Where is Home?
2 Corinthians 5:1 – 10
Where is Home?
When you know you’re not at home ...
Have you ever had that experience where you feel that you don’t quite belong?
Your surroundings, your experience shout to you, that you’re not at home?
This is my life at the moment, as you can possibly imagine, having been in the country for only 3 months.
Christmas is in winter, and not in the middle of summer. I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to handle that!
If you’ve ever travelled overseas you know exactly this experience of feeling you’re away from your home;
Different language;, you find yourself somewhat excluded,
Different food;, There’s nothing that’s familiar,
Different manners! Haven’t these people ever heard of forming a queue like British people?!
And your experience says, “this isn’t your home.”
1. We long for our true home (v 1 – 4)
Here in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul, one of the leaders of the early church, says that situation we know, is the regular experience of Christian people.
Not, that we’re surrounded by people who eat different food, and all crowd onto the bus instead of going one by one, but that we’re away from our home.
We have a home, a permanent one, our ultimate home, but we’re not there yet.
Listen to how Paul speaks about the Christian experience of longing for our home that is in heaven;, 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. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,
Now Paul’s mixing his metaphors a bit;, tents, buildings, clothing, then further down, being away from home versus being at home.
But his point is to say we’re going to get a new body.
I don’t reckon we tend to think much at all about our resurrection from the dead, and what kind of body we’ll have.
But that’s the clear teaching of the Scriptures;,
When Jesus returns, or after we die, we will be raised to life, and receive a new body, a resurrection body.
Look up a few lines at chapter 4 verse 14,
we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself
And now Paul says that includes receiving this new body. We won’t be just floating around like disembodied spirits, or the Hogwarts ghosts in the Harry Potter movies.
So the body that we know now, of which this one is an, adequate specimen, is contrasted with what Paul calls an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
And even if you’ve never given it much thought before, the contrast certainly makes it sound appealing.
This body, compared to what’s in store for me, is the difference between a tent, and a building.
Now, you don’t need to have been camping very often to understand the significance of the contrast.
A tent is temporary,
It can’t withstand the pressures of time and the elements.
I’m sure you’ve seen those videos on YouTube of the wind picking up in a campground, and tents just blowing across the field like tumbleweed!
That’s the body that we have now, says Paul.
And it’s not that our bodies are evil or anything like that,
It’s just that as a building compares to a tent,
So the body that we will receive in heaven, will be so much more glorious, than our human experience now.
And your resurrection body is described as a building not built by human hands, meaning this is only something God can do.
We saw already that it’s linked to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And there’s a nod here to the idea of new creation, a new creative work of God.
Now, I imagine for all of us, life is hard at times, but probably not too many of us feel that our bodies are letting us down in a way that makes us long for our heavenly body.
A few will, I imagine, but not many.
But in our daytime congregations were there are more older people,
Where are there are more among us who struggle with long-term illness, or disability,
This is their daily experience.
And if you do share that frustration, be encouraged that the Apostle Paul knew exactly how you feel!
Did you hear his language?
He speaks of groaning and longing to be clothed with his heavenly dwelling verse 2, and more groaning and being burdened in verse 4.
For some people, their daily struggle of living the Christian life is such that they long to be out of the tent, and into the building,
But I think Paul’s language here hints to us that he’s thinking more broadly than just, illness, bodies that break down.
Paul’s experience of living in his earthly body was much more than that. Do you remember the language from last week?
Look a few lines up at chapter 4 verse 8, hard pressed,
The life we live in this body, especially as those who are followers of Jesus, and committed to bringing the Word of God to others, that existence is one of suffering and affliction,
Weakness is the context in which we minister in the name of Jesus.
And so when Paul speaks of what is mortal being swallowed up by life, he has a longing for all of those experiences to be taken away, when he receives his new heavenly body in the presence of Jesus.
See, when we’re confronted with the frailty of our body,
Or the different ways in which we suffer, the Bible encourages us, not simply to long for that thing, that episode, that hardship to be done away with,
But to long for what is to come.
Paul’s goal is not simply to be done with the body. “Get me out of here”, see verse 4, we do not wish to be unclothed.
