Abraham left his home and its idolatry in obedience. He chose to seek the City whose Builder and Maker is the Lord. Impossible and laughable things happened to him and to Sarah. His children became as the stars in the heavens. This man took heart and claimed the promise of Christ. (Hebrews 11:8-13)
Speaker(s): Thomas Schaller, Gary Groenewold
11:00 AM on 5/21/2023
P. Schaller –
Okay. You may be seated. We are the people. This is the place. Now is the time. Have you ever heard that before?
Yes. Dr. Stevens used to say that to us to encourage us in the faith. We are the people. What is
the next one? This is the place. Now is the time. So, we are the people. And this is the place. It
can be said around the world wherever Christ is. Where Christ is, two or three are gathered in
his name. We are the people. This is the place. Now is the time.
When we were in India and Nepal, one of the things that we noticed is that though the culture is
predominantly religious in Hinduism and also secular and traditional, we saw the work of God.
That happened in a way that was very similar to what happened with Abraham who was in a
family of idolatry. Abraham when he with his family lived in the Ur of the Chaldees, they were
idolaters. But something happened. That same thing that happened to him has also happened
By the way, I want to read from Timothy Keller who passed away on Friday. How many of you
are aware of his writings and his messages? I love them. I felt like he had a gift of wisdom and
insight, passion, humility, love. He was a pastor in Pennsylvania. God called him to New York
City, and planted a church of about 6,000 people. He was seeing real change happen in the
lives of people. Radical. Born again. New hearts. Just as Christ promised us.
It wasn’t Timothy Keller that did it. He that sows is nothing. He that waters and plants is nothing,
but it is what? God that gives the increase. We are honored also to be part of a ministry where
we can see the work of God happen in the lives and hearts of people.
One of the things he said and this will be the context for our Scripture. “Faith without some
doubts is like a human body without any antibodies.” Okay. I like to say it. I don’t know if I can
use this? Yeah, I think I can. Let’s change the color. So, there’s a coin and it’s a coin. Does that
look like a coin? Alright. You have faith on one side of the coin, and what’s on the other side?
Doubt. I like to think that faith and doubt are connected. That when I have faith, there needs to
be also the possibility of it not being true. I believe it but I have to say I question it.
When will there not be a need for faith? Heaven. It will all be very clear. There won’t be any
doubt. But in this life there is faith and also doubt. Okay. So, that’s healthy. He said it’s like a
body, a physical body. The physiology of the human body that has antibodies, and he says it this
way. “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why
they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of
tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” You know, I can go through life saying, I
believe, I believe, but when it comes to the real trouble, the real challenge, do I believe? Then,
then, then they don’t have what they need.
So, so hard questions and process life and to get
routed and grounded in my faith is very important in a time of a secular or in India a Hindu
culture or a Buddhist culture or a Communist culture or atheistic or in our culture a secular
By the way, I’m going to preach sometime on the secular world. How ridiculous it is. I’m very
happy to tell everybody how ridiculous it is. It isn’t just bad. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to live for
no resurrection, no God. Your mother who passed away, you’ll never see her again. Your little
baby that died, and you’ll never see that little baby. There is no heaven. There is no God. That is
ridiculous. It’s not only unbelief but it’s stupid. So, that day is coming when I’ll be able to say
some things about it. Okay. I want to get to our message here in a second.
To be rooted and grounded in our faith is a priority. Say that out loud. To be rooted and
grounded in your faith is a priority. Go ahead. Turn to your neighbor and say it. Don’t get
offended at P. Schaller or get offended. Come on. Grow up. Come on. Get rooted and grounded
in your faith is a priority. Okay. This is his quote. Timothy Keller said, “A person’s faith can
collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts
which shall only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts, not only their owns but their friends and neighbors. It’s no longer sufficient to hold
beliefs just because you inherited them.”
I could say I believe in God. I inherited that from my family. Or I believe in the gods, the Hindu
gods. The Hindu gods. And there are many of them. And they have – when you say believe in
Jesus they say sure. What does that God give me? Eternal life. Okay. I need that. I’ll take that.
But then I have a god for prosperity. Ganesh. I have other gods in my life. That’s the way people
can think about this. But our God is the only wise God. Our God is the one that is immortal,
immoveable, but one that is alive and overcame death. The one that is reality. Our God. Our
God. And we are not saying it arrogantly. We are saying it in humility and in grace and
brokenness to think that God has saved us. That God cares about us. That God teaches us and
leads us. Okay. I still haven’t finished the quotation yet. Alright.
