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Living by Faith (Vol 38) - Abraham: The Reward of Faith

Sunday English Service - 12 MAY 19


Please turn with me to Hebrews chapter 11. Let me read to you from verse 13 to 16. These all 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. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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. 

We've been teaching from Hebrews chapter 11, teaching about living by faith. And when you come to this passage, you must remember that this passage belongs to the passage concerning Abraham, which is the longest passage from verse 8 to 19. And here, Abraham's faith is described in four stages, because we go through the same four stages of faith that Abraham went through. What the author is doing is, he’s trying to use Abraham as an example and a model for faith to encourage the Christians of that time in the first century. Because the first century Christians, these Christians they converted from a Hebrew background, that is, they converted from Judaism. They were Jews, then came to believe in Christ. But now, they're constantly tortured, taunted mentally, emotionally by people of that community, because they look at them and laugh at them saying, “You have believed in this Jesus who hung in between two thieves, almost naked in shame and you call Him your Lord. What happened to you? What's wrong with you? You left this grand old religion of so many years where Moses is our great leader, Abraham is our father. We had Aaron for high priest, and we have a great temple, we have the priesthood. We have the sacrifices; we have the wonderful covenant that God made with our forefathers. You left all of that and gone to this silly thing and believe in a man who almost hung there naked in shame and defeat, like a cursed one.” The cross stood for a curse.

So, some of the Christians were so discouraged, probably contemplating returning to Judaism, tempted, drawn by their old community. And the author, knowing the situation, wants to encourage them. His message is, he says, “Don't go back because you did not leave something grand and came to something worse. You came to something better than what you had before.” The word better is the most important word in the book of Hebrews. Better. The new covenant is better than the old covenant. Jesus is better than Moses. Jesus is better than Aaron. Jesus is better and greater than the angels. Jesus is a greater and better sacrifice than the animals, of bulls and goats sacrificed under the old covenant. This is the way the argument goes for the last 10 chapters. So, he's telling them, “Look, those were only shadows. Now you got the reality. This is what the entire Old Testament was speaking about. Why do you want to go back to that now the reality has come? Jesus has come. Therefore, don't go into it. Stay put, continue in your faith.” That's the message.

And I'm sure this message will be encouraging to Christians even today. It's a message about how to continue in the faith and continue to live for God and continue to be faithful to Him. So, he describes it in four stages, Abraham's faith. The first stage is the call of Abraham. Everybody knows about it, that God chose Abraham from a place where he did not know God. God appeared to him and called him. And this man left his home and his country, his people, and came and followed God because he totally believed in Him. Secondly, the life in the land which God showed him. There he learned two things: that God meets his needs, and that God will deliver his enemies into his hands. That God is not just a God who calls you to go somewhere. Not only a God who calls you to salvation, but He's able to meet every need on this earth, earthly needs.

Some people think these things are not there at all in our consideration of spiritual truth. That it's all about only forgiveness of sin and going to heaven when you die. No, God is very much interested in our earthly need. He shows to Abraham that He's interested in his welfare, in his life, that He's able to meet his needs, that He is able to even be with him as the enemies come against him and deliver his enemies in his hands and give him success in that way so that he can be in the place where God has taken him and fulfill God's purpose in his life. Even the second stage is something that we all go through. We learn that God meets our needs. We learn about the victories that God gives us in various situation. These are all experiences of faith, we must all undergo.

Thirdly, he experiences God as the God of the impossible. He is 99 and his wife is 90. God makes incredible promise. Incredible in the truest sense of the word. It's not just a promise of a son but it's much more than that. It's a promise of Jesus being born 2,000 years later, through this one son who’ll be born now. And promise of descendants like the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea, and the dust of the earth, because Gentiles, those who are not Abraham's children, will be brought in to the kingdom. They will all be brought in to Christ, through Christ, into the family of God and they will all become children of Abraham. In this way, Abraham and Sarah will become father and mother of many nations. Incredible promises that stretch to thousands of years literally. Unbelievable. Which man will believe this? Believe me, Abraham believed it. And God did the impossible, Isaac was born, and so on.

But then we have to go to the fourth stage but before the fourth stage he inserts these four verses that I just read to you. And these four verses he says some encouraging words about faith. First, he talks about the persevering faith, that means faith that will stand till the last, stand through all the tests and trials, and win against everything that comes against it. That's the quality of true faith. And now today, I want to talk about the reward of faith. That faith has a reward. God will bring to pass everything that He has said. He wants to put that in as he goes forward. And then he goes in next verse, verse 17, into the fourth stage of faith.

