Series: 2 Corinthians
II Corinthians 5:6-9 ESV
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Connection – In the course of defending his ministry as an apostle from the criticisms of some who were troubling the Corinthians, Paul has been pointing out at length the glory that in Christ comes to the apostle and all new covenant people. This includes the certain hope of eternal glory. But we are not there yet. For this reason Paul is talking about the Christian life in the time in-between Christ’s ascension and return.
The Christian way of life is essentially different from that of those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
|Ultimate hope||– Ultimate hopelessness*|
|Eternal values||– Temporary values|
|Destiny of glory||– Destiny of despair|
|Personal, loving God||– Without God|
* Yes, the non-believer may still enjoy life and live awhile even in luxury and much pleasure. Many of them, at least in our culture, live it up.
I. A position of confidence (5:6)
A. The starting point for our way of life is our confidence in Christ.
1. Everything is about living for Christ in our relationship to our crucified, risen and glorified Lord. Paul is writing these words of hope to people who know the Lord who is hope (cf. 1 Tm 1:1). We trust in him and so have personal friendship with him.
2. This brings a Christ-focus or vital Christ-structure to our way of life. We have seen this vital connection between the Lord and the believer so far in this letter. (Reread it slowly and listen to how the apostle by the Spirit phrases everything.) When Paul defines our existence as believers in this text, he speaks of it in terms of the Lord.
B. This confidence leads to a better understanding of our present situation.
1. Yes, we are at home in the body, but as Paul has said in the previous paragraph, this present home is only a tent—frail, temporary, and destined to be taken down.
2. But a person with confidence in the Lord realizes that this situation of being at home in the body means that he or she is also away from the Lord. Certainly, we have the good presence of the Holy Spirit. The other Counselor like Jesus is a faithful best friend! But the Father’s purpose for us is to be the bride of Christ, and so there is a longing to be with the Lord Jesus in the eternal home of our resurrection bodies, and not to be away from him in these earthly tents.
3. So the believer in Jesus thinks, “By God’s grace and will, I am living in this tent. But my Father in heaven has something better for me—to be with my Lord. All right, I have confidence in my Lord. In him I can boldly enter what the Father wills for me.”
Point: Part of what we should be doing now is preparing for leaving this tent to be at home with the Lord. How do we make this preparation?
II. The walk of faith (5:7-8)
A. General principle of the Christian life – we live or walk by faith
1. We cannot live as Christians if we think we can figure everything out and live by our own resources. That is walking by sight—by our senses, by what we can lay our hands on. We cannot please God living that way (Heb 11:6).
2. I think that part of our problem is the widespread failure to think seriously and often about the nature of this life (a tent) and the nature of the next (an eternal home). Yes, you might be able to scrounge around to keep yourself going for a few more years. (And given the rise in food and energy prices, such ability will diminish for most of us.) But what will you do when both worldly resources and life run out? So then, we need to regain an authentic Christian outlook on life.
B. The principle puts a new preference into action.
1. Though we are still in the earthly body, we are confident and prefer to be away from this body and at home with the Lord. Now as they say, the plot thickens! There is no denying what Paul has just written. But you can’t push back from this, saying something like, “Well, this is all fine for someone like Paul. He suffered much, lived his life, and all that. But I have a lot that… I want to do!” And you are immediately unmasked! Stop right there! Paul is not setting up some kind of consolation for those who feel their life is spent. He is talking about all Christians—those who have the hope of eternal life and resurrection body. Here I think we get to the crux of the matter. There is a lot of “Christian cool” floating around this country. Exciting worship! Dramatic experiences of spiritual gifts! Big churches, house churches, emerging churches! Listening to “rock star” preachers! Posting neat Christian stuff on Facebook! Tweeting your Christian consciousness to everyone! Reading popular books with cool titles! Doing Bible studies with pretty booklets! Striving for social justice! And I could say more. But it all revolves around what “I want to do!” We have to face our condition. We have a book that sold about forty-five million copies that opens with the words, “It’s not about you,” but we think it is and we live like it is. But God’s word exposes us for what we are. Think seriously on this verse and ask the Lord, “Can I be a Christian without this preference?”
2. Now part of our difficulty in this subject is that we don’t live in a situation where there is much physical persecution. Our main problems are forms of social rejection and perhaps some financial loss. Certainly the solution is not to seek or hope for physical persecution to straighten out our thinking. But we must get our world and life back into a Christ-structured future orientation. We must stop the quest for self-satisfaction. We must think in Christian ways (cf. Col 3:1-4).
3. This will lead to a reaffirmation of confidence – the true Christian way of life does not include the language of despair. Because of ultimate glory, we must reject it. We will begin to expect confidently, “I will be at home with the Lord. This is certain. So then, I can look at all my life as providing opportunities for a ‘tent dweller’ on a journey. One day I’ll be at home with the Lord, but now he has me here. What should I do?” The next verse provides the answer of the Holy Spirit through the apostle.
III. Our godly ambition (5:9)
A. God created us with the capacity for ambition—to strive eagerly to reach a goal or to aspire to be something. This is part of being made in the image of God.
1. Certainly, human ambitions can be sinful or misdirected. But that is not the point here. A Christian can have good ambitions (cf. Rm 15:20; 1 Th 4:11).
2. Paul models a proper ambition for Christ’s people in this time in-between. He wants us to consider the best direction to set our goals. The year is still young, and you may have already forgotten the “New Year’s resolutions” you made anyway. But here is a godly pattern to follow at all times.
B. The proper ambition of a Christian is to please the Lord.
1. In general, we are to please God (Eph 5:10), and sometimes we are given specific instruction about how to do this (Rm 12:1-2; Col 3:20).
2. Clearly, it comes down to the practical question, “Do I want to please myself in this matter, or do I want to please the Lord?” As Ken Collier of The Wilds Christian camp said years ago, “There are only two choices on the shelf: pleasing God or pleasing self.”
Apply: Which is your ambition?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author]