2 Corinthians 5: What’s In It For Me?
Often referred to as man’s favorite radio station, WIIFM- is something we all think about. For it is part of our nature which thinks in terms of our own selfish nature. What’s in it for me – means what benefit will I derive? What will this do for me? Let’s face it self-interest is something we deal with every day. Jesus came to enlighten our self interest. He understands a reward system and incentives. This is why in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth, where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break into steal. But instead lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal. Jesus understands our need to be satisfied. This why He warned us of the enemy who comes to steal and kill and destroy. While the Lord came to give us life and life more abundantly. Jim Elliott the missionary who was killed by the tribes he was ministering to – understood this principle and said: “A man is no fool to give up what he cannot keep for that which he can never lose. We were created by the Lord and for the Lord. He knows what will fulfill our deepest longings and satisfy us the most.
The word “it” is a pronoun which is often identified as an impersonal pronoun. What is in me and you in these earthen vessels, in these tents, is nothing less than the Lord Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. When He first came into my life, He was virtually a stranger. He said of this incident, “I was a stranger but you took me in.” Then we began a journey together and He has become my best and most intimate friend. He understands me. He reveals spiritual truths to me.
As we ended chapter 4, Paul says the real things in this life are not the seen, visible things, but the real things are the invisible things, the unseen. Natural man, man who does not have the Spirit of God indwelling him cannot understand these unseen things. In fact they are foolishness to him and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor. 2) What are these unseen things which are eternal? They are the unseen forces at work in the world, of which most of the world is completely unaware. These are the two kingdoms at war in the unseen realm. The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. The kingdoms of darkness is under Satan, aka Lucifer, the fallen angel, and consist of the angels who followed him, aka known as demons. The kingdom of light is the Kingdom of God and consists of Triune God and the angels who remain with Him to do whatever He commands them to do. These kingdoms are eternal, although invisible. The Word of God is eternal, it will not pass away. And the souls of men are eternal and will exist forever in one of two locations: heaven or hell.
Notice how Paul starts this chapter: “Now we know…” Paul does not say now we hope, he says now we know. How can I know with certainty? By faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we cannot see.” This is how we live and walk by faith and not by sight. The natural man, the lost of this world, do not know these spiritual truths and therefore walk by sight. As believers in the Word of God we know absolute truth. We are certain of things we cannot see. I have never seen Jesus Christ or heaven, but I am certain they exist for the Word of God is absolute truth and as such is the only reliable thing in this unreliable world. Everything we see today will pass away, but the Word of God remains forever. It is the anchor of my soul. Paul uses a description of our body here in this chapter as an earthly tent. Paul says we know these tents will be destroyed, and that we have a building, a house built by God not by human hands, eternal in heaven. Remember what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
We know we understand the world and everything in the universe, both seen and unseen were created by God. They are held together by God, He is creator and sustainer of all things. We are told to look beyond the visible to the invisible things. The Word of God tells me there are angels, both good and bad working both for and against human beings on this earth. We who are on earth are caught up in this great invisible conflict in which we are both under attack and supported by invisible hands. This is why Paul said we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against invisible principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.
This unseen battle spills out on the earth and the 24 hour news cycle on television brings the results into our homes every night. Since the unseen world is not understood by man, they are deceived into believing different reasons why the world is in such a mess. They must find visible reasons for these problems and thus we have wars, rumors of wars, riots, a polluted environment and unbelievable violence, murder, rape, child abuse and the awful things we see on the 24 hour news cycle. Jesus told us in Matthew 24: 37: ‘As it was in the days Noah, so also will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.” How was it in the days of Noah? Genesis 6 tells us: “Then the Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Are we there yet? One could build a case just from watching the news cycle that we are. But listen to this statistic, in 2015 on one pornographic website, consumers watched 4.3 billion hours of pornography. Convert those hours to years, and it is 500,000 years of watching porn. Minds polluted, consciences seared with this hot iron of filth. Surely we are as wicked as the society which was swept away in the flood in the days of Noah.
