Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Wasting, Transient Tent vs Eternal Heavenly Home - June 7, 2015 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 05) - Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Today is the second Sunday after Pentecost. We have completed what we call the festival portion of our church year, that portion of our church year which includes the festivals of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. We are now in what we call the non-festival portion of our church year. The color of our paraments has been changed to green and will remain green for another thirty-three or thirty-four weeks. The color green is the color of growth. So, for the remainder of this present church year we will not be specifically following along toward celebrating the birth of Jesus, nor His death and resurrection, rather we will be following along being taught, being discipled by Jesus through His Holy Word.
This morning we are being taught by Paul as he writes to help us to understand the distinction between our earthly life and our eternal life in heaven. Paul begins by reminding us that faith shows itself in action, as he says, “13Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (v. 13-15). Paul reminds us that as we have been given faith that faith is such that we cannot help but share that faith through word and action. It is kind of like when we get something new, a new car, a new house, a new job, a new whatever, we simply get so excited that we cannot help but go out and tell others. The same is true with our faith in Jesus. As we come to divine service and Bible Class, as we are filled with the Word of God, we get so excited in the faith and forgiveness we have been given that we want to share that with others, both through our words and through our actions.
Of course, as we live lives of faith those outside of faith will most certainly question our faith and so Paul address this issue as well. He reminds us that the certainty of our faith is in the resurrection of Jesus. The reason Jesus spent forty days showing Himself to be alive after His resurrection was so that we might have such certainty. And the reason we have the very Word of God is so that we might have that certainty as well. As John reminds us in his Gospel, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31). You see, those outside the Christian faith continually question the Christian faith, even despising the Christian faith because of it exclusive claim that there is one and only one way to eternal life in heaven. As Christians our faith will be continually questioned by others so Paul here assures us of the certain of what we believe by pointing to the resurrection of Jesus.
And Paul reminds us that our sharing Jesus’ love with others is what brings a multiplication of His grace and even more brings glory to God. Indeed, as we live in our vocations, as we live lives of faith, no matter where we are, God gives us His authority to speak in His name and His promise that He is with us always even to the end of the world, so that as we are asked about our faith, as we are questioned concerning our faith, He gives us the words and courage to speak and share our faith with others so they too might be a part of God’s kingdom. This promise reminds us that we never need to question or second guess our speaking and giving an answer for the faith that we have. This most certainly gives God glory.
Yet, Paul understands that while we are in this world our lives are not perfect. He understands our struggles and so he addresses those struggles. Paul says, “16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (v. 16-18). Paul says that our nature is wasting away. Yes, Paul reminds us that we are not getting any younger, but indeed we are growing older. As we grow older our bodies begin to show the results of the aging process. But notice that he calls this process our “slight momentary afflictions” and certainly when we compare our short time on this earth to our time in heaven we would have to agree that our struggles in this world, our aches and pains are a “momentary” affliction.
Paul makes a definite distinction and focuses our attention, not on our earthly body, but rather on our spiritual well being. Paul puts the best construction on everything. He reminds us that as we mature, as our bodies grow old, we are to grow in our faith. Indeed with this encouragement then we are reminded that our time in this world is short and rather than spend so much time being concerned about our lives in this world we would be better suited in being prepared for our eternal lives in heaven.
In speaking about the afflictions of this world Paul is speaking both about afflictions from the unbelieving world, perhaps meaning being persecuted for our faith, and afflictions from our aging bodies. Yet he reminds us here as he does in Romans that neither of these afflictions are anything compared to the glory which will be ours in heaven. Thus, we understand the momentary nature of this struggle.
I think most of us will readily admit that the older we get the faster life seems to move. As someone once described time, it is not as if we are traveling through time but rather that time is traveling at us, like a locomotive and nothing can stop it. Indeed, the older we grow the more transient, the more temporary we know this world to be. Unfortunately too often it is on ones deathbed that this realization occurs and then there are regrets about how one lived. I have never heard anyone on their deathbed say anything like, “You know, I wish I had spent more time at work and away from my family.” “I wish I had spent more time being away from Church and God’s Word.”
