2 Corinthians 5:5
February 15, 2012
“It is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5).
Not many things in life are truly guaranteed.
If you have a job today, you might not have one tomorrow.
If you are healthy today, you might be sick tomorrow.
If you have made money in the stock market, who knows what will happen tomorrow?
Even if you get a “guarantee” from a salesperson, it always comes with a host of conditions. Your guarantee will expire in so many days or you will void it by misusing the product or the manufacturer may decide to change the rules.
We like to say that nothing is certain except death and taxes, and that seems a good bet. We all will die someday, and taxes seem to be with us forever, but just this week I learned that 49% of American families paid no federal income tax in 2011. Taxes are higher for some people, lower for others, and the laws change all the time.
And so it goes.
Something is coming for the believer, and God guarantees it.
If you’re looking for a guaranteed future, you picked the wrong planet to be born on. Everything here is contingent, possible, maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, and who knows what tomorrow will bring, which is exactly the point of Proverbs 27:1.
But then there is our text, which actually uses the word “guaranteeing.” Paul wants us to know that God has done something huge to guarantee our future. There is something in this text called “what is to come,” which stands for all of God’s promises about the future but especially for God’s promises of eternal life, the reality of heaven, and the resurrection of the dead when Jesus comes again.
Something is coming for the believer, and God guarantees it.
You can take it to be the bank.
God is so certain about it, so determined to do it, so committed to his own purposes, that he made a “deposit” in us that guarantees “what is to come.”
Every battle with sin purifies the soul so that heaven will not seem foreign to us. </h6 class=”pullquote”>
My friend Jack Wyrtzen used to say, “I’m as sure of heaven as if I’d already been there 10,000 years.” Now there are several ways to respond to a comment like that. One is to dismiss it as “preacher talk” that has no real meaning behind it. Or you could simply dismiss it as empty God-talk.
How can anyone be “sure” about the future?
How can anything be “guaranteed” in this “un-guaranteed” world?
The answer lies in the concept of the Holy Spirit as God’s “deposit” in us.
I. God’s Deposit
Anyone who has ever purchased a house or a car understands the concept of a deposit. When we sign a contract, we put down “earnest money” so that the seller knows we are serious. Once the contract has been accepted, if we change our minds, we lose the “earnest money.”
The deposit not only shows our seriousness, it also guarantees that we fully intend to pay the rest of the money. A deposit is more than a “pledge” of our good intentions. A deposit is a legally binding commitment that we may forfeit under certain conditions.
Money managers often tell people to be very careful about making deposits. If we don’t want the car, we shouldn’t put any money down. If we don’t want the house, we need to keep our checkbook in our pocket. A deposit is serious business. That’s why this word picture is so important. The Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit” in our lives, guaranteeing he will one day finish what he has started. By giving us the Spirit, God has made a down payment on our future salvation.
II. God’s Investment
The whole point of a “deposit” lies in your future intentions. You make a deposit precisely because you intend to complete payment at a later date. If you don’t complete your payments on time, you forfeit the deposit. Some people reading my words have probably had that happen to them. Maybe you thought a certain house would be perfect so you put down “earnest money” to hold the house until you could sign a contract. Then something happened (maybe you lost your job or there was a health crisis in your family) and you couldn’t make the contract so you lost your money.
God always finishes what he starts.
Think of the Holy Spirit as God’s “investment” in you. God is so determined to take his children to heaven that he sends the Holy Spirit to begin the process at the moment of conversion. We tend to think of the “Christian life” as one thing and “going to heaven” as something else completely unrelated.
We live the Christian life now.
Then we go to heaven when we die.
And we don’t see much connection between those things. But Paul joins them together when he mentions “God who has made us for this very purpose.” There is a divine purpose at work in your life right now. He “began a good work” (Philippians 1:6) in us the moment we trusted Christ. That divine purpose involves being shaped into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
God intends to make us like his Son.
He is thoroughly committed to that end.
There is a divine purpose at work in your life right now.
And he sends the Holy Spirit to begin that process in us. Think about the great blessings that are already ours because we have the Holy Spirit: indwelling, intercession, comfort, guidance, security, full rights as the children of God, the Spirit of Christ within us, the fruit of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit, and the hope of the Spirit, to name only a few. Yet these things, as good as they are, are only the down payment (or “first fruits”) of what God will yet do for us. For those who know the Lord, it only gets better from here on out. We have many blessings from God, and what we have received is only a fraction of what God intends to shower upon us.
