The Pilgrim Perspective

Intro: Heb 11:8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. This is one of the most familiar events in the O.T. Abraham’s trek out of Ur was the beginning of a profound journey that is the backdrop for the rest of the OT and into the NT.

  • In view of our study this year, I could not help but notice that the writer of Hebrews says “he was called to go“. The original account in Genesis 12 does not use the word called, but simply says that Lord told him to “get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) But certainly this particular command was a calling in the biblical sense of the word. In Isaiah 51, the Lord points Israel back to its roots and reminds them that Abraham was the one he called, and from that calling came His blessing. Isa 51:2Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him.”
  • The word called is translated from the Greek word, Kaleo (kal-eh-o) which means to bid, invite, summons or command. But in the N.T. it often described more. It denoted a certain type of person –the called, those who were called by God and responded in obedience. These were the saints or Christians of the NT.
  • With that in mind I want to connect what the Bible says about the calling of Abraham (and the other patriarchs, with our calling as God’s people. To what was Abraham called?

I. Called to live in tents – Heb 11:9By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; The transition for Abraham and his family was more than just moving to a new place (that can be disruptive enough). His obedience introduced him to a completely new way of life. He left his house and began living in a tent. The point is that Abraham was called to be a pilgrim or a sojourner in a foreign land. Later in chapter 17 God promises Abraham to give “you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan”.

A. What is a pilgrim? What comes to your mind when you hear the word pilgrim? The Mayflower at Plymouth Rock? Thanksgiving decorations? Belt-buckle hats? Maybe even John Wayne?

1. The Greek word translated sojourner or pilgrim is “parepidemos (par-ep-id’-ay-mos); Literally means “an alien alongside, or a resident foreigner“. It denotes one who is living in a place that is not his home, among people that are not his people. A close synonym is used by Peter in 1 Peter 2:11strangers and pilgrims. This points not just to one who is passing through, but one who has taken up residence in a land of foreigners. But he is not settled in, so as to be a citizen or have a permanent house. He is living in a tent.

II. The Perspective of the Pilgrim: How does the Bible describe the perspective or outlook of the pilgrim? How does this apply to our lives as Christians today?

A. The Vulnerability of the Pilgrim: We notice that this state of pilgrimage extended beyond Abraham’s life, to include his son and grandson. It was a whole new way of life for them and their children. There were times when Abraham’s descendants were very vulnerable because they did not own land, and were not permanent residents. But God protected them in this very condition, and did not want them to seek protection through settling down with their neighbors. The life of a pilgrim is a journey of faith. My protection as a pilgrim of God in not in my constitutional rights as an American, but in the unwavering promises of God.

1. Embracing and Confessing… When did Abraham’s family come to grips with the reality of their calling to be sojourners? Later the Hebrew writer describes these patriarchs this way… Hebrews 11:13These 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.To live as a pilgrim means to embrace the promises of God as the basis of your life. We must accept the calling and live accordingly. We must not be ashamed to confess that we are not a home here. Be willing to suffer as an exile. In fact, everything about us should testify about our temporary status

B. The Non-conformity of the Pilgrim: This pilgrimage demands that we live in this world without becoming like it. Rom. 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The presence of objective truth makes our calling a matter of black and white – 2 Cor. 6:14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” Paul tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Gal. 1:4) The possessions and glory of this world threated us on every level, because they attack the nature of our calling, and take our eyes off the journey.

1. The tempting force that urges us to conform and settle in is sometimes called worldliness. But how do you identify it? It may be an act, (such as sexual promiscuity, vulgar speech, greed, etc.) but it is best understood as an attitude. It is a desire to be attached to the things of this world. It is wanting to do something that is sinful or selfish, whether we actually do them or not. It is wanting men’s praise, even if we never get it. (Quote John MacArthur, – “Worldliness is not so much what we do as what we want to do. It is not determined so much by what our actions are as by where our heart is. Some people do not commit certain sins only because they are afraid of the consequences, others because of what people will think, others from a sense of self-righteous satisfaction in resisting–all the while having a strong desire for these sins. It is the desire for sin that is the root of worldliness, and from which the believer is to be separated.) [Lottery fever – generated the debate again of whether it is sinful to play the lottery. (Not everything that involves chance is sinful; just entertainment, etc.) But what does the urge for instant riches say about who we are? Do you place it under your spiritual or worldly pursuits? Does it match your calling and pilgrimage, or is it just a part of the place where you live?]

2. The apostle John tells us that we cannot “love the world nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) To defeat worldliness we must grow spiritually to the point where we do not desire the world. The things of the world lose their attraction.

3. Peter describes this conflict as a spiritual war that characterizes the life of the pilgrim: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). The word abstain means “avoid” or “hold oneself completely back from.” By keeping themselves separate, the First Century church would maintain the purity and holiness of the Lord’s body. And in so doing, they would win over some who slandered them as evildoers.

C. The Patience of the Pilgrim: As a transient in a foreign land, Abraham had to be patient for God to deliver on His promise. He lived on the land, yet never possessed any of it (except for a small plot on which he buried his wife.) It must have been tempting for Abraham, and his sons to just give up on the promises of God and settle for just “homesteading rights”.

1. Abraham’s ability to wait was founded on the surety of his hope. His eyes were on the “city which has foundation, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10)

2. Only those who are truly heavenly minded will continue to obey God, and walk by faith, when it becomes hard and difficult. I do not apologize for believing in heaven. It is not just a pipe dream that makes me feel better when someone dies. Heaven is where I am going. It is the destination to the pilgrimage. It is what motivates us to go on, and keeps us from settling down here. Col.3:2-6“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

a. C.S. Lewis wrote… “Christians who make a difference in the world are the ones who think more of the next world”.

b. Even though this world is not our home, our purpose here is not to form a secluded colony somewhere or live in isolation in the woods. It is not to shut ourselves in a building and preach against the world outside. We can be in the world and still not be of the world. We are called to shine as light, savor as salt, be a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

Conclusion: What is the perspective of the pilgrim? It is the view from above, looking down. To see the world as God sees it, and to understand that this world is not all there is.But the perspective of the pilgrim is also from the earth looking up. It is to see God for who He is.

Consider the words of David as he directs the preparation for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. By the Spirit of God, David gave his son, Solomon, the plans for the Temple, and charged him to be obedient to all of God’s commandments (1 Chron. 28:9-12) He personally gave his gold and silver for the building and urged all Israel to follow his lead. They gave generously. What followed was one of the great doxologies of all the scriptures. David is overwhelmed in praise:

  • 1 Chron 29:10-16Therefore David blessed the Lord before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. 14 But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You. 15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope. 16 “O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own.

The secret to living as pilgrims on this earth to understand Who God is – He is the source of all that we have. Our days are just a shadow, and if he does not take care of us, we are without hope.

But God has provided, and will provide.