Eternal Perspective

This life is temporary, so fix your eyes on eternity in Jesus.

George Wright
Jun 7, 2020    38m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright reminds us that the circumstances of this life are temporary, so you need to fix your eyes on eternity in Jesus. He explains that this truth can bring us so much hope during these times of illness, struggle, hatred, and unrest. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 What a privilege has been to share this time of worship together today. And let me encourage you now to go ahead and grab a Bible, and turn your attention to Second Corinthians chapter 5. We are beginning a new series that we will walk through for the month of June here at Shandon, that is all about eternal things. And certainly we recognize that in the message of Christianity, one of the foundational elements of what the Christian faith reveals and talks about is eternity, and the importance of any eternal perspective in the way that we seek to live our lives. And so, as we walk through this scripture, we are going to seek to have our eyes fixed on eternity. We're going to be asking questions about eternity, and how it dictates and determines the way we live our lives in the here and now.

George Wright: 00:56 So we'll begin in Second Corinthians chapter 5 at the beginning of this chapter, beginning in verse 1. I'd like to invite you if you're willing and able to stand with me. And I realized if you're new to Shandon, that may feel strange as you join online for this message. But as we gather and turn our attention to God's word, we stand at the beginning of the message so that we all can be reminded that the word of God is our foundation, it is what we are built upon as a people of God. And the word of God reveals to us what God says is right and good and true.

George Wright: 01:32 So this is the word of the Lord, through the Apostle Paul, in the second letter that he wrote to the church in Corinth. And this is what we see in verse 1 of chapter 5, "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."

George Wright: 02:09 Would you pray with me as we consider the word of the Lord here today. Heavenly Father, we come before you now, needing to hear from you. And so Father, we invite you, in the power of your Spirit, to speak into our lives through the proclamation of your word. I pray that what is in the scripture would leap off the page into our hearts and minds, that we might not be the same as a result of that, which you say. Lord, there is so much swirling around us right now that leads us to confusion, and leads us to questions, and leads us to concerns, and even leads some to doubt and fear and anxiety. Father, we need to hear from you. So I pray in these moments that we share together examining the scripture, that you would speak as only you can, that you would have your way among us collectively, and you would have your way in our hearts individually. We commit this time to you. It's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 03:29 Go ahead and be seated, if you were standing with me. And let's step into this beautiful passage of scripture, and consider what the word of God says about eternal things. This past couple of weeks has been incredibly challenging. As you think about some of the images that we have seen swirling around the media, around social media, around the news, as you think about what has taken place in our country, in our States, and in our city, it has been very difficult. For many people, it has been incredibly overwhelming. For many, it has felt like things are just spinning totally out of control, and pain and anxiety and fear and confusion seem to be winning the day. Here we are in the midst of a global pandemic, the Coronavirus, that has led to tremendous economic unrest. And then, the issue of systemic racism in our country explodes into the forefront of our eyes. And we are reminded that there are so many issues of sin, so many issues of brokenness, that have been ravaging our country for centuries, that still are at play. The images that we've seen have been heartbreaking, they have been grotesque, they have been devastating. To see the murder of individuals because of the color of their skin, and then to see the way people lash out in their anger and their frustration, it has be so difficult to watch. I don't know how all of this has hit you, maybe you've grown frustrated with it all, maybe you're in the midst of feeling angry, maybe you've become calloused and thinking, why do we have to keep talking about this? The issue is still at play, and the issue is not going away. And the issue must be considered and must be dealt with, as it seems like all that has been normative has been shaken, and here we are at a crossroads, what will we do as a people of God? How will we respond to what we're seeing not only in our culture, but what we're experiencing in our own hearts? What will we do as we seek to follow what God says is right and good and true?

George Wright: 06:41 I confess to you today that it has been a very personal struggle for me watching these images play out. I have been angry at the devastating effects of racism that still ravage our country. I have been frustrated as the power of fear has gripped so many. I have been wrestling and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged at times, as I've found myself wanting to do something and wanting to take action. But if I'm honest, not entirely sure what to do. Maybe you can relate. Maybe the range of emotion that you've been experiencing over these last few weeks is all across the board, there is so much that is heavy, that is gripping our hearts today.

