October 19, 2017

Cultivating Faith: A Man Set Apart

Jim Oesterwind

Genesis 12.1-4

Abraham lived roughly 2000 years before the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. He lived in a world that spiraled down out of control plummeting into the depths of idolatry. Abraham’s father Terah dwelt on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. He raised his family in an atmosphere of idolatry. They all served other gods (cf. Joshua 24.2). And yet, God set Abraham apart from the wickedness of idolatry to Himself and for His glory. God chose to preserve truth and the revelation of Himself in the earthly family of one man named Abraham. So God called Abraham, and he had to choose to leave his country and all his familiar surroundings to occupy a land that God would show him in the future.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram,
Get thee out of thy country,
and from thy kindred,
and from thy father’s house,
unto a land that I will shew thee:

(Genesis 12.1)

Set Apart from the World

God has not called me to leave the idolatrous state of California for some earthly location that He will determine at a later date. He hasn’t called me to leave my family or all that is familiar here in this great place. But He has set me apart from earthly things in Christ.

  • He demands that I set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3.2).
  • “The whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5.19).
  • Even so, God commands me not to love the world or the things in it (1 John 2.15).
  • “Be not conformed to this world,” Paul writes in Romans 12.2.
  • “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4.4).
  • We must “come out from among” the idolaters in the world “and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6.17).
  • “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6.14).
  • We must confess with those who have cultivated a life of faith before us that we too are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11.13).

We are very comfortable in the world in which we live. I’d say a bit too comfortable. We should be grateful for the freedoms and comforts that we have. We must use these as tools to reach the lost with the Gospel. But if our world collapses and we suffer, we shall be able to strengthen and encourage one another to continue in the faith. Is it not true that we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14.22)?

As with Abraham, we must hold onto the things of this world loosely. The good things of life cannot keep us. The evil will not divert us. We desire a better, that is, a heavenly country just as Abraham did. God has prepared a city for us (Hebrews 11.16).

“Forget also thine own people , and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him” (Psalm 45.10-11). It is in this sense that we are set apart from the world. While some of us must be more involved with the day-to-day activity of this world, we are not of it. Prepositions are important. We must separate ourselves from this world or be prepared to suffer the misery coming upon it. This is the first step in the cultivation of faith. But separation is not all negative. We are set apart from the world in order to be…

Set Apart to God

Abraham’s call to leave his family and country seems pretty drastic until you consider verses 2-3 of Genesis 12. The LORD also revealed to Abraham the following:

And I will make of thee a great nation,
and I will bless thee,
and make thy name great;
and thou shalt be a blessing:

And I will bless them that bless thee,
and curse him that curseth thee:
and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

(Genesis 12.2-3)

Notice the five-fold repetition of the word blessing in these two verses. The focus of Abraham’s call away from everything and everyone he knows is the fact that God had something much better in mind for him. Abraham would be blessed and also be a source of blessing for all the families of the earth.

At the end of Abraham’s life, when he is well-advanced in age, the Bible says that “the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things” (Genesis 24.1). Abraham’s servant reveals that the LORD had blessed his master greatly, he had become great (Genesis 24.35). So, Abraham had been blessed with abundance in the temporal life he lived.

But it was the spiritual and eternal benefits that Abraham possessed at the end of his life which were far greater. His faith in the revelation of God was accounted for righteousness. He was justified before God. All of these material and eternal blessings were communicated to his family as well. People were encouraged and built up because of Abraham’s “follow-ship”. Follow-ship is imperative when it comes to leadership. Because Abraham obeyed God’s call to come out of Ur to Canaan, he was able to be a blessing to so many, even to all the families of the earth. Every person will be blessed or cursed according to whether or not he or she accepts or rejects the promised Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Leave the world behind! Sever all ties that bind you to it. If you do this for Christ’s sake, you will have lost your life as far as this world is concerned. You are dead with Christ, but you are alive to God. You might not have the abundance of Abraham when it comes to material and temporal wealth, but you will have gained your soul and incomprehensible, daily benefits.

Christians are sensitive to sin and even the moments that we live detached from God wear us down. We mourn over these times, and yet in spite of the mourning, we are and shall be truly blessed. We have forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God in the Beloved One. We are blessed with the one who cultivated a life of faith so long ago.

But not only are we blessed in Christ; we are a source of blessing to all around us. As parents, employers, friends, and associates, we relate to other people. We graciously promote the true joy of life in Christ with all connected to us.

Within the church and within our country, we exemplify the life of light. Our own follow-ship becomes leadership of a godly sort. Our prayer on the behalf of others, will it not prevail if we are godly, fervent, and righteous? What if we simply lead one person to Christ, will that not be more than all this world could offer them or us? Won’t that one person be eternally grateful to us for God mercifully allowing us to communicate the glorious Gospel of reconciliation? When you think about it, all truly is vanity when compared to the eternal blessings of a life truly abiding in Christ.

Set Apart for Faith that Works

Abraham obeyed God. “So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him” (Genesis 12.4). He didn’t hesitate. Lot, his nephew, went with him. But one wonders about the opinion of many others in his family. How many thought Abraham was crazy to leave Ur and later Haran? Imagine people asking him, “Well, where are you going?” How does he answer? “I don’t know where I’m going. I just need to leave.” When he finally leaves, how many feared for him? But Abraham didn’t worry about the comforts of home, family, and friends. He desired the blessing of God above all. He believed God.

By 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. By 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; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11.8-10)

Abraham is surely the prototype for us when it comes to the cultivation of faith and obedience. If we leave this world behind for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, we gain so much more than we could ever hope for. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15.18-19).

I cannot see Heaven, but I have entered my Promised Land nonetheless. I move through life enjoying the quality of eternal life while waiting for the appearance of my Eternal King and His eternal city. This is why we “consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8.18). Our obedience is fueled by our dependence upon the eternal life Christ gives. We walk by faith and not by sight.

Some of us are way too comfortable in this world.

Jesus said that if we are, then perhaps we’ve come to Him but we don’t hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and our own life also. If that be the case, we cannot be His disciples (Luke 14.26).

How do we hate these people, when we are commanded not even to hate our enemies? The answer is that Jesus is using figurative language. He means that any connection or affection that we have in this world which is more important than faith in Him is the forsaking of Him.

Our love for Christ must so overshadow our earthly ties that we act as if hate those closest to us in comparison. We sacrifice all without hesitation for the cause of Christ. Forsake all and follow Him! This leads to your own personal blessing and makes you a source of blessing for others.

Some of us are determined to live for the world to come.

Just remember that Abraham’s father and brother went as far as Haran, but no further. God renews the call while Abraham is in Haran with them, but Terah dies there. Nahor, his brother, wasn’t willing to journey any further with Abraham. Abraham took only Sarah and his nephew Lot. While we don’t know about the specific reasons or even the spiritual state of Abraham’s family in Haran, they didn’t go with Abraham to the Promised Land.

A promise remains of entering God’s rest, let us fear lest any of us seem to have come short of it.

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:20–21).

“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10.38-39).

We are not of those who draw back. We are determined to follow in faith, to cultivate faith. We are set apart from the world to God for faith that works!

Part One Part TwoPart ThreePart Four ♦ Part FivePart Six ♦ Part Seven


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.

This article first appeared at Sun and Shield and is republished here by permission.


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