June 16, 2010 David Balzer

2 Corinthians 5:1-9: Tents and Houses

Is your idea of the perfect holiday ROUGHING IT in a TENT, or being pampered in the LAP OF LUXURY?

It can be a delicate problem to navigate when husband and wife are on different ends of the spectrum.

About ten years ago Caron and I decided to camp at Katoomba Easter Convention. I’d always camped growing up. But it wasn’t something Caron had done a lot of. But I finally managed to convince her.

So we got all the gear together. Pitched the tent. And were looking forward to a great weekend. Right next to the hall. No travelling. Good friends to spend time with.

And everything was fine until Katoomba did what it normally does. RAINS. And the dirt turned to mud. Which went EVERYWHERE. All through the tent. In food. In cups. In sleeping bags. And the tent leaked.

I have to admit it was MISERABLE.

I don’t think I’ve got Caron camping SINCE.

Let me tell you, when it comes to the choice between living in a tent/ and living in the comforts of home, I’ll take HOME any day. Because it’s hard to beat the comforts of home. The warm bath. The telly. The comfortable bed. Away from the mossies. And the sunburn. And the mud in your sheets.

And here at the start of 2 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul’s saying exactly the same sort of thing. He’s talking about tents – and houses. He’s talking about where he IS, and where he’d RATHER be.

Paul’s looking at THIS life. And what it’s like. And he says it’s a bit like roughing it in a tent. The thing he’s looking forward to most, is GOING HOME. He’s groaning with anticipation. He’s camping in the middle of the mud, and he’s looking forward to something better.

And here’s what he says. Read from the first verse.

“Now we know that if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an ETERNAL HOUSE IN HEAVEN, not build by human hands. Meanwhile, we GROAN, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we’re clothed we will not be found .”

The TENT he’s talking about is HIS BODY. The tent he’s talking about is THIS LIFE.

Now think about the difference between a TENT and a HOUSE. The tent’s a TEMPORARY thing. It’s okay for a while. But the walls shake in the wind, the drafts get through the gaps. Tents are okay for A WEEK OR TWO, but they’re not meant to be PERMANENT.

It’s what he was talking about at the end of Ch 4. v16.

(2 Cor 4:16-18 NIV)  …Though outwardly we are WASTING AWAY, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. {17} For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {18} So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Life’s a TENT. That’s wasting away. But our REAL HOME is in ETERNITY. Which is FAR better.

That’s the way we SHOULD think. But it often doesn’t look like that IN PRACTICE.

I mean, a lot of the time we live like THIS IS ALL THERE IS. We live with A DEEP SEATED FEAR OF , that all the time we push under the surface. We work our guts out to make sure we’re SECURE. Build up as much money as we can, fix up the garden, do up the house. And whatever level we do it at, the desire’s the same – we want to make HEAVEN ON EARTH.

There’s been a perfect example in the news in the last of weeks. John Ilhan, the founder of the Crazy John’s phone company, built a fortune out of NOTHING. Worked his GUTS out. All the outward signs of success. One of the richest men in Australia. All the plans were in place to EXPAND into EUROPE. To get even bigger and better.

He’d even given up smoking, and was fit and active.

But he died suddenly of a heart-attack at 42, leaving behind a wife and four kids. His wife said they’d been MAKING PLANS for the FUTURE. SO he could spend more time with the family.

I wonder if those plans stretched to BEYOND ?

It’s the humanist dream. And we get sucked right into it. We’ll fix all the problems here, we’ll make ourselves comfortable. And we won’t think about ANYTHING ELSE. Friends, can I ask you, is it any wonder we lose sight of the fact that we’re meant to be GROANING FOR HEAVEN?

We’re like the people I saw at CMS Summer School a of years ago. THAT time the weather was good. It was quite close to the main auditorium. And I walked past it most days.

There were two tents set-up quite close to each other. With a shared kitchen and eating area in between. Nothing unusual in that.

But what really stood out was what they had in the kitchen area.