Christian hope in the face of suffering and hardship, is not about an end to terrible times now.
We can pray for that,
God might give us that relief for a time,
But Christian hope is not just about having hardship taken away. We all want the rubbish bits of our lives gone.
Christian hope is about longing to be with Jesus.
Verse 4, being clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life
When life is hard,
When you suffer exclusion or ridicule for the name of Jesus,
When your body lets you down, and if it hasn’t yet, it will, let me say, as someone on the other side of 40 to most of you,
When whatever it is reminds you that as God’s person you’re not at home here, don’t simply set your heart on being free from this life, and this body,
But groan and long for heaven with Jesus.
I know we’re all past this, but think of the 3 Little Pigs!
The house of straw is a rubbish house, yes?
But the solution is not to just step outside, but to run as fast as you can to the house of bricks.
2. We can be absolutely confident about our true home (v 5)
But I absolutely get that sometimes it can be hard to believe what the Bible teaches about being raised from the dead, and being with Christ forever,
Especially if none of your family or friends believe it,
And much of our society is committed to ridiculing and undermining what you believe.
So the BBC are airing the new adaption of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which Pullman openly admitted he wrote, and I quote, to “undermine the basis of Christian belief.”
So with all that going on, if you sometimes feel that it’s hard to believe that Christ really will give you a resurrection body, and that he wants to spend eternity with you,
Have a look at verse 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.
... because God has prepared us for it
Notice 2 things;
Firstly, that God has prepared us for this very purpose.
Paul hasn’t conjured up in his mind this whole idea of resurrection bodies and eternity with God, because his life kind of sucks right now.
This is God’s intention for us.
If you’re a Christian, don’t be surprised if you long to be free from suffering,
The temptations to sin,
The frustrations of this broken world that we experienced in the body,
To be transitioned from this age to the new age is God’s intention for you.
In the very last line of this book, Reflections on the Psalms by C S Lewis, famous for the Chronicles of Narnia, among other things, Lewis speaks of our universal longing for more, the dissatisfaction we often feel in this life.
And he says we shouldn’t be surprised by it.
He writes, a fish is not “repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water”, that’s what it’s made for,
That’s what God intended for it.
And he goes on, it would be strange indeed for the fish to be surprised by its every day experience,
“unless of course, the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”
If the fish actually belongs somewhere else, then absolutely it’s going to wake up every morning in a state of shock that it’s surrounded by all this wet stuff.
And if you belong somewhere else, which, if you’re a Christian, you do, you have an eternal house in heaven, then don’t be surprised that you long for it, and that you long to be free of those things that are wrong with our human experience.
Now, you might not be a Christian. You might have come along here tonight to try and find out Christianity, and who Jesus is.
If that’s you, we’re so pleased you’re here, and there are a stack of people in our church who would just love to help you work through your questions.
But maybe this very thing is what’s brought you here.
Maybe God, by his Spirit, is already at work in you, pointing you to your eternal home in heaven, and saying “this is God’s purpose for you.
Don’t be satisfied with this life, when what God offers you in Jesus, is so much greater and more permanent and dependable. A building versus a tent.
But actually Paul has in view, not just the longing being God’s intention for us, but the struggles and difficulties of this life, that cause us, to long for heaven.
He used the same language up in 4:17 to speak about his light and momentary troubles, achieving for us, an eternal glory
If you’re a Christian,
Then God has prepared you eternity with him,
He has been at work in you so that you long for heaven,
And he uses your perseverance through sufferings and hardships now, to prepare you for heaven.
See, ordinary gospel ministry,
Speaking the good news of Jesus to those around us,
It looks like weakness,
It brings opposition and ridicule,
It can seem like we’d be better off doing something else, with a different model of ministry, and yet it’s that weakness that God uses to prepare us for our heavenly home.
.... because God guarantees it by the gift of his Spirit
And the second important thing that we learn here, is that God guarantees this glorious future for all who trust in Jesus, through the gift of his Spirit.
See verse 5, God has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Years ago Billy Graham was being interviewed on television, and the interviewer asked him, “Do you think you’re going to heaven?”, and Dr Graham replied, “I don’t think I’m going to heaven, I know I’m going to heaven.” And he talked about the confidence he had because Jesus died in his place.
But there was a mild uproar, at what people thought was Billy Graham’s arrogance, at saying he knew he was going to heaven.
But not only was that to entirely ignore what he’d actually said about Jesus taking the punishment he deserved, and all of that,
The confidence of heaven, the certainty of an eternal home, comes from what God has revealed of his plans, it’s God’s very purpose for us,
And on top of that, God guarantees this certain future with the gift of his Spirit.
The Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
You buy a car,
Or you buy a house, and you put down a deposit.
It’s not the whole price,
There’s more to come, And so the deposit says, “here’s the proof that the rest is coming.”
God gives his Spirit to his people, so that we might be absolutely convinced, that this future is ours.
The Spirit, the means of God’s presence with us now, assures us of a future in God’s presence.
The Spirit reminds us of God’s promises,
The Spirit takes these truths of God’s purposes, and drives them into our hearts,
It’s the Spirit who caused these words to be written down, for our encouragement, and if you believe them, and take hold of the hope held out in them, that’s because God’s Spirit is at work in you.
Can you see how the Spirit is our deposit, guaranteeing what is to come?
Paul adds one extra detail in his letter to the Romans. There in chapter 8 he says, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
There the resurrection itself is explicitly linked to the Spirit dwelling within us.
Just, as one particular implication of this.
You might have come across Christians who say that the full experience and indwelling of the Spirit is something that comes later in your Christian life,
Or only to some Christians.
And you can see what that’s so cruel and dangerous!
The churches who teach you that you don’t have the Spirit of God unless you speak in strange languages or whatever, what are they saying to you?
If that were true, that the Spirit of God is for some, but not all Christians, or that not everyone has a complete experience of the Spirit, it would mean that God’s guarantee of a resurrection body is not for everyone.
God gives some the deposit, but not all?,
Clearly this tells us that’s not true.
The eternal future of every Christian, is guaranteed, by the work of the Spirit of God in them.
What a comfort this brings, for someone who is facing death,
A Christian person confronted with their own mortality,
Or even just weighed down with the hurt and brokenness of our world out of step with its creator.
And so confident is Paul that this is the reality for all God’s people, that he speaks of it as something we possess already. Did you notice that back up in verse 1?
if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have, present tense, a building from God, an eternal house in heaven
It’s a sure thing,
That’s how convinced you can be, that the frailty and hurt of life isn’t all we will ever know.
See, it’s actually more than that experience I mentioned at the beginning, being in a foreign country and knowing you’re not at home.
It’s something more like being rescued off a sinking ship, and sitting in a lifeboat, as the ship goes down in front of you,
You’re saddened by the reality of the hurt around you, but you know this isn’t everything,
You know you have a home to go to,
You know you’ll be safe.
That’s the confidence we can have, even in those moments when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death.
3. It would be better to be with God (6 – 8)
And so a Christian person lives with a tension, point 3;, We’re here, but our ultimate home is with Jesus.
See 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. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
So what we have now is a home, this is the place where God’s placed us, at home in the body, as Paul says, but our ultimate home is with the Lord, verse 8.
Right now our relationship with God is by faith, not by sight, That is, we believe God’s promises,
We’re convinced by the evidence, about who Jesus is and what he offers us,
And we live our lives in the light of what we’re convinced of.
That’s living by faith.
But one day we won’t need to be convinced by the evidence,
We won’t need to cling to the promises of God,
The things we’ve known and been taught that we live in the light of, we will experience them completely.
Remember at the end of chapter 4, Paul talking about the things of greatest important being unseen and eternal,
Well, when we are raised with Jesus, those unseen things will be seen!
So it’s pretty easy to see why Paul says it’s better to be with Jesus, than to continue life here.
Verse 8, 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Yes, he’s talking about dying,
But no, he doesn’t have a death wish!
We’re not supposed to wish we were dead, but we are supposed to be convinced that dwelling forever in the presence of God is better than anything this world has to offer.
And this is especially important for us, whose lives are comparatively quite comfortable and easy.
I’m showing my age, but my Christian friend who starved through the Rwandan Genocide and barely survived,
He doesn’t need convincing that eternity in heaven with Christ is better than life now,
I don’t know if you’ve thought to read any of the Bishop of Truro’s report into the persecution of Christians around the world.
The believers mentioned in that report for the Foreign Secretary don’t think that this life, in this body is better than what Jesus will give us in heaven
Or when we read from Open Doors the experience of Christian women around the world, “At least six women every day are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim man under the threat of death for their Christian faith.”
Those women know that heaven is better!
Now, it’s great to live in London,
It’s great to be in Dundonald Church,
Life is pretty good.
And so I’ll admit, that sometimes I wonder, will heaven really be that good?
You know, I don’t really enjoy listening to harp music, will I like it there?
And these verses are Paul’s very emphatic yes.
It is better to go and to be with Jesus,
No matter how enjoyable and comfortable it is when we’re at home in the body, that does mean by definition that we are away from the Lord, and therefore not in our true home.
But maybe you’re wondering “why does this matter?” You might be quite happy with the way your life is.
Why does it matter if this feels like home?
But of course a tent is by definition temporary.
My family is enjoying all the historical architecture in London. But we haven’t admired too many tents from the Victorian era in our wanderings, and if you head over to Europe, there are not many Roman era tents still standing among the excavations and the pillars and buildings, are there?
If you start depending on a tent, to deliver what only a building can deliver;, permanence, stability, security, you’ll be bitterly disappointed.
We know that in Corinth there were some Christians who celebrated, even idolised, remarkable spiritual phenomena like speaking in strange languages or being able to heal to people.
And so they probably thought that the Christian life was as good as it gets!
And maybe something similar is the case for us.
Maybe we don’t long for heaven,
Perhaps we don’t look forward to eternity with Jesus.
But Paul is determined that we realise, this is our temporary home, and we don’t want to confuse our temporary home with our ultimate home, our real home.
Imagine you come back from work or class one evening, settle down, make yourself at home, only to realise you’ve snuggled up your neighbour’s front porch!
Nothing about that would be right would it?
Don’t confuse your home for something that’s not your home.
And in fact we’ve seen exactly this play out recently;, a police officer in the US mistakenly entered a man’s apartment, thinking it was her home.
She was shocked when she discovered him there, and shot him dead. And last month was found guilty of murder.
Knowing where your home is, and where it isn’t, really matters!
Don’t depend on your tent, to provide what only your true home can.
Your body will age and break down,
Your experience of this world will involve pain and suffering,
And if you imagine that this world offers you something else, something permanent and secure, you will be disappointed.
And if you think that the Christian faith, or Christian ministry, talking to your friends about Jesus, being part of a church family that believes and teaches the Bible, if you think that’s a guarantee of ease,
You will be let down and discouraged.
And actually maybe you know that!
You don’t need me to convince you of that!
Perhaps for you it’s not that life here and now is so great that it’s hard for you to remember that your real home is in heaven,
Maybe, actually, you’re the opposite.
For some here I know, we are all too mindful, of the hardships of life,
The frustrations with our bodies, and illness,
The temptations to sin,
The opposition we face at work, or in class, or even in our families, because we’re known as a follower of Jesus,
Some of us are dealing with the consequences of other people’s sin,
Others of us, just, we feel we don’t belong,
We know we’re on the outer,
You’ve got family,
You’ve got friends, but you know inside, you don’t belong.
Now, I don’t in any way mean to be glib, but will you thank God for that feeling of not belonging?
You can see why I say that, can’t you?
Whatever it is that’s making you feel you don’t belong, is convincing you of reality!
If you’re a Christian person, you don’t belong.
Remember C S Lewis’ fish? The only reason it would be surprised to find itself in water, would be if it was intended for something else.
And so when you’re reminded of that, through your experience,
Through your relationships,
By your priorities being, completely different to those around you, You’re being pointed once again to your true eternal home in heaven.
And for that we can be thankful.
the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God. Your difficult experiences are being used by God to prepare you for life with him for eternity.
