Audio of the sermon here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s so easy to lose heart, to become discouraged, to lose your motivation to continue on the good way, toward a good goal. We know very well what Paul means when he says that our outer nature—our “outside man”—is wasting away, disintegrating, being ruined. We all know, to one degree or another, that our bodies are never what they were, that they begin to wear down and wear out. But it’s more than that. Paul says that it’s not just our physical bodies but everything we see that is transient, passing away. Everything we see is subject to disintegration and entropy. Not just our bodies, but maybe our families, maybe our churches, maybe our community, maybe our country, maybe our world. What Paul calls a “slight, momentary affliction” often can feel much heavier and longer-lasting. In this earthly tent, we groan, being burdened, he says. And in the midst of that, we can so easily lose heart.
Our apparently unavoidable focus on what we can see, what is passing away, causes us to lose heart. And we are afraid because of it. From the transience of the things we can see, the things we have worked for, the things we have built, comes our fear, anger, bitterness. And we do whatever we can to keep those things from falling apart. We tear down, we accuse, we suspect. We’re discouraged and we lose heart.
Paul might as well attribute all of that to a concentration on the things we can see in and around us. Because to the Corinthian Christians and to us he writes that we are not losing heart. It’s a present-tense verb, ongoing. We are not. It’s an ongoing struggle and an ongoing battle, a sustenance that we continue to need right in the middle of all this passing-away stuff. We lose heart because of the things we can see, but we are not losing heart because of the unseen things, specifically the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, and because He did, He will also bring all of us, with Jesus, into His own eternal Presence.
The things we can see are passing away, momentary, slight, but only in the light of the unseen things that are eternal. Paul says we are not looking at the things we can see, but at the things we can’t see! Look, he says. Here they are: Christ, the resurrection, and the eternal renewal of all things. Right in the middle of our outer nature passing away, our inner nature is being renewed day after day after day. God has an inside man hidden in all this disintegration, and it’s Jesus, the Son of God who is made man. And it is His life in us which is being renewed day by day.
We are waiting for the day when our eternal home, which is being kept with God in the heavens, will be revealed to us. And that means that we are not hoping to escape this flesh and be an unclothed, un-bodied soul. We are hoping to be further clothed, for this dying flesh to finally be clothed with the undying flesh of Christ’s resurrection. And the renewal has begun. Look to the unseen things, which are eternal. Even today we are being renewed by unseen things, as Christ’s body and blood are hidden under the visible things of bread and wine. Bread and wine will pass away, but the Body and Blood of Christ are now undying after His resurrection.
So we are not losing heart. We are not discouraged. Because no matter what we see, no matter what happens, no matter what affliction and groaning and disintegration, nothing can change the fact that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Nothing. And in the light of His eternal glory we will finally see that the burdens of living in this flesh and this world with these sinners will only be a slight, momentary, insignificant affliction, which is preparing us for the eternal weight of glory that is beyond any comparison with the things we can see here and now. The burdens under which we groan will finally become the full burden of joy in the presence of our God.
So we are not losing heart, as we look to those unseen, eternal things. We are not losing heart because Jesus is risen and nothing can kill Him. We are not losing heart because God will bring us with Jesus into His glorious presence. We are not losing heart.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/8/18