Not Home Yet: Judgment for Christians

“So 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 while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Wait a minute! What? I’m going to appear before the judgment seat? I thought the fact that all my sins are forgiven meant I would not be judged by God. I thought I was in the clear because Jesus paid for my sins.

nothome_350Well, if you have received God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus—if you are a Christian—you will not be judged for your sin. The judgment seat Paul describes here is usually called the “judgment seat of Christ.” There our works will be judged, not our sin. Your salvation won’t be the issue. Jesus paid for all of that in full.

Instead, our lives will be revealed to show the value of our choices (good and bad) while we have lived “in the body” before we get to heaven—and there will be appropriate responses to those choices.

Paul said, “Until I get home, I’m going to live to please Jesus on the day there when my works, my heart, my true choices are all revealed.”

Think: Does the idea of this judgment seem like a burden to you or an opportunity? Does it motivate you to want to live this life to please God? Should it?

Pray: Ask God to help you want to live this life in a way that pleases him. Thank him for the power of the Holy Spirit in you to help you do that.

Do: Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

Not Home Yet: I’m Here Not There

“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 live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6)

Too many Christians I know think there’s something wrong with them; they wonder if they’re missing some key part of Christianity. They look around at church on a Sunday morning and everyone is smiling and dressed nice and nodding along with everything the pastor is saying.

nothome_350If they knew how empty I feel . . . If they knew that being a Christian hasn’t taken away my loneliness . . . If they knew how much I still struggle with sin . . .

Here’s the little secret we don’t mean to keep from each other: We all know. We’re all lonely on some level. We all still struggle. Paul just told us how he groaned to leave the tent of this body behind and actually be with the Lord. We’re not there, yet. We can’t see him, yet. So we keep believing and waiting, and he keeps providing strength and hope and joy for another day through his Spirit.

Think: Do you think Christians intentionally hide from each other how deeply we struggle or hurt or groan? Do you think it would help for us to be as honest as Paul has been in this chapter?

Pray: Ask God to help you live with his courage and joy and peace today even though you can’t see him, yet. Thank him that one day you’ll be able to live “by sight” of him.

Do: Play a game: Ask a friend or family member (that you trust) to guide you around a room or through a house while you keep your eyes closed. Follow their voice commands to stop, go left, go right, etc. Notice how much harder it is to walk by faith in someone else’s voice than it is to walk by sight.

Not Home Yet: Guaranteed

“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 5:5)

In yesterday’s devo, Paul dropped the answer to the riddle of the ages on us. Why do we exist? God created us to be with him forever. It’s what we are meant for.

nothome_350So what is God waiting for? Why doesn’t he just take us home the moment we trust in Jesus for salvation? Isn’t it kind of mean of him to tell us what we’re made for and then keep us from getting there for another 60 years or so?

The answer is complicated, but we can be sure God has a purpose for us between now and the time we cross the welcome mat of heaven. And he hasn’t left us alone. At that moment of salvation, he gave us his own Spirit to begin to change us, to give us his power to live here and—this is huge—as a promise that we will arrive in heaven when the time is exactly right.

Think: What difference does it make in your daily life as a Christian that God’s Spirit lives with you? How does it change the everyday experience of living physically apart from God in heaven?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God for the gift of his Holy Spirit in you and the promise of your future with him forever.

Do: Notice the next time you or someone else is asked to put a deposit down as a promise of future payment and think about what promise God was making to you when he gave the Holy Spirit.

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.