The Hope Of A Christian
by Peter Kek
Pastor Of Grace Reformed Church
Let me just read two verses from Genesis: “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Now, let us begin with a word of prayer.
“Our dear Father in heaven, indeed we are gathered this morning before Your throne of grace. We want to pray that You might help us, like Jacob, to be fully aware of Your presence in our midst, that there might be the sense of awe in us, even as we gather in this manner to worship You. We want to thank You that we are still able to gather in this manner to worship You, to draw near to You, and to hear Your Word. We want to thank You for the brethren in the Klang Valley. We also thank You for those from other places in from Malacca, from Rompin, from Singapore, from Johor Bahru, from Miri, and from places that are further away.
Lord, we know that it’s amazing thing that we are able to gather and worship You as Your people, and we continue to pray that You might indeed be merciful to us, to help us see that it is such a wonderful thing and a blessing that we one day would be able to gather again physically to worship You. And so, we pray that You might be pleased to soon remove the virus from our midst, or to provide a vaccine, that we might be able to go about our lives and to serve You.
We are conscious during this time of many missionaries who are away from home in foreign lands and serving you in this very difficult situation, where they are unable to travel and go about their activities, and we pray for them. And perhaps, all their families too, we remember particularly those that we know of. We remember brother Matt Glass, Andy Hamilton, we pray for Thomson, we pray for Chris and many others. Lord, we do pray that you might preserve them, watch over them in their ministry, and grant them success.
And now, as we come together to study Your Word, we pray once again for the help of the Holy Spirit to teach us, to open up our eyes to see Your wondrous truth, and also the humble our hearts- to be obedient to Your Word. Lord, help us as we now come to Your Word, for we pray and ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Alright, we are continuing our study of the letter to the Hebrews, just chapter 11. And as I mentioned from the outset that the theme of this chapter is about faith. We have look at the meaning of faith, and the importance of faith, and the proof of faith. So today, as we look at the next section of this chapter, I was wondering how to entitle this section. I was initially thinking of calling it “The Hope of Faith”, which I think this is what this passage that we are looking at is about. But, if I call this “The Hope of Faith”, maybe some of you might wonder what that actually means. So, I decided to give it a different title, and I entitled it as “The Hope of A Christian”. And that is what it means. The hope of faith means the hope of those who have faith, or the believers, or the Christians alright, so this is our subject matter this morning: the hope of a Christian.
So, I want to ask you this morning as we begin our study: Are you a Christian? If you are not, it is our constant plea that you consider this very seriously. If you are not a believer, why not? Can you not see as we study the Bible how important it is that we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation? Alright, so are you a Christian? Now then I want to ask: If you are a Christian, have you ever wondered what really are the benefits or the blessings of being a Christian? In other words, if you are a Christian, what is your hope? What do you hope to get for being a Christian?
Or we might put it in the form of Peter’s question in Matthew chapter 19 alright- Matthew 19:27, and here it says: Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So, that is the question that we are asking this morning: we have left all to follow Jesus. Have you not? And then, “therefore what shall we have?” So, what is your hope as a Christian? Now, we can actually know of people’s answers to that question, I mean, people who profess to be Christians. We can know of the answer to that question by thinking or by listening to the kind of questions they sometimes or perhaps often ask.
For example, you sometimes hear Christians asking questions like: “Why do I get cancer?”. I’m a Christian, I go to church faithfully, so why must this happen to me? Or people might say something like this: I’m a Christian, and so why didn’t I get the scholarship, or why am I still poor? Now, they wonder why being a Christian does not prevent them from mishap, from accident. Or being a Christian, why aren’t they enjoying all these benefit that they see other people are enjoying? In other words, many Christians get the impression that the chief blessing of being a Christian is the blessing of this life.
So I’m a Christian, and therefore, I should enjoy or receive the many benefits of this life. They think of the great hope or the great benefit of being a Christian as in terms of material things, in terms of earthly blessing. But what does the Bible say? What is the Bible’s answer to that question: “What is your hope as a Christian?” What do you do to Peter’s question here, and therefore, “What shall we have? We have given everything or left all to follow you!” So what do we get? So what does the Bible say in answer to that question?
So now, let me read our text this morning in Hebrews 11:13-16, and here it provides the answer. So, Hebrews 11, beginning in verse 13 it says: “ 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.”
And so, what does the Bible say in answer to that question: “What is the hope of the Christian”? What do we hope to get finally? Now, let us look at the answer along these three lines of thought. Number one, the hope of the Christian is not in this world. The hope of the Christian is not in this world. Look at verse 13 again. Verse 13, which says: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises”.
Now, this is like a tragedy. This is like telling people that if you become a Christian, you will not receive the promises. You will die, but not receiving the promises. Why? Now because the promises of God are not primarily for this world or not mainly about this world. Now that is not what God is promising. So, if you get the impression that that is what the gospel is promising you, that is what you will get as a Christian, it’s about this world, about the things of this world, then you are mistaken. And if it is not mainly of this world, then we ask: then what are the promises of the gospel? What is the gospel holding out to people? What are we telling people, that if you become a Christian, if you follow Jesus, if you believe in Jesus, what we are holding out to them, telling them that they will get?
