Thousands of years ago, God found a man who was completely willing to do His will. His heart was longing for something greater than the life he was living. Then one day he heard a voice speak something very clearly to his heart.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country and your kindred and your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)
This man’s name was Abram. At 75 years of age, he heard this call from God and he obeyed without hesitation.1 He immediately left the land of his fathers, and after a long and difficult journey, he entered into the land that God showed him and became a new creation in the land of promise.2 God called this new man Abraham, because he would be the father of a great nation, for God wanted a whole nation of people with the same heart as this man. Abraham’s response to God’s call would forever be the foundation for all those who would come after him, desiring to follow their Creator.3
Abraham was called to leave one place and enter into another. Had he not left the land of his fathers, he would not have been qualified to be the seed of the nation God wanted to establish. He had to obey the call. Some 4000 years later, the same response is required of anyone who wishes to be saved from this perverted generation.4
Many years later, God called Abraham’s wayward offspring, who had been in Babylon for 70 years of discipline, to leave and return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.5 Of the roughly one million Jews who were living in Babylon at that time, only about 42,000 returned.6 Most had grown comfortable with their lives in Babylon. As Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian wrote in his chronicles, “…yet did many of them stay at Babylon, as not willing to leave their possessions.”7
The journey back to Jerusalem was over 700 miles. It wasn’t easy. The comforts of Babylon could not accompany those who left on the journey. But for those whose hearts were stirred by the call to return to the land that God had promised to their forefather Abraham, and to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, the suffering could not compare with the joy set before them. It was only the remnant who thirsted for their land that heard the call and obeyed.
These stories of Abraham, Israel, the Babylonian exile, and the return to rebuild were passed down from generation to generation until Yahshua heard them from His mother and father, and from the rabbis. Surely, with His tender and pure heart, He must have asked His parents and teachers why so many stayed behind in Babylon. It must have been so difficult for Him to understand why anyone would not heed the call to return and rebuild their beloved city. Imagine the look on His young face when His parents had to explain to Him that it was because they had grown comfortable and didn’t want to leave their possessions and unwilling family members. Why would anyone hesitate if their God was calling them? Why would anyone value “things” over doing God’s will?
As time went by and Yahshua grew into a man, He found Himself extending the very same call to his fellow Israelites.8
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27-28)
Yahshua called His disciples in the very same way that God had called both Abraham and the Jews out of Babylon. Those who were stirred in their hearts did not hesitate, but left everything to follow him.9 It was consistent with the way His Father had always called those who were willing to do His will.
However, like the many who had stayed behind in Babylon, there were many in the Master’s day who chose comfort over their salvation. When a well-to-do young man came running and knelt down at Yahshua’s feet, asking what he must do to gain eternal life, Yahshua answered,
Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow Me. (Mark 10:21)
Though the rich young man heard the clear call just as his forefather Abraham had, his face fell.10 He valued his possessions more than following the Master. He had a cause to not obey Him.11 The dark shadow of the torment he would someday face in death slowly fell over his face with the deepest gloom. He would rather have heard another message, one that would have allowed him to hold onto his life and possessions, but this was not the command, nor had it been for Abraham or the Jews in Babylon.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John left their nets,12 which were their profession and livelihood, to follow the Master. Paul also “suffered the loss of all things,”13 counting it as rubbish. All who responded to the gospel left everything behind. The contrast between Mark 10:28-30 and verses 17-22 is chilling. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole entire world yet forfeits his own soul?14
In the same manner as Abraham, those who heard the good news on the day of Pentecost, gladly received the message and left everything.15 Their possessions were used to establish the first community, as it is recorded:
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44-45; see also Acts 4:32-35)
So these steps are the steps of a faith that works. Abraham did it and started a whole new culture and nation. The first disciples did the same. Therefore, these same essential steps of that faith must be followed today by anyone who desires to be saved.16 All those in the first century who were cut to the heart by the gospel they heard knew what they had to do before they could call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. They understood that the terms of the gospel were life for life, without compromise. If they wanted to drink of the living water, it meant forsaking their life, and all that it encompassed, and being immersed into the new culture that was before them.
Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8)
At the head of the list of those worthy of spending eternity in the lake of fire are the cowardly and unbelieving. They are those who, for the fear of losing their own life and possessions in this world, reject the gospel that they hear from a righteous sent one.17 They do not overcome all that stands in the way of drinking the water of life. They are unwilling to leave their life in the fallen society. They have a cause that is greater in their eyes than the call of Messiah and His Bride:
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And the one who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
The word translated freely literally means without a cause to hinder them from drinking. The word come means to leave one place and arrive at another.18 So if anyone is truly thirsty for the water of eternal life, let him overcome anything that would hinder him, leave behind all that he possesses, and follow the Master in the same way the disciples did.19 Those who are willing to do the will of the Father will come gladly, with great joy over the hope of gaining the thirst-quenching water of eternal life.20
Just as Abraham and the disciples of old obeyed, the first step in obeying the gospel is to leave one place and enter another.21 You leave your old life in this world and are born again into a brand new culture, with a brand new heart that is quenched of all thirst.22 Abraham did what the rich young ruler would not do. He turned his back on his previous life. He did not cower back at the command to leave it all behind. He said his farewells, kissed his loved ones good-bye, and placed his life in the hands and care of the One who called him to the land of promise. None but the willing will come to this new place.
So can someone be a disciple, yet remain in Babylon? Can one become a disciple while remaining in his old life, at the same address, working the same job, enslaved to the same passions,23 immersed in the affairs of this world?24 Can one accept the world’s values, judgments, and political pursuits and be a disciple?25 Is it possible to wallow in the world’s excesses, letting your children be trained by the world’s ideals,26 being fully identified with the world, yet claim to follow in the steps of Abraham?27
The answer is the same today as it was then: No.
If you are willing to do the will of God, you will hear the call and come. You will leave your rotten, stinking life in this world and enter into the new life of love and forgiveness that the Messiah, Yahshua, is establishing in these last days.28 Only there can you serve Him29 by serving your brothers and sisters, night and day.30 And only there can you become one of those whom He is not ashamed to call His brothers,31 who together are being built into an eternal dwelling place for God by His Spirit.32
We welcome any who are still thirsty to come.