“Only if you struggle long and hard with questions to your faith will you be able to provide the
grounds for your beliefs to skeptics including yourself that are plausible rather than ridiculous or
Let’s go to the text now for the message. It’s Hebrews 11. In Nepal, one of the messages – I have to
say that the anointing of God, and they prayed the whole week before we came for God to
move. I can say with P. Gary that there was just the will of God. We were just walking in God’s
will to minister there and they ministered to us. It was the Body, and there was rap after rap and
message after message which was so rich. And to you folks who are living here that we only
shared this boasting not in anything but the Lord and what we are all called to be part of. We are
very honored to relate to that.
One of the messages was being a first century – I mean a first generation Christian. I got this
thought years ago when a guy for Central Asia had a son. And he said to P. Mati, he said I was
in trouble in Uzbekistan and they asked me what religion are you and I said I’m a Christian.
They said, what was your father? What was your father? And he said, a Muslim. Then, they all
get very angry about it. Your father was a Muslim and you are a Christian? That’s not possible.
Because in those cultures, the tradition dictates to you your identity. So, if the tradition is you’re
always embracing the religion of your fathers, and you’re not allowed to depart from that. You
cannot. You cannot leave the Islamic faith.
In a similar way in Hinduism, your fathers are Hindus, and you are a Christian. That cannot be.
You are contradicting a rule of our society which is you are defined by tradition. This is your
place in life. You don’t leave it.
But in our Western world, we have more something from the inside out, which is I am what I am
and I decide what I am. And we also have seen how that has run amuck, as people are defining
themselves as a cat or a bowl of cornflakes! Who are you? A man or a woman? It’s like, guess.
I’m an astronaut from Mars. I am whatever I define for myself. And the tradition, it doesn’t
matter. So, in our world to believe in what you want to believe is like a normal thing, but in
traditional cultures it is contrary to that. There are things you cannot do.
So, when this brother in Central Asia said I am going to be happy when my son grows up, and
he’s asked the same question. My son is a Christian. When he’s asked, who is your father? He’ll
say, my father was a Christian. And he won’t have the same problem that I have. Do you follow
me on that? Do you get it? Okay. I say this because Abraham was from an idolatrous family, and
he had a calling. And he left. Chapter 11, we’re going to read from vs. 8-13 and take our time.
vs. 8. Abraham was living in what is today Kuwait. That area. Southern Iraq.
The Ur of the Chaldees. You can look it up. It’s there. The archaeologists have found the place where he came
from. If you follow water in the Middle East, water is gold in the Middle East. And water goes
from there the Tigris River and the Euphrates River and they go up into the mountains. You
follow that along to the southern part of Syria. Then down into Israel with the Jordan from the
mountains down into the Sea of Galilee. Down into the Jordan River down into the Dead Sea.
That’s called the Fertile Crescent. That’s where Abraham was moving. It’s about 800 miles of a
space of territory there. And he left home. And many of us know what that’s like. Not only did he leave his home, he left
his family. Actually, some of his family members moved with him. He had his nephew. He has
his father. His father died up there in Syria in that area. And then after his father died, he
dropped down in what is known as the Promised Land. It was inhabited by aborigine peoples,
like native peoples.
The Canaanite peoples and other tribes. Abraham was in a word a nobody.
He was a nobody. He had no army. He had no big group of people. He had a small family.
But that man was told by God and if you could put yourself in his shoes, you could see that
there was amazing challenges involved. He didn’t know where it would go. But same with the
first century – sorry – first generation Christians. Like my family for generations has been
Hindus. But I am hearing something. I am hearing something in my heart. I’m believing in
something. I’m looking for something.
And it says that Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. And if we could
break that down for a second. These cities are built by men. They have big granite stones at
their foundations. They have people building on people called civilization. Various societies of all
kinds. Big metropolitan ancient world. Big empires. The Babylonian Empire. The Greek Empire
and so on. But all of these cities have corruption. They all have murder. They all have adultery.
They all have stealing money. They all have pride. They have kings that are powerful, that
murder, kill, destroy. Maybe a king could be good and just. For sure there is somebody in his
government that is ambitious, egotistical, murderous like Cain killed Abel. Jesus Christ was
crucified. And so on.
But is there a city that is built on something else? Why did Abraham look for a city that was built
on something else? Because in a world, this world and the next world is only this far away. I like
to think of it as a thin membrane. A very thin membrane between this world and the next one. I
can see a world where it is better. It is much better. I can see a world where there is not death.
