Monday, February 26, 2024

Built Up in the Fullness of Jesus Christ

"In March of 1981, President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation's chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation's activity. Government continued on. On the other hand, suppose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike. It happened last year in Paris for a while. That city was not only in a literal mess, the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country. Who is more important--the President or a garbage collector? In the body of Christ, seemingly insignificant ones are urgently needed. As Paul reminds us, "The head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12:21-22). -David Parsons.

Whether it’s president, political leader, pastor, church greeter, garbage collector, the body of Christ needs every member. You matter. You are important. And that’s why it’s so important we grow in Christ, and seek maturity in Christ.

The Apostle Paul challenges us, just as he challenged the church in Ephesus two thousand years ago, to walk in a manner worth of the calling we’ve received.

He writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” 
-Ephesians 4:1

Each of us have been called to be Christians, followers of Jesus, to be pure and blameless in a wicked world, to be love in a time of coldness, to speak truth when lies reign everywhere, and to care about others when most only care about themselves.

The calling is high, to Jesus. Paul tells us to live our lives in a way that matches the heights of what we’ve been called to.

We’re immediately instructed on what that looks like. We’re considering the theme of building a house today. The house is you. And we’re going to see the bricks and pieces we want to include to make sure this house is a success.

In verses 2-3, "...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

First, we’re told living worthy to our calling looks like humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, and eager to maintain unity.

Humility is thinking highly of others and thinking of ourselves soberly. Gentleness is not being too loud, not being too intense, not being too overbearing, but gentle. Patience is being good at waiting. Even in traffic. Bearing with one another is making room for people’s faults. Notice unity as well that’s going to come up again here. Unity among believers is hugely important to God. No divisions. Complete unity. Not partial unity, but total unity.

Immediately the Lord points us to unity, in verses 4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

If this house we’re building is like a brick, it fits in with all the other members of the body of Christ, in a larger house, which is the body of Christ, the church as a group. What unites the body? The fact that the Lord is over us all, through us all, and in us all.

All of these other character traits, humility, gentleness, bearing up, are going to help us to solidify into the bonds of unity in the larger collective.

Next Paul turns back to the individual believer, and speaks of Christ’s gift.

In verses 7-10 it says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

In other words, the foundation of this whole structure is Christ’s grace. Along with that grace, Christ gave us gifts. Spiritual gifts, like faith, showing mercy, prophecy, giving, administration, and on the list goes.

Not only did Jesus give us His grace, and spiritual giftings for the blessing of the body, he also gave us leaders in the body of Christ.

This is what we call the five-fold ministry. It says in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

So if the house structure we’re building is you, one believer, the various leaders in the church are given by Jesus, to build you up in various ways. An apostle can minister to you in various ways, they are pioneers, church planters, missionary types. They blaze new trails, try new things and build up the church.

Prophets speak a hard truth. They may speak a word over you, give you a word for your life that’s specific to you, from God. They call us away from sin. They mourn the evils in the world. The evangelist is one who is often out on the streets ministering to people who don’t know Jesus yet. The shepherd is the pastor, the counselor, someone who guides Christians to grow in Christ. And teachers are experts in explaining the Bible, explaining the meaning of truths in scripture, and is good at leading a small group or bible study.

Each of these five areas of ministry are meant to do one thing: Build up the body of believers. Christ is the chief builder, but through the five fold Christ builds up this house, which is you.

Here next in verse 13 we really see the end goal of this whole thing, it says this Ephesians 4:13, “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

We see further growth again is exemplified by unity of the faith, more complete knowledge of the son of God, all culminating in maturity.

And again in verse 14, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

The contrast is between being children in Christ, to being mature, it says mature manhood. So, having grown up in Christ, we come to a point where we are no longer children, but mature, and no longer tossed to and fro by the ways of controversy and human deceit.

I recall a time in my life when I was younger as a Christian and I was very much tossed to and fro, first I would listen to prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, then I was listening to Calvinists online, then I’m talking with Jehovah Witnesses, then I was taking a Christian basics course online, and I was just all over the place. Slowly over time, as I studied and learned, I found growth toward maturity.

All of this is building up toward a place of maturity in Christ where we have a sense of stability and discernment. We aren’t thrown back and forth anymore. We aren’t torn in different directions. We have a stability from knowing God’s word. And we have a discernment to test what is true and what is false.

