13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (NLT)
· What are some of the best memories of home you can conjure up?
o Today we’re gonna talk about the concept of going home: what it means, whether we want to do it, what stands in our way, etc.
· The idea today is for us—as the church—to remember where we came from.
o By God’s grace, we pray—and believe—that this church will grow.
§ Our boundaries will extend.
§ The shadow we cast over the community will stretch.
o Before we do that, though, it’s important to remember where we came from.
§ We know where we want to go: growth into a larger community of believers that glorifies Jesus Christ and brings as many souls to him as possible.
§ But, if that’s going to happen, we can’t forget where we’ve been—what our foundation is.
· We sang some songs that conjured in many of us (myself included) warm feelings of how our faith got started.
§ I want us to remember today, as a family, where we all want to go and how we’re going to get there.
· The book of Hebrews does just that.
o That’s sort of the point of the book.
o It’s written to Messianic (converted Xn) Jews as a reminder of where they’ve been, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there.
· 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (NLT)
· I think you’ll find that the message of Hebrews speaks right to where we are today.
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.
1. Still believing
a. NASB – “in faith”
i. Let’s define that. We mention faith so often up here, and we place so much importance on it. So, we need to define it and know exactly what it means.
ii. Some dismiss faith as “wishful thinking.”
iii. Some identify it with any religion’s beliefs and practices; i.e.: “the Muslim faith”
iv. Hebrews gives us a great example of the link between faith, hope, obedience, & endurance:
1. What it isn’t
a. Blind optimism
b. Manufactured “hope so” feeling
c. Believing “in spite” of evidence
d. These are all superstition; faith is not superstition:
i. a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
ii. a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
2. What it is
a. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. -- Heb 11:1
b. Dr. J. Oswald Sanders put it perfectly: “Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.”
c. Final step we take after we’ve followed all of the empirical evidence up the ladder
i. Rational thinking
1. These are never going to take us all the way to God—all the way up the ladder
2. They can get us close, so that we’re making an informed, educated decision
3. But the last step has to be faith that God is standing on the other side
a. Religion isn’t the only faculty that does this
b. Science admits there are things it can’t answer, but it also insists that those answers will never come from God:
i. “We don’t know what the answer is, but we know it’s not God.”
ii. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. -- Heb 11:3
d. Faith is not some “feeling” that we manufacture. It is our total response to what God has revealed in His Word.
i. Every example of faith cited in Hebrews 11 is based on the person’s response.
1. Faith is not simply belief.
2. It’s a response based off of belief.
a. “Because I believe, I will…”
3. Belief—by itself—is not faith.
a. Belief without actions/deeds is not true belief.
b. Actions/deeds are proof of faith.
i. Heb 11.4: Abel’s offering was his proof.
They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.
a. Pause for quick moment to say something about agreeing and getting along
b. The Bible does not say that we have to agree on all things at all times to be in God’s family
i. They agreed that—as a whole—this is not where they belong
1. “…They were foreigners and aliens…”
2. That’s it…nothing else
a. You may be a:
ii. Like Bill/Don’t like Bill, etc.
ii. You, I, the guy that sits next to you at church, we don’t have to agree on every point to share and show God’s love with each other
1. We can walk away in disagreement; agreeing to disagree
2. There’s no reason to get mean or nasty over small points of difference
a. “Come on, people now, smile on your brother…”
14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.
3. The Country They Came From
a. Remember the point of this whole letter:
i. It was written to converted (Messianic) Jews who were thinking about giving it all up
1. They were Jews who accepted Christ as their savior
2. However, Judaism had formal/legal recognition; Xnty did not
a. So, being Christian was illegal
b. Being a Jew was ok
c. If you were a Xn, you were persecuted
d. It looked a whole lot easier to go back to Judaism
i. You wouldn’t have the cops after you
ii. Going back to Judaism
1. The problem was, there was no Judaism to go back to
2. That system was abolished, so faith in it is useless
a. Faith is only as good as its object
b. From the crucifixion forward, Jesus has stood as the only legitimate object of faith
c. Going back to Judaism was like going back to an empty house
iii. The old country
1. The Jews that the writer is talking about could have gone back to Mesopotamia, but there was nothing there for them
a. That’s his imagery:
i. Not only is there nothing there, but something even better is waiting for just over that horizon
ii. If you go back, you’re never gonna get there
iv. Going back for you and me
1. What do you and I go back to?
2. What is the country where we came from?
a. What’s your old country?
b. It’s life before Christ
i. “BC Bill”
c. It is life before we knew Jesus
i. Going back to that is like going back to an empty house
ii. There’s nothing there for you
iii. Why would you want to go back?
1. Don’t go back
iv. Something even better is waiting just over that horizon
1. But, you’ll never get there if you turn around
v. Just over that horizon, is a better place, a heavenly homeland
16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland…
4. A Better Place
a. How many of us wouldn’t want a better place?
i. A better place to call home?
ii. For most of us, the very idea of ‘home’ conjures up some of our best memories
1. Not necessarily the home you’re living in now, but maybe the original home
a. With chicken on the stove, family pictures on the wall, playing in the yard with friends, sitting around a Christmas tree…
b. But, Home is more of a concept or an idea than a reality:
i. Even if you could, going back to that home now would probably provide somewhat of a disappointment
ii. In your mind, you’ve set everything just right
1. All of the pictures, smells, people, noises, etc. are right where they need to be
2. In reality, that’s not how it’d turn out
3. We long for the concept of Home
a. I’d wager to say, for the most of us: restoring that original home won’t happen on this side of heaven
i. There’d be buildings gone
ii. …people missing…
b. So, why does God allow us to have those feelings or desires if they are something we can’t achieve?
iii. We’re hardwired to long for the eternal
1. True Home is something we all want
2. The very core of who we are guides us to go there
3. We all want Home
b. And, I assume nothing would stand in our way if we truly thought we could get back home—to the original mom/dad, siblings, cousins and grandparents, warmth and joy, etc.
1. Who would mind the journey, when the road leads home?
2. When we know there’s a True Home waiting, who would mind taking the trip?