ABRAHAM, THE PILGRIM
Text: GENESIS 13:1-13
- First Peter 2:11 says, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
- Referring to the Old Testament patriarchs, Hebrews 11:13 says they, "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
- Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines a pilgrim as, "a wanderer; a traveler...In Scripture, one that has only a temporary residence on earth."
- According to Scripture, we Christians are strangers and pilgrims passing through this world on our way to heaven.
- David prayed, "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding" (I Chronicles 29:15).
- The hymnwriter said:
- While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh. -- Eliza E. Hewitt
- And another:
This world is not my home I'm just a-passing
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore. -- Albert E. Brumley
- The Lord Jesus is our perfect example, but after him, Abraham would be the best illustration of a pilgrim here in this world.
- Abraham's father Terah was an idolater. In Joshua 24:2, Joshua said to the people, "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham...and they served other gods."
- But God told Abraham to separate himself from all of his idolatrous family, and his idolatrous country (cf. Genesis 12:1-5). And then Abraham began his pilgrim journey, obeying God's call and following God's guidance.
I. ABRAHAM HAD HIS PRIORITIES RIGHT
- We see the word "rich" for the first time in Genesis 13:2. By all accounts, Abraham was very successful in this world, but God came first in his life (Genesis 13:2-4; cf. 12:8; 13:18).
- In Genesis 14 we read that Abraham's nephew Lot was captured by some heathens. Genesis 14:14 says, when Abram heard that his "brother" (brother's son) was taken captive, "he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan."
- Abraham had 318 men working for him, meaning he was very wealthy. But while Abraham had wealth, the wealth did not have him! Genesis 14:20 says Abraham tithed. Abraham put God first.
- William Borden was born into a very wealthy family in Chicago in 1887. He was saved under the ministry of the great pastor/evangelist RA Torrey, and he was baptized. As a high school graduation gift his parents gave him a trip around the world and it was during this trip that Borden developed a great interest in foreign missions, and he especially developed a burden for the Muslims of Northern China.
- When Borden left home to study at Yale University, he led other students in times of prayer and Scripture reading. The movement spread so much that 1,000 out of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in similar groups by the time Borden graduated.
- He also led Yale’s student missionary conference. And while a student, he founded the Yale Hope Rescue Mission, an organization that rescued drunks off the street and preached the Gospel to them.
- After graduating from Yale, and then after graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, Borden went to Egypt to study Arabic for preparation in preaching the Gospel to the Muslims of Northern China.
- William Borden died of cerebral meningitis at the age of 25. He gave $1 million of his family’s wealth to Moody Church (his home church), the China Inland Mission, and other Christians churches, schools, and ministries.
- In his Bible, he wrote the words, “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”
- When you leave this world -- whether it be at the age of 25 or 100, will you be able to say, “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets"?
- C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was an English missionary who served in China, India, and Africa. While serving in China, C.T. Studd turned twenty-five. Under his father's will, that is when he would inherit a large sum of money.
- Reading the Bible and praying, he felt convinced he should give his fortune away to missions to show the world that he relied not on money but on a living Lord. "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him," he argued. He gave away most of his inheritance, except for a nice amount to the woman he was about to marry as a wedding gift. But his bride was as dedicated to God as her husband, and she gave that sum away too.
- Eric Liddell, often called the "Flying Scotsman" after the record-braking locomotive, was born in 1902 in north China, the second son of Scottish missionaries. Liddell was an outstanding sportsman, and while at Oxford College he was well known for being the fastest runner in Scotland.
- The 1924 Summer Olympics were held in Paris. A devout Christian, Liddell refused to run on Sunday and was forced to withdraw from the 100-meter race, his best event. Liddell then trained for the 400 meter race. On the day of the Olympic 400 meter race, a man from the American Olympic Team slipped a piece of paper into his hand with a quotation from I Samuel 2:30, "Them that honour me I will honour."
- Liddell not only won his race, he broke the existing Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6 seconds. Liddell returned to Northern China to serve as a missionary. Occasionally he was asked if he ever regretted his decision to leave behind the fame and glory of athletics. Liddell responded, "I'm glad I'm at the work I'm engaged in now. A fellow's life counts for far more at this than the other."
- During WWII, the Japanese invaded China and Liddell was imprisoned at an internment camp. Liddell became a leader at the camp, and busied himself by helping the elderly, teaching Bible classes, arranging games, and teaching science to the children. One missionary who survived the camp later said, "Liddell was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm."
- Liddell died on February 21, 1945, five months before the camp was liberated. He left behind a wife and three daughters. According to a fellow missionary, Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender."