Lastly it says in verses 15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:15-16

“Speaking the truth in love” I think implies the level of maturity Paul is talking about here. I’ve seen unstable Christians before and they usually fall into two camps, first you have those who speak the truth without love. They are so focused on doctrine that they don’t have much love. They want to fight off false doctrines. But they just come off as mean and loveless. It’s unstable, it lacks biblical love. Second camp is the ones who speak in love, but don’t have truth. They are so focused on being loving, being kind, being nice, that they simply affirm whatever someone says. They don’t speak truth. They compromise God’s word. They just want everyone to feel great, feel accepted, feel good. But by so doing, they are unstable, they lack truth, and love without truth is deceptive and empty.

So, speaking the truth in love we’re to grow up into Him who is the head, and that was mentioned in verse 13, it said to reach the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ. In other words, come into a place of maturity that is marked by spiritual fullness in Jesus Christ. To be truly filled with Jesus completely.

But, this picture of a house full and mature in Christ is a single believer. So, when each part is working properly, working together, united in Christ, connected and held together by Christ, then the body functions correctly, the church functions correctly, and we’re all like a brick in the wall, of the larger building, which is the church worldwide.

Or, like a collection of many houses together, like a city, you might say. And each house represents a person in the city who serves some function to make the city function, whether it’s a teacher, a painter, an electrician, a clerk, driver, musician, artist, plumber, jeweler, construction, day car worker, waitress, politician, lawyer, and so on. We each have a particular part to play in the body of Christ, each a unique role to fulfill. It all fits together. And if each member is serving with their gifts, the body works well, and grows and prospers. If they do not work well together, and fight each other, the body doesn’t grow properly.

So, for each of us today, we should make it our goal to come into maturity in Jesus Christ, growing in Christ, and then using our gifts and talents to build up the body.

Let’s Review…

1. Live up to your call – Grow into Christ

2. Grow in Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Bearing with one another, Unity, and the bonds of Peace

3. This is accomplished through the gift of Christ’s grace

4. Christ has also given us spiritual gifts to use to help each other

5. Christ also gave us the five-fold ministry to build us up

6. Grow in the Knowledge of Jesus / Unity of the Faith

7. Then we will find Stability and Discernment to avoid false doctrine

8. Speak the truth in love, avoid missing either love or truth

9. All of this will lead us to Spiritual Fullness in Christ - maturity

10. In maturity we can serve in our place in the body of Christ faithfully and successfully

Remember brothers and sisters you are part of a family of believers. You are called to unity. Your place in this group worldwide is very important. Your place matters. You can make a difference. You have a role to play in this body. If you can grow in Christ, you can serve effectively in this body, and play your part in the great body of Jesus Christ worldwide.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Trusting God through Suffering: Accept the Pain and Move Forward

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.” -Malcolm Muggeridge, in Homemade, July, 1990.

As much as I don’t want to agree with Muggeridge I’m afraid that I do. When I look back on my life, even the last two years, I’m greatly satisfied by painful experiences I went through that taught me great lessons. Particularly times when I went through suffering patiently under God’s care.

I think of three experiences, first, in 2020 I was actually banned from preaching for a time, because of a sermon I preached on a sensitive issue. I was bold. I spoke what God told me to speak. I remember when I wrote the sermon, hot button issue, I got on my knees and asked God, should I remove anything from this sermon? I still remember what God said, “Not a word.” Somehow I knew something was going to happen. So I had to be sure. And God made it clear, speak all of it.

It was a time of great pressure and strain in my life. I was concerned, afraid, disturbed. But God was at work. God protected me. God helped me. And soon, my freedom to preach was restored.

I look back on that no longer with pain, but with gratitude, because I learned so much through all of it. And God helped me bear the suffering with grace.

Second, I remember when I had Covid, also in 2020. I was brutally sick. And you probably remember, at the same time I was brutally sick, I was also overcome with severe crippling anxiety. It was something very odd about COVID, it brought on bad anxiety.

I remember day by day, sleeping all day, and being so anxious I could barely stand existing in the moment. But God got me through. I recall the only relief I could get, I would wrap myself in a blanket and go sit on the front porch and talk on the phone, and that somehow helped me to calm down.

Again, I look back gratefully, because I made it through the suffering and learned so much about myself and the world during that time.

