15th Sunday after Pentecost September 18, 2022
2 Corinthians 5:1-9
427, 409, 370, 394
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Editor’s Note: Sermon Video 📺 https://tinyurl.com/CLC-MxM-20220918
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, You have built Your Church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. Continue to send Your messengers to preserve Your people in true peace that, by the preaching of Your Word, Your Church may be kept free from all harm and danger. We pray this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. (NKJV)
Do you have a “motto” that you live by? Are there any sayings or phrases that you feel really define who you are as a person and give direction to your life? Whether consciously or unconsciously people tend to live according to several “mottos” in their lives. Sometimes these are admirable and good (“When I refuse to try, I fail already.” Or “I want leave this world better than I found it.”). Some mottos, however, are not so good (“I don’t get mad, I get even”) or pessimistic (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”—also known as “Murphy’s Law.”)
As believers, we want our “mottos” that guide our thinking and the direction of our lives to be Biblical and in line with God’s will for our lives. For example, it’s no surprise that perhaps the most well-known “motto” of all time is from Jesus Himself: “The Golden Rule” from His sermon on the mount, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) One of the verses from our sermon text should also be one of our “mottos” as Christians: “We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight” (v. 7).
Why is this motto and this mindset so important in this life? Because when we walk by faith and not by sight, the apostle Paul tells us that we walk with confidence. He says in v. 6, “we are always confident.” When we walk by faith, trusting in what God has promised us, not depending only on what we can see and observe, we can always walk with confidence. When we walk by faith and not by sight we can always live confidently even when life is uncertain, when we venture out into the unknown, or when feel all alone.
How can Paul and we speak so confidently? He goes on to say, “So we are always confident knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (v. 6-8). Yes, there are countless things in this life which tend to cause us to lose heart. But Paul keeps on saying: “We are confident!” "We do not lose heart.” Why does he not lose heart? Because he keeps his eyes on everlasting life—his eternal home in heaven. Because he lives by faith and not by sight. Because he does not live according to his feelings, but according to the promises of God! These promises of God are our confidence as well!
We can be confident because, first of all, no matter what comes our way in this life we know that we have an eternal home in heaven waiting for us! Paul says in verse 1 of our text, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (v. 1)
But as we look forward into future of the rest of our lives, we might wonder just how we’re going to make it “groaning” under the “burdens” of life in this earthly “tent” (v. 4). And just how do we know for sure that the heavenly mansion we’ve been promised is going to be there for us when our last day comes? Paul reminds us that we can live confidently even as we live with the burdens of this “tent” of our earthly life because we have the very Spirit of God living in us and working for us. He says in verse 5, “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing [i.e. our heavenly home] is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (v. 5) That word for “guarantee” in the Greek is a word used by business men in Paul’s day and it literally means “deposit” (NIV) or “down payment.” The gift of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts is God’s personal “guarantee” of more to come. The Holy Spirit who has been given to us is God’s pledge—His “down payment” on the mansion He has bought us in heaven, if you will—that one day this earthly “tent” will “be swallowed up by life”—eternal life in the mansions of heaven!
How do we know that we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, you might ask? You could rely on feelings or whether or not you’ve had a “Holy Spirit” experience, but feelings change. What happens when you no longer “feel” like you have the Holy Spirit? Again, we look instead to the never changing promises of God. In His Word God tells us that if you have been baptized you have received the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38) God’s Word also says that if the confession of faith that you have in your heart is that “Jesus is Lord,” then you have received the Holy Spirit, for as Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
With God’s Spirit in our hearts we can say with Paul, “We are always confident” (v. 6) whether we are here still “passing through” in our earthly “tent” or at “home” in heaven with the LORD. With God’s Spirit in our hearts we look to the future, not with our physical eyes, but with “eyes” of faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (v. 7) as our text reminds us. No we can’t “see” what’s around the next corner in our life; what the next year—or even what the next five minutes—will bring, but faith really has nothing to do with “seeing.” The writer of Hebrews reminded us in our Scripture reading earlier, “Faith is being sure about what we hope for, being convinced about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 EHV) With “eyes” of faith, however, we will walk “always confident” because we will “see” the LORD’s hand in guiding, protecting, and blessing all that we do.
Not only do we continue to walk confidently “by faith,” we also continue to walk in His ways. The love that God has shown for us in Christ inspires us to show our love for Him and others. As Paul wrote in v. 9 of our text, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” In your congregation, in your homes, in your schools, and in your workplaces you have so many opportunities to do things that are well pleasing to Christ. These acts of faith—whether “large” or “small”—are all “well pleasing to Him” (v. 9).
When we look at ourselves and our situation as a congregation or as a church body we might feel that we have good reason to be afraid of the future that lies ahead of us. Maybe we’ve had a number of people move away to a new home out of state, or leave our congregation for other reasons. Perhaps we’ve had several pass away and go to their heavenly home. We may think about how there are more empty pews in church than there are people. This is what we might think and feel when we walk by sight, when we walk by what we can see and observe, and by what our rational minds tell us is most probable. BUT WE DO NOT WALK BY SIGHT! WE WALK BY FAITH!
By faith we know that God has blessed you and me, our congregations and our ministries tremendously in the past. By faith I know that God has good reasons for bringing us all together to serve Him. By faith I know that since God has promised to bless those who preach, believe, and live by His word faithfully, we will be blessed! By faith I know that we have the one thing that is needed for true life, the very words of God Himself, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen again.
Will there be some hard times, some adjustments and difficulties ahead? Yes, there very well may be. Will there be times of sorrow and tears. Yes, there most certainly will. But as Paul said in our text “we are always confident.” After all, just because we walk by faith and not by sight, that doesn’t mean that our faith is blind. It rests firmly, permanently, and confidently on the eternal words and promises of God Himself. The apostle Peter tells us, “We also have the completely reliable prophetic word. You do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19 EHV) God sent His very own Son to die on the cross and save us from our sins. He raised Him from the dead to give us life. He has given us faith through His Holy Spirit’s work in the Word and the Sacraments. This same Spirit still lives and works inside each one of us and has been given to us as God’s “guarantee” (v. 5) of our future inheritance in heaven. Therefore, we can always be confident and say with all believers in Christ: “We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight” (v. 7)! Amen.
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