Upgrade This Old House
Sermon 1749 2 Corinthians 5.1-10 June 20, 2021
Remember last week how you heard the house across from the parsonage got ripped apart stem to stern by the new neighbors when they moved in? Now it’s Arnie’s house, right around the corner from the parsonage. Arnie was a dealer and he passed away in February. That old house of Arnie’s--Arnie didn’t change a thing in that old house, except getting it painted twice and getting married once (she passed about four years ago). Tile countertops. Linoleum in the bathrooms and kitchen. Same cabinets. It was even the same stove! A contractor bought the house and tore out everything, even the sheet metal vent work and air conditioning units. Looking at the size of the new units the neighbors joked with him. “You know, this house will be the only one on the block to have an indoor skating rink.” He would smile and keep loading the old sheet metal onto his trailer. You’d swear if they could put new oxygen in Arnie’s old house they would do it. Everything needs an upgrade if he is going to get something out of that old house when he flips it.
There’s another old house where the parsonage is. It’s the old house Pastor Pieper lives in—his body. Even if you are five years old, you’ve got an old house you live in, too. This old house has ten fingers, two feet, one nose and two eyes and a soul. This old house is getting older. This old house needs an
1. New digs are coming (1-5).
2. New attitudes are here (6-10).
Let’s say you are a real stick-in-the-mud. You don’t want anything to change. But the kids have chewed on you long enough, it’s time to do something with this old house. You get a consultant to come in.
“I really like the linoleum. It is easy to keep up and it is easy on my feet. Let’s just change the pattern.”
“Can’t,” the designer says. They don’t make residential rolls of linoleum any more. You have to upgrade. How about tile or laminate that looks like wood?”
“I really like the lights over the bathroom sink, the big round lights that go into the rack. Design something around them. I still have a box of bulbs I bought from Home Depot.”
“They don’t make those bulbs any longer and we can’t get fixtures for them. Let’s put in LED lights. You will like them. They last forever.”
On and on it goes. The lights have changed, the window treatments have changed. They discontinued those paint colors. And please, let’s not get started on that bi-level Berber carpeting you are so proud of. Why would you want new old stuff? Upgrade! New digs are coming.
“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. 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. Now it is God who has made us for his very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (1-5).”
It comes as no surprise you can’t get replacement parts for this old house of a body we live in. That’s why the older we get, the more time we spend in a doctor’s waiting room. But no matter how skilled our doctors are in health management, this old house, “the earthly tent we live in,” the Apostle Paul calls is, will one day be destroyed by death. As a family moves out of an old house slated for demolition, our soul will move out of the body at death. That’s because Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the forbidden fruit. And before we put all the blame on him, it is also because we have disobeyed God and gone into forbidden territory so many times in our lives. We’ve gone to places forbidden to honest and godly people. We’ve said forbidden words. We’ve thought forbidden thoughts that, if we revealed them to a psychiatrist, they’d lock us up. From the days when our older sister drew an imaginary line on the car’s back seat and told us, “This is my part of the seat. You can’t come over this line,” we’ve been seized by the desire to cross that line and see what is on the other side. God has drawn that line with his Ten Commandments. Death is the penalty for crossing that line, for trespassing into forbidden territory. That’s why we die no matter how much we pay the doctors to keep us alive.
But until that day comes when this body is destroyed by death, what groans, what aches, what pains, what longings fill our days! It is not that we want these bodies forever. If we were in heaven for only two hundred years with these mortal bodies, can you imagine the difficulty the angels would have finding enough holes to put tubes in to keep us going? And as for an eternal existence without the body, well, that’s just not human. We are body and soul. That’s the way God created us. That’s the way we were meant to be. That’s the ultimate damage of death, the separation of things God never meant to be separated. A soul forever without a body—that’s what horror movies are made of!
No, we are longing for a new body, a better body, “an eternal home in heaven, not built by human hands.” That body which will clothe us in heaven will be an upgraded body, a heavenly body, a body free from sin and all the effects of sin, death and disease, temptation and enticements.
I know that because, when Jesus died on the cross, he put to death our sinful human nature which controlled this earthly body. He broke the hold of lust and the fear it produces in guilty hearts. He took away the punishment we deserved. He took it upon himself. He offered himself as the one who had trespassed. He presented himself as the one who often and always crossed that line. God the Father took Jesus up on his offer, pouring down his wrath, pouring it into his very bones as he abandoned his Son to the torments of eternal hell when Jesus hung on the cross. When they put that battered, torn, lifeless body of our Savior into the tomb, we were buried, buried with him by baptism into his death that we might rise with him to a newness of life. What an upgrade awaits this old house of ours!
You have haggled over the flooring. Mexican tile. You’ve picked out the cabinets, country washboard, and countertops, Sonora granite. There’s even barn inspired handles to drawers and cupboards. Wooden shutters for the windows. Track lighting and a real chandelier over the dining room table. A new stove and matching refrigerator and dishwasher. No, not that 1970’s avocado green—stainless steel and black trim. “When can you start?”
Now the designer springs the bad news on you. “In six months.”
“Everything is backordered.”
“Why can’t we pick something that isn’t backordered?”
“Everything is backordered. Everybody is redoing their houses and we are out of everything. Because of COVID shutting down the plants and then when they did reopen, running at half capacity, there’s no product on the shelves. And even if there were, we don’t have enough installers. Six months from today—if you sign and put down the initial payment now.”
You almost expect the consultant to take off a mask and reveal himself as Godfather Don Corleone. You are at his mercy.
But you know something else? You feel good! You took the leap and are going to upgrade. It is coming. Already new attitudes are here.
“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 be sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 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 (6-10).”
Funny thing when that order is placed. You’ve crossed the river, burned the bridge. There’s no looking back. It is going to happen. And you get ready for it. You make preparations for it. You clean out the pantry. Sometimes it just means having some weird meals. Canned green beans with Baco-bits, creamed corn casserole and canned chicken sandwiches with pickled pepperocinis! It also helps get rid of the Tums. We get rid of some of the junk that has been piling up behind the couch—you know what I am talking about, the stuff behind the Nordic Tracker. Oh, yeah. And that goes, too. You look at this old house like it is already upgraded. You take care of this old house a little better. You pick up more. You think about how you are living within those walls. No more life set to autopilot.
That’s what happens when the LORD upgrades this old house of our lives. No, we don’t have heaven yet. Our last day has not come, yet. A lot of days we wished it had come yesterday, but the LORD knows better than us. When the LORD put the order in and the Holy Spirit was sent to create faith in our hearts, we changed. Our attitude changed. Our life changed.
We judge everything we are doing, everything we are focusing on. Is this going to help me in my walk with Jesus to heaven or will it be a useless detour that may mean I get lost and never get back on the way to heaven? We hold on to the good. We let go of the evil. We don’t do it out of fear, we don’t do it out of guilt. We are not forced to do it. The theologians call that Law motivation. Oh, Law motivation gets immediate results, but that’s all it gets. Once the guilt or fear is gone, so is the Law motivated good deed. That’s why people turn out in record numbers vote when you rile them up. Let’s say two candidates are cordial to each other and admit that either one could do the job, but they think they could do it better. You won’t even have poll watchers with enough motivation to write their name down to get a ballot.
Faith is not Law motivated. Faith is Gospel motivated. Because Jesus so loved us we want to show our love for him. The Holy Spirit creates a right spirit within us so we want to clean up our act. We want to live in such a way as though we were already in heaven, thriving under the constant, admiring gaze of our Lord. We get rid of the dirty jokes. We dump out the suspicious mind. Envy? Whew! That’s just too far gone to even use in a casserole. Into the dumpster it goes. We find it is really pleasant to rejoice in the good fortune of a friend or neighbor. We discover we learn a lot when we listen more to the stories of others than when we talk all the time. And when we can’t do things with our friends because the hockey season is over after the Golden Knights have won the Stanley Cup, we find out they are great people away from the big screen TV and play a mean game of 500. We like to be around them. When Sunday morning comes around, yes, we could watch the online service, but we’d miss our friends. We’d miss the familiar faces. We’d miss getting out and hearing Pastor singing loudly and getting on the wrong verse. And that’s not even taking into consideration we can’t get the Lord’s Supper through the internet.
The Lord made a choice. He chose us. His choice shows in our lives. We seek to please him in this life, because Judgment Day is coming.
Now, I have to say one last thing, so nobody goes away with the idea I am saying we get into heaven through our good works. The Apostle Paul says, “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.”
We will be judged on the basis of faith. Did we believe or not? “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already (John 3.18).” But faith is invisible. It is in our hearts. Even in the Judgment on the Last Day faith will be invisible. How will the LORD’s judgment be so obvious that every knee will bow to him, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and admit that his judgments are just and true? He will point out what the faith of believers moved them to do—the good! He will point out what the unbelief of the faithless moved them to do—the evil! So every good and law-abiding deed we do on earth because, as Christians, we want to, that’s what people do, it just had to be done and there I was, for every one of those good deeds, we are helping God, we are giving God more evidence to shut the mouth of the devil. The fix was not in. God’s class favorites did not sneak into heaven through the back door. He upgraded us. He gave us faith. That faith showed powerfully as we refused to replace the old, the old countertops, the old flooring, the old cabinets, with the same old stuff. The new has come, the old is gone.
1. New digs are coming (1-5).
2. New attitudes are here (6-10).
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.
And where did you get this? My, it is nice. I’d like to have one of those in my house! Now, where did you get it?