George Wright: 07:46 It's in that reality, and in that light, that we step into Second Corinthians chapter 5. Because the circumstances we are walking through, and the images that we have been seeing, and the emotions that we have been feeling, truly call us to consider what we say we believe. When the foundation of our lives feels like it has been shaken, and we are all too painfully aware of the uncertainty that we are navigating. It can feel totally overwhelming, and can lead us to a place that we shouldn't go. But at the same time, it can lead us to a place that calls us to press even deeper into our faith, and into what the word God reveals. And it is my prayer, it is my hope, it is the cry of my heart in this series, that we press in deeper to what the word of God reveals in the midst of all of this struggle, because the word of God gives us tremendous hope.

George Wright: 09:08 You see, as the Apostle Paul is addressing the church in this letter to the Corinthians, he is in the midst of a personal place of pain and struggle. The Apostle Paul is facing the reality as he pens this letter, that death is right around the corner at any point for him. He is facing the reality on a daily basis that there are many who do not like him, many who disagree with him, many who want to take him out. and there is hostility that is swirling around him every moment of every day. Both the Jews and the Gentiles have seen Paul, and this message of the gospel that he is proclaiming, as a threat. And so in the face of these ongoing threats, and in the face of this constant uncertainty, it would be so easy to expect the Apostle Paul to be knocked back on his heels. And it would be easy for us to conclude that the Apostle Paul should just tone down his preaching, and just be quiet, and try to hide in the corners. It would be easy for us to look at the circumstances that Paul is facing, and understand if Paul were to pull back from his faith all together. It would be easy, and even natural, to understand if the Apostle Paul just said, you know what, for now, I'm just taking a break, I'm just pulling back until things settle down. There's just too much hostility in the world around me, there's too much danger around every corner, there's too much uncertainty in the midst of my story right now. So I'm just taking a break, I'm just going to sit silent, I'm just going to go in to hiding.

George Wright: 11:19 But in fact, for the Apostle Paul, the exact opposite takes place in his life and his faith. You see what we experience in reading the letters of Paul, including Second Corinthians, is the greater the threat, and the greater the opposition that the Apostle Paul faced, the more courageously Paul proclaimed the gospel. The more difficult things became in uncertainty, the more the Apostle Paul stood firm on the foundation, and on his belief that God was at work, even in the midst, and especially, in the midst of the struggle. The more the Apostle Paul was confronted with the fragility of life, the greater confidence he displayed in the power of God.

George Wright: 12:26 With that, we step into the scripture. And I want to take us back first to several verses in chapter 4, before we step into chapter 5, in what will be the foundation of this series moving forward. Second Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7, the Apostle Paul says this, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." What are we seeing here in the scripture? This is so important. The Apostle Paul is saying, the fragility of life, and the uncertainty that is highlighted in my struggles, and in the difficulty that I am facing right now, is not a threat at all to the power of the gospel. In fact, the Apostle Paul is saying, my fragility and my weakness, this jar of clay that is my body, that is my life, my fragility and my weakness actually serve to make it abundantly clear that the surpassing power of the gospel is not about my strength, but it is all about the strength and power of God at work in me. And this is so important for the life of a Christian, to consider that the surpassing power we cling to, that we hold on to, especially in times of uncertainty or hostility, especially in times of struggle and pain, the power of the gospel belongs to God and is a rock that will not be moved even as our circumstances change and seem to crumble around us. Paul is saying, my weakness, my fragility, actually highlights the power of God. For my weakness, reveals my need for him, and my weakness actually makes the message of the gospel that much more powerful, because it highlights the fact that this good news of the gospel is not about my strength and what I am seeking to do. It is all about Jesus, and what he is already done. For the Apostle Paul, this changes everything, this treasure of the gospel is what empowers him in strength, even as he acknowledges the fragility of the jar of clay that is his life.

George Wright: 15:38 The scripture goes on verses 8 and 9 in Second Corinthians 4. He says, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." Now, I believe that these two verses of scripture, especially in uncertainty, and especially in the face of difficulty, should serve as the mantra for the Christian life. This is who we are as the people of God. This is who we are as followers of Christ. Yes, we are afflicted in every way, but we will not be crushed. And yes, we are perplexed, and we are confused, and we are overwhelmed, but we will not be driven to despair. And yes, we may be persecuted as the world does not understand the way the people of God respond to hostility and danger and pain, but we will not be forsaken. And we may be struck down, but in the good news of the gospel, we will not be destroyed. What a proclamation of faith, what a proclamation of the power of God. Yes, it is true that the brokenness of this life, and the pain and the struggle of this life, are incredibly real and incredibly difficult. But the Apostle Paul is saying, they will not define my life. For my life is defined by the finished work of Christ.

