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#15 Longing for Eternity

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                           “LONGING FOR ETERNITY

                   (A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 06-17-07                          2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Proposition:      We were created in the image of God, for immortality, and the battles of life serve as a reminder that we are longing for our eternal home.                       

i.    introduction

-     THERE are certain experiences, certain relationships, certain pleasures of life that, if we had our way, would never end.

-     NOW, I realize that the list will be different for different ones of us here….

*     When the Sons of Thunder and I are on our motorcycles on a winding stretch of road in the magnificent mountains around here, and you are hitting the corners just right with about 5 or 6 good friends in formation….I don’t even want that to end.

*     Back when I was taking graduate classes in theology and had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of men like Gordon Fee, Eugene Peterson, Stanley Horton, and Steven Land, with the give and take of class discussion and professors with a passion for God’s Word….I was deeply disappointed when my graduate program was over.

*     Ever since I was a little boy, the last two days of vacation have always been a bummer for me, facing the responsibilities and routine of life again….there is a part of me that could be on vacation forever.

*     I don’t know about you, but I am never ready for the roller coaster ride to be over. They are entirely too short.

*     And Thanksgiving dinner….if it wasn’t that I run out of space, I would still be sitting at the table. There isn’t a flavor or texture of the Thanksgiving menu that I don’t love and don’t want to stop eating.

*     I didn’t want my Dad to die. Even though he was 80 and had lived a full life, I wasn’t ready for that relationship to be over.

-     WHAT am I talking about?

-     WE were not created for endings.

-     WE were created for eternity, where there are no endings, no goodbyes, and no death.

-     HOW do you know that pastor?

*     Because the first mention of death for God’s brand new creation in Genesis is God’s curse on humanity following Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God (Genesis 3:19).

*     Paul substantiates this in the New Testament where he tell us that

      “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)

-     ONLY God is eternal.  Only God has a past eternal and future eternal existence.

-     BUT I believe that when we were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), and before sin and death entered creation, Adam and Eve (our forbears) had an eternal future to look forward to.

*     No sin.

*     No sickness.

*     No abusing relationships.

*     No suffering.

*     No death.

*     No goodbyes.

*     No endings.

-     SIN changed all of that in an instant…not only for Adam and Eve but for all the rest of humanity since.

-     BUT left deep down inside of all of us is an inkling that surfaces now and then….that we were not created for endings, but for eternity.

-     AND sometimes the best times to discover that small vestige of what was the image and likeness of God within us all for eternity….is when everything is going wrong.

-     KIND of like it was for the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians.

-     IN fact, in chapter 4 he summarized what his life was like at the moment….

*     afflicted in every way

*     crushed

*     perplexed

*     persecuted

*     struck down.

-     THEN, at the end of chapter 4 he says,

      “…momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

-     THERE is a hope in the middle of Paul’s suffering that makes the hard times fade into obscurity.

-     THEN, in chapter 5, Paul goes right into what that hope is.

ii.   A TENT THAT IS TRADED FOR A BUILDING

-     LOOK at verse 1 with me,

      “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

-     IN the first 5 verses of this chapter Paul spends a lot of time comparing tents to buildings.

-     AND unless you are listening to Paul with the help of the Holy Spirit what he is talking about is going to go right over your head.

-     IN Paul’s day a tent represented what was transitory and without foundation.

-     ISRAEL knew all about tents. They lived in tents, wandering in the wilderness, temporary, on the move, unsettled, never stable, never really at rest for 40 years…..looking for the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey.

-     IN Paul’s day the tent and everything it stood for was clearly understood to represent our physical body.

-     IN fact, in John 1:14, concerning Jesus’ earthly body, John writes,

      “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)

-     THE Greek for “dwelt” literally means “pitched His tent among us.”

-     SO, back to our text. Paul says that “If this tent (physical body) which is our house is torn down….if we die.”

-     DEATH is the ultimate enemy….the ultimate ending which lurks as a hidden fear in our displeasure over all other endings in life.

-     IF we die, says Paul, death is not the ultimate end some think it to be.

-     IF we die, and this tent (body) is dissolved, we have a building.

*     No longer wandering….a building.

*     No longer transient…..a building.

*     No longer temporary…a building.

*     No longer vulnerable to the elements….a building.

