By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8
We discovered this week how to get teenagers to come to a morning service: Donuts! Well played Katie, well played.
Last week was Thanksgiving so we skipped a week of our “Faith” series. We pick up again this week with Hebrews 11:8-10, which introduces us to the faith of Abraham.
In Genesis 12 we learn that God came to Abraham (then called Abram) and told him to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” with the promise of future blessing. Abraham was seventy-five years old at the time, and childless. Seventy-five hardly seems to the time to set off on a new adventure in a land you’ve never seen, far away from those who can care for you in your old age. All Abraham had to go on was his encounter with God, and his faith in God’s promises.
Hebrews goes on to tell us that when he finally arrived in the promised land, he lived in tents. His posture in the land was as a “stranger in a foreign land.” Abraham was never “at home.” He left home, and became a stranger.
Why did he do it? Verse 10 tells us “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” He was OK living in a tent because he wanted to live in a city built by God. He was striving for an unseen (but permanent) city because he had faith in the unseen God.
For Abraham receive the blessings that come with the promises of God, he had to loosen his grip – he had to be willing to let go of the world he had always known in order to embrace the world God was offering him. He had to let go of his homeland. He had to let go of his security in old age. He had to let go of his family. He had to let go of familiar surroundings – all in order to grasp the blessings of God.
In order to follow Jesus, we need to unclench our fists. We need to be willing to let go of what we hold dear. (Keep in mind, this is a Talk Time for teenagers, adult readers might need to consider other things they might need to loosen their grip on).
We need to loosen our grip on Money. The rich you ruler came to Jesus (Luke 18:18-29) asking how to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer is shocking – sell all you have and give to the poor. The ruler was unwilling to do this, because he was very wealthy, and went away sad. Because he was unwilling to let go of his great wealth, he was unable to follow Jesus.
We need to loosen our grip on Social Status. Jesus regularly associated with the unwanted, the unclean, and the uncool. Those who feared man and not God and were always worried about what others thought about them, failed to follow Jesus.
We need to loosen our grip on our pursuit of Pleasure. The world offers all kinds of “pleasures” – drunkenness, pornography, crude humor, excessively violent movies, etc. God’s word calls us to flee from sexual immorality and have nothing to do with coarse joking. We are warned against drunkenness. 1 John 2:15-17 says “do not love the world or anything in the world… for everything in the world—the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
All this may sound like a loss, but it’s not. Abraham did not lose anything, other than temporal comfort, by living in tents in his old age. He, in fact, gained access to the city built by God. He gave up was temporary to gain what was permanent. In the words of Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to save what he cannot lose.”
Jesus tells a parable about kingdom of God in Matthew 18:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
It’s worth it to let go of everything to gain the kingdom of God.