ďThis Earthly TentĒ††††††††††††††††††††††† Easter†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† April 20, 2014

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

 

INTRO:My mother was a teacher for over 30 years,

†† and for about 12 of those years she taught Head Start in Tuscumbia.

Motherís teacherís aid was a woman named Josephine.

†† She was a believer and a member of what was, back then,

†† the largest African-American congregation in town.

So on Mondays, she and my mother would talk about church.

 

The pastor of Josephineís church was Rev. Otis Smith,

†† and one Monday after Easter, she told my motheró

†† Brother Otis outdid himself yesterday.

She said, When we all got to church, Easter morning,

†† nobody knew what was going on because it was decorated for a funeral.

There were sprays of funeral flowers.

†† The organist was playing funeral music.

†† So we all sat down and wondered who had died.

 

Then there was a commotion at the back of the church.

†† The deacons were coming in, all very serious, with sad faces,

†† and they were wheeling a casket.

They pushed it up to the front, and by then, everybody was really worried.

†† But then the deacons flung open the casket and out jumped Brother Otisó

†† and he shouted:Heís alive!

†† And we all whooped, and the organist hit it, and the choir started belting it out.

My mother said:Let me tell you about First Presbyterian Church!

 

In 2 Corinthians Paul writes about every sort of affliction we face,

†† all the different types of suffering in this fallen world.

†† And his personal experience of all those sufferings.

Then in these verses he comes to the greatest affliction of allódeath.

Paul wants you to think about death, your death.Itís important.

†† One day it will be real for you.Your casket will be wheeled into the chapel.

†† There will be funeral flowers, and sad faces, and soft music.

Paul wants you to think about your death, and face the factsó

†† not because heís morbid, but because out of your death,

†† God is going to bring victory and life.

Understanding that, working it out, changes the way you live today.

There are so many confusing views of death and what happens at death.

Lots of people have silly, sentimental notions.

†† Youíve heard those sorts of comments at funerals.

If the deceased was a golfer, somebody will say heís up there playing golf,

†† or up there fishing, or playing practical jokes, or whatever.

Other people have adopted Americanized versions of Eastern religionsó

†† reincarnation, the circle of life, that sort of thing.

Then there is growing population of atheists who think that when you die

†† thatís itóthere is no soul or afterlife.Youíre like a dead bug.

 

But in general, most folks donít think seriously about death at all.

†† When slapped in the face with it, they do all they can to avoid and deny.

I read a news article about a funeral home in South Carolina that opened

†† a Starbucks in the lobby, along with free Wi-Fi.South Carolina, the Bible Belt.

The funeral director said the idea is to help people

†† ďget their minds off whatís going on.Ē

Which is a totally bizarre comment, since death is whatís going on.

 

None of this will do for Christiansó

†† not vague sentimentalism; not half-baked, goofy theology;

†† and especially not avoidance and denial.

We of all people, we who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

†† ought to have the most clear-eyed, confident, biblical view of death.

†† And we ought to live in such a way that reflects that belief.

 

Thatís Paulís big point here.An honest, Christian life should be lived in

†† frank acknowledgement of the fact that we are going to die.

On Easter of all days we affirm that Jesus Christ has made a huge difference in

†† regard to our deathóhe has conquered death by his resurrection.

The reason you laughed at the image of Rev. Otis Smith jumping out of the casket

†† is not just showmanship, but because deep down you know itís true.He is alive!

So Christians ought to be folks who live obviously and cheerfully

†† with a very different view of death.

Otherwise, what difference has Christ made to us?

 

So letís look at this passage and ask two questions.

1.What happens when we die?2.How should we then live?

†† Credit where credit is due, Richard White, Montreat Presbyterian Church.

Heard Richard preach on this passage last August on vacation and it moved me.

MP#1What happens when we die?

Skeptics say we canít really know.But look how Paul starts this passage, verse 1.

†† ďNow we know . . .Ē

†† We know what happens after death because God has revealed it in his Word.

So does the Bible say?

†† For lots of people, all they have is a vague idea that you go to heaven when die.

But the biblical picture is more complex.

Let me give you the big picture, then weíll go back and fill in some details.

 

Whatís the big picture?

When you die, your body goes into the grave,

†† but your soul passes into the presence of God.

The souls of unbelievers are cast into a place of darkness and regret, a prison for

†† souls, where they await the final judgment.The Bible calls it hell.

 

The souls of believers in the Lord Jesus live before him and in his presence.

They see the unveiled beauty and glory of the living God.

