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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Preparing to Move
Text:LD 22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-01-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 91:1,5                                                                                      

Hy 1

Reading – Ecclesiastes 12:1-8; Romans 8:18-30; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:11

Ps 86:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 22

Hy 72:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 74:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord, many of us have gone through the experience of moving: from one house or apartment to another, even from country to another. While some have put down roots, and stayed in one home for twenty or thirty years, some of us have moved quite often—like in our student years, or as our families have grown.

There’s usually a sense of excitement that comes with a new home. There’s all kinds of preparations to be made: making arrangements for moving day, de-cluttering in the old place, renovating the new. Exciting, but after a while, you can’t get out the door fast enough. You just want the move to be done, and to settle down—and hopefully to stay there for a good long time.

So it is for us. Christians might not move more than anyone else, but the Bible calls us  pilgrims. That means we’re traveling, looking forward to taking up our residence in a heavenly home. It means that one day we’ll receive a body that is fully glorified, and we’ll enter a place of everlasting glory on the new heavens and new earth. There we’ll have perfect fellowship with our God, and we’ll never have to leave.

That’s something to be excited about. That’s a “move” we should start making preparations for, already now. God hasn’t told us when exactly it will be, but He’s given the comfort that it’s most certainly coming, and it’s coming soon. With the last articles of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord wants us to confess our faith about “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” For our eyes should be fixed on that day when we can exchange our present bodies and earthly dwellings for things that are far better—for a home that is more lasting! This is our theme, from God’s Word and Lord’s Day 22 of the Catechism:

We look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life-everlasting:

  1. our fading earthly tents
  2. our beginnings of future glory
  3. our aim to be well-pleasing

 

1. our fading earthly tents: Maybe you had the chance recently to go for a walk along the ocean or the lake, or out in the forest. Looking at the sparkling water and flourishing trees, breathing in the fresh air and gazing at the brilliant blue sky, your first thought probably wasn’t about how broken everything is! No, God creates and upholds such beauty in this world that sometimes we wonder if it’s really so bad after all.

But it is. We give thanks for our Father’s world, but once we look a little closer—at the heart of things—we also see how the Father’s world is badly broken. “The creation was subjected to futility,” Paul writes in Romans 8:20. Because of sin, the original good purpose of creation has been corrupted. Its rich potential has been degraded.

And the effects of this are widespread. Just listen to all the groaning in Romans 8. “We know that the whole creation groans…” (8:22). This present world is suffering under the weight of sin. Things are not as they should be, as they were created to be. We hear the groaning of creation when the earth rattles and quakes. We hear it when volcanoes erupt. We hear it when the wind destroys, when fires rage, and diseases spread.

“Not only that, but… even we ourselves groan within ourselves” (8:23). The reason for groaning is plain to see in our own lives too, once you look for it. There’s a brokenness that we’re all familiar with, to one degree or another. For the physical things of our life wear out. The body wears out. The mind wears out.

Most people start to notice this, already in their early thirties. It’s a joke at first, that our endurance isn’t quite what it once was, that it takes us a bit longer to recover from a soccer or hockey injury. People point out that a few hairs have gone missing, or that our hairs have turned a dignified shade of grey. But that process of aging only accelerates, and gets more serious with the passing decades. Some of the older members will attest to troubles with this knee or that hip. There are concerns with blood pressure or joint pain. Then there’s that mental fogginess slowly creeping in, when dates and names and numbers are no longer available to be recalled.

The preacher of Ecclesiastes speaks of this inevitable process in chapter 12, calling his listeners: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (v 1). For everyone there will come those “difficult days.”

The Preacher goes through a long list of symptoms. He puts it all very poetically, describing the moon and stars being darkened, and the keepers of the house trembling, and the grinders ceasing. But he’s really talking about the process of aging, about when our eyes lose their brightness, our ears fade, our teeth fall out, our hands shake, and desire weakens. All that, until the time comes to pass away, “when the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (12:7).

There’s a physical brokenness that in time will afflict each and every human being. But spiritually too, there’s a great weakness in us. We notice in ourselves a pattern of failing, a repetition of sin and shortcoming. For example, even after God has shown himself faithful to us year after year, it can be so hard for us to put our trust in the Lord. Or even after a hard and genuine fight against a certain temptation, it’s still there, still so powerful. Or after decades of studying Scripture, our obedience to God is still spotty, inconsistent at best.

And actually, this brokenness can be even harder to accept than our physical limitations. For spiritually, we kind of expect things to go in the other direction. As children of God, we expect to see some growth in holiness, a maturing in faith. After all, the Bible speaks of sanctification—that process of being made holy by the Spirit—as progressive. Paul says that “the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). “Renewed day by day” sounds like we’ll gradually come to walk with the Lord in a closer way, that we’ll slowly climb the mountain and get nearer to the top.