There are not cemetaries. There is not a prison. There is not a police station. There is not
Tylenol and medications and antibiotics. And there are not weapons. I can see – where did you
ever see that place? Well, maybe as a child I saw it. When I was on the swingset and my mom
loved me, and my dad was good and the birds were singing and I had a candy bar. I’m on the
swingset with my sisters and brothers and I’m happy. I just feel like yeah.
This is the way it is. This is talking to me. Maybe your childhood wasn’t that way, but you have been on a beach and
you saw something beautiful. Or you saw the birth of a child, and you go that child is precious.
That child should not die. That child should be like an angel. Who told you that? I don’t know. I
just have it in my heart. I believe this world is good, and it even could be better. I believe this
world is a good place, but I believe even God made it to talk to us and say to us, look. Come on.
Can you see beyond? Abraham did.
So, when Jesus came into the world he told us, basically told us man is not to die. Man is to live.
He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” I go to my
Father. I prepare a place for you. If it was not so, I would tell you in John 14. That’s what
happened to Abraham.
But the good news is it is still happening. They say, Abraham, you can’t leave home. You got to
stay here. We have our way and our tradition and our habits and we have our family and our
gods. We have our philosophy and our teaching and our people and everything. But somehow
Abraham pulled away, and it says he did it by faith. He just did it by faith.
In one of our meetings, I asked the people at the end of the message, I said, how many of you
are first generation Christians? And I mean hundreds of people stood up. They’re like Abraham.
They pulled away. That’s hard. They made a decision. Have you done that? Have you pulled
away somehow from your life? Have you been able to bring it to God? I got to say it doesn’t
matter where you are on the earth, there’s so many pulls. There’s so many anchors to this world. There’s so many reasons why I shouldn’t do it. It says Jesus said it. He said the seed that
is sown, the devil came and took it away. He also said the seed is sown. It grows up a little bit
but no roots and so it dies out. I think Abraham could have started out, but if he didn’t have
roots, he wouldn’t have continued. And of course, his story is that he did waiver. He did struggle
with it. He did have his problems of unbelief but he continued.
Go to vs. 9. If you never made a decision in following Christ, and somewhere along the road
never said am I crazy to do this, then maybe you are not doing it. You know. If you don’t along
the road, along the way run into some turbulence and somebody asks you a question and they
say to you, do you really believe Jesus is coming back on a white horse? Like Rev. 19 says.
You’re like, yeah! Like do I believe that? What about all these other religions? What about the
history of the human race? What do you think about it? I am processing it. I am looking about it,
but I’m going to live by faith believing God has answers for me. Do you believe that Jonah was
swallowed up in a big fish, and he lived in there for three days? I’m thinking about it. I’m working
on it. I’m believing. I have my doubts. I have questions. Do you believe that the Holy Scriptures,
the Bible, is the only holy book that is valid and all the other ancient writings are not inspired
and not from God. Yeah.
How did Abraham live? It says here in vs. 9, by faith. vs. 9. A foreign country. We won’t bother to
draw the map, but he dropped down into the Promised Land and it says in Genesis 13:15-18 that he
went into the east and west and the south and the north, and God said to him I’m giving him this
land. Now legally, how much of that land did he own? Zero. Except he bought a grave for his
wife, Sarah. But other than that, he owned none of the land. Did he militarily occupy the land?
No. Did he have any title deeds? Any documents? No. Did he have a government that was
governing the land? No. How can you say he had the land? Cause God gave him the land.
Now, let’s look at our lives. How much of this earth do we own? You got a third of an acre over in
Maybe you own a company, you know. Maybe you own a piece of property. Maybe
you own some here and there, but how much do you actually own? What do you really have?
Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the earth.” Our kingdom is not of
the world, right? Our kingdom is really a spiritual kingdom that is coming. And that this world is
going to change.
And in the same way that Abraham though he didn’t actually possess it, he had it by promise.
One illustration of this with us is the dead. Our parents are in the grave. They are in the
cemetaries. Have you seen anybody raised from the dead? Have you seen anybody with a
glorified body? Not yet. We haven’t seen it yet. Have you seen the Rapture? No I haven’t. Have
you gone to heaven yet? No, not yet. Have you seen the horse that Jesus is going to ride on
when he comes back? No, I haven’t seen it yet. How do you know? I live by promise. I live by
faith in what he has said.
So, Abraham walks through the land. There were two things that he didn’t have that people
generally want to have. #1 is a family. #2 is land. Abraham, where’s your family? Well, God
promised me a son. How old are you? When did he promise you that? When I was 75. Okay.
