The famous Dr. Footinmouth climbs the platform on the last day of the annual church revival. He adjusts the microphone, tells a funny story and then begins to quote the King James Bible. He declares with a practiced tear in his voice – Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” After a few more scriptures, he tells the sad story of a young man he knew who walked out of an earlier revival meeting only to die in a car crash later that day. He then raises his voice as if he was calling someone on the other side of town – “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” He reminds his audience that it was the Son of God who was speaking there in Isaiah 55. And that same Son of God gave His life on Calvary, shedding His blood to cover the sins of all those who will repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. After a few more fictitious, real-life illustrations he concludes his message with Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
What the good doctor has said is basically true – so far as it goes. Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to redeem the sin-dead soul. From the cross, as He breathed His last, Christ said, “It is finished,” and it was. God’s evangelist is commissioned to preach repentance before God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He must not add any sort of religious works to God’s plan of salvation – things like baptism or tithing. He shouldn’t try to make the gospel plea more complicated. However, in saying that, it needs to be remembered that God often brings that convicted sinner through some deep waters and rough paths, before he gets to the point of surrender to the Lord. And I believe that Abram is an example of the way God calls and leads His unsaved but elected soul.
God’s call to Abram began with separation.
I believe that the saints of the Old Testament became children of God in the same way as people in the New Testament. Sinners are saved by grace through faith. Clearly, people in the days of Moses, or the days of David, or the days of Isaiah, did not have the same revelation of the Saviour that we have today. But they were required to put their trust in the promise of God in a fashion similar to us. They were no more saved by their circumcision or their blood sacrifices than we are by our baptism or our tithes and offerings.
But when was Abraham, the man who was known for his faith in Jehovah, actually born again? Nine times out of ten, theologians, scholars and preachers today, point to Genesis 15. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him… And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And (Abram) believed in the LORD; and (the Lord) counted it to him for righteousness.” In Paul’s explanation of salvation, specifically justification, he pointed to Abram and said in Romans 4 – “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Taking their cue from Paul, most Bible believers suggest that Abram was born again, and justified in Genesis 15, when it is said, “he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” But here we are in chapters 11 and 12 with the Lord calling Abram out of Ur and Haran. The sinner’s salvation may be as easy as humble faith in Christ, but behind the scenes there is more.
The Lord Jesus once described two roads and the human race is being run down those roads. One is well smoothed; it is wide and made of a forgiving asphalt in contrast to hardened concrete or rock. The traffic on that road is running smoothly and quickly even though the travelers are bumper-bumper. The second road is tiny – it is narrow and difficult with very little traffic. And where to those trails go? Let me quote Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” These are the words of the most high God – they are authoritative – they are conclusive. People who are seeking the prosperity of their souls must leave the mainstream and enter narrow way.
Abram was told to separate himself from the world – “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred.” It is a practical illustration of repentance. It was not just a mental assent or agreement with God about his sinful heart; it was as real as a heart-attack. The people of Abram’s homeland were idolaters, as he himself had been raised. Jehovah graciously revealed Himself to that sinner and began to draw him to Himself – to teach him. But of course, the god of THIS WORLD wanted Abram to remain in Ur of the Chaldees, worshiping gods which are no gods – IDOLS.
And what constitutes an idol? Anything, or anyone, who might stand between us and Jehovah our Creator. So that could be a wooden image of a naked woman; or it could be a internet video of a naked woman. It could be a bronze image of a mighty warrior, or it could be a well-tanned baseball player. It could be an image of a fertility goddess, or it could be the science which enabled a woman to have a baby through in vitro fertilization. There are more idolaters today than ever before in human history, because there are more people. But probably the percentage of idolaters in society is about the same as it has always been – well over 90%. And what is the fate of the idolater? Revelation 21:7 summaries what the Bible states in a great many verses – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” The Lord in essence said to Abram – “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
As Peter was preaching to the idolaters of his own monotheistic nation, he cried out “save yourself from this untoward generation.” “Separate yourselves from this crooked and perverse people.” Why did Peter say that, and why did the Lord tell Abram to separate from his generation? Because if there is no separation now, there will be a guaranteed separation at God’s judgment throne. One of these days, the Judge of all the earth is going to divide all humanity into two groups. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Those people on Jehovah’s left, will be the same people as those on the broad road. And the place of everlasting fire, will be the destruction at the end of that broad road.
Before Abram was given faith to trust the promise of God, he was given the Lord’s call to pass through the strait gate and start down the narrow, lonely road.
Can we be more specific?
Yes we can. The Lord told Abram to leave his country. Does God want us today to pack their bags and leave the United States? Maybe drive north to Canada or south to Mexico? There have been many, many times when God’s people have been forced by persecution and hatred to flee from their homeland. But these people had already become children of God. Generally speaking, the Lord has a role for us to play in nation where He has planted us. We are to be salt and light. We are to show to our Chaldees and Haranites that the Lord is God, and He alone should be worshiped. We have a job to do in this country – it is to help preserve what is good and right. There may be a day coming soon, when there will be so little salt, and the night will be so dark that God’s judgment will fall, but until that time, we have work to do.
At the same time, the Christian’s citizenship is in Heaven, not on earth. The highest interest of the Christian ought to be concerned with our highest citizenship. The child with citizenship in two nations will eventually choose the country to which he feels the closer ties. And what is yours – young Abram?
Abram was not only asked to leave his country, but also his kindred – his family. My sister sent me an article the other day, referring to the Oldfield coat of arms. Above the actual insignia was a Latin inscription which said “In the Cross we Conquer.” The article said that the earliest reference to the Oldfield family was back in 12th century England. I think the idea was that I should buy the crest, but who knows if it has any history whatsoever. I don’t know who the first Oldfield was, but I do know who my first father was? His name was “Adam.” I can read about him in the Old Testament, but Paul told me more about him in the New Testament. And one of the important things which Paul declared – “In Adam all die.” Referring to Adam he said, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And “For as by (that) one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” Adam chose to become an idolater, and in that choice he introduced sin into his family – my family – your family too.
Abram was told to leave his family. Did that mean ignore them, forsake them, divorce them? Not for us it doesn’t. When two are married, they are told to leave father and mother and to cleave unto their mates. Does that mean – forever forsake their parents – never to see them or talk to them again? It should be our desire to have our brothers and sisters, nieces and uncle, parents and grandparents join us in our separation unto God. But when they choose to disagree, then we must not allow our loved ones to become idols unto us. “And there went great multitudes with (the Lord Jesus): 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? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Now let’s think a few happier thoughts – thoughts of the compensation graciously granted Abram.
First on the list was a new country. That broad road of which the Lord spoke, lead to destruction. And Jesus’ narrow road with the tight, strait gated, was headed for life eternal. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” The Lord does not ask us to sacrifice anything which He doesn’t intend to fully repay.
Abram was a new set of responsibilities. “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: 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.” It was going to be Abram’s task to become servant of God and as a result a blessing to man. The Lord may have many ways for His people to serve Him, and they may be different for different people. But a part of repentance is a willingness to serve.
Not only was Abram going to be a blessing, but he was going to receive them as well. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee.” He was not only to be a blessing but to receive them as well. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” All who enter the strait gate and begin their march to glory are guaranteed entrance. They don’t reach heaven because they left father, mother house and country. The promise of God is kept because God keeps His promises.
You say that there has been a Genesis 15 in your life, when you believed God and it was accounted unto you for righteousness. But has there been repentance? Have you heard God’s call to separation? Have you obeyed? Yes, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” BUT “except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.”