Yet can’t our growth as Christians still seem so terribly slow? Sometimes spiritual progress seems non-existent—like we’re heading backwards down that mountain, instead of up! This can be frustrating and discouraging: Why isn’t it easier by now? Why does that struggle against pride or anger or idolatry or doubt continue, even as long as we live? No wonder Paul says that we groan.

And no wonder Paul somewhere else compares our life right now to a tent: “We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed…” (2 Cor 5:1). When it came to tents, Paul knew what he was talking about. For years, tent-making had been his trade, even at the same time he was a missionary. And his audience knew about it as well; lots of people back then still made their dwellings in those tents made of leather or heavy cloth.

We wouldn’t try to live in a tent year-round, but it’s an image we can relate to as well. For everyone knows about those old canvas tents you used to take on the summer camping trip. After a good number of years of use, the age really starts to show. Fasteners let go. The canvas needs patching. Zippers get stuck, poles get bent. There comes the day you realize that this tent probably won’t hold out during another heavy windstorm, or it won’t survive being packed up again and stuffed in the car.

For a tent is at best a temporary dwelling. It’s not made of stuff that lasts. Even the best tent from the camping store is going to be unsteady under certain conditions, and fragile after some years of use. Well, that’s our present habitation, says Paul: “For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened” (2 Cor 5:4). Life burdens us. The corruption of sin eats away at us. Physical and spiritual brokenness affect us deeply.

No, this wasn’t how God created us. The human body and spirit were made perfect and strong and lasting—they were made ready for an eternity of dwelling with God. But it was “subjected to futility.” Sin has invaded and left its mark. Our tent now goes through storm after storm; it endures the searing sun of temptation and the howling wind of trouble. So now it’s almost ready to fall over. Physically, spiritually, we stand ready to topple.

Maybe you don’t feel that way right now. You feel young and vibrant, full of energy and the promise of the future. Even some our older brothers and sisters will say that they don’t feel a day over sixty-five. Yet so quickly this body and this mind can decline. Our spirit too can wander from God, and our faith can struggle. We should realize that, not so that we become anxious, but so that we remember where we’re going.

For if you have a weak and wobbly tent for your dwelling, says Paul, you’re bound to look for something better. You’ll want to move. And this is what we must do, “earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Cor 5:2). Paul now adds a detail to his comparison, because he speaks of being “clothed.” Our bodies are like tents, and they’re also like clothes—clothes that we eventually put off at death, when our body is left behind. But we want to be covered! In the beginning, God created us to have bodies. So the ideal state for us is not to be some disembodied soul, a naked spirit, floating around. We groan, “not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed” (5:4).

We want to be further clothed. We earnestly desire to find permanent dwellings. And this is what we can look forward to, because God has a good plan for our body and for our soul—together. Sure, we know where we go at the moment of death: “My soul after this life [will] immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head” (Q&A 57). But there’s more than that too.

 

2. our beginnings of future glory: Sometimes people talk about upgrading their house. They want more room, more features, a bigger yard. That’s what we’re all in line for: a beautiful upgrade. Says Paul: “We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).

When we hear about getting a building that is “eternal in the heavens,” we might think about heaven as a place. Maybe this is about those “mansions” that Christ is preparing for us, as He says in John 14. But remember how we’ve describing our physical body, its weakness and brokenness, and how it’s going to collapse. So in 2 Corinthians the Spirit’s main point is that we’ll receive a new body, a resurrection body—one made by God, and given to us. That’s the perfect home that we’re going to move into.

And notice the difference between what we have today, and what we’ll have forever. It’s the difference between a floppy canvas tent, and a solid home of bricks and mortar. One is just a temporary shelter—fragile, insecure, and lowly—but the other is a permanent building. God will give us a body that is secure, permanent and glorious.

The Spirit speaks about this in Romans 8 as well. He says that we groan, “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (v 23). Take note of that: even our bodies are to be redeemed. We want to be clothed, not with weak and mortal flesh that gets sick and eventually dies, but with the immortal—when we’re covered with perfection, glory, and holiness. For “also this my flesh, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body” (Q&A 57). For that body-and-soul He once created, God has planned a great renovation, a complete restoration.

And why will He do so? What’s the purpose of it? That’s made plain in the last article of our creed, concerning “the life everlasting.” God will recreate us fully, for this reason: that we can praise Him in perfect blessedness, not just for twenty years, or sixty years, or eighty-five years, but so that we can praise God forever.

Think of it: with renewed bodies and souls, we will never be afflicted by anything that could impede our service of the LORD. Now our life is hindered by any number of a hundred things—frustrated by fatigue, temptation, anxiety, disease, sin, fear, doubt, pain, regret. But then, with a body-and-soul free of all shortcoming, free of all brokenness, we’ll be able to glorify the Lord, uninterrupted, unchecked, undistracted… and unceasingly. So this is what we know: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17).

Glory. Perfection. Blessedness. It all sounds really good. And when something sounds too good to be true, we’ll often say, “It probably is. Don’t get your hopes up.” We’ve all swept up the pieces of a broken promise. So maybe we feel skeptical at Lord’s Day 22. Is this really going to happen? Is it ever going to happen? Yet God follows through: “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:5).