George Wright: 17:53 How is it possible for a man in the midst of such hostility and struggle to have this confidence? Look now at verse 10 of Second Corinthians 4, he says, "I am always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." Paul is saying, I will not be defined by the pain and the struggle of this life, I am defined by the power of the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ my Savior and my Lord. It is the death of Christ that has freed me personally from the bondage of sin and death, and it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that empowers me, and emboldens me, to proclaim the good news of the hope that I have even in the face of difficult changing, uncertain circumstances. It is the beautiful, good news of the gospel that fixes my eyes on eternity, and changes my perspective on the here and now.

George Wright: 19:32 If you jump down to verse 16 of Second Corinthians 4, as we work our way back to chapter 5, the Apostle Paul then says, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." We do not lose heart. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ today, as you join into this message, you just may want to look to someone who's watching it with you or text a friend right now, if you're all alone and just say right now, I am not losing heart. Yes, this is a struggle. Yes, this is not easy. Yes, this is not what I saw coming. Yes, my future appears right now on uncertain ground, but I will not lose heart. What a cry for our time. What a cry for such a time as this. We do not lose heart because God is at work in the midst of the struggle to remind us that this life is not all there is, and as a follower of Jesus Christ, the best truly is yet to come.

George Wright: 21:09 When Paul makes that statement, that statement that for many of us has become all too familiar though, "Though the outer self is wasting away." How many of you know, in a personal way, that, that is true right now? The outer self is wasting away. I realize if you're under 30, you may be like, what is he talking about? Because you're feeling pretty good physically right now. But my guess is if you're close to 40, or if you've crossed the threshold of 40 and beyond, you can say, yes and amen, the outer self is wasting away. I remember in my mid to late thirties, as I was approaching 40, I would have many people say to me, Oh, just way, oh, just wait, it's coming. I know you like to run and workout and you feel fine right now, but just way it's coming, things are going to start to fall apart. And I'd be like, come on people. I mean, how discouraging can you be? I'm doing good. I'm feeling good. I'm going strong. And then sure enough, on the week of my 40th birthday last summer, I threw out my back like an old man. Bent over in pain, unable to move, rolling over on the ground, saying, somebody, please come help me because I can't get up. The outer self is wasting away. I've continued to have low back issues for the last year, I'm seeing a physical therapist right now. I'm trying to strengthen the core and strengthen the back. I mean, it's just ridiculous the exercises I'm trying to do to make my lower back strong. And it may help for a time, but can I just be honest with you? I know it's a downhill slide from here. The outer self is wasting away.

George Wright: 23:26 But what about the inner, what about the inner self? What about the soul? What about the heart? What about the spirit? Is your soul wasting away? Or as the scripture says, is your soul being renewed day by day? Does your faith feel like it is shriveling up in decay, or does your faith feel like it is growing day by day? If your faith is built on the circumstances of your life, your faith is probably wasting away. But if your faith is built on the unchanging power of God, and the unchanging message of the gospel that reminds us that this life is not all there is, if your faith is rooted and grounded in the finished work of Jesus, even in the midst of unchanging circumstances, your faith can be growing day by day. Because the reality is, the storms of this life will either crush our faith or the storms of this life will embolden and empower our faith. And it all depends on our perspective. That's what we see here. Second Corinthians 4, 17, and 18, "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." Eternal things.

George Wright: 25:52 Please don't miss this, many of you know this to be true, but we all need to be reminded from time to time. Our perspective of eternity will determine our perspective of the here and now. Our view of eternity will dictate our view of this life, today. Our perspective of eternity will determine how we navigate personal struggle and difficulty. What is your perspective of eternity? Do you see what the scripture is revealing? If you have a view of eternal things, what you're walking through right now is light and momentary in comparison to the eternal weights of glory. And please hear me, this is not seeking to minimize the pain that we feel. This is not seeking to minimize the difficulty of the struggle. Yes, life is a struggle. Yes, the world is broken and ravaged by sin. Yes, our physical bodies are breaking down, but with an eternal perspective, we can see that the things we endure in this life are just for a moment when held up to the weight of glory, that is our eternal blessing in Christ. So what is your perspective of eternal things? Paul is saying, fix your eyes on that which is eternal. Look and see what God has done for you, and look and see what God has waiting for his children beyond this life. For this life is but a moment in comparison to the eternal weight of glory.

