June 21, 2015
Pentecost 4

From Here to Eternity

2 Corinthians 5:1-10
    Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
    Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, That each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Dear Christians:
    Back when my wife and I were younger, we would take our kids tenting. Many times this was associated with our Christian Youth Group at Charles City, Iowa. One weekend in June, we would team up with the neighboring youth group from Mason City for a youth retreat. Now and then we also did this during vacation time, but the wife and I agreed, tenting was only good for a few days at a time. It was fun with the family, but also more work than usual. The bed at home with air conditioning was always a welcome relief after a tenting event.
    Paul uses that comparison in our Bible text, tenting as compared to a permanent dwelling. Our life in this world is temporary. We are setting up an earthly tent for a while in expectation of the heavenly dwelling we will receive with Christ. Because God has guaranteed this move from tent to house, Paul encourages us to bear with the hardships we will face because of sin and a perishing body. For Christians are destined to go –
                                                   I. For body.
                                                   II. For soul.
    A tent may be movable from place to place and even enjoyable in its use for a while, but over time it is just not going to hold up under weather, time, and breakage. In the face of a snowstorm, cloudburst, tornado, or hurricane, would you rather be in a tent or a building? The choice is rather easy. The building will hold up a lot longer than any tent.
    Paul puts rather bluntly how the earthly tent of our sinful perishing body will definitely not stand the test of time. For dust you are and to dust you will return, (Genesis 3:19).  Our body is subject to accident, disaster, injury, illness, and finally death. Our mortal body serves as a constant reminder that we are under the curse of sin. Furthermore, we are subject to suffering: we groan and are burdened, (v.4).
    The mortal body and its failings can present a considerable challenge to our faith. But Paul says the Christian will be confident despite this. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, (v.6). 
    This is very bold talk if it means we are to be brimming with confidence under the severest trials of pain and anguish.There are some people who may be blessed with the strength and fortitude to keep a great attitude while at death’s door, but not all. And actually that is not what Paul expects of us. He doesn’t expect us to have the human strength to withstand all that can happen our human bodies. He wants our confidence to be placed Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil. Our human strength can wither away. Our emotions can run dry. Our mental power can fail us. In confidence, we lean upon Jesus in our time of crisis. In simple faith we rest in this certain hope, that when we cannot even carry ourselves, Jesus will carry us by his grace. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me, (Psalm 23:4).
     There are times that our mortality as Christians will scare us.There are times we will cry. There are times we will be hurting. There are times we will not only feel helpless, but also be helpless. All this came into the world because of sin. God acted to deliver us from that curse of sin. We trust in what Jesus accomplished for us. We can be confident in turning to God’s love in our times of utter weakness. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you, (Hebrews 13:5).
    The redemption of our body goes hand in hand with the redemption of our soul. For the first casualty when the fall into sin took place in the Garden of Eden was spiritual death. Remember God’s warning to Adam about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: when you eat of it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:17).
    In the text today where it talks about the spiritual clothing that all sinners need, it is taking us back to this Genesis account. You will remember that God came looking for Adam after the Fall. And what was Adam’s response as he was found hiding amongst the trees:  I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid. (Genesis 3:10). Adam’s spiritual fall now also related to physical embarrassment. God knew very well what Adam looked like when he was naked, because that was exactly the way he made him. But now Adam’s conscience was burdened with guilt and shame. Being afraid of being exposed for sin, also made him embarrassed of his naked body. No sinner wants to be publicly exposed of their most intimate thoughts or physical body.
    God did two things about that nakedness. For Adam and Eve’s bodies he made garments of skin to cover their bodies. For their souls he provided the clothing of righteousness given in the first promise of the Savior. 
    From the moment the Holy Spirit brought us to faith through the power of the gospel, we were dressed in the forgiveness won for us by Jesus. This is signified in the sacrament of baptism. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27).
    Truly, our eternal life begins right here in this world. Jesus teaches us: I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life, (John 5:24). On the basis of this fact, Paul tells us that our faith in Christ is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come, (v.5). In other words our conversion to faith is God’s down payment confirming that both body and soul will be cleansed from all effects of sin in heaven.  Yes, our mortality will be swallowed up by life, (v.14).
    What great comfort this gives us in the face of the unescapable event of our judgment. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done whole in the body, whether good or bad, (v. 10). Death tells us that there will be judgment by God. But if God has already clothed us the good works of Jesus, then Jesus who is our judge will see us dressed in his good works and our faith which trusted in those good works. So then what is due us is the very same thing which was due Jesus, a glorious life in heaven.
     In our transition from here to eternity, we truly live by faith, not by sight, (v.7). We see now the earthly situation, but long for the heavenly dwelling. So if we live by faith, faith needs to be nurtured and sustained by the gospel. The trials and the tribulations that our earthly tent has to endure will try overshadow us with fear and hopelessness. But Christ lives and the mortal will take on immortality and the perishable the imperishable. It is our destiny in Christ.