-     THIS building, in contrast to the temporary nature of our physical body, will be our permanent dwelling.

-     DEATH is not the end of existence.

-     DEATH is not a transition to some other life form, depending on the balance in your karma account.

-     FOR those who are born again and walking with the Lord at their death, death is trading in a temporary tent for a permanent building.

-     AND Paul tells us four things about this building:

1.   It is from God.

*     Not that our human body didn’t also come from God, but our new permanent dwelling, a glorified body, like Jesus has, will be prepared for us by God Himself.

2.   It is not the result of human effort.

*     This new glorified body is not the result of what we now know as human procreation.

3.   It is eternal.

*     Everything that is temporary and transient about human life will be forgotten.

*     Our new glorified body from God will be eternal.

*     No more sickness, sorrow, pain, separation, or death.

4.   It is in the heavens.

*     It is true that we have eternal life now.

      “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

*     But the consummation of this gift of eternal life is being held in heaven for you and me….along with our glorified body.

-     BEFORE we move on to verse 2, let’s go back for just a moment to three words Paul starts verse 1 out with….”For we know..”

-     IT is important for you to know that the apostle Paul was not wishy washy like some preachers are on these subjects.

-     HE knows it. He is confident about it. He is unmoved by the so called wisdom of the Greek culture that surrounded him and what they thought of death and life hereafter.

-     HE knows about the dissolving of the earthly tent and about having a building from God that is eternal….and he expects you to be as confident about it because it is revealed by the Holy Spirit and appropriated by faith.

-     THOSE who don’t believe just aren’t going to get it!

iii.  A TENT THAT LONGS TO BE A BUILDING

-     LET’S move on to verses 2-3,

      “For indeed in this house [tent] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven…3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.” (2 Corinthians 5:2-3)

-     ONE commentator said that a groan is a strong human lament, powerless and suffering in circumstances that people cannot change on their own.

-     AND the motivation behind our groaning is the recognition that this life is temporary and was never intended to provide the Promised Land that we all long for….

*     where cancer will never again take another life.

*     where a spouse is never breaks his/her vows.

*     where children never have to suffer abuse.

*     where no tsunami or earthquake will ever again take human lives.

-     SO we long to be clothed with our eternal dwelling, but know that we have to pass through death to get there…..and that in itself produces a groaning.

-     THEN, in verse 3, Paul talks about the fact that we actually put this eternal life on NOW (through faith in Christ Jesus) so that we will not be “naked” (without Christ) in eternity.

      “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

-     YOUR salvation in eternity and your assurance of being part of God’s heaven in the glorified body depends entirely on your relationship with Jesus in this life.

-     ETERNAL life starts now!

-     THE life that you and I live now, in this earthly tent, through faith in Jesus Christ…becomes completely absorbed into Eternal Life.

-     “HE who has the Son has life!” (I John 5:12)

-     PAUL says the same thing in verse 4,

      “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)

iv. A BUILDING GUARANTEED BY GOD

-     HOW can Paul be so sure about this subject?

-     THE same way you and I can be so sure.

-     LISTEN to him in verse 5,

      “Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 5:5)

-     WHAT is the purpose for which God prepared us?

-     TO have our humanity absorbed into eternal life through Jesus Christ…so that we will be ready for our eternal building (body) when Jesus returns.

-     AND God has given us the Holy Spirit as our guarantee….that what happened to Jesus’ body after the resurrection will happen to us also who are in Him.

-     THAT is why Paul can say, “We know!”

-     THAT is why I can say, “I know!”

-     BECAUSE the same Holy Spirit who indwelt Paul and revealed things to him, dwells in me and reveals things to me.

v.  CONCLUSION

-     DOES this change how I live?

-     IN EVERY way!

-     THE cares and suffering of this life are not the sum of my life nor are they the end of my life.

-     THE cares and suffering of this life is simply a reminder to me that I am living in a tent. God knows it. He created me that way, and has a plan for me to rediscover the desire for eternity deep within us all.

-     IN fact, God has prepared a permanent building for us, a glorified body just like His Son has….waiting for you and me in heaven.

-     THIS permanent building is waiting for all who live a faith based, vibrant love relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

-     IN fact, if that is how you are living, you already have eternal life….waiting for that day when faith will be sight!

 

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