I want to focus on that last phrase, “the Spirit as a guarantee,” because it’s an idea that comes back in the Catechism. Lord’s Day 22 puts it this way, “Since I now already feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life…” (Q&A 58). The one leads to the next, even guarantees it.

What are the beginnings of our eternal joy? One example is when we’re with God’s people for worship on the Lord’s day. We’re lifting up our voices in song, our hearts are being warmed and built up by the Word, we are moved in spirit—this joy is a foretaste, it’s a preview of the heavenly glory that will be ours.

Or look at your communion with other Christians. How good it is when the Spirit unites brothers and sisters in love! What a blessing is our fellowship with each other, when we can talk together about the Lord, and pray together! That too is a beginning of eternal joy, one that looks forward to the great assembly of believers in eternity, when there will be that communion from every tribe and nation and language.

Or look at your victories over sin. Think about the times you run from wickedness, when you choose goodness over evil. Isn’t there a joy in that? A sense that you’re really and truly bringing glory to God? These small victories look to that day when the power of sin will be finally broken, and you’ll be holy in every way.

In all these ways, the Spirit gives us a glimpse of the coming eternity—they’re fuzzy snapshots of something that is much greater. These things tell us we stand on the edge of glory, that we’re close to something that is more splendid than we can imagine. By these things, the Spirit guarantees that much more is coming, and that dwelling with the Lord will be even better than anything we’ve experienced here below.

Someone once compared God’s earthly gifts to a wedding ring, one given by man to his wife on the day of their wedding. With that ring in hand, no bride would say, “You know, the ring is really nice. It’s enough. I don’t need to see his face again.” No, the ring is just a small token from the groom. The ring points to the real joy, the pledge of love, the promise of lasting fellowship.

In the same way, we cherish our small beginnings in this life, but they’re just a beginning. And they point us to the One we want to embrace, more than anything: the Lord, who is our God in Christ! “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). We already have a down payment of God’s riches—a small portion, with a whole lot more coming our way. God has guaranteed it, that beyond all we can see, there awaits glory that is everlasting.

 

3. our aim to be well-pleasing: With all this talk about the future, someone might ask, “It’s been nice to have our head in the clouds for the whole sermon, but how should this affect us right now? How does the promise of a heavenly dwelling change how I live in this earthly tent tomorrow, or Tuesday or next Friday?”

The Holy Spirit has an answer for us, and it’s very much to the point: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to him” (2 Cor 5:9). Let’s appreciate the strength of the “therefore.” In light of everything the Holy Spirit has said—about our glorious building from God, about the end of all weakness and sin, about the Spirit as guarantee—in light of all this promise and expectation, how then shall we live? We live with this as our constant aim, to please him!

Whether “present or absent” from this earth, this is what we want to do: we want to please the LORD our God and Saviour! Because this life is important. It might be just the blink of an eye compared to eternity, but this life is significant in every way. The things that we do today, the choices we make, the gods we worship, the goals we pursue, even the words we say—all in the few years we have—these things have a great impact on eternity. These things decide where we’ll go on that day when our earthly tent collapses.

So for the Christian, our goal for this life is clear: “We make it aim to be well pleasing to him.” Because we know what the Father has in store for us, because we trust in the finished work of Christ, and because we’re helped by the Holy Spirit, we have our whole reason for living. We saw this already in Lord’s Day 1 of the Catechism. Speaking of our only comfort, we confess that Christ, “by his Holy Spirit also assures me of eternal life…” That’s what we’re assured of; that’s what we’re confident in. And what’s the result of this? What’s the connection between that future hope and our present responsibility? It is this: “The Spirit makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.” From now on. From here to eternity.

Beloved, that’s what we need to be busy with, as we wait for the end, as we look forward to Moving Day: “living for him.” Being heartily willing and ready, in all things, to do the work of the one who owns us.

How do we do that? It means we listen to the Word of Christ. What He says, we aim to do—obeying Christ’s commands in your work, and in your home, and in your leisure, and in your choices. It also means that we be like Christ. Who Christ is, we strive to be, through a life full of showing grace to sinners, mercy to the needy, kindness to the suffering, and concern for those who are lost without him.

Paul ends with one more reminder about where we’re moving to: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). There will be judgment, a day to give an account for what we’ve done. Have we lived by faith in Christ, with a living and active faith? While we were living in this earthly tent, have we done what is good? Has Christ been at home among us while we lived, or has He been a stranger to us?

On that day begins “a blessedness in which to praise God forever” (Q&A 58). For eternity that’s what we’ll be busy with: praising our Triune God, serving him with glorified bodies and souls, and doing so on a new heavens and earth. Unceasingly, we shall glorify him with everything that we are.

If that’s what we’ll be doing for eternity, then let’s be busy with it already today. In the words of Hymn 74, “Let it be here and now our aim/ To please Him and exalt his Name.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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