Living for the promised future - extract from foundation module: Bible in Missional Perspective
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These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 1For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 1If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
The writer steps out of the story of Abraham and talks about people in general. Or perhaps he draws us into the story of Abraham. Here is the application. We are to live like foreigners and strangers on earth. This is not our home. Because we are heirs of Abraham’s promise, we are promised a city built by God with God at the centre.
Imagine I said to you: “You can live in a scruffy one-bedroom flat. Or I’m building a beautiful mansion with lots of cool features and a beautiful garden with a heated swimming pool. You can live in that instead if you want. But it’s not ready yet so you’ll have to live for a couple of months in a caravan.” Living in the caravan wouldn’t feel like a hardship. As you lived in the caravan you would just feel excited as you waited for your mansion home.
So it is for us. We live as foreigners in this world. It can feel a hostile place. We make sacrifices to serve Christ. Yet it needn’t feel like sacrifices when we remember that we’ll soon be living in a beautiful new home. We are looking forward to a better city that God has prepared, a better city with God at the centre.
No doubt there are many good things about the city (or town or region) where you live. But it’s also a broken city. Letting the promises of God shape your life means serving the brokenness of your city rather than avoiding it. It means making your goal in life, not passing your exams or pursuing your career or preparing for retirement, but bringing glory to Christ. It means shaping your life around a bigger vision to scatter communities of light across your city. Or it might mean going overseas to take the gospel to the lost.
Why would you do that!? Because we live for a city prepared by God! Because God is not ashamed to be called our God!
I’m not talking way out stuff for a few fanatics. There are many people that have made big, bold decisions to serve Christ because they do believe the promise, because they are living for a better city.
Can we believe the promise? Can we go on believing it when life is tough or the work is discouraging? Sometimes it can feel like we’re trying to believe the unbelievable.
The key question every time is: Who makes the promise? Can we trust the Promise-Maker? The answer is Yes.
1. We can trust his power
The promises seem amazing, unbelievable, out of this world. But they are promises made by God – the God who is full of power. At the end of his life, “[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead..” (Hebrews 11:19). The promises can seem too good to be true, but the Promise-Maker is the God who can raise the dead and who has raised the dead. We can trust his power. He can deliver.
2. We can trust his love
You may be thinking, “If I follow God, where will he lead me? What will he ask of me? What sacrifices will he expect?” I don’t know. But I do know we can trust his love.
Come back with me to the mountain. Isaac is on the altar. Abraham’s hand is raised above his son, his only son, his beloved son. Is this what God wants from us? Is this what we must do to please him? To appease him?
Abraham calls the mountain “The LORD will Provide” (Genesis 22:14). God himself will provide the sacrifice for sin. On Mount Moriah a father raises his hand against his son. But he doesn’t sacrifice him, because there is an alternative, because the LORD will provide.
Two thousand years later on that same mountain, which is now called Calvary, another Father raises his hand against his Son, his only Son, whom he loves. This time there is no alternative. There is no intervention. God the Father brings his hand of judgment down on his Son. We don’t sacrifice our children because God himself has sacrificed his own Son to pay the penalty of our rebellion. “The Lord will provide.” “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) We can trust his love.
So the big question is this: Do you consider him faithful who made the promise? This promise to Abraham, this promise to you, the promise of a better city, a better place than anything this world offers? Because if you do believe that God has a better place for you, it will turn your life upside down.
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