Thirdly, I recall a time when controversy broke out at this church with certain leaders, who I was close with. And several people left the church over the division. It was devastating for me. I was so stressed and upset during that time. But again, I recall how God brought me safely through the fire. And it was during that time of severe pain and confusion that God brought Chelsey into my life.

Let’s take a look at a quote from Jeanne Guyon’s book on this issue of suffering:

“You must be patient in all the suffering that God sends you. If your love for the Lord is pure, you will love Him as much on Calvary as on Mt. Tabor. The Lord Jesus loved His Father on Mt. Tabor where He was transfigured, but He loved Him no less on Calvary where He was crucified. Surely, then, you should love the Lord as much on Calvary, for it was there that He made the greatest display of His love.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

There are two situations where I see Christians that are very common. There are others, but these two are quite common.

First, a Christian who is on cloud 9. They are riding the wave. They are excited. They are on fire for Jesus. Life is good. They feel joyous. Their faith is burning brightly. And they are on top of the world.

Nothing wrong with this first area. It’s a great place to be as a Christian. It’s the mount Tabor experience. Jesus is at the heights of his ministry. He’s changing people’s lives. He’s preaching the truth and healing people. He shines brightly on mount tabor. You will have times and seasons like that.

Second scenario, a Christian who is on the rocks. They are struggling. They are going through something that hurts bad. They feel exhausted. They are tired. They are stressed and seeing red. They can barely stand their situation. And it’s hard.

But, I see Christians here even in a sort of grace. They’ve accepted the situation as from God. And they are walking with Him in it. Then again, I see Christians who are in suffering and they are having a hard time accepting it, they are wrestling in it. And it’s not as pretty. But they make it through as well, as they cling to Him.

So how can we learn to bear suffering more wisely? We’re seeing that times we suffer are actually very helpful and we learn a lot in those times. We know it will happen. Pain is inevitable. Is there a way to handle it better?

Here’s what Jeanne Guyon says…

“As soon as anything comes to you in the form of suffering, at that very moment a natural resistance will well up somewhere inside you. When that moment comes, immediately resign yourself to God. Accept the matter. In that moment give yourself up to Him as a sacrifice.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

As you find yourself facing some difficulty, simply offer yourself to God in that moment. God I accept this suffering as from you. Unless it’s something that isn’t from him, I suppose.

Give yourself up, accept the suffering as from God, and allow it to simply be there for it’s time. And it’s only a time. As the word of God says…

1 Peter 5:10 ESV “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Suffering only lasts so long. Then God brings you through it, out of it, and he restores you, confirms you, strengthens and establishes you.

Psalm 34:19 ESV “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

We will face many difficulties as Christians, but God delivers us from them all.

And Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 ESV

Take heart, take heart, and take heart again. Have peace. Don’t give up. You will get through this. And a time will come when the suffering will end. God will bring healing. And in paradise, we will suffer no more. There will only be joy.

At times you may bear the suffering well. You carry your cross with strength, but there will be other times when you carry your cross in weakness.

As Jeanne Guyon said…“Sometimes you may bear the cross in weakness; at other times you may bear the cross in strength. But whether you bear it in weakness or in strength, bear it! Both weakness and strength should be the same to us since we bear the cross in the will of God.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

I know there have been times that I suffered gracefully. Other times it was ugly, like an ugly, bitter cry in a corner somewhere. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Sure it’s good to bear it in strength, but at times it will be in weakness. That’s ok. Ugly cry it out. Just don’t give up. Keep going.

We know one day, Jesus will wipe away every tear, and heal every hurt. One day we will go from groping toward God in the darkness, in this life, to the next life, night to day, where we will see Jesus face to face. And that will change everything.

Revelation 21:4 ESV, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Until then, let’s continue to deal with suffering with grace, accepting it as from God, allowing it to do it’s work in us, and learning the lesson from it, to grow in grace, come into healing, and bear up under suffering as we carry out crosses toward heaven.

Also understand that suffering has an expiration date if you’re a Christian. But, if you are not a Christian, suffering in this life is only the beginning. In hell, suffering is permanent. Right now we suffer, but there is a hope beyond the suffering. For the person in hell, suffering is permanent, and it only promises to get worse over time. There is no hope at all. That’s truth.

So allow Jesus to be your savior, and you can know, suffering is temporary and joy awaits you in heaven.