†† In that condition they are happy and free from pain and sorrow and sin.

†† The Bible refers to this as Paradiseóa word that means park or garden.

Thatís what we commonly think of as heavenó

†† the souls of believers with God after death.

But thatís not the end of the story.People donít stay souls in heaven or hell.

†† This is a temporary status.What theologians call the intermediate state.

 

There will be a resurrection of all people when Christ returns at the end of history.

†† The bodies and souls of all people will be reunited.

The bodies of unbelievers will be raised by the bare command of God.

†† He will summon them from their graves to hear his sentence of judgment passed

†† on their lives.That judgment is an eternal punishment called the second death.

 

The bodies of believers will be raised by the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit

†† within us through our union with Christ.

These resurrected bodies will be what the Bible calls spiritual bodies,

or glorified bodiesóimmortal, incorruptible bodies.

We will also stand before God in our bodies on the day of judgment.

†† And we will receive his commendation in Christ.

Then we will live forever in our new bodies.

†† We enjoy God and enjoy this world which will be restoredó

†† what the Bible calls the new heavens and new earth.

Thatís the big picture.

Now letís go through this again and fill in some details based on 2 Corinthians 5.

Paul calls these bodies we live in now earthly tents.

†† When you are camping, a tent gives you living and sleeping space.

But when you pull out the poles and pull up the stakes, it collapses because it has

†† no foundation or solid walls.You roll it up and you canít live in it any more.

When you die, your body, the physical aspect of your person, disintegrates.

†† Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Paul also refers to our earthly bodies as clothes.

†† In death, the clothing of our bodies is taken off, so the soul is naked.

 

Paul contrasts our earthly tent with something he calls a building from God,

†† an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.

He mixes metaphors and talks about being clothed with our heavenly dwelling

What is this eternal house, heavenly dwelling?Some kind of mansion in heaven?

†† No.What Paul is talking about here is our glorified bodies.

 

This contrast between our earthly tent and eternal house is a contrast between two

†† kinds of bodies.The bodies we have now that are wearing out verses

†† the glorified bodies we will get at the resurrection.

This is very much like Paulís statement in Philippians 3:21 where he says,

†† ďThe Lord will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorified body.Ē

†† When we lose this body in death, we will have another, far better body.

 

Now hereís whatís so interesting.

When Paul talks about what happens after death, the first thing he focuses on

†† is not what happens to our souls, and how we go into the presence of God.

The first thing he talks about is the glorified bodies we will have at the resurrection,

†† and the wonderful lives we will enjoy in those heavenly bodies,

†† and how much he is looking forward to it.

 

In other words, he skips the intermediate state.

†† He doesnít start by talking about how when we die, our souls go to be with Jesus.

He starts by looking past our time in heaven to the resurrection, and says:

†† Thatís what Iím really looking forward too.Thatís what Iím really longing for.

†† This bodily life made new and immortal by the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Itís not that Paul ignores the intermediate state.

†† He mentions it.And he says itís a wonderful thing.

He says that when you are away from the body, you are at home with the Lord.

†† Your soul doesnít go to a dark, lonely place at death, it goes home.

We had two college girls come home Friday night for Easter.

†† When they pulled into the driveway, I could see them relaxóhome.

†† Thereís no place like home.

Someone once said that the three sweetest words in the English language are

†† mother, home, and heaven.

Paul says:I would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

†† In other words, being a soul in heaven with Jesus is better by far than life

†† in a body here on earth.Because you get to see the Lord.

 

But for Paul, my soul being with Jesus when I die is not the biggest thing.

†† The biggest thing is that after this tent of a body dies, I get a new body.

†† A glorified, heavenly body like Christís.

It doesnít happen right away.There is a waiting time until the day of resurrection.

†† But itís so certain, Paul talks about it as if it happens right away.

He says that meanwhile, he groans, longing to be clothed in this new body.

†† Itís not that he wishes to die.

But heís looking forward to the day when death is swallowed up by life.

†† And he knows that death is a step towards that new body.

 

This sounds a lot like Paulís words in Romans 8.

†† Remember how he says there that the whole creation groans in

†† anticipation of the redemption of our bodies?

And he also says in that passage:For this hope we were saved.

†† This hopeóthe redemption of my body, raised and perfected at Christís return.

Thatís the ultimate hope of the Christian in death.

†† We will one day be raised as Christ was raised.

 

One day your casket will be flung open by the deacon angelsó

†† and youíll jump out with a shout, because youíve never felt better in your lifeó

†† and the organ will start playing and the choir will start swaying.