Now, remember, Christianity is not a religion focused on the earth. It’s not focused on this life. Now listen to Paul in Colossians chapter 3, the first two verses. Colossians 3:1-2 says: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth”. How many times when you read the Bible you read these kinds of things, that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that we are to set our minds on things above, that we are to lay up our treasures in heaven?
Now you see, that is what the Christian religion is focused on: not on things on the earth. In fact, it never crossed the Apostle Paul’s mind that to be a Christian, man material prosperity. Never! Listen for example to what he said in 1 Corinthians 15:19. 1 Corinthians 15:19, and Paul wrote: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable”. If our hope is only in this world, then we are most pitiable.
So, Christianity is unashamedly otherworldly. Take note of that: Christianity is unashamedly otherworldly. We are not offering people the best of this life. The Apostle John when he wrote his letter in 1 John 2:15-17 underscore the same point here. And listen to what he wrote, First John 2, beginning in verse 15, he said: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
As you can see again, constantly in the Bible, the exaltation is not to be focused in this world. Do not love the world. Do not love the world, the Bible says. And so, Christianity as I say is unashamedly otherworldly. Otherworldly. Now, this confronts directly a materialistic and a kind of mindset that is so prevalent today, not just among the non-Christians but also among professing Christians. A very materialistic mindset. Now you see, people want a religion that says if you trust Jesus, you will be successful. If you become a Christian, you will be wealthy, and you’ll have no sickness. Or perhaps even, that if you become a Christian and trust in Jesus you will lose weight, or you will have no pimple and things like that.
You see people are so focused in this life. But the reality is this: the reality is, as we read in Hebrews chapter 11. Look at verses 37 to 39. Verses 37 to 39. The writer wrote about those who believed: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise”.
They didn’t get those earthly things. I say, the reality of following Jesus is that of a life of suffering. The reality of following Jesus is to carry the cross. Now that is the fact of the Christian life, right? So, the hope of the Christians, that’s our first point. The hope of the Christian is not in this world. That is not what we are looking for.
Now the second point in this passage is this, about the hope of faith or the hope of a Christian, is that the life of a Christian is a life of a stranger and pilgrim. So, this logically follows: if our hope is not in this world, then our life is that of a life of a stranger and a pilgrim. So, we see that again in verse 13, right, which says: “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.” That is how they see themselves. This is how we ought to see ourselves as follower of Jesus Christ, that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world. Why? Because our hope is not in this world.
Now notice the two terms or words used here to describe the believers, or the Old Testament saints describing themselves. Now the two words are strangers and pilgrims. They are similar, they are not exactly the same, but let us look at them in turn. See, there are two words, but they have three characteristics alright, so let us look at the two words.
First, stranger. Now stranger means that you are an alien, a foreigner. Sometimes we refer to the foreign workers. Sometimes even, you know, they may refer to some migrants in this country as they are aliens or foreigners, or in our national language, we call them “orang asing” alright, for these people you see, they don’t fit in, they don’t belong, they are not from here, they are not from this place. And therefore, they look different. They even talk differently. They have their own slang, and they have different tastes. If they come from Pakistan, they have the Pakistani’s taste, and elsewhere. So, they are very different: look different, talk differently, have different tastes, and they also think differently alright, and perhaps some, different value systems. So that is the meaning of stranger. They don’t belong, they are aliens.
Now the other word is pilgrim. Now a pilgrim is what we call a traveller, someone who moves from place to place. They are just a passing through alright, and maybe we can think of them like tourists, right? They are just passing through. So, they don’t live in houses, they will stay at hotels alright- in hotels, and they live out of their suitcases alright, so that is the picture here. And so, we see that the Bible uses these two words to describe the believer, to describe us. We are strangers, we don’t belong here, and we are pilgrims. We are only passing through in this world. Why? Because our hope is not in this world, somewhere else.
And using these two words, now we can see that there are three characteristics about strangers and pilgrims alright, and that’s why they are brought together to describe a follower of Jesus Christ. So, what are the three characteristics? Number one is that of impermanence alright- impermanence means that they’re here only temporarily. They are not permanent here alright, and therefore, they do not grow roots here. They are not entangled in the affairs of this place.
And that’s the reason why, you know when there are some local issues, you know, if there are these people who are here, whether they are foreigners or they are tourists, and then we have this Bersih movement alright- Bersih, Bersih, but you don’t find them going onto the street and shouting Bersih. Or if you are now in the US, and you are a tourist, and you see the “Black Lives Matter” marching on the street. But those are local businesses, right? Affairs. Or maybe joining the Trump rally alright, campaign and so on. But you see, you see yourself as an outsider, you keep a distant, there’s a sudden detachment. A certain detachment. Why? Because you are not permanent, you’re only temporarily in that place. So, that is the first characteristic of a stranger and pilgrim, and that should be a characteristic of a Christian.
