Sermon: Pentecost 3, 10 June 2018, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

2Corinthians 4:13-5:1

-Quite often you come across a passage in the Bible that’s written for our age.

-Now by our age,

-I don’t mean the early part of the 21st century,

-Or this age of information technology,

-I mean a passage for how old we are.

-Paul here in 2Corinthians 4 is writing to you whatever age you are.

-Although I have to confess that v16 has a particular resonance for me just after my 61st birthday,

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away,” 2Corinthians 4:16

-While I was thinking that thought,

-The line from Pink Floyd’s song ‘Time’ came to mind;

“The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.”

-In an interview about that song Roger Waters said;

“The idea in ‘Time’ is a similar exhortation to ‘Breathe’. To be here now, this is it. Make the most of it.”

-Now that is ‘the spirit of the age’!

-‘This is it. Make the most of it.’

-‘Life is just an endless chasing after the sun,

-‘Which races ahead of you and sneaks up from behind.

-‘And then it’s over.’

-If the national census is correct,

-That’s what 30% of Australians would have you believe.

 

-Well you can believe that if you want,

-But I’m of the opinion if this is all the life we get,

-We’re being ripped off.

-When you’re six years old,

-The Christmas holidays seem to stretch into eternity.

-When you’re 30 you’re just thankful that they don’t!

-When you’re 60,

-You don’t ask where did the Christmas holidays go,

-You ask that about the whole preceding year!

-Pink Floyd songwriters David Gilmour and Richard Wright have a line for that too;

“Every year is getting shorter,

never seem to find the time,

Plans that either come to naught,

Or half a page of scribbled lines.”

-But there has to be more.

-So I’m more inclined to the Apostle Paul and his words of hope, not despair,

“Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;” 2Corinthians 4:16

-Paul has an eternal perspective of life in this world and where it’s leading.

-There is more for the believer.

 

-But it’s no Pollyanna, rose tinted aspiration.

-Paul knows that in a fallen and broken world,

-That’s tumbled short of God’s original good creation,

-Life will be a bruising and scarring experience.

-The passage we have this morning is the second half of what we read last week,

-And you have to understand it all together,

-You have to remember what has come before.

-Ch4 begins with a defence by Paul of his own ministry.

 

-There was a group who had come to Corinth attacking Paul,

-And claiming he wasn’t all that he was cracked up to be.

-They accused him of being deceptive and manipulative,

-Distorting the word of God for his own benefit.

-They argued that he added his own spin on true religion.

-But Paul’s defence comes out in v5-6;

“. . . we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2Corinthians 4:5-6

-Paul says to his Judaising opponents,

-The gospel is all about Jesus,

-It’s Jesus who brings us to God,

-It’s in Jesus we see the glory of God,

-Not a legalistic, ritualistic observance,

-But a real life encounter with the risen Christ.

-He’s the light that brings hope into a darkened world,

-He’s the light who shines hope into our needy hearts.

 

-That’s the treasure Paul says is hidden in jars of clay.

-And it’s that reference to our bodies being jars of clay,

-Which flags Paul’s realistic appraisal of life in this world,

-And the cost that comes with the proclamation of the gospel message;

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” 2Corinthians 4:8-10

-Notice the clay jar words Paul uses there,

-Afflicted,

-Perplexed,

-Persecuted,

-Struck down.

-That’s what happened to Paul because of the message of Jesus,

-That he brought on his missionary journeys.

-But you don’t have to be sharing the good news of Jesus,

-To be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted or struck down.

-Afflictions, confusion, persecutions or depression can come from all sources and directions in this world.

-They can be intentional or accidental,

-Surprising or foreseeable.

-They can come from enemies or from friends.

-They’re all part and parcel of our human frailty.

 

-Now it may appear meagre,

-But listen to the way Paul pairs each of those sufferings with a limiter.

-‘Afflicted, but not crushed’,

-‘Perplexed, but not driven to despair’,

-‘Persecuted, but not forsaken’,

-‘Struck down, but not destroyed’,

-What’s the reason he wasn’t crushed, driven to despair, forsaken or destroyed?

-Hope,

-Paul had a hope outside himself,

-A hope that was put inside of him,

-A treasure in a jar of clay,

-Jesus.

-Look down there on your reading sheet v13-14;

“But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.”  2Corinthians 4:13-14

 

-Roger Waters may have said;

-‘To be here now, this is it. Make the most of it.’

-But if this is it,

-If ‘this’,

-Is afflictions, confusion, persecutions and depression,

-If ‘this’,

-Is unemployment, overwork,

-Financial stress, emotional trauma,

-Injury, illness and infirmity,

-If ‘this’ is all the strains and struggles that we face on our own in our daily life,

-‘Making the most of it’,

-Is not an attractive option,

-‘Making the most of it’,

-May be an impossible option.