No collapsible camping chairs for these guys. They had a full-size SOFA. And an esky, and gas lights weren’t good enough for them either. They had power. Extension cords everywhere. And they had fluorescent lights rigged up. And a FULL-SIZE FRIDGE.

And here’s the icing on the cake. On the kitchen table, they had, not one, but TWO cappuccino makers.

And it’s what we’re tempted to do here on earth. We try to surround ourselves with so much comfort in this world that we’re not looking for anything else at all.

And we’ll build a religion out of it as well. We’ll build a religion that says ALL THE BLESSINGS COME IN THIS LIFE. A religion that says WE CAN FIX ANYTHING. That says COME AND GET IT. COME AND GET HEALED, COME AND GET RICH. Come and get fixed up from this and that and the other thing. Come and get so filled with the spirit and get so close to Jesus that you wonder if there’s any need for heaven to be there at all.

That’s what Paul’s up against in Corinth. That sort of teaching. People who are on about THIS LIFE. So much that they’ve forgotten IT’S JUST A TENT. Look at verse 12 and you’ll see what he calls them. He’s talking about the fake apostles who have come to Corinth with their new ideas. With their big promises FOR NOW. Verse 12. Paul says

“We’re not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in WHAT IS SEEN, RATHER THAN WHAT IS UNSEEN.”

Here’s Paul, the guy groaning for heaven. Here’s the other guys, successful, super-spiritual, so close to God they don’t even catch colds. Kenneth Copeland Ministries from the United States, who say if you’re a truly faithful Christian you can SEE IT IN YOUR BANK BALANCE.

Paul says, get it right. HEAVEN’S IN HEAVEN. Get your eyes on THAT. Long for what is unseen. Instead of taking pride in the here and now.

The problem is/ most of the time/ Heaven seems so UNREAL. So quiet and distant. It’s hard to see it as CERTAIN. But look at what Paul says in v5. Two reasons to help keep our minds on heaven.

(2 Cor 5:5 NIV)  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose

First up, we were designed for our HEAVENLY HOME. Our heavenly BODY. It’s EARTH which is un . It’s THIS body which is sub-human. Reality is our heavenly body. Our resurrected body. It’s what we WERE MADE FOR.

And when we take our eyes of that, it’s like a tadpole who’s happy staying a tadpole. And never wants to be a frog. A puddle of water is all he can imagine. Jumping and breathing is just another world.

If you ever have this nagging feeling that you don’t fit in. That you were made for something more. Then that’s . Because you WERE made for something more. You were designed for ETERNITY. For a body that lasts FOREVER! Without sickness, or pain. You were designed for relationships that DON’T break down. For complete intimacy. For life WITHOUT disappointment. Or mistrust.

Which is WHY were LONG for those things HERE.

But we’ll never find them FULLY. Because THIS LIFE is just a TENT. It’s just TEMPORARY. And it’s not what you were MADE FOR.

The second reason to keep our minds on heaven is ALSO there in v5.

He’s given us THE SPIRIT AS A DEPOSIT, guaranteeing WHAT IS TO COME.

God’s given us HIS Spirit to live IN US as a guarantee of ownership. And a glimpse of heaven RIGHT NOW. A taste of what complete fellowship we’ll have with Jesus THEN. Complete joy and love.

You bought that apartment on the Gold Coast. You’ve paid the deposit, and they send you the receipt. And they throw in a free video into the envelope. Showing you all what you can look forward to. That package is PROOF of what belongs to you. And it’s also a TASTE of what you can look forward to.

And that’s what the Holy Spirit does.

Just as an aside, these verses are one of the few places that talk about what happens to a Christian when he dies. V3 and 4 talk about THREE STAGES. Being clothed in a TENT. Being UNCLOTHED or . And being clothed with our heavenly dwelling.

And this stage is a description of what the Christian experiences after his , until Christ returns. Until judgment day. He’ll be WITH Christ (Today you will be with me in Paradise). He won’t have his EARTHLY body. That’s rotting in the ground somewhere. But his Spirit, who HE is, is with Christ the moment he dies.