Let’s Review our Main Points from Today:

1. Suffering is necessary in life to learn the deepest truths about ourselves and the world and God

2. When you’re in the joy of the Lord and everything is great, praise God

3. When you’re broken and suffering, and everything seems wrong, praise God

4. When going through suffering, accept it as from God, and offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice

5. Suffering always has an expiration date, give it time, and God will deliver you

6. Accept that sometimes you’ll suffer in strength, other times you’ll suffer in weakness, just don’t give up!

7. Believe that one day, in paradise, all suffering will be gone, and joy will be permanent. (While in hell, suffering is permanent and joy is impossible)

Monday, February 19, 2024

Abandon Yourself Entirely to God: Examining the Concept of Surrendering to God's Will

Abandon yourself to God. 

What does it mean exactly? When we become a follower of Jesus, we are renouncing, or throwing off our old ways of life. And we’re choosing a new way of life. A life which is now fundamentally under the command and control of God Almighty.

We abandon ourselves to God. We surrender control of our lives to Him in a very practical way.

Madam Guyon said it like this, “You must come to the Lord and there engage in giving up all your concerns. All your concerns go into the hand of God. You forget yourself, and from that moment on you think only of Him.”

Now I know what many of you are thinking, can someone really do that? Is that possible? Yes honestly, we can do that.

It’s simply doing it. Instead of sitting and worrying about it and wondering if it’s possible, it’s sitting down in prayer and asking God to make it happen.

Prayer: "Lord, we give all our worries and concerns to you. We put our lives in your hands. We forget ourselves, and we focus only on You. In Jesus name, amen."

As with so many aspects of the Christian life, it’s a little miracle that it really happens, because in ourselves we could never abandon ourselves to God.

But it is quite possible.

As Jeanne Guyon said, “Be careful; do not listen to the voice of your natural reasoning. You can expect just such reasoning to well up within you. Nonetheless, you must believe that you can abandon yourself utterly to the Lord for all your lifetime and that He will give you the grace to remain there! You must trust in God, "hoping against hope? (Romans 4:18)”

The scriptures give a good word about this, from Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Be still, and know that God is God and let him be in control.

Another powerful scripture about letting God run our lives is this one from Proverbs…

Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

Here is another powerful statement from Madam Guyon about abandonment to God, “What is abandonment? It is forgetting your past; it is leaving the future in His hands; it is devoting the present fully and completely to your Lord. Abandonment is being satisfied with the present moment, no matter what that moment contains. You are satisfied because you know that whatever that moment has, it contains—in that instant—God's eternal plan for you.”

Let's break it down... 

1. It’s forgetting your past, leaving behind old patterns

2. It’s trusting God for the future

3. It’s allowing God to be in charge in the present

4. It’s been satisfied with God’s will in the moment, that’s it’s just right

5. It’s trusting that in this moment what’s going on is God’s perfect will

This is linked with a concept in the scriptures called humbling ourselves before God. It’s a good reminder to pray a lot, pray on our knees, and submit to Him completely.

As it says in 1st Peter 5:5-7, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." -1st Peter 5:5b-7

I know this can seem difficult to abandon ourselves to God, to give everything over, but there are many benefits. We don’t have to be afraid. We aren’t in charge. God is.

I remember when COVID hit in 2020, and everyone became frantically afraid. And I had to ask myself, wait Justin, whose in control? Is it you? Or is it God? I knew God was in control. So I abandoned myself to Him. And I wasn’t near as afraid anymore. I could rest in His protection and know that whatever happened, it would be ok. Even if I died, I would be ok. 

It’s freedom from fear to trust in God. We can cast all our anxieties on Him, and he cares for us, and removes our worries.

It reminds me of recovery groups. The first three steps of the 12 steps say: First, we surrender and admit that our lives have become unmanageable.

Second, we come to believe that God can restore us to sanity

Third, we turned our will and our lives over to the care of God.

This concept of surrender and coming to believe and turning ourselves over to God is biblical. It reminds me of Luke 9:23-24…

Luke 9:23-24 ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

And again in Matthew 7:1 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

It’s not enough to simply call Jesus Lord, we really have to abandon ourselves to Him, deny ourselves, deny our old pattern of life, and embrace the new pattern of carrying our cross with Jesus. Otherwise there’s no hope. We have to give it all over!

But I know what you’re probably thinking, if I completely abandon myself to God, can I really trust that he will care for me? The answer is absolutely yes. God will do exactly what is right. It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be perfect or fun. But it will be 100% right. It will be His will for your life. And we can trust that His will is 100% right.