How old is your wife? About 65, about 10 years younger than me. Yeah, he promised me.
Where is it? What? Are you ridiculous? Are you out of your mind? You’re saying God’s given you
this whole territory in the north, south, east, west? Yes. I got two things by promise. Have you
seen them? No. Well, but it’s going to happen. He said it. He even brought me out and showed
me the stars, and said my people are going to be as the stars in number. Okay, Abraham. Just
take this medication and sit over there and calm down! We’re going to take you to the hospital in
a few minutes!
I don’t know. I don’t want to make fun of it. I want you to take it seriously, and think about it with
me. It is amazing. And when we were there and we were thinking about these people, these are
moutains. These are mountains not hills. These are Himalaya mountains. No electricity in many
of these villages. I mean the way they live, they are very tough people. Tribal people. Like they are so beautiful. They are so precious. They are very tough. They are amazing people. We
enjoyed it so much. They are tough. They are determined.
Some took buses for two days to get to be with us. Some crossed alpine rivers like flowing down
from the mountains. They walked for hours. Google it. The most dangerous roads in the world
are in Nepal. Winding down edges, down below are vehicles that have gone off the side of cliffs.
Amazing the way they live. Motorcycles for hours and days to be with us because they know it’s
real. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them. They are preaching the gospel. They have started off
like Abraham, and they are dwelling it says in vs. 9.
Dwelling in tabernacles Abraham was with Isaac and Jacob. This goes to the family. Bring it to your family. Talk about it at the dinner table. My son Justin told me, I talked with him one day. We were just chatting and he said, dad, do you
remember when I was little and you would always tell me something from the Bible? We were
playing baseball. We stop. I go, let me give you a proverb. I’ll tell you about Elijah. Just one
minute. Very short. A ride in the car talking. And I go, yeah. He goes, you know, those things
come back to my mind. It comes back to the mind. Like share the Bible with your family. Share
the promise with Isaac and your grandson, Jacob. Cause Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob they lived
in tents. They’re looking for a city that isn’t here. They’re looking for a country. It’s here, but it’s
more than just a natural thing. It’s by promise and it’s coming. So they did that.
vs. 10. You know, when I look at a big corporation, I think I said it earlier. I do think maybe
sometimes someone was killed in the building of the corporation. When you think of a
government, who made it to the top? I wonder if anybody was murdered or killed? Was there
any lie? Was there any stealing? Was there any slander? Was there any adultery? Was there
any betrayal? Yeah, I believe in all these cities, in all these big companies – I don’t want to say
all of them. I do not know, but it’s not a difficult to think that somebody went to prison that
shouldn’t have gone. That somebody was mistreated. That somebody was abused. I believe
these cities and the civilization that we are living in, and we are like sheep in the midst of
wolves. We are in a world that is evil. We are in a world that doesn’t care about you. We are in a
world that no man cares for my soul.
That’s why we came to Christ. We believe his world is better than this one. His world is not a
world of sin. It’s a world of righteousness. It’s a world of grace and truth that goes to the inner
man. When you find it on the inside, you go okay. I’m going to live like this. I might not get what I
want, but I’m going to get what God wants to give me. I might not have it my way, but I can learn
to be humble. I can learn to be submitted to God and wait for the reward to come later. Our
world is coming later. It’s not, our world is not in this one. Remember, Christ said it to Pilate. If
my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight. And we are not fighting. We are like
lambs that go to the slaughter. But our heavenly Father is the one taking care of us.
vs. 11. Now, how old did I say she was? Huh? He was 75 when he got the promise, but the
promise didn’t happen until he was how old? Ninety-nine. Ninety-nine years old. I believe he
was some where near 100 when Isaac was born. So nine months earlier with his wife who was
90 years old. Now, you don’t have to be a medical doctor to understand that that is absolutely a
crazy idea. How could that happen? And it says here it was extraordinary. vs. 11. How about did
they have a desire for sex? Did they have an appetite for sex at the age of 99 and 90? Did they
have to have a little talk? Did they have to like actually be built up in faith? Did they have to
actually believe that God is in this, that God wants to give us a son; and that this is absolutely,
ridiculously not going to happen.
I know that we think of this like in a child-like way in a Sunday school class or something. Just
say it quickly and that’s what happened; but think about it. I give them honor. I respect them for
their faith. I honor them in my heart, for they said that God would give us a son. And God
appeared to them in Genesis 18 with two angels that went on to Sodom and Gomorrah. But
Abraham stood before God, and God told them and now it’s time and now there is the grace of
God. Now they have the faith and they are believing God and it happens and the son is born.
