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Not Home Yet: Why We Exist

“. . . so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)

Why do we exist? Why do we occupy space and time? Why did God create us? Smarter men and women than me have wrestled with these questions since before there were iPhones. Maybe longer.

nothome_350And here’s the answer right out in plain sight. If you’re even a little bit curious about why you are here, this verse should punch you square in the nose. “God . . . has made us for this very purpose.” You should ask, “What purpose? What? What’s the answer?”

In the verse before, Paul described his longing to be in heaven, to have all the death in him devoured by eternal life. Bottom line: God made us to be with him. Forever. That’s why we exist. It’s what we’re about. It’s when we’ll finally occupy the life we were built for. It’s when the fish meets the water, when the bird leaves the ground, when the child of God gets to go home.

Think: What is it worth to have the answer to the question of why we exist? Is it helpful to know that our reason for being is to be with God after this life is over? If we believe that, how will it change our lives now?

Pray: Thank God for revealing to you why he created you. Ask him to give you the courage to believe it.

Do: Make a quick list of other explanations you’ve heard for why we exist. How do those ideas compare to what Paul wrote in this verse?

Not Home Yet: Swallowed Up By Life

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)

If you just take these thoughts—this verse—out of context, you might think Paul was suicidal. Or, at the very least, that he thought life on this side of heaven was nothing but constant misery. That’s not true.

nothome_350Paul is the one who told the Galatians that Christians can live in this life with great joy, peace, and love. No, it’s not that Paul wanted to die. It’s that he knew he was dying, that we are all dying, that everything on a fallen world dies. This life always stinks a little of decay and death.

It’s not that we can’t live with purpose, happiness, and love in this moment. It’s that we won’t be complete until we are in that one, that we will alway sense the emptiness, the groaning, the weight of death—until everything in us is consumed by the life we were meant for in eternity. Paul couldn’t wait for that moment.

Think: Do you think it’s unhealthy to be honest about wanting to be in heaven? Do you think we can ever feel completely satisfied on this side of eternity? What does the word “groaning” mean to you?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God that everything in you that is mortal will one day be swallowed up by endless life.

Do: Look up the words “mortal” and “eternal” in an online dictionary and thesaurus.

Not Home Yet: I Want a Real House!

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-3)

My family tried camping in a tent exactly one time when I was a kid. It was a nice evening somewhere in Wisconsin. Until the storm rolled in. And the rain started pouring through the seams. And the thunder made it hard for us to hear dad saying, “Just go to sleep.”

nothome_350The guy on the radio in the van—where we ended up spending the night—said it was the worst storm in Wisconsin in ten years. We sat shivering and watched tent after tent get blown over, uprooted, and go tumbling through the campground as the tornado warning sounded. We stayed in motels after that.

Paul said these fragile bodies we live in are like tents. Sometimes, it’s cold and lonely and painful inside. We groan through long nights. It’s not the life we were meant for. In heaven, though, we’ll live in glorified bodies. Built just for us. Like sleeping in a real bed in a real house with our Father in the very next room.

Think: Paul couldn’t wait to be in his “heavenly dwelling.” Are you looking forward to heaven? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for the reality of heaven and that this life isn’t the end of the story.

Do: To get the full weight of Paul’s metaphor, let’s all try sleeping in a tent for a month or two this winter. How long do you think it will take before we’re longing to sleep in our own beds inside a real house?

Not Home Yet: Seeing the Unseen

“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.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

It’s how you get through the last two days of school for the year. Or the last ten minutes of the most boring lecture. Or the last 200 meters of a two-mile run. You focus all your attention on the finish line, the second hand of the clock, the final test.

nothome_350You don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt, that you’re not exhausted, that you’re not ready to be done. But you do focus on all the moments you can’t see, the moments of freedom you believe will come, the long season of rest that hasn’t happened yet. You focus your life on the invisible—but entirely real—end of this and beginning of that.

Paul decided his pile of pain was bearable because this life is already just about done when compared with all the blissful moments of eternity. Paul believed in the unseen heaven, and it gave him the hope and strength to keep going on Earth.

Think: How often do you think about the reality of heaven? Does it help you to deal with the temporary pain and trouble built into this life on Earth? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you to focus on the heaven you cannot see instead of the problems of this life that are so hard to look away from.

Do: Sometime this week, spend the last five minutes of your most boring stretch of time daydreaming about heaven.

Not Home Yet: Huge Small Problems

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Listen to how Paul describes some of his “light and momentary” troubles later in this same letter to the Christians in Corinth (11:23-29):

nothome_350“I have . . . been flogged . . . severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 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.”

“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.”

“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 naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

Think: What kind of eternal glory could possibly outweigh troubles like that? (Tune in the rest of this week to find out!)

Pray: Thank God that our troubles—whatever they are—last for just a moment when compared with eternity in heaven.

Do: Make a quick list of some of your own light and momentary troubles in preparation for comparing them with “eternal glory” over the next few days.

Not Home Yet: Two Clocks

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Paul had a rough life because he just would not shut up about Jesus. In the chapter leading up to today’s verse, he described some of the ways that he had suffered.

nothome_350You and I suffer, too. It might not be because we’re out there spreading the gospel, but every human being suffers. It’s part of being human on a sin-ravaged planet. From the moment we’re born, the clock starts ticking down to the moment we will die. Pain and decay come with the package.

Paul, who wrote these words, understood that better than anyone—but he refused to be discouraged by that clock. Why? Because he was focusing on a different clock. His great news about Jesus was that human beings could be made new—starting right now—through faith in Jesus.

From the moment that we are born again, that clock starts ticking forward to the moment the new Christlike us will be completed. We might be dying physically, but our real life is just beginning.

Think: Do you ever think about all the ways that life can be hard? Should we pretend that this life is not difficult? Where do you draw the line between being honest about the hard stuff in life and being encouraged about the reality of Jesus in you?

Pray: Thank God that he is renewing you “day by day” to be more and more like Jesus.

Do: Read 2 Corinthians 4 all the way through.

Believe Me: You Are Not Alone

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

From the disciple’s perspective, it must have seemed like Jesus was always saying hard things, impossible-to-comprehend things, things that would not make real sense until several chapters later.

believeme_350But this time, Jesus was telling them an impossible thing that would eventually make everything clear: The Spirit of truth in them. The Holy Spirit. He’s a person. He’s God. He is given to every person who trusts in Jesus. He’s a counselor who helps make clear to us what the world cannot possibly understand.

In this long goodbye speech, Jesus was promising the disciples would not be alone after he left. God would be with them—and not just in a general, fuzzy, “God is everywhere” kind of way. God the Spirit would be in them. He is in us. What does that mean for you?

Think: Be honest with yourself: Is it creepy at all to think of the Holy Spirit living in you as a Christian? Do you take the reality of the Spirit seriously? How often do you think about it?

Pray: As a believer in Jesus Christ, thank God for the gift of his Holy Spirit in your life. Ask him to help you to live as if his Spirit is real and active in your daily existence.

Do: Read about one way the Spirit in us changes us in Romans 8:9-11.