Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sermon - Living for Eternity - 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Living for Eternity


Who likes camping?

I do! My son and I love to go camping at Roe Dam at Easter – it's great... for a weekend!

As much fun as it is to set up tents, explore, cook on campfires and rough it for a while, most of us would rather not live that way. We like our houses more than we like our tents!

My friend's family in high school – lived in a shed on a farm. They had a kitchen that doubled as a bathroom, a toilet and a living area which was a combined dining/lounge room. The bedrooms consisted of a couple of caravans parked in the open section of the shed.

Living in the shed was fine for a while, but they were looking forward to getting that house built!

The shed was all you could see, but that's not all there was – they were looking forward to something better coming. All through our high school years my friends family were camping out! I moved back to Busselton after being away for about 7 years, and went out to visit the farm. Finally I got to see what they looked forward to all along, and it was fantastic. Beautiful gardens and a lovely farmhouse. They'd finally settled in and it was worth the wait.

There is a difference between camping out and settling in.

Your Body is a Tent

Look down at your body – look at your hands, arms, torso, legs and feet. Look at your body and realise this... it's a tent!! It is temporary, it is frail, it is fragile, it is not going to last..

The Bible has many important things to say about how you should see your body, think about your body, even think about other people's bodies! But the truth that your body is a tent is probably the most important.

Of course a lot of people would scoff at this idea. “Our bodies are who we are” they would say. Our genetic make-up, the chemistry of our brains, these are the things that define us. When the electricity stops coursing around our nueral networks we cease to be – there is nothing beyond these physical realities.

The Bible says that these physical realities are just the tent that God has put us in. They are incredibly complex – we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But God is so incredible that He has an even more awesome design in mind for us. A design which is eternal, not temporary. A design which does not suffer from the frailties and vulnerabilities of this one. A design which was modeled for us by Jesus when He returned from the grave as what Paul described in his first letter to the Corinthians as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”. If our bodies on earth are a tent, then our heavenly bodies are a palace!

The key thought that I want us all to grasp today is this:

Don't waste your life decorating your tent, prepare for your palace!

It is very easy to make this life all about what is temporary, as if that is all there is. It's not. We were made for eternity - not in these bodies, but in the ones we will receive when Christ returns.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

With this in mind let's re-read

2 Corinthians 5:1-8

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.

I want to ask you this morning - is this how you feel? Do you long to swap this temporary body for your eternal one? Do you long to be present with Jesus? Does this life feel like a burden to you when you compare it to eternity?

If you live by faith, then the answer must be “Yes”. Faith produces confidence in the life to come, and the realisation that it is much, much, much better than this one – better than we could even dream or imagine. If you have accepted the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ then you have no more reason to fear death, rather you have every reason to look forward to real life.

However in 1 Corinthians we were urged to stand firm and let nothing move us – why? Because we are constantly tempted to live by sight instead of by faith. We are tempted to make our temporary campout here on earth all that we are living for. We are tempted to settle in. To find satisfaction in our temporary comforts, temporary achievements, temporary relationships, temporary experiences and so on. Our sight says, “This is all there is, so live it up while you can”, or, “This is all there is, so slave away to give your kids as much as you can so they can have what you missed out on”.

Paul says instead “Don't settle for the temporary, go for the eternal. Work for the Lord because that will last.”

Whether a guy or girl thinks you're attractive won't last. Even marrying that guy or girl will at best only last this lifetime. But risking their rejection by sharing your faith could lead to a relationship that will continue in eternity. Does that change the way you look at people and relate to them? What would it be like if we all saw those around us as people we want to share eternity with? Even the annoying, rude, arrogant or violent ones?

Sinking your money into homes, clothes and cars is a necessary part of life in this world, but it won't last. Using your resources to share the love and truth of Christ – there's a long term investment strategy. Does that change the way you look at and use your money?

The last 2 verses of our passage state:

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.

Don't waste your life decorating your tent, prepare for your palace!

The last time I was here I spoke about the fact that this life can only be lived to the full when we live it God's way. Building our lives on Jesus is the only way to have a life full of love, joy, peace, security and so many other good things. It is the only way to have our heart's desires satisfied. But I never want to give the impression that this is the hope of the gospel. I never want to market the gospel as a way of having your dreams and desires fulfilled. That's encouraging people to live by sight and to make Jesus their slave instead of their Lord. You will never fully obey the gospel if you are trying to make this life as good as it can be. You can only live God's way when you become convinced that this life is not the point.

2 Corinthians 5 tells us that God has made us for the purpose of eternity, and our job as a church is to help people be prepared for it.

Don't waste your life decorating your tent, prepare for your palace!

Don't settle in here, camp out until your real home is ready – it will be worth the wait!

No comments: