We Will Not Live in Tents Forever

The apostle Paul was likely one of the finest Old Testament scholars of his day, and sometimes draws on existing imagery to make a point.  One example might be Proverbs 14:11-12, where the second verse is more widely known than the first, but not unrelated:

The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
            but the tent of the upright will flourish.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
            but its end is the way to death.

Physically, it seems obvious that a house is far more durable than a tent, but these Proverbs tell us not to judge by appearances.  Looks and reputation may suggest otherwise, but it is righteousness that determines eternal destiny, specifically acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-3, Paul gives an example of why we should focus not on what “seems right”, but instead focus on the unseen things that matter for eternity, drawing on the tent image:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”

Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash

Paul, defending his apostleship to the Corinthians amidst his suffering while other false apostles lived in ease, knew that an upright tent was better than a wicked house in God’s eyes, and therefore being less comfortable was entirely worth it, since there was an eternal reward waiting in heaven.

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 5, Warren Wiersbe notes that “Heaven was not simply a destination for Paul: it was a motivation.  Like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, he looked for the heavenly city and governed his life by eternal values.”[1]

When frustrated by your earthly limitations, or frustrated by discomfort in this world, know that we will not live in these tents forever.  For His faithful, God is preparing an eternal dwelling for us.  While it “seems right to a man” to think a house is better than a tent, every tent and house in this world is temporary.  Hebrews 1:12 says of all creation, the earth and all the heavens, that:

like a robe you will roll them up,
            like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
            and your years will have no end.

Do we long for our new, eternal heavenly dwelling?  Does this longing motivate us to live for God?  Let us keep Driving Toward Morning today!


[1] Wiersbe, Warren.  Be Encouraged (2 Corinthians) (1994).  P. 69.

The Part of Us That Matters

The Apostle Paul wrote an amazing contrast in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

On the one hand, there are things that are transient, described as: outer, wasting away, light, momentary, affliction, and seen.

On the other hand, what is eternal is: inner, being renewed, weighty, glorious, beyond all comparison, and unseen.

These things are part of each of us, but what is eternal matters infinitely more than the other. Don’t confuse the two, or you may lose heart because Paul earlier assured us in verse 14 that “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”  At that time, only what is eternal will remain.

Amen.

[Revised from a December 2021 post]

Don’t Kick Against the Goads

The Apostle Paul, author of much of the New Testament, was first called Saul and was a very different person before meeting Christ.  As Saul, he saw no contradiction between persecuting his religious enemies (the new Christian church) and being righteous under the law.  He also may also have seen Christianity as a political threat, a new religion that would upset the balance of power between the Jews of the first century and the occupying Romans by demanding loyalty to a higher power above Rome.  From this perspective, he may have thought his religion required persecution of those who disagreed.

Luke, author of Acts, describes Saul’s pre-Christian life like this:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” – Acts 9:1-2

Paul himself does not deny this past, writing to the church in Galatia:

“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” – Galatians 1:13

But when confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus as referred to in Acts 9 above, the Lord asked him to his face: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14).  This is a strange expression for us, but to “kick against the goads” meant that by fighting against God’s will (including His grace for His people in any nation or tribe), Saul was only hurting himself.  Goads were sticks that were pointed on one end and used to prod oxen to move where a farmer wanted them to go.  A stubborn ox who decided to resist would “kick against the goads,” only leading to more pain.  Persecuting the absolute Lord of the universe is not a good idea.

Saul learned his lesson and after that confrontation, changed his name to Paul, a man transformed in how he treated those he might consider enemies.  He went from “breathing threats and murder” against Christians, to wishing for the salvation of the Jews, and anyone who would listen:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [the Jews] is that they may be saved.” – Romans 10:1

In Christ, His hate for the “other” became compassion.  Saul wanted to put his enemies to death; Paul wanted to put his own sin to death.  He never shied away from his brutal past, but he also began nearly all of his letters to the early churches with a greeting like this one at the beginning of Galatians:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – Galatians 1:3

Dear fellow travelers, as I mentioned in an earlier post about why I use that particular greeting, “Let’s strive to bring grace and peace to every encounter we have as we travel through this world.”  Even with those we might consider enemies.

Sola Gratia

The World is Watching

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the young church in first-century Philippi, he wrote: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”[1]

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

When Paul wrote this, the gospels of Mark and John probably weren’t written yet, and the other two may not have been broadly available.  New Christians couldn’t easily read about Christ, so Paul recommends learning about Him through His other followers.  What can people learn about Christ from us on our blogs, social media, and elsewhere?

“Out of a hundred people, one will read the Bible, and the other ninety-nine will read the Christian.” – Dwight L. Moody

[This Rewind Wednesday post is revised from December 2021]


[1] Philippians 3:17

Letting God Pick Our Battles II

Photo by Andrey Grinkevich on Unsplash

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” yet he also wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 that “to keep me from becoming conceited,” a “thorn was given me in the flesh.”  He writes: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

The nature of Paul’s “thorn” has been disputed for centuries, but Galatians 4:13 suggests it was a physical problem, a “bodily ailment” rather than a moral shortcoming.  So, the lesson of the “thorn” is not that God prevented Paul from overcoming some specific sin to keep him humble – He wants Paul (and us) to be satisfied with nothing less than righteousness.

However, one lesson of the “thorn” is that Paul didn’t mean by “I can do all things” that he could do whatever he wanted and succeed.  Instead, the “thorn” is an example of a battle Paul would not win, because this “thorn” had a purpose in bringing Paul closer to God’s grace and power.  In God’s wisdom, Paul was better off with this ailment than without it.

Yesterday’s post said “Picking your battles, rather than trying to fight and win every fight that comes your way, is a good piece of advice.  However, who should pick which battles to fight?”  In the case of the “thorn”, God picked a battle for Paul not to fight, telling him instead to focus on growing in faith.  The thorn had a purpose in Paul’s striving toward righteousness, which was more important than any physical ailment.  Had Paul continued to insist to God that the thorn should be removed, he would still have the thorn, but he would also not grow in his relationship with his Lord.

Sometimes there are battles He wants us to fight in His strength for His glory, and sometimes there are battles He tells us not to fight so we can focus on His grace and power while in this life, in light of His promises to heal our physical ailments in Paradise.

Today’s post closes the same way as yesterdays: “Sometimes life is hard on purpose, so that God alone may be glorified in victory, and also so that we may grow in our faith in His strength.  When we let Him pick our battles, we learn that His righteousness is the only thing that will satisfy us.  Nothing less will do.”