporary resident in the promised land.

    Children touring a retirement home were asked by a resident if they had any questions. “Yes,” one girl said. “How old are you?”

“I’m 98,” she replied proudly.

Clearly impressed, the child’s eyes grew wide with wonder. “Did you start at one?”[1]

Old people in the home for old people are perfect examples of temporary residents. They stay there temporarily. If you are a follower of Christ, you are a temporary resident in this earth. You are on temporary assignment on earth. You are a traveler just passing through. Peter said in 1 Pet. 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We are merely sojourners and exiles in this earth. This world is not our home. We are but travelers on the way to the city of God.

One of my favorite illustrations on our traveler status on earth is that of the Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim.

    An anonymous writer wrote about an American tourist’s visit to the 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. Astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?”

“Where is yours?” replied the rabbi.

“Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m a visitor here. I’m only passing through.”

“So am I,” said Hofetz Chaim.[2]

To live by faith is to see yourself as a temporary resident on earth. Don’t allow yourself to be tied down on this earth.

[1] Ruth Naylor, Reader’s Digest; “Old Age,” SermonIllustrations.com. Cited March 17, 2016. Online: http://www. sermonillustrations.com/a-z/o/old_ age.htm.

[2] “Just Passing Through,” Sermonsearch.com. March 17, 2016. Online: http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/ 4264/ just-passing-through/.

Knowing Your Inheritance

imagesDr. Fred Craddock and his wife were having dinner in a quiet little restaurant. A respectable old white-haired man approached their table. After greeting them, he told them his life story. He said that he was born out of wedlock. He didn’t have a father. His classmates in school would tease him and call him bad names. He would go off alone and avoid people. When people look at him, he felt like their eyes were burning a hole through him, wondering who his father was.

When he was 12 yrs. old, a new preacher came to his church. After worship, he went straight out the door. Then he felt a big hand on his shoulder. He looked up and saw the preacher looking right at him.

    “Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?” he asked. He felt this big weight coming down on him. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting him down. But as the preacher looked down at him, studying his face, he began to smile with a big smile of recognition.

“Wait a minute!” he said. “I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God. . . Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.”[1]

That old man was the former Governor of Tennessee, Ben Hooper. Abraham did not know where he was going (Heb. 11:8). But he knew what he was inheriting—the city of God.

That is the attitude of faith. You may not know where you are going. You don’t know all the details. You don’t know what will happen to you. But you know what you will inherit. You know what you will receive. You know that you will possess.

Peter said in 1 Pet. 1:3-4,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

We were born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. What is this living hope? It is the living hope of an inheritance in heaven. This inheritance is imperishable. It is not corruptible but enduring. This inheritance is undefiled. It is not tainted but pure. This inheritance is unfading. It is not fading but permanent. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

Abraham was going without knowing where to go. Some say that it is blind faith—to go where you don’t know. But it is not blind faith. Blind faith is based on nothing but faith. But Abraham’s faith was based on the faithfulness of God. Hebrews 11:11 reads, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” Sarah considered God as faithful who had promised. Abraham believed that God is a faithful God. That is the basis of Abraham’s faith. His faith is not faith in faith but faith in the faithfulness of God.

[1] Phil Willingham. Cited March 20, 2017. Online: https://www.facebook.com/phil.willingham.5/ posts/679162252115366.

Faith Looks Forward to a Heavenly City

lifelines-sermon-10-english-10-728We are now in Part 4 of my sermon series on the Attitudes of Faith in Heb. 11. By attitude, I mean a way of thinking, an outlook, or a point of view of a person. What was the way of thinking of people of faith?

We learn many attitudes of faith in Heb. 11. First, faith claims the future in the present. Second, faith sees the invisible things of God. Third, faith reveres God’s warning. Fourth, faith wants to do what God requires. Fifth, faith seeks to please God.

Today, we shall tackle the next attitude of faith in Abraham and Sarah.

The emphasis of the writer is not so much on Abraham’s obedience. Rather, it is on Abraham’s forward-looking attitude. Abraham was looking forward to going to the city of God.

The writer stresses the place that Abraham will receive as an inheritance. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). Abraham obeyed God’s call to go out to get to a place. When I first read this verse, I thought it is about faith that obeys. I was wrong. Actually, it is talking about faith that obeys the call to go to the place of inheritance.

The stress is on the place of inheritance as the context shows. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). This city of God is to be Abraham’s inheritance. Abraham was looking forward to obtain it. It is not the promised land of Israel. Rather, it is the city of God.