Mature Class Study, teacher Edith Tolbert

Paul said we’re strangers and pilgrims if we’re serving God with all of our heart. Our true home is where the lord is.

I Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

The definition for strangers and pilgrims is: People who do not belong in the country where they reside. They have no citizenship rights in the land. They cannot make any demands upon the rulers of the place where they live. The simple fact is that they are not part of that country at all because saints are aliens in the world. They have to remember that this is not their true home nor is it their final resting place. They have are just passing through. They are temporary residents on this earth. They are not to remain here, only but just for a little while. They really belong someplace else.

We sing a chorus that says, This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through. My treasures are light up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

God doesn’t want us to feel at home in the world. He wants us to be strangers and pilgrims here. To be a disciple and a Christian is the same. The requirements are the same when God calls disciples or Christians. The world has watered down the meaning of what a Christian is. There are many churches and faiths that just treat it like a buffet so you can choose whatever you want. That isn’t the way God planned. There’s more to being a Christian than praying, reading the Bible, or going to church. We need to do those things but we have it settled that we’ve forsaken sin to do what God wants.

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

A person must be willing to repent of sin 100% and forsake everything to follow God. Jesus specifically said there are things we have to do. If we’re not willing to do them, we can’t be his disciple. The first thing is we have to hate (which means to love less) our mother, father, brothers, sisters, children, and wife. God has to be first in our life. If we’re not willing to put God ideally first and forsake everything of family in our life, we can’t be his disciple. Whoever doesn’t bear his cross can’t be his disciple. Bearing the cross means you die on the cross. Luke 9:23 says, a person must “take up his cross daily…” If we don’t willing die daily, we won’t follow and can’t be his disciple. A person must count the cost when they seek to serve God.

Luke 14:25-28 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

We won’t follow Jesus or be a disciple unless we forsake everything. There’ll always be something pulling us back to the world. In counting the cost we have to realize the value of our soul and what it costs if we refuse. The cost of serving God is great but the cost of not serving God is greater. If we lose our soul so we die and go to hell, it’s a greater cost and loss.

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

There is a fatigue during this time of the COVID virus. People are tired of it and it’s affected their energy level, attitude, and how they think. We have to fight against laziness and be diligent about the things of God. The devil wars against us by fleshly lusts to rob us of our salvation. We have to recognize it and fight back. He’ll use our personal desires or passions of the flesh to cause us to let up a little bit. He will encourage us to look inward at things we want for ourselves. The devil’s trick is to make us think no one cares about us but that’s a lie from the devil. The devil comes to steal and destroy.

John 10:10 The thief cometh…to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life…more abundantly.

When the enemy declares war, he does all in his power to win that war. But thank the Lord, we can recognize the tricks of the enemy so we have power and grace from God to overcome all the tricks of the enemy! Just being religious won’t get us to heaven or make us disciples. The people Jesus spoke of were doing a lot of seemingly good works but they still had sin in their life. Isaiah said, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord” (Isaiah 55:7). People think it doesn’t apply to them because they aren’t wicked. God looks to see if wickedness in our heart: bitterness, resentment, bad attitudes, unforgiveness. If sin is there, it means we’re wicked.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father…Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and…done many wonderful works?…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Jesus came to take the sin out of our heart and help us to live a holy life. To live a holy life we have to forsake everything for the cause of Christ. Jesus didn’t ask us to do anything he didn’t do himself. Jesus and his family went up to the temple every year. His mom and dad traveled with a big group. They thought he was with the relatives but had been left Jesus behind.

Luke 2:46-51…after three days they found him in the temple…in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And…saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said…Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said…How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not… And he went down with them…and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Jesus was stressing the importance of putting God first and he was only 12 years old. They didn’t understand, but he went with them and was subject to them. That means he was habitually obedient. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered and was tempted just like us. Jesus put God first above his family and asks us to put him first above our family.

Luke 2:49 (Amplified Classic) And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?

Jesus didn’t own property or have a permanent residence as he traveled and preached. He didn’t have a place to lay his head. Many times he was in the mountains praying all night. He had to find a place to stay every night.