Would God forget us or forsake us or fail to keep His promises? Not a chance.

As it says in Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”

It gives the picture of God being so close that he is a watching over our defenses. He is guarding us carefully. He is always watching, all around us. He’s written our name on His hands.

I want to share one final quote from Madam Guyon, all these quotes are from chapter 6 of Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.

She writes, “Surrender yourself to allow Him to do with you exactly as He pleases—both in your inward life of experiencing Him and also in your outward life of accepting all circumstances as from Him.”

So in conclusion today, let’s remember it like this, we want to surrender in two main ways, one, we want to surrender ourselves to God within ourselves, in our journey of experiencing Him in relationship. Simply let him do whatever He pleases inside of us.

Secondly, we want to accept all circumstances in our lives as from Him (that are not the fault of our mistakes). If we make a bad decision that may not be from God. But in general we should accept outward circumstances in our lives as from Him. And accept things as they are.

To Review, Our Main Points are as follows:

1. Believe that you really can abandon yourself to God completely (it is possible through God’s power)

2. Forget the past, trust God for the future, and entirely embrace what God has for you today as coming from Him

3. Abandoning ourselves to God means freedom from fear and control

4. Deny old patterns of thinking, take up your cross, and follow the way of Jesus

5. We can trust that if we do abandon ourselves to God, God will care for us a good Father

6. Surrender yourself to Him within and allow God to whatever He pleases in changing you from within

7. Surrender your external life to Him, and let Him lead you wherever He wants, accepting circumstances as from Him

Eternity Written in the Human Heart: Where is Home in a Fallen World?

My fiancé and I went to see The Chosen in theaters this weekend, season four, episodes 4-6. And we really enjoyed it. It was very powerful. Particularly I really enjoyed episode 4. You have Jesus seeing the faith the centurion who doesn’t even need Jesus to come to his house to heal his son, he simply believes that Jesus will do it, and Jesus is amazed by his faith. He is excited. But suddenly, his own disciples disappoint him greatly, james and john ask to sit at his right and left. And it's just exhausting for Jesus. He leaves the area and goes and prays. And I just felt the power of that moment. That we groan in this life with the problems and difficulties.

Sometimes as Christians we feel as though we’re caught between heaven and Earth. We long to be in heaven with God. We long to escape the flesh, to be free from the evils of this world. Yet we know we have a job, a duty to minister to this world and be salt and light to the world. But it’s tough. We long for something greater.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, "I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter." -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, pg. 3

Ecclesiastes says he has set eternity in the human heart. There is a piece of eternity within us, and we long for something more.

We long for a place we’ve never been. Our hearts ache for eternity. We’re going to talk about that tension between heaven and earth in the Christian life today.

We’re looking today at 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, verses 1-10. Our structure of faith today is an hour glass shape, the bottom represents our life on Earth, the top portion represents our future in heaven.

It says in 2nd Cor 5:1, “For 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.”

I believe Paul is referring to earthly tent here, as our physical bodies, but some translations, like the KJV render it as earthly house. But again it’s most likely the same thing, your body, housing your soul.

One day every person in here will pass away, our earthly tent will be destroyed. But we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, so a new heavenly body, that does not age like this body does. It’s not built by human hands. Our earthly bodies grew from our mother’s body, right? But the heavenly body is created by God.

Verse 2-3 says, “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.”

Yet while we live in this earthly body, our flesh on Earth, we do groan. We sigh. We long for something better. We long for something new. We long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.

It gives us this picture then of being clothed vs being found naked. In Christ, while in the flesh, we often wonder, am I properly clothed, am I living the Christian life correctly? We wonder if we’re really saved. We battle against sin. So we are concerned with staying clothed in Christ, and not being found naked.

But when we die, and go to heaven, the uncertainty is over, the spiritual battles are over, and we’re safe. In the flesh, we remain in a sense, guarding against sins and evil, but in heaven, the time of guarding is over. We won’t be found naked then, but clothed.

Next, “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 instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

Right now my brothers and sisters we are burdened. We deal with physical health issues, mental health issues, addictions, and temptation, we are burdened, lightly, with the troubles of this world. We groan. The 1828 dictionary calls it uttering a mournful voice in pain or sorrow.