I fear the generations coming behind us have lost the values which our grandparents and parents deemed as absolute. Now everyone does what is right in their own eyes. We have accepted the redefining of marriage, abortion of unborn as a right, and pornography as mainstream entertainment. The two greatest weapons the unseen forces of evil have unleashed on this world are sex and technology combined to make it available in every home and almost impossible for parents to protect their children from this evil. We are in a battle. A battle for the mind. For remember the mind can overrule a God- given conscience until it becomes desensitized to evil and has no concept of right and wrong and their minds are on evil 24-7, just as it was in the days of Noah.
Paul was a tentmaker. He now switches metaphors to describe our earthly bodies not only as jars of clay, earthen vessels, but also as tents. The tent is our earthly body, temporary and weak just like a tent. Tents sag; tents are not very comfortable when exposed to the elements, heat, cold, rain, snow, etc. Tents grow old and threadbare, easily torn. Paul says we know if these tents are destroyed we have a building, a house to dwell in created by God. This house Paul is talking about is our glorified body which our souls will reside in for eternity. It was created by God for each of us who are believers. We read of its description in the Gospels when we read of Jesus’ resurrected, glorified body. For He has told us, flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. So God has created a glorified body for each of us, so when we see Jesus we will be like him. Abraham was known as “a man of the tent and the altar.” The tent reminded him of the temporary and the altar of worship reminded him of the eternal city he was seeking whose architect and builder was God. Wherever God is present is Holy Ground. Paul has referred to our bodies as a house. Truly when we realize what is in these earthly vessels and these tents in which our souls reside, we realize the presence of God in our lives makes our bodies a house of God, a house of Worship.
Paul tells us while we are in these earthly tents, we groan. This groan is not the groan of old age or worn out bodies. This is a groan of longing, like the earth, all of nature groans with longing for its Creator to return and restore them to their former glory. Paul’s groan is a groan of longing for heaven and all its glory.
So here Paul explains our situation as believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit:
- Alive in an earthly tent, a body which is temporary tent that is wasting away.
- Death, for a believer is referred to as sleep by Paul and the Lord Jesus. Here Paul refers to it as being ‘unclothed.’ In other words we took off the tent, the clothing of our temporary earthly bodies.
- Clothed with our heavenly building, which is our glorified transformed body like Jesus we receive at the return of Jesus. If we are alive when He returns we will receive a glorified body in the twinkling of an eye we will be changed from corruptible to incorruptible. This glorified body is a dwelling a building built by God, not human hands. It is and eternal body.
We are told to be absent from the body, (leave the earthly tent) is to be present with the Lord. To be still in this earthly body is to be absent for the physical presence of the Lord. So people of God are in one of two places: either in heaven or on earth. We are not in a grave. We are not in hell. We are not in purgatory, a so-called in-between place between heaven and hell, which does not exist.
Now we are curious as to what it is like between the time when we die and the time we get our glorified bodies. . Remember our souls are immortal, they never die, they simply change locations when the leave the body. The saved are in the presence of the Lord Jesus. The lost are in Hades, a place described as a place of torment in Luke 16. The lost will be brought from that place to the Great White Throne for their punishment based on their deeds and misdeeds, sins.
Does this mean when I leave my body I will exist in a disembodied state of sleep? I believe when our souls leave our bodies, these earthly temporary tents, we enter the presence of the Lord in Heaven. What we also enter is eternity. In eternity there is no time. No past, no future. On earth we lived in the temporary, created 24 hour day cycle. We are conditioned to think in terms of time. This is why eternity is placed in our heart, although we do not fully understand it, we long for it. In eternity, we never have to wait for anything. Your loved ones who have not only entered heaven and the presence of the Lord, they have entered eternity where there is no time. They do not want for anything and they do not wait for anything, this is the phenomena of eternity where time as we know it does not exist.
Paul then tells us: “Now it is God who made us for this purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, as a guarantee of what is to come. The Holy Spirit renews us each day reminding us the best is yet to come. And as we grow older and our bodies are wasting away outwardly, but because God has placed his very Spirit within us to remind us daily and renew us daily as we feast upon the Daily Bread of His Word, who is the Lord Jesus Himself our Bread of Life who renews our minds each day. He is providing us with a foretaste of glory divine. If you remember your wedding day, or have recently attended a traditional wedding, the bride and bridegroom turn to face each other as they repeat their vows. When we behold Him our Savior, Redeemer and look full in His face, the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His wonder and grace. He is preparing a place for us now and we know at our age, whether He is coming soon or we are leaving this building to go be with Him, the time grows short.
