Renovate This Old House
Sermon 1748 2 Corinthians 4.13-18 June 13, 2021
I have to admit, I thought I had seen it all. I hadn’t. I like to retreat to a nice, quiet and orderly home after a hectic day (and often evening) of ministry. I thought, once the pandemic hit and everybody was basically confined to their homes, they would feel the same way. “Aaah!! At least I have a secure and safe sanctuary!” Then the dumpsters started showing up in my neighborhood.
In house after house the husbands, older sons and friends were ripping the place apart. Out came the carpet and padding. Fair enough. It gets old. That was followed by cabinets and closet sliding mirrored doors. Maybe they had become chipped or cracked. But then came the doors and door frames. How can you break those over the years? And the toilets and sinks. Those colors never change!
When confronted with their living situation and having time to think about it, my neighbors decided to do something about it. They were determined to renovate. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Isn’t that what we Christians are called to do every day?
1. Keep the structural (13-15).
2. Keep the vision (16-18).
My neighbor across the street filled up one dumpster. Carpets, backing, cabinets. Ambitious man, I thought. And mind you, in my tract there were only three models, so I knew exactly what his floor plan was. And the previous owner had done some refinishing touches. Maybe it was too girly for him. But it really blew me away when the second dumpster arrived and out came the drywall and studs. Wasn’t that what a coat of paint was for? Toss the toilets and sinks on top—all the toilets and sinks. They must have had a grown daughter living in town, because I could not, in my wildest imagination, figure out how they could keep fully living in that house with all this going on. How many walls was he taking out? Was I going to see the tile roof sag and bow one day and hear a creak and a crash in the middle of the night as it collapsed? But my neighbor is a handy guy. He knew exactly what had to stay and what could safely go. He kept every structural beam and support in that house. Every one of them.
We are called to renovate our lives. I remember the Apostle Paul writing somewhere, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!” There’s a lot in this old house of us needs to go. The Old Adam comes to mind.
What makes our lives “the same old same old”? It comes from eight hours at work butting heads with people who have the “me first” attitude. They don’t care if it is out of stock—they want it now. They know you can override the insurance company so get them their prescription now. Why didn’t you stock up on this top in their favorite color? They carefully tell you you are just daring them to order it from Amazon and get it the next day. Then the poor Amazon support center operator gets it in the neck when they find out their precious Qizzmo 200 will be shipped in three weeks!
The “same old same old” makes the commute home with us every night. We are dreaming of a vacation to hit all the breweries in Beersville, USA and she wants to walk the river in some romantic town back east with lots of cute boutique stores. We want to go see the Golden Knights and she has tickets to the Broadway musical in town. She wants kids. We want a Ford F-450 4x4. A best of seven playoff series is child’s play compared to the years of negotiating and conniving married couples have qualified for.
Then think of all the thoughts we were smart enough not to let out of our mouths. Think of all the murderous inclinations we didn’t follow through on. But we did think them. Those inclinations did rise in our hearts. God calls that, in and of itself, sin. I’m not even going to go into the ingratitude we display every blue sky, sunny day waking up with someone who loves us and going to a job that pays us to support the family God has given us.
That’s the Old Adam, only as good as he has to be and always as bad as he can get away with. That makes us “This Old House.” That has to go.
Here’s what cannot go--the structural support in our lives.
“It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (13-15).”
The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He blazed the trail for us. He created the trail for us. Follow me, because this is a little intricate. In baptism we were buried into death, just as our Lord, Jesus Christ, was put into the tomb. As Jesus was put to death on the cross, God put to death the Old Adam, our sinful human nature. As Jesus rose from the dead by the power of Almighty God, so God raised us from the death of sin, for that is surely where our sin was driving us, physical death on earth and eternal death in hell. God raised us from the death of sin to newness of life with him. The Apostle Paul isn’t talking about the final resurrection from the dead, the second resurrection. He is talking about the first resurrection, our resurrection from unbelief to faith. God isn’t like somebody who will only fix up this old house when they want to sell it. God is not content to let us wallow in the debris and despair of sin in this world, only to take us to the glories of heaven afterwards. No, he renovates our lives as soon as we become believers.
As Christians, we keep renovating, fixing up, this old house for a grand and glorious life for ourselves and our families to live in. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about. This is to God’s glory as God’s people live grace-filled lives, showing it with their gracious words and actions as they love their neighbor as themselves each and every day.
That’s the structural part of our lives. Those are the load bearing walls. We depend upon Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. We depend on Jesus for the new direction, guidance and power in our lives. So many things are possible with Jesus at the center of our lives. So many hardships can be endured with his forgiveness in our hearts. So much good can come today and tomorrow, as God’s grace overflows in our lives into the lives of others. What fun is it being the only fan in the stadium? Pack it with Jesus’ followers! Now that restrictions are lifted, my street is lined with trucks from the people who are attending my neighbor’s parties.