Now the second characteristic is this, is that of purpose. They have a goal and a destination. Now you see these foreigners who come here and work, we call on foreign workers. They are very, very purposeful. They come here, they know why they are here, to find a job. Now I earn enough money and go home. So, that is their final destination, to go back. Now, so they have a purpose. Now so they live life with a certain goal in mind, they just do what they need to do. Now that ought to be true of a follower of Jesus Christ. We must know our purpose here. Why are we here? A sense of calling, sometimes we say, that I call us. We are here in this world, there’s a reason why God put us here, but we are here only temporarily.
And the third characteristic of stranger and pilgrim, which I have alluded to just now, is that of detachment. Detachment from the things and affairs of this world. They don’t grow roots deeply here and they don’t get entangled with affairs of this life. I believe that is what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, where he exhorted Timothy saying that “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one”, he says entangled “in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” So, we are soldiers. Now there is another terminology “pursuit”, which is similar to all these. Now you see, we need to understand who we are as a Christian. We are strangers, we are pilgrims, we do not get entangled with affairs of this life. We must live life with a certain detachment.
Therefore, for the Christian, it is no big deal if he does not become a millionaire. Everybody wants in this world, wants to become a millionaire. For a Christian, it’s no big deal. It’s no big deal if you are not rich. It is no big deal if you do not live in a big house, drive a big car. It is no big deal if you do not get your education or got a paper qualification. Now, these are the things people chase, the rat race. These are the things the world pursues, but not the Christian. But not the Christian. We live our life with that certain detachment, not entangled in the things of this life.
And so you see that the Christian, a Christian is controlled alright- his life is controlled by his hope. If your hope is in this world, that is how you live your life. But if your hope is in heaven, then you see you will live life differently. You will live life like the saints of old in the Old Testament as strangers and pilgrims in this world. And so, the hope of the Christian is that it’s not mainly in this world. And so the Christian live as strangers and pilgrims in this world.
That leads to the last and final point of this passage. It is really amazing if you look at verse 16, alright- verse 16 again, it says: “Now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country”. Now, this next line is striking right, it’s staggering. It says: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them”. Now listen to this striking phrase again. God is not ashamed to be called their God, and that’s why we read in the Old Testament, and we often read God being described as the God of Abraham. He is not ashamed to be identified with Abraham- “I’m the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.
Now, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10. Matthew 10:32-33. Matthew 10:32-33, which says: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven”. In other words, there is such a thing of as God being ashamed of us.
Sometimes we rid of people being ashamed of God. But have you ever asked that question: Is God proud of you, or is God ashamed of you? One day, Jesus will come again. When He comes, what will He say to you? The worst-case scenario would be that He will say to you: “Depart from me. Depart from me, you evildoers. I do not know you; I never knew you”. Or if you’re a believer, what do you want to hear Jesus say when you meet Him? Wouldn’t we want to hear Him say: “Good and faithful servant”? He’s proud of us, He receives us. I want to ask again, is God ashamed of you, or is He proud of you?
But for those who believe in Jesus, for these Old Testament saints, they all died in faith, and their hope is in the heavenly country, which says here they desire a better, and that is a heavenly country. And God says I’m proud of these people. I’m proud of them. I’m not ashamed of them. But why? Why was God not ashamed of them? Have you ever asked if God is not ashamed of you? What would be the reason? And the reason indicated in verse 16 is this: it is because they seek, it’s because of what they seek and desire. It is because of what they seek and desire.
What did they seek and desire above all things? Well, verse 16 says: “And now they desire a better”, and “that is, a heavenly country”, and God is proud of them. Why? Because they desire what God wants to give them because verse 16 says because that city is a city that God had prepared for them. So they desire a city that God had prepared for them. They desire the promises of God. They desire God. What are the promises of God? It is heaven, it’s eternal life through His Son. Best of all, the indescribable gift, and that is His Son Jesus Christ, as Paul tells us.
Do you love these things, or do we love the things of this world? Do we love the things of God, or do we love the things of this world? Do we seek first the kingdom of God, or do we desire what the other Gentiles seek? That is a question for Christians: How do we live our lives? What really characterizes us? What is the great distinction between us and our non-Christian neighbour? Now it must be this, it must be our hope that is different from theirs. It must be what we are seeking that is different from theirs. It must be what we desire. Do you have different desires?
So, let me ask again: what is your hope as you come to Jesus Christ and believe in Him? What will be your answer to Peter’s question: “We have left all and followed Thee”? So, what then do we get? What shall we get? What do you yearn for? And do you live like strangers and pilgrims in this world, realizing that you are only here for a while, that God has put you here for a purpose? But your goal, your purpose, your hope is above.
Now there was a popular song written actually by a popular singer, I think expresses this sentiment. And it goes something like this, some of you actually might know this song: “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger, traveling through this land of woe. There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger, in that bright land to which I go. I’m going there to see my Father; I’m going there no more to roam. I’m just going over Jordan, I’m just going over home.” I think that is what the Old Testament says saints were singing about, that we are only just a passing through; we are going home. And that is our hope.