WE ARE CONFIDENT
Paul says, therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the lord. We walk (live) by faith and not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him, for the things done the body, whether good or bad.
We are confident while we are still in these earthly tents we are away from the Lord, we can walk by faith and not by sight because of the Holy Spirit deposited in us as a guarantee. God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He told the disciples as He prepared to go the cross, he would not leave them orphans. He promised us He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Paul says we are always to make it our goal to please the Lord. And the reason we should make this our priority is because all believers will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. This is not the Great White Throne judgment which is for the lost, whose name is not found written in the Lambs’ Book of Life; this is the bema, where our works will be tested by fire for rewards, as we read in I Cor. 3. Those works which burned up were inferior and done for selfish motives and recognition of man. Jesus said the recognition you received would be your reward. The works which survived the fire were works done not for recognition on earth, but to glorify God and please Him, not ourselves.
Paul is telling us heaven is not only a destination, it is also our motivation for how we should live here on earth. The parable of the talents and the servants show us our motivation and ambition to the please God to receive a reward is not sinful. God promises rewards. Therefore if God promises rewards for faithful servants, rewards from God cannot be sinful, but in fact are motivation. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus understood ambition and hard work and rewards. All of his accomplishment prior to his salvation were a result of his hard work, study, sacrifice and ambition. Ambition is not wrong when one’s ambition is to please the Lord. Paul realized all of his works before he was saved were nothing, and he considered them as rubbish, worthless. The saved person known formerly as Saul of Tarsus was a new creature. He was humble, not proud, but he still possessed ambition, now he was motivated by wanting to please God. He wanted to run the best possible race he could, he wanted to press on, to strive to give it his all for the glory of God.
Think of all the hours you worked at your job for not only money and advancement, but for the recognition of your bosses and co-workers and the community. I have received awards and recognition in my career. Salesman of the year, national recognition, two awards of excellence. Our company had an annual review for each employee where we met with our immediate bosses for review of our accomplishments for the year. Our rating would impact our bonus and salary going forward. We put together a presentation which showed our accomplishments for the year, the increase in business, the profitability, etc. We had set goals for the year in the beginning of the year which were shared with our supervisors. We were then judged on how well we did and the results of our efforts. We worked hard for the money and the recognition.
Heaven is not only our destination it is also our motivation. If we are looking at the unseen above and the day when we stand before Jesus – we begin to realize, at least I do, at my age, I am running out of time to lay up treasures and rewards in heaven.
I understand what Paul means when he says we know what it is to fear the Lord. I believe we will be fearful at the Bema, fearful our efforts were self-serving and not serving and glorifying Him, who died for me. I will enter heaven, but how much of what I spent my life doing will really matter. For if the only things of this world which are eternal are the Word of God and the souls of man, how have I invested in those?
Paul wanted to set God-Honoring goals and then work ambitiously and hard to achieve those goals.
How did Paul set those goals? He believed God’s promises. He believed God had equipped him to do the work God had called him to do. He had a consuming desire to achieve those God-given goals. He was not afraid to risk failure. He was determined. He was persistent. He stood firm in the faith and walked by faith not by sight. He let go of the past.
What goals do you have for the rest of your life? Have you asked God what does He want you to do with the rest of your life? He told us what we are to be doing. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth. Amen.’ Matthew 28; We are to be godly goal setters, soul winners and disciple makers.
When we stand before Jesus at the bema to answer what we have done, it will be clear what we have done in obedience to Him and what we have done for our own glory. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be ashamed. I want to be approved by the Lord Jesus. I want to have pleased Him.
Paul said we are to try to persuade men.
Evaluate your own goals and ask God what are His plans for today. He will show you where He is working and He shows you in order that you might join Him there. Be as ambitious to please Him as you were your employer. Work as hard as you ever have on a project for work. Work as hard as the athlete who trains. Works as hard as some of the people I see at the Lift to be physically fit. Make sure the rest of your life counts for something of eternal value.