This Old House
2 Corinthians 5:1-9
One Christmas we visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to live in a house like that. Then I thought about the bills! But I'm going to live in something someday that will make that mansion look like a shack, and my God has already paid for it in full!
I want you especially to notice what Paul is saying here. He says, "For we know [not we hope or we expect or even that we believe] that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." This is a very positive "know." He knows because of the fact that the Spirit of God has made it real to him.
The word for "tabernacle" is skene, which means "tent." That is the same word that was used for the wilderness tabernacle of the Old Testament in the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into the Greek. The Old Testament tabernacle, the Mosaic tabernacle, was a skene, a tent. It was a flimsy sort of thing.
The bodies we have now are like loaners until we get the real permanent thing. Ours are broken as soon as we receive them, under the curse, and scarred by sin all our lives. But praise God someday He'll take my body as a trade in and I'm gonna trade up in a way unthinkable here on earth. It won't be a fair or even trade at all, but in God's grace I'm gonna receive my glorified body and it's gonna be really good!
We need to realize that there is an outward man and an inward man. Paul talked about that in the preceding chapter. The outward man perishes, but the inward man is renewed day by day. A great many people misunderstand that.
One preacher testified: "I had a letter from a man who said the Bible is filled with contradictions, and he said, 'I can prove there are contradictions. You talk about So-and-So having gone to be with the Lord, and then you talk about the body that is going to be raised and say that the person is going to be raised from the dead down here. Now that is a contradiction.' This man has missed the entire point. The body is put in the grave, but the individual, the real person, has gone to be with Christ -- if that individual is a believer.
The things that are seen are temporal. Often preachers say they are going to come here and see me, and I do my best to talk them out of it, because they'll be real disappointed once they get here. They think we're a big, rich church w/ thousands of people and that I'm some big time preacher. Well, if I'm gonna maintain that illusion I have to talk them out of it!
A few have come by and they just saw this house, this old tent, I live in. They saw my short stature, knocked knees, crooked teeth, and a beer belly on the way! And it won't be getting better before it gets worse.
Solomon described old age in Ecclesiastes: "In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low" (Eccl. 12:3-4). The "keepers of the house" are the legs, and my knees and hips are beginning to tremble and ache on my treadmill. "The strong men," which are my shoulders, will eventually bow themselves. My wife tells me to stand up straight, and I tell her I can't stand straight, it's not comfortable. "Those that look out of the windows" are my eyes -- I am going to have to get a large print Bible. "The sound of the grinding is low" -- I don't hear as well as I used to hear, unless you are talking about the ringing, which grows ever louder. This is old age taking place in the outward man. The things that are seen are temporal.
Also, there is an inward man, and the inward man is spiritual. It is difficult for us to understand that. God is a person, but God is not a physical, material Being. God is a Spirit. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." And I'm glad our Spirit can be renewed and we can grow stronger all our lives, spiritually.
I hear people say they don't like getting old. I am enjoying it. I have a good doctor who reminds me not to be stressed, but to enjoy life and do what I want to do. Sometimes my wife gives me a to do list and I just say, "Look, my doctor tells me to do what I want to do, and I don't want to do this thing that you want me to do." Sometimes I can get by with that, but not always!
Seriously, it is wonderful to know that every passing year brings me closer to Him. I am going to see Him someday; I am going to see the face of the Lord Jesus, the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I rejoice in that prospect.
Someone asked President Adams how he felt after he had become an old man. He answered, "I feel fine. This old house that I live in is really getting feeble. The shingles are coming off the top and the foundation seems to be coming out from underneath, but Mr. Adams is just fine, thank you."
We have a house eternal in the heavens. This body of ours will be sown a natural body, but it will be raised a spiritual body. He is going to give us a new body up yonder.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven [2Cor. 5:2].
I hear you groaning, and I'm not talking about the groaning you emit at my jokes. It's another sound you make, we all make, but not forever, and maybe not for long!
It's not about physical pain as much as tiring of it all and yearning for things to be the way God intended for His children before we chose the way of sin. One just can't help but groan in this cursed world.
I groan as I open bills. I groan when I eat too much. Sometimes I groan in the restroom after eating too much! And yes, we come to a place where we groan with pain sometimes from exercise, work, or just from getting up!
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked [2Cor. 5:3].
This is interesting. One of these days Jesus is going to call His own out of the world. We will be caught up to meet our Lord in the air, and we are going to stand before Him. What will it be like for us? We will be clothed in His righteousness. We will not be found naked.
