Today, I want to talk about eternity. Having an eternal perspective.
Having an eternal perspective does a few things for the believer: 1) keeps the believer humble, 2) motivates the believer to live wisely, and 3) allows the believer to understand the goal of suffering.
Having an eternal perspective is so important in the Christian life. 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 provide two ways of living life. Earth-bound or eternity-bound. Living for what you can see, living for the here and now. Versus living for what is unseen and a future reward.
Why should we believe in the afterlife? Is there an afterlife? When we breathe our last breath, is that it? Just blank. Nothingness. It’s as if you never lived. Or, when we breathe our last, do we end up before God in judgment and then sent to one of two eternal destinations. Heaven or hell. None of us, I assume, has been to the afterlife. Because you are still alive. Therefore, we can neither prove or disprove its existence.
Here is one way to look at it. The existence of God implies the existence of an afterlife. In the absence of the supernatural, we are mere biological creatures, products of evolution and random chance. If this is your worldview, there is no God and no such thing as universal morality or right or wrong or objective beauty because there was nothing behind the Big Bang. It just happened. It was an accident. Therefore, you are an accident. If you are in this camp, then life after the body dies is inconceivable.
But if you do believe in the supernatural and the possibility that there is a God who created the heavens and the earth, then you absolutely believe in the afterlife. For the believer, believing in God is a given, but I wonder if we really believe. Because believing in the afterlife ought to have a profound effect on your spiritual growth. It has a radical life-transforming effect in every aspect of our lives.
As you listen to this sermon and the Spirit stirs you to think more deeply on this topic of eternity, I want the Christians here to ask yourself, do I really believe in the afterlife? I mean really believe, deep down.
If this building is on fire and you really believe the building is on fire, then you wouldn’t stay here listening to a sermon. But if this building is on fire and you stay here, then your actions prove that you don’t really believe. How you live, your actions, will reveal whether or not you really believe in the afterlife.
I can say that as a believer, I’m not afraid to die, yet if I try really, really hard to live and to avoid death, then maybe I’m not as confident in the afterlife as I say I am. There is a massive disconnect there. For a growing Christian, there should be a growing sense of fearlessness in the face of death. I count my life worth nothing, I’m not afraid to die and therefore, I don’t need to clutch onto my life. I will gladly give my life away if Christ asks me to. Our attitude toward death is one litmus test of whether we truly believe in Christ and his promises or not.
2 Cor 4
16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.
The words “therefore” in v16 and the word “for” in v17 are important words in Scripture. When you are studying the Bible, look out for words like “therefore” and “for.” Therefore we do not give up. Why do we not give up? The verses preceding–v7-15 give us reasons. Because of v7-15, therefore, we do not give up. In addition, v17 begins with “for”–for or because of our momentary light afflictions, we don’t give up. So in v17-18, Paul is giving additional reasons why we do not give up.
2 Cor 4
16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
v7-15 outline the difficulties for Christians living in this world. Yet, we don’t give up. Our outer person might be decaying, but our inner person is being renewed day by day. And this inward renewal is tied to v17-18, the struggles which may cause us want to throw in the towel, don’t ultimately succeed in keeping the believer down. instead, we don’t give up because the struggles are light and momentary and they are achieving for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. Everything–our present struggles, our courage to face those struggles and not give up, our inward renewal–everything is tied to having an eternal perspective. Without an eternal perspective, we would give up. There would be no incentive to keep struggling and allowing our outward person to suffer for the sake of the gospel were it not for eternity. Not let’s get into point #1.
1) First, having an eternal perspective keeps the believer humble.
2 Cor 4
7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.
What is the treasure? We have to look at the previous verse. 2 Cor 4:6–
2 Cor 4
6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
We talked about this last week. This is the gospel–the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus came to our personal darkness and we saw the light. We saw Jesus. And at that moment, God saved us.
The power to lift man out of his sin does not come from within himself. It comes only from God. We are given the gift of eternal life purely as a gift to be received. We didn’t earn it. We couldn’t work long enough or hard enough to get it. It came from God. This extraordinary power is from God and not from us. This treasure of the gospel is from God, not from us. We are just a clay jar. A vessel. We are nothing. Therefore, we are to be humble.
Why do we get proud? It’s when we look at this world through human eyes and assess life through performance and accomplishments and who has the most talents. For a non-Christian, you are proud because objectively, you are more talented than others. You beat out other competition to get where you are. You can build up quite a kingdom here on earth by being talented and getting some lucky breaks along the way.
We mustn’t forget–when you die, all of those things that you clutched onto will be forcibly pried from your grasp. Powerful rulers of the past might have been buried with riches, with great treasures, but to this day, those things are still in the tombs but they are not. They took nothing with them to the afterlife. Eternity humbles human pride and puts us in our place.
For the Christian, we can also become proud. Look at the size of my church. Look at how many people read my books. Look at how competent I am as a minister. Eternity puts us in our place. In the same way that the power to save us in the gospel of Jesus was all God and not us, when we get to heaven, we will realize here on earth, we were building God’s kingdom with His power and not our little kingdom with our own power. If God blesses our ministry, our competence comes from the Lord. Our fruitfulness comes from the Lord. And when we pass, we will realize that we take nothing with us when we cross over to eternity. If we lived as if this church is mine, I possess it, I gain significance from it, when we die, we will turn over the keys to the church to the true Head of the church. And we will realize that the church belonged to Jesus all along. Eternity humbles Christians and puts us in our place.
Had this priceless treasure of the gospel been contained in a golden, titanium, waterproof vessel instead of a clay jar, it would have proved a fatal combination for proud and sinful man. This is why the treasure had to be contained in a clay jar. A humble, earthen vessel. A jar made from the very dust of the earth.
2 Cor 4
15 Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.
Paul was passionate about the glory of God. He didn’t care about his name. He didn’t want Christians to start a new denomination named after him, the Paulians. When the Corinthians said, I follow Cephas, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Paul? Paul was like, who is Cephas or Apollos? Or who am I, Paul? We are all slaves of Christ. No, for him, it was all about the glory of God. God had to receive all the glory. A humble person can truly give glory to God and forget about himself. Paul longed, v15, that men and women who neither glorified God as God nor gave thanks to him would be converted through the gospel and express thankfulness to God and so glorify him. Having an eternal perspective keeps us humble.