So, we're going to talk about the reward of faith. What will happen if you believe? If you dare to believe the promises of God, if you dare to believe the Word of God, if you will stand on the Word of God, when no one believes you believe, and everybody thinks you're crazy, you believe, what will happen? The world may laugh at you but you will have the last laugh because God will fulfill His promises in your life. This is what these four verses are all about.

Last week, we talked about how in verse 15 he says that they left a country and came and they would have had an opportunity to return if they had that country in their mind. But now they desire a better, verse 16 says, I want to deal with verse 16. Now they desire a better, they're not going back to what they left, but 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. I particularly want to talk about why God is not ashamed to be called their God. And everything else said in that verse has to do with that. If you understand this will understand that. It makes a tremendous statement that God is not ashamed to be called their God. Just think of that.

Turn to Exodus chapter 3. Because the author of the book of Hebrews has read the Old Testament, he knows that in so many places, God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is why he says, “He's not ashamed to be called their God.” Because he has read in the Old Testament many times that He's called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God Himself, calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob proudly. That's the name He goes by. I’ll read an example for you. Chapter 3 of Exodus and verse 6. And the background is the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses.

The God who appeared to our father Abraham appears now to Moses. Moses has this wonderful appearance, encounter with God. He is minding a few sheep there in the wilderness, and all of a sudden, he sees a bush burning. The bush is burning, but the bush is not burnt down. So, that is a miraculous site. It’s burning but it's not burning down. There is flame but nothing is happening to the bush. So, he draws near to see and God says, “Come near. Come here.” Then He speaks to him. He wonders who's speaking to him, and God introduces Himself like this. Moreover He said, verse 6, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This is just one incidence I've read,

a very remarkable incidence. When God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there are many others in the Old Testament.

But look at the circumstances in which God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These people went into Egypt well, as under Joseph, their father Jacob, 70 people in total of this family moved to Egypt because Joseph was a Prime Minister there. Gave them a good life. Pharaoh arranged for their accommodation. Gave them a whole wonderful area to live and do their work and so on. They flourished there. But later on, few years later, when that Pharaoh was gone, another Pharaoh came, things changed. People were jealous that these people are prospering. And they enslaved them, tortured them. Finally, they ended up losing all their rights, and doing slaves work there. In the lowest state and condition possible in human life, being a slave, demeaned tremendously, put down, trampled upon, considered as nothing.

Have you seen in this world how the world works? Consider a rich man, going down the street with his rich friend and all of a sudden, this guy, one of his relatives, who's not very rich, who's actually very poor, in a bad condition, comes down the road. Most probably, this guy will never stop and talk to him in front of his friend, and never introduce him as his relative. Because the world is like that. They're ashamed to identify with us in our failures. They're ashamed to identify with us when we are down. They don't want to even come near us, when you are down and out and you’ve lost everything. They don't want to have anything to do with is, they don't want to say he's my relative. That's the way the world is.

But this God who made the heaven and earth, the God who owns everything, the God who made a covenant with Abraham and called Abraham, comes to Moses searching for him and finds him in the wilderness. And he himself is in a very low condition. He's not in the palace anymore. He’s run away from his own country, fleeing for his life, hiding there, just minding some sheep. And total failure, feels dejected, and does not know what is going to happen in the future. Feels down and out. And God comes to him says, “I am the God of your father Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.” Look at the grace of God and the love of God. That's the kind of God our God is. You don't have to go looking for him. He's looking for you. When you're down and out, nobody wants to come looking for you but He's coming looking for you.

He has deliverance in His mind. He’s calling Moses to come and be a deliverer of His people. He says, “I've heard the cry. I want to deliver the people from the slavery and I want to take you to a land flowing with milk and honey, a large and a vast land. I’ve wonderful plans for you. I'm going to elevate you. I don't want to leave you down here. I want to take you and make something of you.” Reaches out in his love. The way He introduces Himself is amazing. “I'm the God of your father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” That's why a lot of people pray today saying God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I hope everybody that prays like that understands what it means, understands the impact of those words, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Why is God not ashamed of being known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Why is this God not ashamed to be called their God? There are two words in verse 16 that give us the idea of how to look at this and how to understand this. Why is God not ashamed to be called their God? There are two words there that give us the clue as to how to understand this. One word is therefore, the word therefore, may sound like a simple word but it means everything because the therefore connects you to everything that is said previously. Particularly from verse 13 onwards, ‘therefore’, God is not ashamed to be called their God.

