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Not the Eyes in Your Head (II Corinthians 5:7)

February 19, 2017 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Truth

Topic: II Corinthians Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:1–5:10

 

Not the Eyes in Your Head

II Corinthians 5:7

(One Truth: In All Things)

February 19th, 2017

 

I. What Have You Seen?

Think for a minute about the things your eyes have seen.

Have your eyes ever seen beautiful things? Have your eyes ever seen big things? Have your eyes ever seen stunning things, happy things, comforting things, inspiring things, hopeful things? Have your eyes ever seen things that seemed impossible? Have your eyes ever seen things that seemed too good to be true? Have your eyes ever seen love?

Do you remember seeing things like that?

Oh, but let me clarify. In asking about the things your eyes have seen, I'm not talking about the eyes in your head. I'm talking about the eyes of your heart. Paul prayed about this very things in Ephesians 1. He prayed for his readers...

...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened... (Ephesians 1:17, 18a)

So let me encourage you again to think for a minute about the things your eyes have seen.

As you're doing that, turn with me to II Corinthians 5.

 

II. The Passage: "Not By Sight” (5:1-10)

As you look over II Corinthians 5, you will find in verse 7 the brief statement we began with this morning. But don't let it's size fool you. There is an astounding depth to this verse, and our job this morning, with God's help, is to explore those depths.

To do that, I think we need to pull in the immediate context of verse 7. So let's look together at the first ten verses of II Corinthians 5. This is what the Apostle Paul writes to the followers of Jesus who were living in the Greek city of Corinth. Verse 1...

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. [2] For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, [3] if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. [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. [5] He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. [6] So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, [7] for we walk by faith, not by sight. [8] Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. [9] So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

So to explore and understand the depths of verse 7, let's focus on the three keywords we find in that verse: walk, faith, and sight. So let's think about this passage in terms of 1) knowing by sight, 2) knowing by faith, and 3) walking by faith. Are you ready?

 

1. Knowing “By Sight”

The first thing we want to think about in light of this passage is the idea of knowing “by sight”.

Verse 7 implies that it is possible to walk (whatever it means) “by sight” instead of walking “by faith”. In fact, I think you know that you and I are often tempted to do that very thing. But what does Paul mean by the word “sight”? Well, the context helps explain this.

Starting in verse 1, Paul is talking about life in this physical body. That's what he means when he writes about life in this earthly “tent”. But notice how he describes that life now. Twice in this passage, in verses 2 and 4, he mentions how we “groan” in this earthly existence. In verse 4, he explains that our groaning comes from “being burdened”. Do you see that? And from the start, in verse 4, Paul writes about the possibility of his “earthly home”, the possibility of his body, being “destroyed”.

And if we were to scan back a couple paragraphs, back into chapter 4, we would discover in verses 8 and 9 what Paul has in mind. He writes there about being “afflicted”, about being “perplexed”, about being “persecuted”, about being “struck down”.

To walk “by sight” is to walk solely by the light of our bodily experiences in this world. And for Paul and many of his readers, those experiences were often characterized by suffering...even by the possibility of imminent death.

Paul describes in 4:8, 9 the subsequent temptations, temptations to fear, that come when you walk “by sight”: the possibility of being “crushed”, the possibility of being “driven to despair”, the possibility of feeling “forsaken”, the possibility of being, as we also saw in 5:1, of being “destroyed”.

What a dismal existence when we only see by the light of, or in light of, the sufferings of this life. But that's why Paul reminds them about another way of knowing.

 

2. Knowing “By Faith”

Paul encourages his readers in verse 7 that, as followers of Jesus, “we walk by faith, not by sight”. We walk in light of the light that faith provides. All of us certainly know “by sight”. That's our default. We understand all too well the burden of life in this fallen world.

But by God's grace, we can also know “by faith”. In light of his suffering, and light of the sufferings of so many of his readers, what does Paul remind them they can know “by faith”? Look again at verses 1-5.

By faith, they could know that when this body is gone, God has prepared a new body for us. And this new body is far better than the old one, for it's not described as a “tent”, but as a “building” and a “house”, one that is “eternal in the heavens”. It is (v.2) our “heavenly dwelling”.

They could also know “by faith” that God had (v. 5) “given us the Spirit as a guarantee”. God sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts as a deposit, as a pledge, as a down payment, to show us that He is completely serious about and fully committed to our full redemption and transformation. Suffering and death in this life cannot change what God has prepared for us in the next life. Amen?

But if we look at verse 10, we learn something else we can also know “by faith”. We learn there that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Though the wicked can prosper and the innocent can suffer in this life, though we can do the right thing, or do the wrong thing, and not experience any tangible consequences in the present, Paul is reminding us there will be an accounting in the end. Knowing and walking “by sight” does not take that into account. But “by faith” we can be sure that Day is coming.

 

3. Walking “By Faith”

So then, if there's a difference between knowing “by sight” and knowing “by faith”, is there also a difference when it comes to 'walking', that is, when it comes to living out your everyday life? Yes, there is a huge difference. It is the very thing that makes all the difference!