And after church, youíll go home and feast with friends and loved ones

†† in the presence of the Lamb and the good times will never end.

Take all the very best moments of your lifeó the happiest, sweetest, most beautiful

†† momentsóhowever brief they may have been.

Roll them up in a ball, and you have only a tiny picture of what God has in store.

†† Thatís how we see deathóhome with the Lord and the day of resurrection.

MP#2So, how should we then live?What difference does it make?

†† How does this biblical view of death change the way you live?

Richard White posed it this way in his sermon.

†† Letís say your fabulously wealthy friend gives you the keys and title to a villa on

†† the beach in San Diego.It never rains, itís always sunny, warm, but not too hot.Itís paradise.And itís yours.

 

But, you live in NC and to get to San Diego,

†† you have to set out by walking and camping in a tent the whole way.

Now as you journey along in your tent you take care of it

†† because itís got to last you the whole way.

So you do the necessary repairs. You donít abuse it, if you are smart.

†† You try to make it comfortable.

But you donít waste your time and energy living large in your tent.

†† Always in your mind is the reality that this temporary.

†† Youíve got a villa by the sea that is your permanent home!

†† This is a picture of our lives.

 

We are journeying through this life, in these tent bodies,

†† looking forward to our permanent home in Godís restored creation.

†† So how should we live?

First, it should make us confident, courageous people in the face of troubles.

†† Paul says in verse 6 that we are always confident, good courage.Repeats in vs 8.

Youíre hiking along toward your journeyís end.

But youíre only in Mississippi when a storm hits.

†† A tent pole breaks, a branch pokes a hole in your tent.

†† You knock over your bowl and spill food inside.

Itís tempting to slump into a funk of self-pity and whine

†† that now your tent is going to be a pain all the way to San Diego.†††

 

Paul says: Be of good courage. Donít fear. Donít back away in affliction.

†† Keep your focus on God.This is what it means to walk by faith, not sight.

Keep God and his promises before you. Paul did this.

†† Read the list in chapter four of all he had to courageously endure:

†† hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights, hunger,

†† slander, being treated as an imposter, and several near death experiences.

 

One thing about the early Christians that amazed the Romans

†† was the way they faced death.

When lions were set loose on Christian men, women, and children in arenasó

they didnít scream and curse like other people did.

†† They sang hymns and prayed for enemies.

Even those who hated them took note of this.

†† What did they have that gave them such calm and joy?

 

This was totally different from the pagan approach to death.

†† In the Greek and Roman mind, if there was an afterlife,

†† it was a dark and gloomy place, where the lost soul wandered in shadows.

For all practical purposes, this life is all that there is.

†† So death for the pagan was the great tragedyóit was the end of all happiness.

 

How could these early Christians be so confident that they faced lions singing?

†† The resurrection.

It was the fact of Jesusí resurrection that was the basis for their future hope.

†† He was raised.It really happened.

†† And through union with him, we too will be raised, because he has told us so.

Their hope for the future was not wishful thinking.

†† It wasnít the power of positive thinking.

†† It was real, solid, certainty that came from the fact that Jesus is risen.

And that same hope is available to you.

 

Someone has said that today Christians donít face lionsówe face lumps.

†† Doctor says: Itís a lump.It doesnít look good.We have to do biopsy.

†† And thatís like a lion coming into the arena of your life.

How do you face your lumps?

†† I donít just mean medical problemsóanything that threatens your happinessó

†† problems in romance, family, marriage, finances or anything else?

Do you sing or do you worry?Do you stand firm or do you fall to pieces?

†† Listenóitís a hole in your tent.Patch it up as best you can.Keep moving.

 

Youíre going to rise as Christ didóglorified and powerful.

Youíre going to have an eternity of beautiful mornings before you.

†† Each one full of promise and happiness.

†† Your Fatherís world before you to explore and enjoy.

Youíre going to hear again the clear voices of loved ones who died in Christ.

†† You are going to embrace them with arms made strong.

Say with Paul:Therefore, we are always confident.

 

Second, Paul says, this view of death and resurrection should make us

†† purposeful people.

†† The certain knowledge that we will rise gives us a goal, an aim.

Itís in verse 9:So we make it our goal to please him.

†† The Lord is our focus. He is the reason we get out of bed, go to school and work,

†† endure lifeís afflictions.We aim to know him and honor him in all things.

 

A book published several years ago titled 100 Things To Do Before You Die.

†† It inspired the movie The Bucket List.