So, we're going to talk about that. The ‘therefore’ refers to the previous things, and we’ve talked a lot about the previous things, but I'm going to make mention of them and explain a few things that I have not explained in the previous weeks. So, the ‘therefore’ refers to some of the things referred to in the previous verses. Then another word is the word ‘for’. For He has prepared a city for them. The word ‘for’ is also important word. Why? Because the word ‘for’ it's basically saying, “How do you know that God is not ashamed to be called their God?” For He has prepared a city for them. The answer is look at what God has prepared for these people. He has prepared a city for them. This is looking into the future. ‘Therefore’ is looking backward and says this is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. The word for is looking forward to what God has prepared, showing what God has prepared for them.

So, let's look at this ‘therefore’ and ‘for’ and understand why God is not ashamed to be called their God. The reason we should understand that is because God is interested in being called our God also. If you are a son of Abraham, if you by faith have become a child of Abraham, then God is not afraid to be called your God. God is on your side. Now, to be called their God, that phrase, I want to look at it first before we go to the ‘therefore’. To be called their God is the most interesting expression in the Greek they say. Without going too much into the Greek and meddling with it a lot, let me just say this, to be called their God, that expression, they say, it should be understood in this way. The idea is that of an additional name being added to the one which already which someone already has. The idea of adding an additional name to the name that one that already has. For example, a surname is added. We all understand what a surname is. Surname simply explains what family you belong to. It's usually the name of the father, and when a young woman gets married it’s the name of the husband and so on. The surname changes. The surname identifies who the father is, who is over them, who's protecting them, who's shielding them, who's providing for them, who's taking care of them, who has got them covered. That's what it means the surname.

Now, it says that God was not ashamed to be surnamed their God. God didn't mind being called the God of Abraham. He didn't mind being called the God of Isaac. He didn't mind being called the God of Jacob. I wish I could preach on each one of those. Each one of these is a big topic. Why He's proud to be called the God of Abraham, why He’s proud to be called the God of Isaac, what He did for them, why He’s proud to be called God of Jacob. That is another big subject. But the thing is, God doesn't mind being surnamed as the God of Abraham. He is known as the God of Abraham. See, when God appeared to him, I don't know how He appeared. He must have been an appearance like we see the appearance of God to Moses. Some remarkable way God must have appeared to him. We read that He appeared, but it does not tell us what happened actually. But something remarkable must have happened in that appearance so that Abraham leaves everything and comes and follows this God.

It must have been a tremendous encounter. But it must have been very difficult for God to explain who He is. I don't know how God explained Himself and introduced Himself. I can imagine Abraham wondering who this God is, because he's used to worshipping idols. His family were manufacturers of idols. That's what tradition says. So, he must have questioned, “What is this all about? What kind of God is He? For the first time I'm seeing a speaking God. A God who makes a miraculous appearance. What kind of a God is He? What do I call Him? What kind of a God is He?” God must have maybe explained to him, “I'm the God who created the heaven and earth.” The God of heaven and earth or something like that, He must have introduced Himself. I don't know what happened actually. But by the time Moses came along, God had a definite identity. God says, “Moses, I’m the God of your father Abraham.”

They've heard stories about Abraham, they've heard stories about Isaac. They've heard stories about the miraculous things that happened in the life of Jacob. They've heard all these legendary stories about how God provided, protected, saved, led and guided and blessed their forefathers They always talked about father Abraham, and so on. So, this must have been a remarkable thing when God came and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. That means, “You know who I am. You know what all I did. You know what a great miracle-working God I am. You know that I'm the God of the impossible.” Right in the midst of the most difficult time, and Moses was at his lowest point in life, and the people of Israel were slaves, God appears and says, “I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I'm here back again. I'm the God that called your forefather. I’m the God who met your forefathers’ needs. I am the God who delivered his enemies into the hands of your forefather. I am the God who made the impossible possible. I'm the God who gave your forefather a child when he was 99 and his wife was 90 years of age, I did the impossible. I'm back here. I'm alive and I want to help you.”

It must have been a lot more easier to introduce Himself to Moses. Moses immediately understood, “Oh, that God. Yeah, I've heard a lot about that God. My father Abraham's God, my father Isaac's God, my father Jacob’s God. Yeah, I know Him. I've heard He’s a good God. He's been great. He's been good. I've been wondering where He is all this time. We have forgotten what He did.” And Moses must have experienced something tremendous at that point when God introduced Him like this. All right.

Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God. ‘Therefore’ says, there are some reasons and what are the reasons? The first thing is their faith. These men, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all of them, their faith is the most remarkable character about them. Particularly about Abraham, his faith. The Bible says in verse 13, these all died in faith. That means that for example, Abraham left his country, left his people, everything, sacrificed everything, came because this God appeared to him, told him to come and lived in the place where he told him to live, never went back, never ever had a thought of returning back to his place, completely lived a devoted life, and did everything that God had told him. Lived the way He dictated. The whole life was about portraying to the world the life of faith. God told him to do certain things and he does it exactly.