But he won’t have his resurrected body yet EITHER. That only comes when Christ returns.

V8 and 9 talk about being either at home in the body, OR at home with the Lord. Two situations. And my reading is that to be at home with the Lord, for a Christian who dies, NOW means to be UNCLOTHED. You haven’t got your EARTHLY body. OR your ETERNAL body.

But then, on judgment day, you’ll get your ETERNAL body. Your heavenly home.

A of other passages.

(Rev 6:9-11 NIV)  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the SOULS of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. {10} They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our ?” {11} Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to WAIT A LITTLE LONGER, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

That’s ness. They’re WITH THE LORD. But still . They don’t have their resurrection bodies yet. That will only happen at Christ’s return.

Listen to how THAT’S described in 1 Corinthians 15. v51. Paul’s describing two types of Christians. Depending on what state they’re in at Christ’s return. Those who SLEEP, and those who are still alive.

(1 Cor 15:51-54 NIV)  Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not ALL sleep, but we WILL all be changed– {52} in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the WILL BE RAISED IMPERISHABLE, / and WE will be CHANGED. {53} For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Back to the big idea of the passage. Tents and houses. Paul’s saying, “Catch the vision. You’re made for heaven. That’s HOME. Get your eyes off the TENT.

And when you think like that. It’s going to affect WHAT YOU DO NOW. If you’re camping, and you know you’re going HOME soon, you don’t bother planting roses at the front door. You don’t carpet the floor, or install an air-conditioner.

You get ready to go home.

And it’s the same with Paul. He says in verse 6, while we’re here in the body, we’re AWAY FROM THE LORD. Things aren’t what they should be. We live by FAITH. Not by sight. We’re in the dark. And we’ve just got to trust Jesus FROM A DISTANCE.

I’ve said this to a of people in the last few weeks. Going through some things which are VERY TOUGH. And we don’t know why. I said “We don’t know what God’s plans are. We only know that he DOES have a plan. In fact we may NEVER find out what the plan WAS. Why these things happened.”

That’s walking by FAITH, and not SIGHT. It’s trusting that THIS state of play is only TEMPORARY. And ONE day it will change.

It’s a long way from ideal, isn’t it? And Paul says that – he says in the next verse, I’d PREFER to be away from the body and AT HOME WITH THE LORD.

And because of that, he says, he’s going to make it his goal to please the Lord whatever he does. That’s GETTING READY TO GO HOME.

He’ll put up with ANYTHING. NOW. Because his goal is to please the Lord. And because he’s going home soon. Look at how he describes it over in Ch 11. v23.

(2 Cor 11:23-27 NIV)  …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to again and again. {24} Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. {25} Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, {26} I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. {27} I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and .

It sounds just like Caron and my camping trip. But isn’t that a more accurate understanding of the reality? This life’s a tent. Eternity’s our HOME.

I wonder whether Paul will get to judgment day. And he’ll see all the FRUIT from that labour. All the people in heaven because of THAT SORT of SUFFERING. And whether he’ll say “Gee, that was a waste of time wasn’t it. What was I thinking?”

Of course not! He’ll say it was ALL WORTH IT. Every hungry and sleepless night. Every scar. Every heartache. Every danger.

“I would have done it TEN TIMES % ”

Because it was getting ready for HOME. It was preparing for what Paul was MADE for. It was working at pleasing the One he was spending eternity with.

Have you got THAT PERSPECTIVE? Are you Making it your goal to please God while you’re in this body. Because ONE DAY SOON, you’ll be home.

Is life NOW about getting ready FOR HOME?

The decisions you take about your family. The choices you make about how you use your money. How you spend your time. The people you make the effort to build relationships with. The causes you commit to.

Are they getting you ready for home? Or are you making THIS TENT more and more comfortable?

Make it your goal to PLEASE Jesus. Since your home is eternity.

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