4. We work to please God because we’ll stand before Christ (v 9 – 10)
And so finally, wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, Paul says our goal as Christians is to please God because we know there’s judgement coming.
See verse 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, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
We don’t have ultimate control over how long we live.
But we do have control over how we live.
How you live in your body matters,
How you treat people matters,
Sexual morality matters,
Being honest, telling the truth, even when no one knows, matters.
Life is not a dress rehearsal and then the really important stuff happens when we get to heaven. Absolutely not.
See, we mustn’t ever think, “What I do and how I live doesn’t matter, because I’ve been forgiven and so one day I’ll go to be with Jesus.”
We can be confident of our eternity with Jesus.
We saw that it’s God’s work,
And look at how confident a Christian can be, we know, verse 1,
We are always confident verse 6.
There’s no question over our salvation, forgiveness, relationship with God,
So what does Paul mean when he says his motivation for pleasing God is judgment?
He may just mean that we’re going to face judgment, so how we life matters.
But the way he draws a line, from behaviour, to judgement, to an as-yet-unknown outcome suggests he’s speaking about reward or commendation, for our life and ministry that we receive from Jesus in eternity.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul mentions a similar idea about how we go about our ministry, and whether we will receive a reward, or whether we receive our salvation, cause that’s all through Jesus, but receive no additional commendation, which is the bit that depends on what we do.
There’s a similar idea in his letter to the Philippians,
Jesus says the same things, so this is not something unusual, and Paul doesn’t try and prove it or convince us of it here, he’s just telling us that this is his motivation.
But it is an idea that I think lots of us struggle with;, the idea of different Christians receiving different degrees of award or commendation from Jesus.
But just think about it from your own point of view;, Salvation aside, that’s guaranteed if you trust in Jesus, do you think that it would be appropriate for you to receive the same level of commendation and reward from Christ, as some other Christians, who you know are more deliberate than you in Christian disciplines,
More committed to evangelism whatever the cost,
They work harder to put sin behind them?
I can think of plenty of Christians, some of whom are in this room, who do that better than me.
If I’m honest, there’s no way I think that my reward should be the same as there’s.
There’ll be some who Jesus will want to point out to that crowd of people from every tongue and tribe and nation, and he’ll want to say, “Look at her ministry, how she persevered as the only Christian in her family, for decades, when those closest to her mocked her faith”,
Or there’ll be someone else who Jesus will point out in the crowd, “Look at how hard he tried to put an end to sin, when his social circumstances, his family background, even his genetics were stacked against him.”
I walked past the Factory the other day, where we used to meet, and I looked through the window, and it’s been entirely gutted.
The room where my desk used to be, named after Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Reformation. His commitment to the truth of the gospel and the Bible got him burned at the stake.
That office was entirely gone.
The Mary Jones hall, named for a 15 year old Welsh girl who walked 26 miles barefoot, so she could buy a Bible.
The Mary Jones hall is gone. And the space is entirely filled with demolition rubbish.
And I have to say, I was a little bit saddened, that these rooms named in honour of such faithful, sacrificial men and women, were no more.
But they will receive a lasting reward, much better than having a room in some old building named after them,
They will receive a reward and commendation from Jesus, that I know I don’t deserve.
Now I’ll be there,
I’ll be saved,
I’ll be thrilled to bits!
But I don’t think for a moment that Jesus ought to commend me like he ought to commend those.
And that’s entirely right and just.
That commendation doesn’t mean the person’s wonderful, but it does mean Jesus is wonderful, and some people have laboured harder for obedience and faithfulness.
And if that makes you want to please God more,
And work harder at putting an end to your sin,
And being willing to pay a higher cost for being God’s person, great!
That’s exactly how the Apostle Paul felt.
we make it our goal to please him, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ
Friends, if you’re trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and relationship with God, there is a wonderful, glorious, eternal home waiting for you.
And it’s so totally guaranteed because it’s God’s purpose for you, and he’s given you his Spirit as a deposit, that Paul speaks about it as if you already have it.
Will we live like those who are confident of their true home, and longing for it?