In the last verse of our text Paul compares the temporary nature of this world verses permanent nature of heaven. He says, “5:1For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 5:1). Paul describes our bodies as being merely tents and he does so in much the same way as John related in His Gospel concerning the fact that Jesus merely tented among us. A tent is a temporary structure, a cover for a short time, until one packs it up and moves to the next place. Our lives in this world, indeed, our bodies in this world are merely temporary structures or housing for our souls until we reach heaven.
Our permanent home is in heaven. Our permanent home is a house not made with human hands. God has made our home in heaven. Jesus has paid the price for our home in heaven. And our home in heaven will not be a temporary residence, but will be our final home, our eternal home.
What does this mean? As we live in this world our usual approach is to focus our attention on this world and the things of this world. When we are young our focus is on our daily needs and wants. We focus on food and drink, on clothing and shoes, on a place to sleep and rest. We focus on games and distractions. As we grow older our focus is on our education, on preparing for getting a job, on getting married, on purchasing a house and a car, on purchasing those things we believe will make our lives better. We focus on our enjoyment of this world and the things of this world. As we grow older still our focus moves to preparing for retirement, on making sure we have the wherewithal to provide for ourselves as we grow older. Now let me say that in and of itself there is nothing wrong with such a focus and certainly we should concern ourselves about such matters. In our text Paul directs our focus away from ourselves, reminding us as always that we get it right when we focus on Jesus.
More important than focusing on the things of this world is focusing on the things of the world to come, because the fact is and the difference is that if we fail in preparing for this world our lives may be more of a struggle, but that is only a temporary things. If we fail to be prepared for the world to come, that is if we fail to prepare for heaven, that means eternal, spiritual death which is most certainly not a temporary struggle.
As you have heard me say time and again, our greatest need is forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness our sins remain on us and we would be doomed to eternal spiritual death, but with forgiveness is life and salvation. Our greatest need is to focus on things eternal. Our greatest need is to be about the business of being in the Word. Through the means of grace, through the Word of God, through Confession and absolution, through Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us faith and the surety of that faith comes through His resurrection.
As the saying goes, God never promised us a rose garden. Of course as I hear that quip I am reminded that even roses have thorns, thus we are reminded that God never promised us an easy life. We will have struggles while living in this world, indeed, the fall into sin and the curse of this world accounts for the struggles we will bear while living in this world. The struggles of this life may be discouraging, yet our focus is heavenward not earthbound. Our focus is to be drawn to Jesus who has taken care of our eternal home, our permanent dwelling place.
So Paul encourages us in reminding us of the key, that is that our faith is renewed daily and weekly through the means of grace. When struggles happen in life we can go one of two ways, we can blame God and run away, which is what the devil wants you to do, or we can cling to our Lord even more knowing that He is the answer, the only answer and the only one who is capable of helping us through our struggles. As we live lives of faith, as we live in our vocations, as we live as husband or wife, father or mother, aunt or uncle, butcher or baker, CPA or lawyer, plumber or electrician, banker or teacher, son or daughter, student or professor, engineer or builder, life guard or carpenter, whatever our vocation, as we live lives of faith, we are to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ, because as we live lives of faith our hope in Christ will be seen so that others will ask, what is this faith you have. And remember, we have God’s authority to speak of our faith and we have His promise that He will give us not only the courage, but also the words to speak.
Our lives can point to the importance of the things of this world or our lives can point to our heavenly home. Paul encourages us to, with the help of the Lord, live lives that point to our heavenly home and in so doing we will bring glory to God.
Might we summarize Paul’s words to us this morning by saying that by faith in Jesus resurrection from the dead, faith given to us by God, we are stirred to share that faith with others so that God might be glorified. At the same time, although we struggle with our aging bodies and fight against those who oppose Christ, we know that this world and these struggles are only temporary for our eternal home is heaven. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.