And then he dies. And when he dies, the devil must have come and told him, “Look, you left your home, you left your country, you left your relatives, you left your people of your caste and your kind and came so far away for this new God that you had met. What did you get? You just got that little hole where your wife is buried. That's where they’re going to put your body also. That's the only thing you got in the land of Canaan. You have nothing else. Your God said this and that, He’ll give you seed like the stars in the sky, sands of the sea, dust of the earth, where is it? Your God said through you all the families of the earth will be blessed. Where is that blessing? Your God made incredible promises. See, He has not fulfilled it.”

But Abraham was an amazing man. Most of the promises that God gave Abraham were not to be fulfilled in his lifetime. Isaac was born in his lifetime, that part was fulfilled. But Jesus, the Seed coming through Abraham will be born 2,000 years later, how can Abraham live to see that? He never saw that? Through Jesus, many Gentiles will come and become Abraham's children. How can Abraham see that? He couldn't see that. He didn't see that. So, there are many things that God had promised that Abraham did not see in his lifetime. And the devil must have worked him over saying, “Oh, He disappointed you, He didn't do that.” But Abraham was such an amazing man of faith. He must have said, “I believe it. I have seen it at a distance. It may not be fulfilled today, these are things that are going to be fulfilled even though I have not touched it, I have not felt it, I have not seen it with these eyes, one day, I will see it fulfilled.” And he closes his eyes in faith. Believed God and came and began a new life and lived a whole life like that and closes his eyes in faith.

God liked it. He says, “Hey, I like to be called his God. I like this guy.” Some people live and die and close their eyes never believed in God, never went to church, never heard the word of God, never gave their life to Christ, never respected God, honored God. Never asked forgiveness from God. God, the giver of life, and every blessing in this world was disrespected, was kicked time and again in their life. They never turned to God and said, “Lord, I'm sorry. I turn to You, forgive me.” They never said, “I'm a sinner Lord, forgive me.” So many people walk arrogantly and proudly on this earth, as if they created everything. The air is their creation, the water is their creation, sun, moon and the stars are their creation, that they made everything. They are the master and the lord over everything. They walk around like they are the creators, and disrespect God with every action in this world and close their eyes. God does not want to be called their God. I bet He is ashamed of calling Himself their God.

But God looks at Abraham, a man who left everything and came and lived for God, and even though he did not see many of the promises realized, he believed in them and died in faith. God liked that man. He said, “I like to be called his God. Next time when you talk about Me, say, ‘He is the God of Abraham.’ His life shows what kind of a God I am. I like to be known as his God, because his life shows that I'm not a liar. His life shows that I am a true God, that I am a loving God. I never call anyone and leave them in the lurch. I never call anyone and do disservice to them. I never call anyone and disappoint them. That I am a promise-keeping God for now and forever. So, call me by that name. I'm the God of Abraham. Like to be called the God of Abraham.” God is not ashamed to be called their God.

Secondly, God is not ashamed to be called their God because they were people who were ready to wait for the fulfillment of the promises. They died in faith. They're a waiting people. They're ready to wait. Some people… everything, they have to touch and see and feel and give it to me. Instant sambar, instant rasam, instant buttermilk, everything instant. They think about it and they want it on the table. And they always say, “One bird in hand is better than two in the bush. Who wants two in the bush? You say it's 2 in the bush, there's 20 in the bush, 200 in the bush, who cares? I have nothing in my hand. One in my hand is better than two in the bush.” That's their philosophy of life. They live for the things that are seen. God dislikes such people. God likes people who say, “God, even if I didn't get even one bird in my hand, I believe the birds are better in Your hands. I may mess it up, I may kill it, I may lose it. Thank You, Lord, I believe that You got all the birds I need. Everything is in place. I trust You completely. You got everything under Your control. Everything is in Your hands. I thank You.” God says, “I like that guy. He trusts Me. He’s not like the guy who says, ‘One bird in hand is better than two in the bush.’” So, God is not ashamed to be called their God.

Thirdly, they were a far-seeing people. That means these people, it says here, verse 13, they died in faith not having received the promises, they’re willing to wait, but having seen them far off. I showed you. I explained that aspect to you, that they saw the promises of God afar off. God gave a revelation, opened the eyes of Abraham so that Jesus could say in His lifetime, “Abraham saw My day. He was glad to see My day and he rejoiced in it,” He says.