Not everyone will be clothed in His righteousness when they are raised from the dead. Christ "...was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25) -- that is, our righteousness. But some folk have not accepted His righteousness. They have rejected Christ. Therefore, there is a resurrection of the just and of the unjust. Paul mentions this in Acts 24:15, "...that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Jesus said the same thing in John 5:29. "And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
You are going to stand in His presence someday. Will you be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Are you accepted in the Beloved?
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life [2Cor. 5:4].
If you feel like groaning, you just groan. It's scriptural. We are burdened. Yes, we are. That is why we groan in these bodies. It is not that we are worried about being unclothed; we know that we shall be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. If He is our Savior, He is our only hope.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit [2Cor. 5:5].
The earnest of the Spirit implies there is more to follow. He has given us the Holy Spirit down here in these weak bodies with all our feebleness, all our frailty. The Holy Spirit is just the earnest. Earnest money is the down payment. Christ has purchased us, and the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer is the down payment. One of these days we will move out of this old house and we will meet the Lord in the air. How wonderfully this opens up such a vista for us.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord [2Cor. 5:6].
Let's be honest, we many times feel at home in our bodies...they are all we have ever known. I know every scar, and can point directly to moles on my back that I've never even seen w/ my eyes! However, as long as I am at home in this body, I am absent from the Lord.
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) [2Cor. 5:7].
How could Paul be so sure that when we leave this body we will be present with the Lord? Paul says that we walk by faith. We take God at His Word. I would rather take His Word than anyone else's word. Faith is taking God at His Word.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord [2Cor. 5:8].
Another translation would be "at home with the Lord." It contrasts being at home in the body with being at home with the Lord. Remember that the soul does not die. The soul never dies; the soul goes to be with Christ. It is the body that is put to sleep. It is the body that must be changed. Remember that there will be a generation that will not go through death, but their bodies will still need to be changed. "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed...For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1Cor. 15:51, 53). It is the body that goes to sleep and it is the body that is raised. Resurrection does not refer to the soul or the spirit. The English word resurrection is the Greek word anastasis, which means "a standing up." It is the body which will stand up. Knowing these things, we walk by faith.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him [2Cor. 5:9].
The Greek word philotim that is translated "labour" literally means "to esteem as an honor" -- to be ambitious. It is the same Greek word which is translated "study" in 1 Thessalonians 4:11: "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands...." Be ambitious to mind your own business! In the verse before us it is translated "labour" -- we should be ambitious, we should labor, in such a way that we will be accepted of Him. This is not ambition to become a great somebody, but to do our best to please God.
We are accepted in the Beloved. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:5-6). Being accepted in Christ is my standing before God. God sees me in Christ, and He is made unto me all that I need: wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (see 1 Cor. 1:30). He is my perfection. God sees me in Christ, and I am complete in Him. You cannot add anything to completeness. When a person has 100 percent, that person has all of it. We who are believers have Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved. Accepted in Christ is the standing that all believers have before God.
But to be accepted of Him is a different thing. This has to do with our present state and refers to the way we live our lives. Do we live for Christ? Are we ambitious to be accepted of Him? To be ambitious to be accepted of Christ does not mean that we are to crawl over everybody and step on them in order to get to the top.
ill.--Dr. G. Campbell Morgan tells how he wrestled with this problem. He was a school teacher when he was called as a minister. It was a very solemn moment for him. He felt that the Lord was saying to him, "You have been set apart for the ministry of the Word. Now do you want to be a great preacher, or do you just want to be My servant?" The first thought that Dr. Morgan had was, I want to be a great preacher. That ought to be a wonderful ambition, but after a while the Lord began to press it in upon him, "Do you want to be a great preacher, or do you just want to be My servant?" Finally Dr. Morgan came to it. He saw that he had to make a choice. Finally he said, "O blessed Lord, I would rather be Thy servant than anything else." He was willing to be an obscure preacher. May I say that in my opinion God made G. Campbell Morgan not only His servant but also made him a great preacher. Sometimes we think that our ambition ought to be to do something great for God. God says that He wants us to be His servants. That's all. You and I need to come to the place where we can say, "Lord, just take me and make me and break me and do with me what You will."
God gave this word through Jeremiah: "And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not..." (Jer. 45:5). That's putting it plain enough, isn't it?
Are you trying to get great things for yourself? Do you really want to be God's servant? If you do, then you can accomplish something for which He will be able to reward you. To be honest with you, I'm beginning to become just a little worried about this. I want to make sure that I am His servant while I'm here in this old house.
[with helps from J. Vernon McGee.]
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