-But Paul knows that ‘this is not it’

-The death and resurrection of Jesus changed all of it.

-That allows him to say in v16;

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” 2Corinthians 4:16

 

-Victor Frankl was a psychologist and Auschwitz survivor,

-Who observed that those who survived the deprivations of that concentration camp,

-Had an aim, a purpose or a point to carrying on through their suffering.

-They could see that their life had meaning.

-Paul is saying something similar but on a much grander scale,

-Because those who trust in Jesus have a meaning and purpose which stretches beyond this world.

-It’s a meaning and purpose located not in what we do,

-But in who we are.

-That’s why Paul so confidently asserts,

-‘We do not lose heart.’

 

-In that statement Paul has moved away from the externally afflicted strife of life,

-To the unrelenting reality that we really do,

-As Pink Floyd sang,

-Become ‘shorter of breath and one day closer to death.’

-These mortal bodies of ours are decaying and falling apart.

-But rather than saying,

-‘Get used to it’,

-Paul reminds the Corinthians in the truth that through Christ,

-Our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

 

-Paul is picking up a thought he expounded back in ch3:17-18;

“. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

-That’s what he means by being renewed day by day.

-Each and every day the Holy Spirit is working in our lives transforming us to be like Jesus.

-While our outside physical body is crumbling with time,

-Over that same time God is changing us,

-Transforming our hearts,

-Renewing our minds,

-Reviving our souls,

-From ‘one degree of glory to another.

-God does that,

-Because now we belong to him.

 

-This transformation by God,

-Gives us a perspective on the struggles and sufferings of this world,

-That’s unavailable to those who are restricted to a view of life that ends in nothingness.

-Listen to v17 and how Paul describes those troubles;

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,” 2Corinthians 4:17

-Here’s how eternity changes our perspective.

-50, 60, 100 years of life may seem a long time when you’re 6, 16 or even 26,

-But when you reach those milestones,

-I’m sure we all resonate with Paul’s assessment of the slight, momentary nature of this life.

-I don’t think Paul is referring to the catalogue of strifes he’s told us of when he refers to

-‘This slight momentary affliction’,

-Notice it’s a singular ‘affliction’,

-It’s a reference to our entire life,

-He means our present existence.

 

-A regular description of our life in the Bible is of it being fleeting,

-Temporary,

-A mist that is here then gone,

-Like the grass of the field.

-And yet even as short as our life is in eternal terms,

-It’s a significant time for our eternal destiny,

-Because this life,

-How we live it,

-What we do,

-Who we are,

-Is preparing us for the life that follows this one.

 

-In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he challenged their factionalism,

-Reminding them that we all have a part as God’s servants in building up the body,

-On the foundation of Jesus Christ.

-He then says this;

 “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1Corinthians 3:12-15

-As a follower of Jesus,

-Everything you do in this life is building on that foundation.

-But notice that Paul highlights two types of materials,

-Gold, silver, precious stones,

-Or wood, hay or straw.

-His meaning is pretty obvious isn’t it?

-The way we act,

-The way we think,

-What it is that motivates and drives us,

-Will either be beneficial to others and character building for us,

-Or it will be destructive of relationships and corroding our character.

-It will be either honouring Christ,

-Or shaming his name.

-And one day what we have done in this life will be assessed.

-What you do in ‘this slight momentary affliction’,

-How and what you build into your life,

-To use Paul’s metaphor,

-Is a preparation for the eternal existence you’ll have in the new Creation.

-How you handle the afflictions, the struggles,

-The day to day hassles of life in this broken world as a follower of Jesus,

-Is shaping you for eternity.

 

-Whatever age you currently are makes no difference in this journey of life.

-If life truly is fleeting,

-Then we need to be making every moment count for the glory of God,

-From the youngest to the oldest.

-We do need to make the most of it as Roger Waters encouraged,

-But not because this is all there is,

-But because this is a preparation for then.

-Because life is fleeting,

-Whatever happens in this life needs to be brought in front of the eternal perspective.

 

-Last week I was driving our grandson Ari home and we were discussing heaven.

-As we disappeared into the Lane Cove Tunnel,

-His little voice came from the back,

-‘I like heaven because I’ll see my friend Zane again.’

-Zane was his friend from child care who had been hit by a car earlier this year.

-Even four year olds lives can be rocked by suffering and tragedy.

-Yet even a four year old can understand that this life goes on,

-And that the resurrection of Jesus has changed life in this world.

-The resurrection of Jesus offers us the hope of an eternal home,

-And that what we do in this life is building into it.

-Therefore we do not lose heart in the struggles of this world;

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2Corinthians 5:1