Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Our Heavenly Dwelling

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Caroline and I have lived in Ft. Worth and Ft. Wayne and Kingsville and San Angelo and every time we have returned from a business trip or vacation, we say:  I’m glad to be home.
But what we should have said is:  “home for now”—because none of those places were our permanent address.  Maybe you’ve moved around a lot more than the four or five times we’ve moved—maybe you’ve moved around a lot less than we have-- but all of us have at least one more move to look forward to—a move to our heavenly home-- for no place on earth is our permanent address.
Unless the Lord comes first, our earthly lives will come to an end and we will journey on from this world to our true dwelling place in heaven.  The Bible says:
For 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. 
            No matter how long we live in one place, no matter how attached we are to our own little corner of the world, our lives on earth are like a tent.  I have spent many nights camping out in tents and they serve quite well-- for a time.  But eventually they wear out and get musty and smelly and torn and full of holes and they no longer serve their purpose-- which is to shelter us temporarily.  So it is with our earthly lives.
That is why it is such Good News for us to KNOW that there is another dwelling for us in heaven that Paul says is a building built by God that will last forever
Bible scholars are divided as to whether Paul is speaking of our resurrection bodies that we receive on the last day-- or our heavenly dwelling place in the glory of God.  But there is no contradiction between them—instead, they are complementary.  Our earthly bodies will die and earth itself will be destroyed.  But our resurrection bodies and our heavenly homes will endure forever. 
That this is our future, Paul says we can KNOW.  And so why is he so confident about our eternal future?  It’s because of Christ’s resurrection. 
If ever an earthly tent had been destroyed, it was Christ’s body on the cross.  But he also knew that Jesus had been raised—he met the resurrected Christ and saw his glorified body.  He knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that there was something greater than the best earthly life still to come for the Christian after their death-- and he looked forward to it rather than feared it.  Paul writes:
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed… 
God created us to live without sickness and disability and death-- but our sin brought that to an end-- and now our earthly lives are marked by frailty-- and they will eventually be destroyed by death as easily as tent pegs being pulled from the ground.
Until that day, our temporary, earthly lives are often filled with groans.  There are aches and pains and illness and disability.  There is the pain of separation when loved ones pass away.  And then there is the burden of our own sinfulness and how far we are from the glory of God.  All of these and more are “part and parcel” of our earthly lives and bring forth groans from our inmost hearts.
And so we long to be delivered from all of it.  Not that we want to die, but we have a deep sense that even the best, most blessed earthly lives are not-- and can not be-- all that there is—that there must be more to life than temporary, fading joys and finally death.  The Good News for us is that there is more—much more.
There is another life to come for us and another place for us to live.  The Bible says that what is mortal is swallowed up by life.
The ancients saw the grave as that which swallowed up life—that no matter how long life was—no matter how successful in earthly terms—no matter how prominent and powerful a person—in the end the grave swallowed life whole. 
As Jesus was laid in the tomb, it certainly seemed as if there was no escaping the grave for anyone-- but three days later the grave suffered its first defeat as Christ rose up victorious—his life swallowing up death itself.  And on the Last Day the grave will suffer defeat after defeat as our bodies are raised from our graves by the same Almighty power that raised Christ from his grave.  The Bible says that:
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage.
            That we have a heavenly home and another life to live when this brief time on earth is over is completely God’s doing—it is the work of his hands.  He has chosen us for this very purpose and has sent his Son to deliver us from sin and death.
But God has done even more.  He has given us his Holy Spirit as a sure sign that this hope that we have of another life and another dwelling place is not just a pious wish but as real and concrete and certain as the physical bodies and homes we live in right now.  Paul calls this gift of the Spirit:  a guarantee-- and for the Greeks this word described a down payment or earnest money that secured a financial deal. 
That you believe in Jesus Christ—that you confess him as your Lord and Savior—that you desire to live a life pleasing to him even though at times you fail—is a sure sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life which is a guarantee from God himself that when you pass from this life you will enter your heavenly home. 
All the things that tempt us to fear:  an unknown future—separation from our loved ones—economic downturns—and our own mortality—are completely changed because we know our ETERNAL future and ETERNAL home.
We long for that day even while we entrust the timing to the Lord and strive to live with heavenly values and priorities and purposes right now.  Paul writes:
We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 
            One sure sign that we are not yet home is that we live by faith rather than by sight.  We trust God’s promise about our heavenly home even though we cannot yet see its fulfillment.  But there is coming a day for us when we will see it with our own eyes.
Certainly we would like to be home right now!  What a blessing to see the One who has loved us throughout our lives with an everlasting love.  What a joy to see our loved ones who have already gone to be with the Lord!  But we’re not there yet. 
Until that day we make it our aim to please Jesus where we are in life right now.  The word that Paul uses there means that we make it our AMBITION to please the Lord.  Ambition is what drives our life—the goal that is always before us that orders our lives.  Pleasing the Lord in all that we say and do—this is our aim—this is our ambition—this is the goal that orders our lives until the day that we make that final journey home. 
Those who live life on earth yearning for their heavenly homes—those who make it their ambition to please the Lord-- have absolutely nothing to fear on the day when we called forth from this life to stand before the LORD.  The Bible says:
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.
            That we must first appear before the judgment seat of Christ before entering our heavenly home, may cast a shadow on our journey home.  But they shouldn’t! 
Those who trust in Christ for salvation have absolutely nothing to fear in the judgment to come because the One who judges us—has already passed through that judgment in our place.  He was counted guilty of our sins and sentenced to death—for us.  He suffered the pains of hell upon the cross-- for us.  And he died-- for us.  But he rose again and is seated at God’s right hand and he will judge the world.
We have nothing to fear on that day when we journey from life on earth to heaven- for we have already died with him and been raised with him in Holy Baptism-- and God counts his life and death as our own through faith in Jesus.  And because of that, his judgment is actually something to look forward to. Let me explain:
The pictures your children colored in Sunday are probably not great works of art.  There may be color outside the lines or the colors were all wrong.  But they are proud of what they did and as their parent you are proud too—simply because they are your children.  And that picture goes up on the refrigerator and is still probably stored in some box if your wife is like mine.
That’s what the judgment will be for God’s children—an opportunity for us to show God what we have done for him while we lived on this earth. 
And when he looks at our halting efforts—when he sees those times that we didn’t quite get it right—what he really sees is the perfection of his Son Jesus who always got it right—and that makes all the difference in the world as we prepare for that final move to our heavenly home.  Amen.

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