People were stunned, “How can Abraham have seen you?” The only way that Abraham saw Jesus… with a far sight. Even though he has never seen Him with these eyes, he has seen Him with faith’s eyes. He believed what God has said. And God opened the eyes of his understanding that he was able to see that the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, will be born through him as a descendant of him. He will be called the Seed of Abraham. He will be the originator of all the blessings of Abraham. In that Seed will all the blessings be. He saw it.

Abraham rejoiced in it. Not only saw it, but rejoiced in it. That means he saw Him bringing salvation, bringing answers. He saw Him healing, delivering. He saw Him blessing people. He saw Him helping people. He saw Him saving people from the clutches of Satan, delivering people. He saw Jesus. God showed him. God opened his eyes. Have you ever had a revelation of things? Do you know what it means to say, ‘the eyes of the understanding have been opened’? That you're able to see by faith what God has for you, and has done for you in the past, and what God has for you in the future? Have your eyes ever been opened to see the plan and the purpose of God for your life, to get a glimpse of what God has for you? I tell you, my friend, Abraham was a blessed man. He didn't live for just the things that he saw. In fact, the things that he saw didn't mean so much to him because the things that he saw at a distance by faith were far greater things. The city that he's going to live for all eternity with God was far better than any city here. There was a real Swachh Bharat there. That must have been wonderful city. Amazing cities. He saw what was there, therefore he was never attracted to this world. He lived in this world, but the world didn't matter too much because he has seen the glory.

Martin Luther King, the man who fought for the civil rights in America back in the 60s, somebody sent me a WhatsApp thing, I think it's gone viral everywhere. His speech the day before he died. I wish I had it to play for you. Amazing speech. I should have got it for you.

Wanted to memorize it, but I didn’t do it. But the thing is, he basically says, “I've seen the other side.” He says, I've seen the glory. I've seen the other side.” He says, “I’m going live long. Longevity has a place in life. It's good if you live long. But I've seen the other side.” That means he's saying, “I'd like to live long.” He's like, Paul. I'm torn between the two. Paul has had a similar vision, I think. He has seen the other side somehow. He says, “I'm torn between the two.” What two? To go or to stay. It was a problem. Paul says, “For me to leave and go and be there is better. But I would like to stay because of you. Because what will you do without me. I need to teach you. I need to develop you even more. I need to help you. I'd like to stay because of you. Otherwise, I'd like to go because that is far better than this.”

Many people have seen the other side. When you've seen the other side, you don't really mind going to the other side. The other side becomes very attractive. When the other side becomes very attractive, the beauty of this side diminishes, then you understand this side and this life in light of what you've seen on the other side. You look at everything with a perspective. You understand your work, your business, your money, your wealth and your talents, your gifts and your days and your years on this earth with that perspective. You're not looking at them in the wrong way. You can never use them in the wrong way. You can never misuse any resource that God has given to you if you've seen the other side. Every day will become precious to you. Every rupee will become precious to you. Every minute will become precious to you. Every gift and talent will become precious to you. You will never waste any of it. You will begin to use everything for God's glory to do what God has called you to do. Hello? Is it not right?

Get a vision of the other side. See the other side. See what God has planned and prepared for you. “They desire a better place,” he says. It’s a heavenly country. It changes your life here when you see the other side. The next day Martin Luther King was shot dead. The fact that he was shot dead is not good but to him, I bet it didn't matter because he just got through saying, “I've seen the other side, the glory. I've crossed over and seen it already,” he says. Amen. They were a far-seeing people and God liked them. He said, “I like to be called their God. I'm their God.”

Fourthly, they were a people who rejoiced in things unseen. Where does it say? It says they all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them far off, were assured of them, embraced them. Some translations say they believed them and embraced them. Actually, that part doesn't come in the original they say, that they believed and embraced. It simply says, they saw them afar off and embraced them. The translators they say inserted ‘they believed’ part, they say, just to make us understand because otherwise something will be missing there. So, anyway, it's all right. It's helpful. They believed and embraced them. How do you believe things and embrace things? What does it mean to embrace things? To embrace them means to press them to your bosom, to hug them from your heart, to love them in your very soul, to rejoice in the promises of God in thinking about what God has promised and said and what God has prepared. And it fills your heart with such joy and rejoicing and music, literally. Because you know that they are a reality. You are assured of it, you're so sure of it. You’re sure of the blessings that are promised. So, that's what embracing means.

The Psalmist says in Psalm 37 verse 4, that famous verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That ‘delighting’. See, that's what it's all about. What did he delight about? What was there to delight? He was delighting in the word of God. He was delighting in the promises of God. He’s delighting in the goodness of God. He’s delighting in what God has done for him and what God has promised He will do for him. He’s delighting in the promises of God. Do we have that experience? Do we delight? Do we rejoice? See, when we sing that's what is happening. You’re simply rejoicing, celebrating. You enjoy the songs and you sing with all your heart. Some people think we are crazy.