What is the message in all of this? We are like this in this life. And you and I need to be rooted
and grounded in our faith, so that we also will make decisions. I’m really tired of the whole idea
of just living a normal life. I don’t want to just go through – and I’m not saying it like, like come
on. I just want to encourage you. I know you have a normal life. We got the beltway life.
Whatever you call it. 7-Eleven to stop for a package of crackers or something. We get our
paycheck. We go to the health club or however you live and your job and your family and
everything. If you are bored, you’re going to get in trouble.
But if you have a living faith, and you are built up in your faith and you’re able to look at this very thin membrane between us and God. It’s very, very thin. Christ is saying come boldly, and live and stir up and believe. Trust me and
walk by faith to the point where people will say you’re crazy. I got to hear that. Come on. Not you
but I need my neighbors to say to me you’re crazy. I go to church three times a week. You’re
crazy. I’m reading my Bible. I brought my neighbor here to the Easter play one time, and we
drove home in the car together. We’re driving through the city to go home and to bring him
home. He’s a sweet guy and I enjoyed it a lot. And he stopped during the trip and he goes, do
you think about God every day? You know. Every day? He’s like thinking. Woe! Really? You
think about God every day?
Do you know that the world that you and I are called to live in like Abraham is doing is to the
minds of some people crazy. And to us too sometimes. We also say did I really do that? Do I
really believe this? Am I really embracing this? It needs and it is like that. And that’s like why we
are here in this world. We are here in this world not to live like the world. We are here in this
world to follow God, and what he has to say to our hearts. Our hearts will burn within us
sometimes. Sometimes, it will really burn within us. We’ll go, it’s amazing. Other times, it’s not,
but we have hope. That’s all that I have is hope. Even I have doubt, but I have hope. I am
believing that there is a resurrection and there is a kingdom coming and there is a living Christ
and the Bible is true. I’m just living in that hope.
And then I got to be honest, other times it’s burning and it’s so clear to us. It’s like so clear. It’s
right there in front of us and we say, wow! And when other brothers and sisters are seeing it very
clearly, and we just jump in with them and say amen. It is amazing. We are thankful for it.
Let’s finish up here. vs. 12. I’m going to pass over the comment on this just because of time. vs.
13. They all died in faith like us. Timothy Keller passed away. What a man of God. I listen to him
and look at his books and read and think about his message. I’m just so thankful for the men
and women of God in history who have died in faith and have gone to be with Jesus Christ. We
are going there, too. I want you to die in faith. I like you to live your life and be prepared to meet
him like all of us are wanting. This is how it happened with Abraham.
vs. 13. So, there we have one phrase, “afar off.” I have here to see with the mind. They were
acquainted with by experience. They saw. He was able to see it, and in our experience you can
see God. There are times you sit down at the dinner table with your wife, and you just talk a little
bit and you both say, wow! We have seen God. We have seen him answer prayer. We have
seen God in our heart. We have seen God in life. We have seen God answer, and God help us.
God has protected us. God leads us. God guides us in the local assembly in our faith, in our
work in different ways.
Then it says they were persuaded of them. That word means to suffer one to be induced to
believe, to have faith in a thing, to be persuaded of a thing, to listen, to obey, to yield to, to
comply with, to have trust, confidence. To be confident. We are persuaded of them and embrace
Embrace means to draw to oneself. To receive joyfully, to welcome. Let’s say it. I just want to
finish. Thanks for being patient and listening well. I see them afar off. They’re over here, but I
am persuaded and then I embrace. I bring them to me. I embrace them like I hug. I bring them
to myself. These promises are in my heart. I embrace them. They were far away. Like I believe
in a kingdom, a heavenly city. I believe in a better world. I believe in a living God that cares
about us and loves us, and I want to bring it close to my heart and embrace it though others
cannot see it. You are embracing it. This is what he did with Isaac and Jacob. And they were
confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Amen.
Please enjoy these sermon notes from the messages preached at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. These notes are provided to aid in your study and understanding of the Word. Note that these notes do not represent complete, word-for-word transcriptions. Also, they may contain omissions as well as some errors in spelling and structure, etc., as we attempt to provide them as soon as possible. Our hope is that these notes serve as a way to help you search and connect with messages on related subjects and passages. Thank you for your interest in the ministry of Greater Grace.