Renovate this old house. Keep the vision.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 (16-18).”
I don’t know if some of my neighbors bit off more than they could chew or if the building materials were already starting to be in short supply and they had to wait for stuff to restock. The dumpsters stayed in front of their houses a long time. From cleaning out the homes of deceased relatives, I knew you were charged by the size of the dumpster and its loaded weight. But I also knew there was a time limit. I mean, the garbage people weren’t going to let you use their bins for long term storage. I think the contract was a month. Some of my neighbors must have renewed their contracts—twice. And that was just in the demolition stage of the project. I’d see plywood and empty boxes by the side of the garage or cabinets filling the garages for weeks on end. Good thing it never rains here. How did they stay married? They gritted their teeth and saw it through because they knew what they wanted, that open living concept, that new kitchen, a walk-in closet or a humongous master bedroom.
I would be lying to you if I told you being a Christian got easier with age. That was my daughter’s big gripe about MIT. They kept saying the next year would get easier and it never did. They were such big liars she thought they were the ones who should go into politics instead of the kids graduating down the street at Harvard. The goal, well, the goal keeps getting closer and closer. Heaven is one day nearer than it was yesterday. At a certain point in your life it’s like being able to see your car in the parking lot while you are still on the last leg of the hike. But that final leg of the hike is all uphill.
Paul doesn’t lie to us. Outwardly we are wasting away. There’s a reason the doctors’ office cater to an older generation. From head to foot we are wearing out, just like everybody else. Christians are not immune from cancers and heart problems. And then there are the troubles in life, financial worries, troubles with the neighbors, troubles with family members, trouble with the gadgets in the house and trouble with the irrigation outside the house, fear of falling property values and fear of rising property taxes. Those, too, are common to everyone, but there is a different type of trouble Paul is talking about, a trouble which achieves an eternal glory for us.
It is the trouble with sin. Every day we continue our struggle with sin. That sets us apart from unbelievers. That is an added degree of difficulty reserved only for Christians. We go against the grain. We can’t let things be. We are always trying to do better, to be better. That’s the question I ask my shut-ins before giving them the Lord’s Supper. “Do you sincerely intend, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to amend your sinful life?” Their answer was always yes. Our answer is always yes in our hearts, too. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of yesterday. We want to do better in handling the bad news coming from the doctor’s office. We want to take our neighbors’ words and actions in the kindest possible way.
If it were a one and done sort of thing, that would be great. Many of us can point to ribbons or trophies we won. Top of the class. Champions of our divisions. The older I get the better I was. But life is not a high school yearbook. Life is now. Life is today. Life is what are you going to do with the next twenty-four hours?
Some say we are heading for a repeat of the Roaring Twenties with everybody busting loose after the pandemic, just like Americans, um, rich, white city-dwelling Americans, did following the Spanish Flu. I don’t know about that. We aren’t two years past a World War that saw trench warfare, staggering battle casualties and poisonous gases so regularly used with horrifying consequences that they have been banned by every nation on earth ever since. But lots of people are itching for sexual explorations, letting loose and a let it all hang out attitude it after COVID-19. Life is not going to be easy for us. Boy, are we going to stand out.
We are going to stand out by showing love and consideration to everyone, no matter what their skin color or political persuasion is. Everybody has a point of view and we owe them a hearing, as they owe us a hearing. We are going to stand out by reacting to circumstances with reticence and reflection instead of knee-jerk rants and raging. If we all fear the onset of dementia that would turn us into that raving lunatic down the hall, why would we embrace the rage when we are of sound mind? We are going to stand out by our willingness to be inconvenienced by others. Isn’t that the real issue with Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan? The priest and the Levite were good people who wanted to do the right thing, but look at the time. You don’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice to be a hero. Giving a little bit, a little bit of your life to someone means more than you can imagine.
And we are doing all this because we keep the vision. We are headed for heaven. There will be lots of me time there. There will be lots of time to kick back with friends and family there. There will be lots of fascinating and amazing people who will find us equally as amazing and fascinating. And we will be with the Lord.
Compared to that, what are the troubles we are facing? So we fix our eyes on the unseen, the eternal home Jesus won for us and is holding for us. That gives us the courage and the power to take this old house and
1. Keep the structural (13-15).
2. Keep the vision (16-18).
This old house can look like new. This old house can be better than before. This old house can drive the neighborhood values up. This old house can be perfect for us after all these years. This old house may be the only one we will ever need.
The Lord thought so. Instead of walking away from us he paid the price for us and put the down payment of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. If we were so valuable to him that he would go through all that, it certainly is a bit of sweat equity on our part.