Can you relate? We can all relate. That’s why we’re being told by Paul, this is the current state of things. But it is temporary. It’s like an hour glass, our lives, slowly the sand is draining, and one day we will be with Jesus.

It’s fascinating an unbeliever dreads the day of their death, they do anything they can to escape it. They won’t even dare think about it. For the Christian we are excited for the day when we’ll be with Jesus face to face. We long for the day when we’ll pass from this temporary flesh to our eternal dwelling.

Next in verse 5, “5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

We talk about the uncertainty of life in the flesh, and wrestling with God, wrestling with our prayer life, trying to keep focused on Jesus, yet we also see an assurance here, that if we have the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is this deposit, a guarantee of what is to come. The Holy Spirit will witness to me, when I’m wrestling, “Yes you’re safe and secure. Be at peace.” Or the Holy Spirit will also witness to me, you’re in sin, go to your Father, and seek His help toward forgiveness and repentance.” And then I do that.

We have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is like our link to the heavenly world. He glows brightly within us, telling us of God and Jesus and heaven and judgment and the world to come.

Verse 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.”

Living in the flesh in the pain and sorrows of Earth is a breeding ground for uncertainty, confusion, and doubt. But God counters that by telling us, “you can always be confident.”

Know that you are currently away from the Lord. You are not in his direct presence. We are still in the earthly realm.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” -2 Cor 5:7

On Earth we live in faith. In heaven we will live by sight. We will literally see God. We will literally see Jesus. We will see angels. We will see it all. Right now it’s different. Right now we trust, though we can’t see. We believe and know it is in fact true.

Notice the dividing line. The bottom portion of the hour glass represents Earth, the top represents heaven. These worlds are vastly different. Yet we’re linked to heaven through Jesus Christ.

Next, 2 Cor 5:8-9: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

Second time he says, “we are confident.” We are confident in what we believe.

Next he writes, that yes we would prefer to be away from the body, in heaven, right now. My preference: Be there. So Paul makes this argument, since you want to be in heaven, therefore make it your goal to please Him.

So our goal in the flesh, is this: Please God. Whether we’re in the body or not, always, heaven or Earth, the goal is to please God. Live by God’s leading. Love God’s son Jesus. Walk in relationship with God. All those things are pleasing to Him.

Then lastly in verse 10, ““For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Our goal is to please God, because, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. All our deeds, every word we spoke will be brought into judgment at the gateway between the bottom and top parts of the hourglass. The gateway entry point, is the judgment seat of Christ.

Those we have lived by faith in Jesus Christ, and lived holy as He is holy will be rewarded, and welcomed into the eternal kingdom. Those who have rejected Christ, denied Christ, or have made a practice of lawlessness, will face judgment and condemnation.

The judgment seat of Christ is a great reminder that the next life isn’t automatic. I read a quote recently from the late R.C. Sproul that the world thinks the only requirement for heaven is to die, that everyone goes to a better place. But that isn’t true. Only those who have Jesus Christ as savior, and have repented of their sins, will have eternal life. There is a heaven, there is also a hell. And it’s perfectly just. God is just. The judgment seat will be entirely just. We’ll know it’s right, when we go there. Each of us will, either to be rewarded, or condemned.

Let’s review our main points from today:

1. Your earthly body is temporary, your heavenly body will live forever

2. We are clothed in Christ, but we want to avoid being found naked (keep your garment on)

3. Groaning and burdens in the flesh are to be expected

4. We have the Holy Spirit connecting us to heaven now

5. We are always confident that God is with us

6. We live by faith today, next life by sight

7. Our preference is to be with God in heaven

8. Our Goal is to Please God on Earth

9. We all must pass through the gateway of the judgment seat of Christ

10. The New Heavens and New Earth are real home

Point number 10 I think is key here. Where is home, really? I think about the house where I grew up on Ross avenue in Wisconsin. I miss it, sure. But it wasn’t really home. My grandmas kitchen, home? My other grandmas garden, home? My house here in Owosso? None of it quite feels like home. We get hints of it. We get a taste of it. But we’re always groaning in the flesh, in this life, for something greater. For something better. We’re longing for home. Home isn’t here. We get hints of it. But our real home, the place that will truly feel like home, because it is home, is with God, in the new Jerusalem. That city is home. God is home. That’s where we belong. Accept the groanings of this life, but live in hope, because we have a confident assurance, that if we leave this earthly tent, we have a heavenly dwelling that will last forever. Amen.