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God’s Word for You

Hebrews 11:13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 15, 2014

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

John Chrysostom (347-406 A.D.) said, “The whole of virtue is to be a stranger to this world and a sojourner, and to have nothing in common with things here, but to be separate from them” (Homily XXIV on Hebrews). The men and women in this chapter—the heroes and heroines of faith—did not see Christ, but only trusted he would come. They saw him “from a distance,” which can mean a physical distance, like the ten lepers standing apart from Jesus and calling out to him (Luke 17:12), or a whole universe apart, as God who is both close to us and far away (Jeremiah 23:23). The people of the Old Testament were sure Jesus would come, but never knew when it would happen. In that way, we are like them because we wait for Jesus to come again at the end of the world. We know it will happen and that Jesus will come again, but we don’t know when. Will it be in my lifetime? Perhaps not. But he will come.

The things promised are the blessings brought by Jesus: his atoning blood spilled on the cross, his perfect life standing in place for our imperfect lives, and his resurrection as the promise of what will come to us on the Last Day.

Until then, we stand apart from the world while we live in it. Let’s let the Holy Spirit teach us about this:

“Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3,4). We belong to a much greater world than the one we live in now.

“From now on those who mourn (should live) as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:30,31. Our true possession is heaven and everything in it; what we borrow for a moment or two here will not be something we carry with us there.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them (that is, unbelievers who mock us), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). Our point of view should be the same as Noah building the ark. We don’t need to worry about insults because we will be saved.

And also:

“Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” (James 4:4).

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

No passage in the Bible tells us to hate people, or to avoid sinners in our lives because they are sinners. After all, we ourselves are sinners. We should avoid false teachers and their teachings (Romans 16:17), but to everyone else we are used by God like good yeast in the bread dough (Luke 13:21). Our goal is to maintain and grow in our faith, and to carry the gospel to the world while we wait for our Savior to return.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.