One fellow came here and just looked at and said, “Everybody sings here, don’t they?” He thinks we took some singing lessons and came; we’re singing here. Including me, none of us have taken singing lessons. We sing because there is a song in our heart. We sing because we love the Lord. We sing because we love the promises of God. We sing because we really believe. You see in places where the people really believe the promises of God, believe the word of God, believe in God, there'll be tremendous singing. They will sing because it comes from their heart. You cannot beat it out. You cannot simply say, “Clap your hands, stand up and sing and lift up your...” You don't have to do that. They'll sing because they're embracing by singing. They're literally hugging the truths, delighting in the promises of God. Amen.

Fifthly, they were a people that were never at home where they were. They didn't feel like this was their home. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims, it says in verse 13. After saying embraced them it says confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. I have taught a lot about strangers and pilgrims on the earth. But things keep coming to me because I grew up among strangers and pilgrims of Tamil Nadu. So, a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a stranger and pilgrim has really bothered me and really, has always damaged me. To get out of it, I suffered a lot. So, I try to help people. One of the things that strangers and pilgrim idea according to these people is that if you're a stranger and pilgrim as the Bible says that you must have nothing. You must be poor, going around with a rubber chappal. And have nothing, and everything in one little bag. Two sets of clothing only, one you wear, the other is hanging in the clothes line drying. You have nothing on, no possession on this earth, nothing. You have no house, no possession, nothing. You don't have a bike, you don't have a car, you don't have nothing. You can’t be sitting in an air-conditioned church like this because you're a pilgrim and a stranger. You don't want to enjoy these things in this life. In fact, you won't be sitting in a chair, I think because you're just a pilgrim and a stranger. You’re not supposed to have anything. This is the way it went on for many years that I know.

Pilgrim and stranger meant that you should have nothing in this world. Any Christian having anything in this world is a wrong kind of Christian. This is what has been taught. And I showed you how wrong it is. You cannot show me, not only Abraham, others say they are strangers and pilgrims in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Peter calls the entire church, you read the Epistle of Peter, he calls the entire church, addresses them, “You strangers and pilgrims.” He considers the entire church as strangers and pilgrims. You show me the saints Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which one was poor and had nothing. Not that kind of a stranger and pilgrim. They were called strangers and pilgrims. Why? Not because they didn't have anything. Even though they had anything, they considered themselves as a stranger and pilgrim because they know what they have today is not all that there is. This is something that God has given in this world. God blessed Abraham, made him rich and gave him everything for a purpose. And that purpose must be fulfilled. He must enjoy it, use it and do what God wants him to do with it. But he must never get attached to it. He must never live for it. He must never sell his heart to it. That's the kind of person who's a stranger and pilgrim. He has everything but still lives as a stranger. I showed you David also called himself as a stranger and pilgrim.

The stranger and pilgrim is a very important thing. What does it mean to be a stranger and pilgrim? Let's look at it a little more. It means that you're living in a society, but you are different. They take one good look at you and they say, “You're not from here, are you?” Because your language is different, your ways are different, your eating habits are different, your mannerisms are different, everything is different. They recognize immediately you are not from here. You are an alien, you are a foreigner, they recognize. That's the way a Christian ought to live. A Christian ought to live in such a way that there are things in this world that we get along with the world, we live right next to everybody, we work with them, we have friendship with them, we move with them, we cooperate with everything, and we do things in this world but there are certain junctions we come to in life. When we have to act on certain things, there it doesn't go well with us to act like them. So, we depart.

Let me give you a small example, very simple example. Two men were walking down the road. And behind the two men, these friends walking down the road, was a dog following them. Now, you wonder whose dog is this? Is it the man walking left or walking right? Whose dog is this? Well, don't have to worry, you don't have to get a prophet to come and prophesy whose dog this is. Don't have to have God reveal you all these things. You just wait until a four-way junction comes where one guy turns to the right, the other guy turns to the left to go to their house. Whoever this dog follows, that's who the owner of the dog is. Very simple. They part ways because this guy's home is here, the other guy’s home is the other way. Whoever is the owner, this dog is going to follow the owner because the dog knows its owner. I'm not saying we are dogs; I’m just saying. I couldn't come up with a better example. But it's very simple as that.

Who are you following? Where are you going? Where are you headed? Where is your home? Who do you belong to? Where is your identity? Who do you identify yourself with? See, when you come to the junctions of life where you have to make certain decisions, you cannot go with the rest of the world because you are a stranger and a pilgrim. That is where the stranger and pilgrim... Stranger and pilgrim is not the guy with a raggedy shirt. You're a stranger and pilgrim because you are different, and you behave totally different from the rest of the world. That's what a stranger and pilgrim is. Somehow, we departed from that and we emphasized the poverty part of it. We have magnified and glorified poverty beyond measure. It has damaged everything.

