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 14, 2015
We Live by Faith - June 14, 2015 - Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 06) - Text: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (11-17)
Last week we summarize Paul’s words 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. This week we move on to the next chapter in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
In our text for today Paul again puts our lives into proper perspective, and yes our text for this morning sounds a lot like our text from last Sunday. Paul says, “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. 1). Paul reminds us that our life on this earth is very short compared to our life in eternity. To emphasis this point he uses the comparison of a tent to a house. He reminds us that our life here on this earth is like living in a tent, a temporary structure, while our life in heaven is like living in our building, a house, built by God, a permanent structure.
Think about it. How often do you hear the phrase, “my how time flies.” How often do you hear people say something like, “why it was just yesterday that . . .,” something happened and you can fill in the blank. Most of the time we think about ourselves traveling through time, but when we have an important event coming up it is more like time is traveling towards us at an extremely quick pace. Years ago our nation started reducing the work week, thinking that we would have more free time to enjoy life. Then computers came along in order to give us more time. What has happened is that the more free time we have the more things we try to cram into that free time. The busier we get the faster time seems to go. It is not that time is moving any faster, it is just that we are unaware of it because our minds are on something else.
We are on this earth for a relatively short period of time, especially when compared to eternity. Eternity is millions of billions of forever years and our lives in this world, on this earth are what, 70, 80, 100 years, if that. I hate to break the news to you, but you will die. People every day are dying, people of all ages, young and old alike. Check the obituaries, watch the news, read the newspaper. The only way out of this world and into eternity is physical death, unless Jesus returns first.
Until we die, as Paul says, “2For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,” (v.2). We groan. We groan a sinful groaning when we disrespectfully question God and ask, why can’t life be perfect?, as if God had something to do with making our world imperfect. We sinfully groan when we ask, why does bad happen to me? as if we deserve only good to happen to us. We sinfully groan when we ask, why do I have to live as a good person? as if our living as a good person makes us right before God and gives us justification for only good to happen in our lives.
Not all of our groaning is sinful groaning, sometimes we groan because of illness. Of course we understand that illness, too, is a result of sin and the curse from Genesis three. Our bodies groan in illness, proof that our bodies are imperfect. Remember how Paul describes our earthly bodies as tents, compared to our heavenly bodies being described as houses. Tents get old, they begin to wear out, they leak, they rip, they tear. Our bodies are not getting better, they are continually getting worse.
Even as Christians we groan. We groan because we want out of this world. We get tired of temptation and sin. We get tried of “losing” our family, friends and loved ones who have passed on before us. We groan because we want to be in heaven. As Christians we groan, not a demanding or questioning groan to God, but a groan of desire to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.
Thanks be to God that our groaning is not for nothing. Paul continues by telling us the very purpose for which God made us, “5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (v.5). We have talked about this before, the fact that God has created us for a purpose and that is to love us, and God has redeemed us for a purpose and that is to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do, even if we can only do them imperfectly. God has given us His Holy Spirit to work His purpose in us so that eventually we will be transformed into the perfect likeness of Christ. Eventually we will be perfect, of course that eventually is only when we are in heaven.
“6So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,” (v.6). That is, we know that as long as we are living in our bodily, earthly tents we cannot be in our heavenly houses. Yet, we remain confident knowing that this does not mean that we are deprived from the Lord’s spiritual presence with us in our daily lives. We are confident that the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in and through us daily.
Therefore, “7we walk by faith, not by sight” (v.7). The world may tell us that God is dead. It may appear that God has left our world and is letting it become as corrupt as it can, but we do not let these mere appearances get us down. No, we live by faith, that is we know with no uncertainty that God has given us His Word that He will be with us always. We know that He keeps His Word and we know that He is with us.
Therefore, “8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v.8). By the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word we have seen Jesus. We have seen Jesus live the perfect life for us, because we cannot. We have seen Jesus take all our sins upon Himself. We have borne witness to the fact of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. We are confident that we too will rise again to be with Him in heaven and that is our desire, more than anything in this world.
“9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (v.9). By the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, what we call sanctification, we strive to live our lives according to God’s good and gracious will. We do this not to gain anything for ourselves, because everything has already been given to us, what we call justification, but simply as a response of faith as a way to please our loving Father in heaven. And although we will fail, time and again, we know that with our Lord there is always forgiveness.
When our final hour comes Paul tells us as Christians, “10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (v.10). We will be judged by the things that we have done or not done, because what we do reflects what is in our hearts. We must make note that Paul is not speaking about our being justified before God by our good works, because Scripture is clear that there is no salvation for those who do not believe, no matter how many good works it may appear they have done. Paul is speaking about sanctification, that is, he is speaking about our living our faith, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The result of Jesus’ work of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us is that we are God’s people. Paul continues, “11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience” (v. 11). As our Lord encourages us through these words of Paul, we bear witness of our faith through our fear and love for Christ.
Paul continues, “12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you” (v. 12-13). Not only do we bear witness of our faith through our fear and love for Christ, we also bear witness of our faith through our encouraging and building each other up in the body of Christ, as well as defending and speaking well of each other. We focus our attention, not on ourselves, not on what we might think we are doing, besides being sinners, but rather we focus our attention on what God in Christ has done, does and continues to do for us. We focus our attention on Christ running the verbs.
And Paul concludes, “14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (v. 14-17). We bear witness of our faith through our living lives of faith. We bear witness of our faith that although we fail, although we daily sin much, with Christ there is forgiveness because He died for all.
What does this mean? In the beginning God created the world, plants, animals, and us. God created us to live. God did not create us to die. Because Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, physical death became a part of our living on this earth. Now God has given us each a certain length of time to live on this earth. Remember, death is not a part of God’s plan, death is a result of sin. Paul is so right, we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We daily sin much and groan begging our Father in heaven to give us strength to hold up under the massive temptations of this world. We daily groan as we pray to be taken from this vale of tears to live in heaven.
God has given us life at our birth. He has given us new life and faith at our baptism. He continues to give us strengthening of faith through His Word and His Sacraments. He continues to give us His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. Every morning we awake we pray to our Lord, thanking Him for the gift of a new day in which we might serve Him and live our lives for Him. Every day we thank the Lord for sending His Only Son, Jesus to live the perfect life we could not live. We thank the Lord that Jesus loved us so much that He took on Himself the punishment for all our sins, that He died the eternal spiritual death penalty in our place.
Because of all that God has done for us, we overflow with response, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We respond by living our lives according to His good and gracious will. We respond by letting our faith bubble over through our actions so that others may see our hope for eternal life. We bubble over with praise and thanks to our Heavenly Father who has done it all for us, who saw to it that when our short time on this earth in our earthly tent is over, He has a permanent building, a permanent house waiting for us in heaven, for Jesus’ sake. To Him be the glory. Amen.