Don't Lose Heart
A Heart for Reconciliation • Sermon • Submitted • Presented
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Don’t Lose Heart Mark 3:20-35 [Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples]could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 2 Corinthians 4:13--5:1 13Just 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, 14because 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. 15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 5:1For 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. Pentecost 3B – June 10, 2018. 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily. (SLIDE 1) It’s been said, “life is a long-distance marathon, not a sprint.” A foot race is a great metaphor for a letter written to believers in the city of Corinth, for it was the home of the Isthmian Games, which were held in Corinth in between years that the Olympic Games were held in Athens. (SLIDE 2) Corinth was a port city, on a trade route and was a very large, cosmopolitan city. (SLIDE 3) Several major temples, Temples of Apollo, Aphrodite and Octavia are also located in Corinth. The Temple of Aphrodite (and about 1,000 female slaves), was very popular among the sailors. It was a city known for its immorality, so it brought many challenges to the early church that Paul started there. The new Believers in Corinth may have been told at first that Christ was coming again soon, be ready - and now, years later, they are still waiting. They are getting older. Their bodies are starting to show some wear and tear. Their belts don’t buckle anymore and their knees do. They’ve been trying to live faithfully in a city that is full of wickedness. They know, as Paul earlier wrote, that they are proverbial “jars of clay” that hold this treasure - Jesus Christ in us! They realize that all those deities that the Romans are worshipping in those grand, marble temples are false deities. But, still -- it gets hard to be the ones who don’t join in on the parties and the festivals, feeling like a stranger in your own city, like they are missing out. St. Paul encourages the Corinthians not to be sucked into the empty worship and lifestyles of their day and to keep their faith in accordance with the scripture. Why? (SLIDE 4) “...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.” 2 Corinthians 4:14 Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that in actuality they are preparing, like a runner prepares for a race. Paul calls these difficulties “slight momentary afflictions.” These persecutions, disappointments, job losses, health problems, money difficulties -- all the things we struggle with in daily life -- perhaps magnified when living in a city like Corinth where you are in the minority culture and you are swimming upstream -- are insignificant, slight, momentary, afflictions. (SLIDE 5 – ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY) We are somehow being prepared for what is to come: this light suffering “produces” within us a hyperbolic (X2) excess of an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). (SLIDE 6) Light momentary suffering produces Heavy eternal glory And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10) Earlier in 2 Corinthians, we read that Paul and those with him were so distressed that they wanted to die. (SLIDE 7) 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. 9 Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) Paul felt that this happened so that they would put their trust in God who can raise the dead. (TENT SLIDE 8) Then, starting chapter five, Paul uses the metaphor of a tent to speak of things temporary and things eternal. (Remember that Paul used to make tents to help finance his ministry.) He also speaks of being clothed and never being truly unclothed, even when naked, to further talk about this idea of the things in our lives that can be taken away or destroyed, worn down by old age, and those things that cannot ever be destroyed. But rather Paul is not just speaking of the limitations of our human bodies, but of how big God is. Remember in the days when the Israelites were first wandering in the Sinai wilderness, God called for them to meet in a tent. This was a God who was so overwhelming that you could not meet or see God’s face out in the open, otherwise you would face death, so their needed to be some place that mediated the meeting. And yet, this God of ours intended to remain with God’s people, not far away, at a mountaintop altar or temple, but in the middle of their lives. So a tent was set up as they camped. A beautiful and detailed tent, decorated with fine embroidery and gold, but a tent nonetheless, something that could easily come down, travel with the people, and be set up yet again. And though the people entered the tent to encounter God, God did not live in the tent. God only visited the tent, when God chose, not just because the people called God’s name. Our God cannot be tamed and certainly cannot be contained in even the fanciest tent. This seems to be Paul’s point. The tent is not for God; the tent is for us. We cannot meet God without the tents, the very bodies God made. We cannot meet God without human language, through which we can hear the Word and words of God, and share our experiences of God with one another. Still, these human things, so necessary to our lives, created by God, simply cannot contain God. These human things break, change, and die, but God does not break or die or change. Even though the works we do in God’s name might not last forever, God is forever. We can trust in that. This last week was a difficult one for many in that two well-known and beloved celebrities died from suicide. They both had children who needed them and seemed to be at the pinnacle of their careers. Everyone is mystified how someone in their situation could kill themselves when they had everything. But somehow, everything was not enough. Depression, a mental illness, can override all this and cloud one’s thinking and objectivity. Christians can be found in this state of misery as well. In this world, it can be easy to lose hope and heart. Remember how when Paul was in despair, he felt God was working on his inner person, strengthening him to trust in a God who can raise the dead. God was preparing him for a day when he would be surrounded by an eternal weight of glory. A day when he would stop tent camping and be home with the Lord. Let us keep in mind this week, whatever stress and destress you are facing, that God is with you, camping alongside you, preparing you for something far greater. When people say, “This too shall pass,” they don’t mean that trials will be over, it means one day we will experience the full measure of what it means to be united with Christ in glory. But, until then, we are being prepared for that day, these hardships force us to trust in the eternal God and not in ourselves, other people or wealth or material things to get by. So we are called to persevere -- and as our bodies fail and other temporary things fall apart, heaven becomes even more real and precious to us. It’s a call to become sweeter not more bitter. To let our outer nature go and the beauty of our inner nature shine as we cling to all that is eternal in God. Therefore, don’t lose heart!