Now, let me say another thing also along with that because that goes along with that. I told you that none of the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, none of them were poor, none of them. But they were all strangers and pilgrims. They call themselves strangers and pilgrims. David a rich king who says that he has stored up wealth like gold and silver, that he could not even count. He had heaps of them. Tells his son, “Take and use it and build the temple for God.” He says, “I'm a stranger and pilgrim.” How come he is a stranger and pilgrim? He’s not poor. But he's a stranger and pilgrim because even though he had everything in this earth, God was his everything. These are things in this earth that God had given him to do what God has called him to do. God was his everything. All right.

Another thing that the stranger and pilgrim idea has led us into is a kind of a uselessness in this world for a lot of Christian people. I've seen families back in those days where they said, “Oh, don't worry about these studies. Jesus is coming soon. And, why you want to try so hard? Why you want to develop your business? Why do you want to develop your career and all that? Why you're interested in growing and going here and doing so much and trying so hard and all that? No, no, no. We are pilgrims and strangers. We are not from this world. We don't belong to this world.” So, we discouraged everybody that went to college. We’ve made them look like fools because they’ve gone to college. We were saying it's because we were so heavenly-minded. The fact is that we were so heavenly-minded that we were no earthly good. That's the problem.

We were useless people on this earth because we were so heavenly-minded. Jesus is coming today or tomorrow. So, we just attended all the meetings where they explained the 666 phenomenon, trying to figure out, “When is he coming?” So, all these prophets rose up and they say, “He’s coming next year.” One fellow came to me and told me in America when I was studying, he is coming thambi, he’s coming that year. I was planning to be here. I said, I'll be in India. I’ll come and see you that year. He lives in another town; I went to him. He’s a preacher. I went to him on that year. I’ve known him from the time I was very little. I said, “Uncle, what happened?” He said, “The calculation is wrong, thambi. I have got another calculation.” After he gave another calculation, having to wait another few years. But after all that he is now gone to heaven. And in heaven also, he doesn't know. Only God knows.

These are the things we were into. We became useless. In the guise of becoming heavenly-minded, we became no earthly good. We resigned from everything. We kept ourselves from developing our businesses, developing our skills, developing our talents and working on things. We hated success in this life because we were supposed to hate this world. Is that the right attitude to have? Take the example of Abraham, let's go biblically. Abraham lived in a society, the land that God had showed him. He left his country came to this place in Canaan land, living there where God had showed him. Lot moved to a nearby place in Sodom and Gomorrah. He was living there. Four kings came and invaded Sodom and Gomorrah, took everybody captive, and took all their wealth. Lot was very rich being with Abraham. Lot and family were also taken. Abraham hears the news and goes and takes 318 household servants and fights the kings and recovers everything that is lost and brings back. Ordinary man with 318 household servants fights four kings with their armies with God's grace and comes back.

The story is in chapter 14 of Genesis. Many people think of that story as something that happened because Lot was taken captive, Abraham was interested in delivering him, his relative, his brother's son. So, therefore he went to deliver Lot. That's how the thing... but if you read about it, you read the background of it, they say that these four kings were regular invaders of their neighboring territories. They were always constantly finding ways to capture other little kingdoms and little principalities, bringing them under control so that they pay them every month, every year, so much in gold, and so on. And they take people captive and make them slaves and so on. They're cruel kings, these four kings. It's their habit to invade. They're always planning next invasion. So, they have now finished Sodom and Gomorrah, the next thing they would have planned is the place where Abraham was living.

So, they say the story is this, that the people of the community in which Abraham was living was worried about an invasion from those guys. And Abraham told them, “Look, you don't have an army, you don't have protection. Don't worry, I got a God who's a great God. He will help me. I will take my household servants, fight this battle.” If it was a Tamil Nadu pilgrim stranger, he would have said, “Praise God, I think my chance to go to heaven has come. Pack my bags and be ready. God is going to take me home.” And when those four kings, they said, “Please take my neck brother because I'm coming home.”

Abraham was not willing to die because he's got some work on this earth. He's on a mission on this earth. Isaac must be born. Jesus must be born through Isaac, salvation must come. All these purposes are hanging on him. So, he rises and goes and takes the battle to himself with his household servants and fights and brings back. And look, just imagine the kind of respect he must have had from that society. He lived in that society, but lived as a fruitful, productive person, not as a useless person. Not going around in rubber chappals saying, “I’m just a pilgrim and a stranger. Just die, today or tomorrow, whenever Jesus comes, I'm going or whenever He's taking me, I'm going.”