Luke 9:57-58…a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

People were giving the excuse of going to bury their father. According to Clark’s commentary, the father hadn’t died yet and was on his deathbed so was expected to die in a month or two. This one wanted to go home until his father died before he went out to preach. Jesus said “Let the dead bury their dead” and meant those that are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. He’s saying let them take care of this particular person but you go and follow me.

Luke 9:59-60  And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew the man had family and friends at home so there’d be a big pull to go back to the world if he went back. That’s why he said “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” If you’ve seen someone plow a field, their eyes have to be straight ahead to where they’re going. You can’t look back and expect to go forward. God wants us to keep our eyes strictly on him and Jesus. We have to willingly forsake everything.

Luke 9:61-62 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said…No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Abraham was 75 years old when God called him to go from Ur to a place he would show him in the Canaan land. Ur was 1200 miles from Canaan and God led him all the way there. The historian Josephus said Abraham was a person of great wisdom for understanding all things and persuading his hearers. He was well educated, gave many speeches, and was educated in all the sciences, especially the celestial sciences of the stars, moon, earth, and sun. People at Ur worshipped the moon. Abraham was the first one that said there was only one God creator of the universe and it wasn’t the moon. He thought if those bodies had their own power, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions. They did not preserve such regularity. They made it plain that as they cooperate to our advantage, they do not they do it not of their own abilities but as they are subservient to him that commands them, to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving. That is God the creator of the heavens. He was saying that God is who we need to worship.

Hebrews 11:8-11 By faith Abraham…was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive…was delivered of a child when she was past age…she judged him faithful who had promised.

They did not directly receive fulfillment of promises, the land, prosperity, or blessings. They were looking for something but didn’t ever have those promises fulfilled. They saw them afar off and fulfilled in the future, were convinced of them, and embraced them. Abraham saw Jesus in the future and rejoiced. These walked by faith and not by sight. They were committed to those unfulfilled promises so they felt out of place in this earth. They didn’t find anyone or anything on earth to satisfy their soul’s need so they were looking for a permanent city. They chose by faith to forget the things they gave up and to follow Christ. By faith Abraham willingly forsook all he had in Ur from 75 years to follow wherever God wanted them to go. A stranger does not belong to the temporary place where they reside and Abraham knew he was a stranger.

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

God tested Abraham and asked him to offer up Isaac. Josephus said Abraham was 125 years old and Isaac was 25. Abraham’s response to the two servants showed he had faith God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. “I and the lad will go yonder and worship and come again to you…” We might wonder if Isaac was 25 years old and had a will of his own, how was he on the altar without a scuffle when he knew he was going to die? Josephus said, “Abraham had laid the wood and all things entirely ready. He said to his son, Oh son, I poured out a vast number of prayers that I might have you for my son. And when you were coming to the world, there was nothing that I could contribute to your support. For which I was not greatly solicitous nor anything wherein I thought myself happier than to see you grown up to a man’s estate and that I might leave you at my death the secure of my dominion, but since it was by God’s will that I became your father and it is now his will that I relinquish you. Bear this consecration to God with a generous mind. For I resign you up to God who has thought fit now to require this testimony of honor to himself on account of favors he has conferred on me in being to me a supporter and defender according to you. My son will now die, not in any common way of going out of the world but sent to God, the father of all men beforehand by your own father in the nature of a sacrifice. I suppose he thinks you worthy to get clear of this world, neither by disease, neither by war, nor by any other way by which death usually comes upon men but so that he will receive your soul with prayers and holy offices of religion and will place you near to himself and you will be there to me a helper and a supporter in my old age. Now Isaac was of such a generous disposition as became the son of such a father and was pleased with this discord, and said that he was not only worthy to be born at first, if he should reject the determination of God and his father and should resign himself up readily to both their pleasure since it would have been unjust if he had not obeyed even if the father alone had resolved so he went immediately and willingly to the altar of sacrifice.” Isaac knew what he was doing when he willingly laid there on the altar of sacrifice. So Abraham was willing to forsake his life, his family, and everything. Everything was given up to God.

Genesis 22:7-8 And Isaac spake unto Abraham…My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb…

Faith helped Abraham and he backed up his faith by works. We have to do the same. God asks us to forsake everything or we can’t be his disciple. Our works prove we’ve forsaken everything. We put into practice what God says to do.

James 2:21-24 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.