The author was a man named David Freeman.

†† His list included things like attending the Academy Awards,

†† running with the bulls in Spain and taking in a Voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti.

 

But on August 17, 2008 David Freeman slipped on a wet surface in his home,

†† hit his head and died of his injury. He was 47 years old.

†† His family grieved that he only got to do half the things on his list.

The really sad thing about Freemanís bucket list was that there was nothing about

†† making it his goal to please the Lord.

Nothing about living a life in response to the gracious gift of salvation in Jesus.

†† Nothing about giving more to advance the cause of the gospel,

†† or reaching his neighbors for Christ, or preparing his soul to stand before Jesus.

 

By all means, have a bucket list.

†† But please, letís aim for a higher adventure than living large in these tents.

Every day your tent is still up, the Lord has a purpose for you.

†† So aim to please Him.Lord, lead me.Lord show me.

†† Lord use me, use my life for your mission, my life for your plans.

 

That will fill up your bucket list.

†† Because the Lord loaded you up with specific experiences, gifts and talents.

†† Use them.Make Jesus your aim.

Because when all of life summed up, in light of Godís promised eternity,

a life not lived to please the Lord is an aimless life, a purposeless life.†††

And we will all stand before Jesus and give an account of this temporary tent life.

 

Thatís how Paul ends.

†† With a sober warning about appearing before the judgment seat of Christ.

What will you say when itís just you and Jesus?

†† This is the only thing that really matters in life, folks.

It wonít be you and your friends who can vouch for you, but just you and Jesus.

†† And it wonít be baby Jesus in the manger, Jesus meek and mild.

It will be King Jesus with eyes like flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze

and a voice like the roar of many waters. This Jesus is not fooled by anybody.

 

Judgment will be terrible for unbelievers.

†† They didnít want anything to do with Jesus in this life.

†† They lived for their tent life as if it was their permanent and only home.

And thatís what they will get in eternity, life forever without him, the second death.

 

But even Christians, Paul warns us too.

†† While we in these tents, make it our aim to live for Jesus,

†† because some day we will receive whatís coming to us

†† as a result of how we lived, good or evil.

Now on one level it looks as if Paul contradicts himself.

†† Elsewhere he says salvation is of grace, not works.

Whereís the grace here.

†† If Jesus is looking at good and evil, well, letís hope the good outweighs the bad.

 

But thatís not whatís in view.

Whatís in view is along the lines of Matthew 7.

†† Those who say, ďLord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons

†† in your name, and do miracles in your name.Ē

And Jesus says, ďDepart from me, workers of lawlessness, I never knew you.Ē

 

Whatever they did in Jesusí name, was really done for their name, their reputation,

†† not out of a true knowing of Christ.

Do you really know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

†† Are you depending on him for your salvation, or is it your works?

 

Others may stand before Jesus saying, I believed in you Jesus.

†† I went to church and sang those songs, endured long sermons by that preacher. But Jesus will be looking for the fruit.

†† We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.

†† Faith, if itís genuine, produces good works.

It aims to honor Jesus by knowing, obeying and serving Him.

†† If I say I am a Jesus follower, great, but whereís the fruit?

Thatís what Jesus is looking for, because otherwise our words are a sham.

†† Our life aim as been ourselves, not him and that is evil.

Now perhaps you do love and know the Lord, but there is very little fruit.

†† Our works are wood, hay and stubble, rather than gold, silver and precious stone. Only Jesus knows.But why live that way, satisfied with shabby works?

Now, today, in your tent life, make it your goal to use your energy to live a

†† grateful, courageous life for Jesus.

 

Live in response to what He has done for you in the cross.

†† And live in expectation of what heís preparing for you in eternityó

†† that glorified, bodily life in the new creation.

Because notice too, Jesus is looking at what weíve done bad and good.

†† He sees the good and will reward it.

 

Jesus knows youíre not perfect. Thatís not what Heís looking for.

†† Heís looking for evidence that the aim of your tent life was him.

At best, we are all a mixed bag. So what?

†† Keep moving towards him.

†† He promises that least thing you did for Him will be rewarded.

 

C.T. Studd was a 19th century British cricket player and later missionary.

†† Wrote a famous poem.Let me just read you two stanzas.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in Ďthat dayí my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgment seat;

Only one life, ítwill soon be past,

Only whatís done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its days I must fulfill,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ítwill soon be past,

Only whatís done for Christ will last.

 

And after this brief life is past, we have the hope of the resurrection.

†† Encourage each other with these words.