WE LIVE BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT
June 16, 2002
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
1Now 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. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found na-ked. 4For 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. 5Now 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.
6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, away from it. 10For 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.
Dearest Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
If you have a chance to look at the bulletin, we see we live by faith and not by sight. We will concentrate on this today. Again, it might seem strange that we would say such a thing; since we are so used to looking at things that have value to us, things of this world. Yet, our world does this very same thing, doesn’t it? Some scientists spend their entire life looking into outer space for things that are unseen just believing and knowing that something is there. Once in a great, great while they might find that something which they are looking for by faith. Other scientists also spend a lifetime looking at the intricacies of inner space, looking for the smallest divisions of creation. They divide everything into molecules and atoms, and now they have gone even into particles smaller than that--things called quarks!
They keep looking, knowing there is something there even though they cannot see it. Thankfully, for you and I as believers we live by faith, not by sight, looking ahead knowing that there is something there for each one of us. In the first letter of John, towards the end of the Bi-ble, we are told: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (JOHN 3:2). This is talking about the return of Jesus and talking about the fact that we are His children. That fits in with our theme and our parts today:
WE LIVE BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT. We are
I. Groaning for what is yet to come; but as we are groaning for what is yet to come, we are also II. Confident in what we already have.
I. Groaning for what is yet to come
Now the Apostle Paul was facing, not a dilemma, but was trying to explain the dilemma for the believers here. The fact is that they were people who lived on earth and put their confi-dence in the things that they could see and feel and touch. Yet, it would all come to an end. These believers had become quite comfortable with the things that they could see and feel and touch. But Paul says, "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."
He talks about that time when they would face death, when that earthly tent which refers to the body, does not last forever. When that is destroyed, there is yet an eternal house waiting for each one of them. He wants them to remember and look forward to that. No different than you and I, these believers during the time of the Apostle Paul, were being blessed with bless-ings beyond all comparison. Sometimes they forgot to look at what was ahead. They became comfortable in the things as they were. Paul says we look ahead, and we are anxious and ex-cited about the future. He says, "Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked." He realized that they had plenty of clothing and food to eat and a good house to live in. Yet, there is that eternal glory, that eternal house that was still ahead. For Paul as he lived in this tent, in this body which was only temporary, he was groaning for what was ahead. He was looking forward to the time when he would see the Lord face to face.
Paul continues, "While we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened." This is a beauti-ful description of a believer’s life as a tent. Tents are never intended for any permanency. Cer-tainly, when the winds come up, the tent blows over long before a house is even threatened. Paul is saying to these believers, "We are in this tent and we should live in that way realizing that it is only temporary, never anxious and excited to get out of the tent and into something that is far better such as a house with four walls. In this case we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." The tent would come crashing down. Our earthly body would be destroyed; but then that which is destroyed in death is swallowed up in life as the mortal puts on immortality. Until that time we ought to be groaning and feel the burden of the weight of the ca-res and worries of this life rather than feeling too comfortable with how this life only appears to be.
Then Paul sums it up, "Therefore, we are confident and we know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord." These believers were wondering what Paul was writing about saying, "Why should we be looking ahead so anxiously to heaven?" He tells them that while they are in this earthly tent they are away from the Lord, not that the Lord isn’t present on earth, but these believers did not see Him face to face. They did not understand His will perfectly for their lives. They were cut off from the Lord because they could not see Him. They could not feel or touch Him here on earth.
In that sense, we are away from the Lord. Maybe as we listen to the explanation of this text, we realize that we too at times become very, very comfortable with our surroundings. We are content, and it is good to be content; but the Lord says, "Don’t become overly content with the things of this life." It happens time and again even to the believers in the Old Testament, New Testament, and especially now in our day and age. There are so many who are so anxious that they are so prepared only for this life, what is going to happen next year and their retire-ment, their children’s education, etc., that they have forgotten to prepare for eternity. The Lord reminds us to store up our treasures in heaven. He warns in the Book of Revelation: "You say, ’I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (REVELATION 3:17).
This describes exactly what Paul says in our text, "We need to live by faith, not by sight." We ought to put our confidence in those things that we cannot see rather than in the things that we can see. We know those things that we cannot see--God’s love for us. In a certain degree the blessings we have are God’s love for us. Every day of grace is God’s love for us. Those are things that we can see when we stop and look real hard. God’s forgiveness--It is not that we can see it, or that it is something we can touch or rub between our fingers; but when people such as ourselves live in God’s forgiveness, there is joy in our lives. So we can see God’s for-giveness in the character of Christianity. The list goes on--God’s Son to us is something we don’t see visibly but we study as we look back at it. Paul wrote to Timothy: "This is a trustwor-thy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (TIMOTHY 4:10). We groan for what is yet to come when we will see Jesus face to face, when we will stand before God Himself, when we will understand completely God’s forgiveness and His love for us, which He has shown to us throughout our entire life and will show us in eternity.