He didn't live like that. He lived fruitful, productive life. Yeah, Jesus may come today or tomorrow. But until then, until the last moment, I'm asked to live a fruitful, productive life. Look at what the Christians who believe that they’re pilgrims and strangers have done in this world. They are the ones that built all these universities, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, all these universities that people take such pride about going studying there were all built by pilgrim people who call themselves pilgrim strangers. They said, “This world is not my home. My home is something that I'm looking to go to.” They're the ones that built all these hospitals, schools. That's the kind of missionaries that came and built all the hospitals, mission schools, and all of those things. Because they believed, “Yeah, I'm a pilgrim and a stranger but that doesn't mean that I be a pauper. That doesn't mean I be a useless person wasting my time. Simply attending Second Coming services. It means that I get to work and do what God has called me to do. I live a fruitful life, productive life, useful life, and be a blessing to this world because God has put me here to make an impact upon this culture, this civilization, this nation. I have a job to do. I'm here representing God here. Hello. That is the kind of Christians we ought to be today. All right.

Finally, the word for, let me just say it in one or two minutes and finish. For He has prepared a city for them. How do we know that God is not ashamed to be called their God? Because He has prepared a city for them. People say, “Well, they're all dead brother. What the use of preparing a city for them?” See, people don't understand. They think that is the end. They're all dead. How can a city be prepared for dead people? See, they were a group called Sadducees. There were Pharisees and Sadducees, remember in Jesus’ day? Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They didn't believe that there's going to be a resurrection in the end. They come to Jesus, heckle him with a lot of questions about resurrection, trying to corner him. And in Matthew's gospel chapter 22, I think, verse 31, and 32, Jesus says, “Have you not read?” Is His answer to their questions. He said, “Have you not read that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?” He said He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He’s referring to that. That God calls Himself by those names. Have you not read that God said that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? He's not the God of the dead, He is the God of the living.

You know what He's saying? Hey, you're saying they're dead? What's the use of preparing a city? But the news is, you don't know. They are not dead. They are alive in that city today. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all of them. Jesus said in the New Testament, that in the kingdom of God, people will come from the east and the west and sit at the table to dine with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are going to be one of the main hosts in that dinner, I think, in heaven. Jesus speaks of them as being in heaven. They're dead, but they're in heaven. He has prepared a city, they've entered that city, they live in that city. He says, “They're right there in that city.” Their body is buried in a place called [inaudible 01:01:40] Marcela. And one day, all the graves in this earth is going to be opened, when Jesus comes. And there is going to be a resurrection of the dead, all the dead. And at that time, even the body is going to be restored to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the rest of the people and be given to them a body that does not perish. A body that is incorruptible, that lives forever, will be given to them. Because already on the cross, the price has been paid for our body also.

That's why the Bible says when you see these things happen, lift up your eyes and see for your salvation draweth nigh. Salvation is near. Which salvation? We are already saved. The salvation of our body, the bodily redemption, is near. The completion of the salvation with the bodily redemption, where the body becomes an incorruptible body, is very close, very nearby, it's going to happen soon. Jesus is going to come, even a new body is going to be given to us. We’ll never die anymore. There will be no more crying, no more dying. We’re headed there.

That is why the Christian funerals are different. People wonder why we are singing. What is there to sing about? Well, we sing about these things. We sing when we all get together, what a day of rejoicing it will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory. We believe that. We believe that these things are going to take place. Just like Abraham, we have promises that are fulfilled here on this earth, there are promises yet to be fulfilled. And we know that it will be fulfilled. Some people say, “Well, the promises are not fulfilled.” You say He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they're dead and the promises are not fulfilled. No. God fulfilled the promise to Abraham when He was on this earth, the promise of Isaac, but all the rest of the promise cannot be fulfilled in his lifetime, it fulfilled later and Abraham sitting there is watching the Gentiles coming into the church calling Abraham their father.

He has realized, sitting there he’s rejoicing over this fact that God has made him the father of many nations, that people from every tongue, tribe, and people are coming here and they're receiving the blessing of Abraham, and they’ve become the children of Abraham by faith. Promise is being fulfilled; God is faithful. He’s the greatest promise-keeper, and He will keep it forever more. That will never end. The promises of God will always be kept. Amen? 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. So, he's saying, “Look at the city He has prepared for them, where they're living now. What God has planned in the resurrection of the dead, the restoration of their bodies to incorruptible bodies. What a life planned for all eternity. When you look at that, you can see that He's proud to call Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Amen.

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