Paul sums up that difference in a phrase he repeats twice in this passage. Remember, he also talked about “groan[ing]” twice, didn't he? But in both verse 6 and verse 8, Paul declares, “we are of good courage”; in fact, “we are always of good courage”. To be “of good courage” is to be confident; it means being emboldened by what we know “by faith”.

Does your faith give you courage and boldness in the face of suffering and death, in the face of those challenges and difficulties that burden you and cause you to groan? It should.

Listen to how Paul expressed it a few paragraphs earlier. Listen to 4:8, 9 in their entirety...

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...

And in light of what God has done for us (given His Spirit) and what God will do for us (give us an eternal body), in light of who He is and what is to come (the Judge who will sit in judgment), walking “by faith” ultimately looks like (5:9) “mak[ing] it our aim to please him”. Is that the war cry of your heart? Is it the trajectory of your life? Is it the goal of your existence? Is it what gets you up in the morning? Pleasing Jesus Christ?

Knowing “by faith” emboldened Paul to “walk by faith”. “By faith” he found courage to reject the so-called solutions and seductions of this world; “by faith he found courage to endure through suffering; “by faith” he found courage to live a life that was pleasing to His master, Jesus.

So again, knowing “by faith” should lead to walking “by faith”. Listen to how Paul described this in the words leading up to 5:1. He declared to his readers in 4:16-18...

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] 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. (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

 

III. A New Kind of Sight

Did you notice how Paul refers there to the “eyes of [the] heart” (Ephesians 1:18)? The “looking” from 4:18 cannot be the same as the “sight” he mentions in 5:7. In 4:18, Paul speaks of 'looking' to “things that are unseen”. And that's a kind of “sight” to which he's calling them; to which he is encouraging them, not discouraging them.

So when Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7 that “we walk by faith, not by sight”, he is really saying “we ultimately walk by the eyes of faith, not by the eyes in our head”. Do you see that?

And so for you and me here this morning, the question must be, “Do I walk by the eyes of faith, or only the eyes in my head?” But this is precisely what leads us back to our original idea this morning regarding “the things your eyes have seen”.

Do you remember what I asked? Have your eyes ever seen beautiful things? Have your eyes ever seen big things? Have your eyes ever seen stunning things, happy things, comforting things, inspiring things, hopeful things? Have your eyes ever seen things that seemed impossible? Have your eyes ever seen things that seemed too good to be true? Have your eyes ever seen love?

As I mentioned before, what I'm asking about here is what you've seen with the eyes of faith. And we know there is only one way you can see such things in that way...by the grace of God, through the Spirit of God, in the word of God. (2x)

Faith that is not fed by the word of God is not saving faith. There has been and there is lots of talk in our culture, even within the church, about the power of believing. But the danger is that our belief, our faith, our trust is in faith itself; that we are trusting in the power of belief.

But there is no power in faith itself. That's like me going into my darkened house late at night and grabbing a light bulb out of the closet, then walking through the house with the light bulb above my head, hoping for illumination. Do I need the light bulb? Yes. But the whole design of the light bulb is to be connected to a true power source. And when it is, it shines, right?

Saving and surging faith is that light bulb, connected through the word of God to His power!

If faith is the light bulb, then the word is the wiring. And if the word is the wiring, then God himself is the power source that sends the electricity.

Remember what we read together earlier? Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) Paul reminded the elders of the Ephesian church of what God's word could do among them: And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32) Did you hear that?

When we talk about walking by faith, that idea is completely useless if the faith that drives our feet is not first connected, through the word of God, to the power of God himself. Why the word? As we saw in our passage this morning, it was belief in the truth of what God was doing and would do in the face of present suffering that gave Paul courage. And He wanted to encourage them to find that same courage in the truth.

Others may be rejecting them, but God accepted them. Their bodies might be racked with pain, but God's peace was filling their souls. They may have been facing death, but God was ready to welcome them into life forever. Though what could not last was being taken from them, what lasts forever was already theirs.

And all of that was possible because of the suffering Jesus had already done on their behalf. They did not and never would groan in vain. Why? The sufferings of their Redeemer made their sufferings redemptive. AND, when they lived their lives to please Him who was above them, and not those around them, not those who threatened, not those who enticed, when they lived to please Jesus, they were “of good courage” for the Day of Judgment.

Why? Because on that day, they would stand, we can stand, without fear of punishment. That's what another apostle, the Apostle John was saying in a verse that is routinely taken out of context:

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. [18] There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (I John 4:17-18)

When you know that by faith, you will walk “by faith” in light of that. Confidence in God's love through Jesus, and confident love flowing through you. I love how yet another apostle connected love and faith: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

What does all this mean practically? I hope it simply fans the flames in you, so that you have a renewed, hot, glowing desire to read, hear, meditate on, believe, and by the Spirit of God, live out God's word; that you would know it and trust in this One Truth God has given us. It's the only way to “walk by faith”. Without it, we will only be informed “by sight”.

And of course, that One Truth should always lead us to One Lord, Jesus. It's “the word of his grace”. Let's ask God to help us walk by faith, and not by sight this week. And to do that, let's ask Him to drive us back to the Bible with a desperate, reaching faith.

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