- Like Abraham, William Borden and CT Studd and Eric Liddell had their priorities right. Our Lord said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
II. ABRAHAM SEPARATED FROM THE WORLD (GEN. 12:4; 13:9).
- The Christian life is a life of separation. Second Corinthians 6:17 says, "'Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."
- Romans 16:17 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
- The separated life is a life of obedience and self-denial. It means walking the strait and narrow way, which leadeth unto life.
- We understand most of the traffic is going the other way, but we also understand what our Lord meant when He said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14).
- Young people especially need to listen to these warnings. First Corinthians 15:33 says, "Be not deceived: evil communications (bad companions) corrupt good manners."
- We must not only separate from worldly companions, but worldly amusements, and anything that would hinder our spiritual growth and our Christian testimony. J. Wilbur Chapman said, "Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult is wrong for me and as a Christian I must turn from it."
- In his book, Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan describes Christian pilgrims passing through the worldly town called "Vanity Fair." Bunyan writes, "First, the Pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools (I Cor. 4:9, 10)... Secondly, and as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other (I Cor. 2:7, 8). Thirdly...these pilgrims set very light by all their wares. They cared not so much as to look upon them."
- Bunyan's point was that this world is a big "Vanity Fair," and we are pilgrims just passing through. We are to be different from the worldly crowd. And we are to be separated from all of it.
- Unfortunately, Abraham's nephew Lot got caught up in the things of this world (Genesis 13:10-13), and that led to his downfall (cf. 14:12; 19:1, 14-38; II Peter 2:6-8).
- While Abraham walked by faith, Lot walked by sight.
- Abraham separated from the things of this world, and that was the secret to his power with God (cf. Genesis 13:5-9).
- The key word for Abraham is consecration; for Lot it is compromise.
- Abraham was generous, and he had no problem giving to Lot whatever Lot wanted (13:7-9).
- Abraham understood that all the cattle in this world, and all of the land, and everything this world has to offer, pales in comparison with our treasures in heaven.
- The Bible repeatedly warns of "the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in... and pleasures of this life" (Mark 4:19; Luke 8:14).
- Our Lord said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).
- And our Lord said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
- While we are considering this doctrine of separation, let me remind you Lot was a believer (albeit a very worldly and carnal believer).
- Second Peter 2:7 and 8 refer to Lot as a "just" and "righteous man." The Bible teaches that sometimes Christians must separate from worldly, carnal, and disobedient believers (cf. I Cor. 5:9-11; II Thess. 3:6, 11-15).
III. ABRAHAM KEPT HIS EYES HEAVENWARD (HEBREWS 11:8-10).
- John Bunyan said the pilgrims looked upward, "signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven."
- Hebrews 11:10 says Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
- One preacher put it this way: "Abram was generous and magnanimous; Lot greedy and worldly. Abram looked for a city whose builder and maker was God; Lot made his home in a city that was built by man and destroyed by God" (A.W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis).
- Abraham had no interest living in a wicked place like Sodom. Abraham kept looking heavenward.
- Like Elijah, who looked up, and behold, "there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire...and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (II Kings 2:11).
- The Christian life is a pilgrim life. The true Christian has a conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe heaven is real, and we believe hell is real.
- Like Abraham, we walk by faith and not by sight.
- We understand that life is lived by trust in the Word of God. The Bible says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3).
- Abraham walked by faith. Hebrews 11:8 says Abraham obeyed God, "and he went out, not knowing whither he went."
- This is the faith that moves mountains. This is the faith that pleases God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him."
- When we study the life of Abraham, we notice that he dwelled in tents (Gen. 12:8; 13:3, 18; 18:1, etc.). This tells us much about Abraham’s manner of life and his disposition of heart during his pilgrim journey in Canaan.
- While living in Canaan, Abraham always considered himself a pilgrim and a stranger.
- And beloved, while we live here in this wicked, sinful world we are pilgrims and strangers.
- To the sons of Heth, Abraham said, "I am a stranger and sojourner with you" (Gen. 23:4).
- To our worldly friends and neighbors we make the same declaration -- "We are strangers and sojourners with you. Our home is in heaven!"
- Philippians 3:20 says, "For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."
- Abraham dwelled in tents. He never owned a house. He bought a little cave to bury his wife Rachel, but he continued living in tents.
- A tent has no foundation, and a tent can be pitched or packed up on a short notice.
- Abraham was a pilgrim here in this world. He was just passing through without striking any roots into it.
- His tent life spoke of his separation from the world’s allurements, the world’s amusements, the world’s politics, the world’s friendships, the world’s religion, and everything this world has to offer.
- Hebrews 11:9, 10 says, "By faith (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles (tents)...For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
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