George Wright: 28:27 With that, we come back to our text for today, and this is where we will wrap up today. As we set up the remainder of this study in Second Corinthians chapter 5, look at what the scripture reveals where we started today, "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." And verse 4, "For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." What an incredible statement of the hope that we have as we recognize, yes, this world around us is apart. It has been falling apart since the garden of Eden. But we have been given a promise of a home, a home that will never decay, a home that will never need repair, a home that will never need to be a part of a fixer upper, a home that is solid and secure and beautiful, free from pain free from sin free from death. This is the gift of eternity for those who are in Christ. Yes, this world is broken. Yes, this world is breaking down. Yes, this tent that is my body is starting to decay. But for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is a heavenly dwelling that will not break down. It is our hope, and our confidence, and our security, as we face the brokenness of this life. The secret to navigating the struggles of this life, is to recognize that this life is not all there is, and to fix our eyes on the things that are eternal.

George Wright: 31:20 I want to close with one of the most powerful quotes I have ever come across, as it relates to this conversation. This was written many years ago by CS Lewis in his classic work that we've cited many times, Mere Christianity. Listen to what Lewis writes, "Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." You were made for a another world, so live your life today in light of the other world that is your home. Fix your on Jesus, fix your eyes on eternity, and let your view of eternity determine how you live today. And remember what the scripture says, don't be caught naked, don't be caught unprepared, don't be caught unclothed. Put on the clothes of righteousness that are yours in Christ, and grants you a permanent home in eternity with God.

George Wright: 33:15 It is my prayer that we, as a people, would fix our eyes on eternal things and rest in the finished work of Jesus. And navigate this difficult season of struggle in our culture, by pointing to the hope that we have beyond this life, because of what Jesus Christ has done. May we live today for eternal things.

George Wright: 34:02 Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we come before you in this message, in this text, in this scripture, recognizing our need for you. Oh, how grateful I am that the word of God is so honest and transparent. Yes, this world is broken. Yes, this world is being ravaged by sin. It has been highlighted these last few weeks by the sin of racism that still permeates the hearts of many. Lord, we are grieving, we are mourning at the brokenness that we see, and the brokenness that we feel. But your word reminds us, we live in a broken world, we live in a tent that is decaying, that is falling apart. And yet this tent, this body, this world is not our permanent home. And so I pray, Lord God, for the church, for the people of Shandon, for those who are joining us today who are followers of Jesus, wherever they may be. I pray Lord God, that you would give us a vision for eternal things, a vision that then determines and dictates how we live here today. Especially in the midst of a struggle, especially in the face of brokenness and uncertainty.

George Wright: 35:54 And Father, I pray for those who join us today, who are perhaps confused even about what they believe, or perhaps discouraged at what they have seen in churches in the past, or in religion in the past, or perhaps they are longing to know what it means to walk with you. And yet they've never had someone show them the message of the gospel, or they've never placed their faith in Jesus. Lord, I pray that today would be the day for them, in the midst of whatever they're walking through, in the midst of whatever pain they feel, in the midst of whatever brokenness is in their own life and heart. I pray that they would say, Jesus, I'm ready for a change, I'm ready for hope. Jesus, I'm ready for you, and so I'm trusting my life to you Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. I'm asking you Jesus to forgive me of my sin, I'm ready to turn, to repent, to go in a different direction all together. As we see in this great text of Second Corinthians 5, what we'll be looking at in several weeks, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. I pray that there would be some here today, calling out to Jesus, that would become a new creation in the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. How we need you, and how we are grateful that you are at work to make all things new. We seek to follow you, and we seek to live our lives today through the lens of eternity. Thank you, Jesus, for what you have done. It is in Christ' name I pray this prayer. Amen.

George Wright: 38:08 We want to thank you for joining us for this service today. If you do have any questions about what you have heard, or if you want someone to follow up with you about what God is doing in your life, there's going to be a number on the screen that you can just text the word respond, and we would love to follow up with you. If you've made a decision to trust your life to Christ, just text respond to that number. It is the most decision that you could ever make, and we want to encourage you and pray with you, as you begin this journey following after Jesus. We love you, we are praying for you, and we look forward to seeing you again real soon. God bless.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206