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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. – Hebrews 11:14-15

lots-wife-pillar-of-saltThese who we have studied, who have died in faith assured of the promises but having not received them in this life, these declare plainly that they seek a homeland. They understood that they were in this world but not of it. This world was not their home.

Do we feel the same way? Is this world where we are comfortable? Is this world our home? Is this world were we want to be and stay and abide? Or do we, like these men and women of faith, understand from the Word of God that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and just pilgrims passing through on this earth?

Lots of questions, I know, but they serve to make a point. Where is our heart and where are our priorities? Are we consumed with comfort and ease, peace and quiet? Too often when believers grow weary of this world instead of seeing themselves as ambassadors for Christ they withdraw and become secluded. They surround themselves in a “Christian” bubble. Their whole life is church and Christian fellowship,  but there is no witness to the lost, no burden to impact the world, no desire for the salvation of souls or at least no desire strong enough to motivate us to go and witness and bear being uncomfortable as we confront the darkness with the light.

Too many people in too many churches have gotten too comfortable. They have grown apathetic with their freedom, go to church only when they feel like it, and neglect living a life of being salt and light where it is needed. Too many fail to count the cost of following Jesus and of being a disciple and obeying their Master out of love for Him.

These we have studied in Hebrews 11 knew that there were not of this world and they had every opportunity to remember where they had come from and what the journey had cost them. The Bible says that they could have recalled the land from which they came and that then they would have had an opportunity to return there. Think of Abraham leaving Ur and traveling to a place he did not even know he was going. Think of the children of Israel as they left Egypt behind. And here is our prime example. Let us spend a moment and contrast those in this chapter and those who left Egypt with Moses.

Abraham and others commended for their faith went and did not look back. They counted the cost. They looked forward in faith. They took God at His Word. The children of Israel, after hundreds of years in captivity in Egypt, when they were set free did not get very far before they were grumbling against Moses, complaining to God, and crying out to go back to Egypt. They grew tired of God’s perfect provision of manna and quail. They failed to realize that they wandered because of their sin – all the while blaming God and Moses and yearning for Egypt and enslavement.

Consider the difference. One set of people were commended for their faith. They counted the cost and gave their all, even dying before the promises were all fulfilled. They trusted God.

The others saw a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. They saw the glory of God over the Tabernacle. They saw the plagues in Egypt, the miracles of water coming from the Rock and the Red Sea parting so that they could walk through on dry land. They experienced all of this as God was in their midst, and they complained the whole way.

You see, we do not need new experiences at church. People in the pew can experience God week after week and still look back at their sin and desire to be at home in their fleshly bondage. Why? Because they long for self-fulfillment, they are in it for what they can get. They want everything to be geared toward meeting their felt needs and fulfilling their every desire. They have put their hand to the plow to go to work in the field of God and yet cannot finish plowing a straight row because all the while they work they are looking back instead of forward. They doubt and fear and whine and gripe and complain. No faith. No trust. No hope. No expectation. Just grumbling and moaning and complaining.

Those who are faithful know that they do not belong here. They do not desire the things of this world. They want to see heaven and glory. And Jesus! They press on, looking to Him instead of looking back. They count the cost. They are hungry for God. They crave truth in “the inward parts.” They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They don’t look back.

Remember Lot’s wife? She looked back. After being told not to look back as Sodom was destroyed by the angels of the Lord, she could not leave her life behind there in that wicked city. She looked back. The sin was not the direction of her eyes, but the direction of her heart. She was not curious to see the destruction – no – she was grieving and leaving things behind that she loved and craved. She was looking back and lusting, longing for what she had forsaken in order to flee for her life. She longed for her life in that city and regretted fleeing, and she was vaporized. She was literally turned to a pillar of salt, struck dead for her wandering desires (Genesis 19:12-26).

How productive a disciple can we be if we are continually looking back? What kind of fruit can we bear if we are focused always on what we left behind instead of what we have to look forward to? Where are our eyes? Where is our heart? Are we looking for a homeland – far beyond the scope of this fallen world? Are we laying up treasures in heaven, or are we consumed with the things of this world? What do we pursue? What drives us and motivates us in day to day life?

If it is not love for Christ, if instead it is for all that we have forsaken to follow Him, then we need to be made aware of the truth. Listen closely. If we keep looking back, if we fail to count the cost, if we long for what was instead of what is, then we have not forsaken anything and are not following Christ! Our heart, our eyes, our faith is fixed on what was instead of what shall be. And that is in no way forsaking ourselves and following Christ.

It is reluctant faith, which is faith that gives us no assurance or hope. Reluctant faith is no faith at all. It is self-serving, not Christ honoring.

Have we counted the cost and followed Christ, leaving the things of this world behind? Then we cannot try to go back to Egypt, to bondage, to sin and self. Crucify self. Deny the flesh. Take up that cross daily and follow Jesus.

Where is our home? How do we think and feel about the world around us? If this is home, we are to be pitied and prayed for. If this is but a place we are passing through on our journey home, then we have cause for rejoicing.

Have you been called to follow Jesus? Don’t look back. There is nothing back there worth forfeiting your soul – there is nothing that can fulfill and satisfy you like Jesus! Can you sing the hymn, “Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all” and mean it? Or is it more likely that you would honestly sing, “Jesus took all the world from me, my life, my joy, my all”?

Count the cost. Don’t look back. Press on. Finish the race.

(Next: A Place Prepared)

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