|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
Confident in Our Eternal Home
4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 17, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Confident in Our Eternal Home
2 Corinthians 5:1–10 (NIV84)
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. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 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. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 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 Friends in Christ,
The Basic Bible Christianity course finished in May. This course is for those who want to know what we Lutherans believe and teach and can lead to membership in the congregation. Of course, members can and do take the course when offered because reminding ourselves of what the Lord teaches in his Word is always a good idea. The first lesson in this course asks the question, “If you were to die tonight and tonight you were to stand before God in judgment, would God receive you into heaven?” There are three choices for the answer, “Yes”, “No”, and “I hope so.”
Now, it might sound a little arrogant or over-confident to say “Yes, I am confident that God will receive me into heaven today.” However, this is the answer God wants us to have. Our Lord wants us to be confident in our eternal home. It is difficult for us to have such confidence because of our sins and our sinful nature. It is difficult because we will have doubts in this life and we have not seen heaven or Jesus. Paul tells us today that being confident in our eternal home is not something we build up in ourselves. Our confidence is because of God and his promises. Confident of our eternal home, we live this earthly life by faith.
Because of God’s Promises
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, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Remember that when Paul sent this second letter to the Christians in Corinth, he did not include chapter divisions. Chapter and verse numbers were added hundreds of years later. So what we read today in chapter 5 is a continuation of chapter 4. Paul is still thinking of persecution, suffering and troubles when he considers that our earthly tent we live in will be destroyed. Our mortal bodies are earthly tents. They are not going to last forever.
Paul’s body was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked and stoned and would eventually be executed. Maybe we do not suffer in our bodies because of our faith in Jesus, but our mortal bodies still remind us of our mortality. There is a time in life when our bodies are growing, getting stronger and we might be tempted to think these mortal bodies will never end. A baby sits up, then crawls, then walks, then runs and pretty soon is 20 something years old in peak physical condition. Slowly the growth reverses. Running becomes slower. Even Usain Bolt will not be breaking records in the 100 meter dash when he gets to 40 or 50 years old. Aches and pains begin while doing everyday activities, things you used to be able to do with no aches and pains the next day. Eventually walking becomes more difficult and a cane or walker or wheelchair is used to assist. The usual course of things sin the fall into sin is for mortal bodies to grow weaker and suffer in this life.
We live in temporary tents for now. The people of Israel lived in tents for four decades while wandering in the wilderness. God had promised to rescue his people from Egyptian slavery and bring them into the land he had promised to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years earlier. But they were still in tents after 10 years, after 20 years, after 30 years. Many grumbled and complained. Many doubted if God would keep his promise to bring them into the Promised Land. Life in a tent in the wilderness is difficult.
Life in our mortal bodies is difficult too. The devil, the world and our own sinful nature will put thoughts in our minds to get us to doubt God’s promise of an eternal home in heaven. The world says that heaven is just an invention of humans to make us feel better about death or to get people to behave better while alive. Maybe this is why books telling the story of someone who supposedly when to heaven and returned become so popular. We want proof that what God has promised is true. Our sinful flesh tells us that God is holding out on us, making us wait for heaven. Why doesn’t God give us a great life now? These can cause us to be less confident in our eternal home.
Perhaps the biggest cause of doubt is being naked before God. Adam and Even tried to cover their physical nakedness with fig leaves after they sinned. But as the Lord God questioned them, their hearts of sin were naked before the Lord. He had given them everything good and they still wanted more. They wanted to be their own gods. They chose to believe the devil. They despised God and his one command. All their sin was exposed before the Lord. How terrifying it must have been. Satan wants us to be terrified of the Lord too. He wants us to look at our sins, and at best answer, “I hope so” to whether God will receive us into eternal life. Satan tells us, “God knows all your sins. How can someone like you be in heaven?”
God kept his promise to Abraham and Moses and the people by rescuing them from Egypt and bringing them into the Promised Land 40 years later. God kept his promise to Adam and Eve, to Abraham and to all people by sending his Son, Jesus Christ to rescue all people. Christ suffered in his body to pay for our sin. Christ gave up his life so that we may have life. In Christ, we are no longer naked with our sins exposed before the holy God. Instead, we are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Our Father in heaven does not count our sins against us. Christ’s life covers us. His death redeemed us. His resurrection guarantees our eternal home. As Paul writes, “What is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
We can be confident in our eternal home because God has kept his promises to us and all people in Christ. But our Lord is gracious and gives us even more confidence.
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.
The Holy Spirit came to us, gave us the gift of faith and continues to keep us in the one, true faith. In Holy Baptism the Spirit washed our sins away and continues to do so through Word and Sacrament today. The Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our eternal home in heaven. Why do you believe that Jesus lived, died and rose again for you? It was not by your reason or choice that you believe in Jesus. Instead, the Holy Spirit called you to faith by the gospel. He fact that you believe in Christ is proof that the Holy Spirit has worked in you and therefore proof that God will receive you into eternal life.
We can be and God wants us to be confident in our eternal home because God has promised and accomplished everything for us.
We Live by Faith
We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 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.
It is vital to read the Bible in context. If you took the last verse of our text alone, one might think that we have to earn our eternal home by what we do with our earthly life. But we know that our eternal home is certain based on the promises and work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So what is Paul telling us? He tells us to live by faith since we have confidence in our eternal home.
Live by faith does not mean that we have life or have eternal life by faith. The latter is certainly true. However, the phrase is literally, “Walk by faith.” It means the way we go about our daily lives. We walk through this life by faith. Through God’s promises, we are confident that we will by with Jesus one day. We will praise him forever in heaven. We will live eternally to thank him, serve him and please him in our eternal home. Paul points out that since we are most certainly going to do this in heaven, why not begin now?
What matters most is the attitude we have as we walk through life doing what is good. Since it is Father’s Day, let’s consider the relationship of children and their father. If a father comes home from work and finds that the yard has been mowed, the garage swept, the floors cleaned, the dishes done, the cars washed, the gutters cleaned, the trash emptied and every other chore possible has been done by his children, he might be pleasantly surprised. Then the children come up to him and say, “Did you notice how much we did today? Will you buy me that bike, car, game, toy I really want?” Fathers might just see that they did all these things to get something from dad.
Our Father in heaven knows when we do good things to get something from him. That is not doing what is pleasing to him. He has given us everything by his grace. We don’t have to pay him back. We don’t have to earn it. Instead, thank him by walking in faith. Thank him by obeying his commands. As we do what is good, follow Jesus’ advice and don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. It is not about what we do but why we do what is good. Praise the Lord who gave all to save us by daily seeking his forgiveness. Praise him by seeking to do what pleases him. We will do this in our eternal home and can do so now as well.
So can we who are weak and sinful be confident of our eternal home? In Christ and only in Christ the answer is “Yes, God will bring me into his eternal home.”