Heb 11:15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. My theme this morning is: “Don’t Mess With Mesopotamia” Mesopotamia is the place Abram left when God filled his heart with visions of things beyond where he was. Do not miss the importance of that statement. The only way a person can finally and fully be moved to leave where he has settled is by seeing something far more glorious beyond present position. Abram will never leave a city to find a city until his heart is filled with the surpassing glory of the city beyond him. Just as it was with Abram- every individual’s journey of faith begins with an encounter with God, in which God speaks and the individual hears. Each of us were at and in ‘a particular place’ when that encounter occurred. And by ‘a particular place’ I am not speaking primarily of geography; rather I am referring to beliefs, values, opinions, life experience- structures of the soul through which we viewed and interpreted life. For instance, Abram was an idolater- living in a city of idolaters, within a country of idolaters- and that country or region was Mesopotamia. Once he heard the voice of the living God- the real God- the only true God, faith was created in his heart in the form of conviction and assurance concerning things that were not yet visible. What he heard and what he saw was so irresistible, so convincing, so possessing that he turned his back on Mesopotamia and never returned. In this message I want to use the term ‘Mesopotamia’ metaphorically in reference to that ‘particular place’ we were in when we heard the word of the Spirit- and our own unique journey of faith began. Mesopotamia is that place we left behind- that place we could not possibly continue to function in because of a conviction or assurance of a far greater glory beyond present position. 1 I think we have lived long enough to understand that it is one thing to begin this journey of faith- it is another matter to persevere within this same journey. The issue here is not eternal salvation nor eternal destiny. I am talking about that perseverance of faith by which, through which and in which the Kingdom of God is made manifest(visible) right here, right now in the earth. The evidence indicates that not all persevere in their faith- that in some measure and to one degree or another there is a turning back to Mesopotamia. These three verses I have referenced in Hebrews 11 give us some real insight into the difference between persevering in faith and ‘Messing with Mesopotamia.’ All I can tell you right now- and I do so with prophetic urgency- there is a mighty cry in and of the Spirit- ‘This is not the time to look back- not the time to turn back-not the time to backup- this is not the time to ‘Mess with Mesopotamia’- the place we left in the past because of the call to and of the future. For the sake of the manifestation of the Kingdom of God within the mandate, the vision, the call of ministry within this fellowship we must persevere in this present phase of our faith journey.’ Consider the text: If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. There are two critical words in this text; the first is ‘thinking’ and the second is ‘opportunity’. There is a very vital relationship between these words. Opportunity can be both negative and positive. In fact it carries a negative connotation in this verse. The writer is telling us that for these pilgrims of faith- the opportunity to turn back was always present. So the question is: Why did they not go back? Or to broaden that- How is it that some people just seem to go from one negative opportunity to another- while others go from one positive opportunity to another? This is where we have to go to the other vital word in this text- the word ‘thinking’. I am not prepared to conclude that in some ultimate sense it is our thinking that creates opportunity- but by all means our thinking determines the opportunities we see and choose to walk in; our thinking 2 determines what we do with any and all opportunities- even to turning a negative one into a positive one. So again- the text is telling us that- first, the opportunity to return to Mesopotamia was always present. Secondly it is telling us (and this is very strong and incredibly exciting as to possibility and hope) they didn’t even so much as see that opportunity to return- it wasn’t even a blip on the radar screen of their consciousness. Thirdly the text tells us that it was the way in which they thought that blinded them to any opportunity to “Mess with Mesopotamia”. That brings us to the final consideration of this message. What was it that disciplined their thinking? What was it that kept them single-minded in their focus? How did they maintain a process of thinking in which there was no compromise- no mixture? The answer is found in verse 16- Instead, they were longing… Deeper than thought- and with a power greater than thought- a power to discipline thought- to structure and focus thought was something called ‘longing.’ With this word we are in the presence of the deepest reality of human consciousness- the place where conviction and assurance reside- where faith dwells- the place of hearing the voice of God. And that is the challenge before us this morning- to look deeply and honestly into our own hearts and discern the core defining longing that lives there. For rest assured, that longing, that passion, that love, that core value will progressively control your thinking- which in turn will determine which opportunity we see- and in seeing will choose. This places us squarely at the central issue in every journey of faith- the issue of the heart. In fact I love the way the New English Bible states this: “If their hearts had been in the country they had left- they would have found opportunity to return.” The scariest three words of scripture are the words Christ spoke when He said- “Remember Lot’s wife.” She had escaped the place of judgement but at some point in the journey she looked over her shoulder- and the consequence of that backward look was that she never moved beyond that step. 3 But the physical act of looking back was secondary to the real issue; it merely revealed her heart. Her heart was still in Sodom- the place of the old setting, the old position. Her longing was with her heart back in what was- back in what used to be. And here’s the scary part- despite the visit of angels to her home, despite the miraculous signs performed by those angelic visitors, despite the unfolding supernatural judgements of God exploding all around her- the power of that core longing of the heart structured and controlled her thoughts- which in turn caused her to make a choice regarding a very destructive opportunity. Unlike Lot’s wife, Abraham never “Messed with Mesopotamia”. In fact here is the instruction he left with his trusted servant concerning his son Isaac. “Make sure that you do not take my son back there” (Gen 24:6). It is interesting that in Heb.11:22- By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.- the word spoke is translated from the same Greek word which is translated as ‘thinking’ in verse 15. There is no contradiction. Put the four key words of these texts together- “thinking, opportunity, longing, and spoke” and you have a wonderful picture of how this works. Heart longing disciplines, structures and determines our thoughts. Our thoughts discipline and determine what we speak. And in this mix of longings, thoughts, and speaking we determine the opportunities we become aware of- and finally make choices in the direction of those opportunitiesbe they negative or positive. Looking back-second guessing dulls the edge of forward progression and compromises momentum. That loss of momentum leads to a situation of stall. And after we have stalled so long we have complete stagnation- which is really a state of death. At that point not only are we dead in the water, but the water we are in is also dead.