Our hope isn’t in something that is unknown(like scientists), but our hope is in something that is unseen--heaven itself and the glories that are waiting there to be revealed to us, the place where there is no more weeping, mourning, death, pain, suffering or sadness which is the opposite of what we live in today. We groan for what is yet to come. Do we sometimes feel burdened by this life? We probably do as we age in our lives, for as we age in wisdom we real-ize that this life holds very little for any of us. In this life everything is quick to pass away. The Lord says in Romans: "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (ROMANS 8:23). We are going to talk more about that fact that we are God’s children. We still do not understand that completely either. So Paul says we groan inwardly waiting to see God so that we understand His true adoption.
As Christians, the Lord through Paul says we live by faith, not by sight, groaning for what is yet to come, looking forward to that day; but also in the present, confident of what we already have.
II. Confident of what we already have
Paul already said we are always confident. We are always confident but we are still in the body and away from the Lord. That’s what keeps us looking ahead. He goes on: "We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." That was Paul’s feeling. For the longest time he didn’t know the Lord in his life, and finally the Lord called him. The Lord, in a very dramatic way, changed his life. From that moment on, he was always anxious to be away from this tent to be with the Lord. But he knew it was far better for him to stay on earth to spread the Good News, to preach the Gospel. Paul is not trying to stir up trouble and make people dissatisfied with this life. He is just saying, "In this life be content with what you have. Be confident of God’s gifts to you but still looking forward to what yet is to come."
He describes what we are confident of and already have: "So we make it our goal to please Him whether we are at home in the body or away from it.? Very suddenly, the Apostle Paul says, "Our goal in life is to please our Savior, whether we are here on earth or away from it, even in heaven where there is eternal singing of praises to God our Creator." Then he adds what happens at the end of life: "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." So it is that believers and unbelievers alike will stand before Christ, the Righteous Judge. The believers will stand knowing they had done bad things, but also knowing that they can stand there unashamed. They stand there rejoicing because Christ has forgiven all of their sins. We stand there and we could drag the whole burden of our bad things; but as we do, we drag them there without any liabilities, without any consequences because God has forgiven our sins.
That is what we have. That is what we are confident of. No matter when the Lord re-turns, today or tomorrow or next year, we in faith have forgiveness. Paul sums that all up. Sal-vation is not an iffy matter. ?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."
In this life sometimes we buy products or merchandise. If it is a big investment, we like to have a good guarantee. In our society sometimes we pay extra for a guarantee, an extended warranty. Here the Lord says about our salvation, "He has guaranteed what is to come." It is an unconditional guarantee. It doesn’t depend on how much we might think we have to pay for an extended warranty. God guarantees it by giving us His Holy Spirit. Salvation is so important and so vital that the Lord guarantees it by His work, not by our effort. It is so important that the Lord guarantees it by the price that He paid through the death of His Son, not by our own self-payment. Salvation is so important that all responsibility for our eternal salvation is placed upon the Lord’s shoulders. If we are unsure, He says, "Believe!" He gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can believe. From Ephesians we read: "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemp-tion of those who are God’s possession--to the praise of his glory" (EPHESIANS 1:13b,l4).
We have a progression here. It says first of all we are called God’s children. He adopts us and now He says we are even God’s possession. Just stop and think about that! If we are God’s children and if we are God’s possessions, what does that mean? It means He loves us. It means He is going to take care of us. It means He wants us in heaven for He loves us with a far greater love and takes care of us in a far better way than you and I can imagine: even in comparison to how we love our children or possessions and take care of them.
We live in a tent, an earthly body that sometimes is blown over rather easily with the storms of this life or with the difficulties that we face. He says we have that eternal glory yet re-vealed. We are confident of this. It starts very early on at our baptism that we are clothed with Christ. He says, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (GALATIONS 3:26,27).
Remember, the Apostle Paul wanted to be clothed and not be found naked. Now he says, "I have found that clothing and it is Christ Himself, Christ who died on the cross who poured out His blood and breathed His last in humility so that we through that poverty might in-herit the wealth of heaven itself." When we look at our clothing, it is tainted by sin. When we look at ourselves, we see the darkness that covers our hearts because of our evil thoughts and our evil words and our wicked actions.
Yet, now there is time for rejoicing because we are confident that we are clothed with Christ through His baptism. What does that mean? Isaiah says, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness" (ISAIAH 61:10a). He has covered up all of our sins. Luther says, "Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation."
We live by faith, not by sight. Scientists who search out the meaning of life hoping against hope that they might find something that they are looking for, even though they don’t know what it is. We look forward to the future knowing what it is, knowing that heaven is our home, knowing that this earthly tent will come crashing down only to be raised up by God Him-self. He says as we live in this life, we are looking ahead and groaning for what is yet to come, the return of God, His Son. We are looking for what is yet to come--our inheritance in heaven. We are also confident of what we have, and what we have is heaven itself. God’s gift is heaven--all because we live by faith and not by sight.
In the letter Peter wrote, he says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him (We live by faith and not by sight), and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 PETER 1:8,9). He says we are groaning for what is yet to come. As we look at all the marvelous things God has shown us in this life and in this world and enjoy all the blessings He has given us, the things that we can see, feel and touch, may we always re-member that we live by faith, not by sight. Amen. Pastor Timm O. Meyer.