But there is more to this truth than merely a promise of better things to come. When Joseph Lathrop wrote about the “earnest” of the Spirit in 1810, he used these quaint words to make his point:
It appears from these passages, that the earnest and the first fruits of the Spirit, are some kind of evidence, which the Holy Spirit gives believers, of their title to a happy immortality.
I underlined one phrase because it struck me as a new thought altogether. The Holy Spirit’s “deposit” in us is “some kind of evidence” of a happy immortality to come. I’m still thinking about that. It strikes me as entirely biblical. As I said earlier, we tend to separate what we call “the Christian life” from what we call “going to heaven.” But Lathrop here says they are intimately connected.
The graces of the Christian life, he says, are like a foretaste of heaven to come.
Most of us, I dare say, do not think that way.
We face a difficult moment and pray for patience or kindness or forgiveness or joy. It is given, and then we move on to whatever comes next. But Lathrop would say (and I think he’s right) that God gives the fruit of the Holy Spirit to prepare us more thoroughly for heaven to come. It’s as if God says, “See, I promised to be with you in your time of trouble, and I am. I gave you hope in the place of despair, and I gave you joy during your darkest night. I did that not simply to help you through the hard times, but also to teach you that what I do now in a small way, I will one day do in a much larger way.”
God gives the fruit of the Holy Spirit to prepare us more thoroughly for heaven to come.
Every answered prayer prepares us for more to come.
Every struggle fought in Jesus’ name leads us to higher ground.
Every battle with sin purifies the soul so that heaven will not seem foreign to us.
Lathrop has a very fine word about this:
Now if you sensibly experience the benefit of communion with God; if you find, that by attendance upon him in prayer, hearing the word and other ordinances, your faith is enlivened, your worldly affections subdued, your zeal in duty warmed, and your virtuous resolutions strengthened, then you see that promise fulfilled, which insures you the benefit of attending on those means; and God’s performance of this promise is an earnest, that he will do all that he has spoken, and will withhold no good thing which he has promised.
That’s a terrific insight.
Don’t let the archaic language trip you up.
The key comes early on when he uses the word “sensibly.” He means “in your own personal experience.” He’s talking about what in other contexts might be called the affectional part of the Christian life.
There are Christian doctrines that shape our faith.
There are Christian affections in which what we believe comes true for us.
Sometimes we are afraid of the whole notion of “Christian affections” because we want our faith to rest on fact, not on our feelings. That of course is very true. But if our hearts are never changed, if they are never warmed by the truth of God, if we never “sensibly” know that God is at work in us, then what we have is little more than a doctrinal statement to which we have signed our name.
Yesterday happened to be Valentine’s Day in the United States so along with millions of other husbands, I trekked to the local store to buy something for my sweetheart who has been my one and only valentine for the last 38 years. I bought some flowers and a card and some beautiful chocolates. When I was at the grocery store, I saw helium-filled metallic balloons hanging from the ceiling with long ribbons dangling in the aisles. You looked up, found a balloon you liked, pulled it down, tied it onto your grocery cart (so it wouldn’t fly away), and then you paid for it. I can’t remember if I’ve ever bought a Valentine’s Day balloon before, but I did this year. Just this moment I got up from my chair to see if it is still floating above our kitchen table. It is, and it says things like “Happy Valentine’s Day,” “Love you,” and “Kiss me.” Now it pleased me quite a bit when I bought it even though I had a hard time driving home with the balloon floating in my back seat. And it pleased me when I tied it to a chair very early in the morning so Marlene would see it along with the other gifts. It pleased me again when I saw it just a moment ago. But the best part was the pleasure on my sweetheart’s face when she saw the balloon and all the other gifts. That was well worth the investment of my time and money. To borrow Lathrop’s word, I was “sensibly” pleased because she was so pleased.
No marriage can survive unless two people take deep pleasure in each other.
Our daily experience with Christ “sensibly” prepares us for glories yet to unfold.
You can’t rely merely on vows recited many years ago (as important as those vows are).
We all need to have our emotions stirred so that we will say, “I love you, and I still love you. And I take great pleasure in you.”
So it is with our Christian life. God sends his Spirit not only to help us through our journey, but also to stir up in us love and affection for him so that we will know that the greater end he has promised will indeed come true. Thus our daily experience with Christ “sensibly” prepares us for glories yet to unfold. Those “daily graces” are God’s investment in us.
III. God’s Intention
A familiar gospel song called Blessed Assurance begins this way:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.
That second line perfectly captures the meaning of our text. God prepares us for heaven by giving us grace that is itself a “foretaste of glory divine.” If God intends by his Spirit to sanctify us, then everything that happens to us is part of God’s plan to make us like Jesus.
He uses everything.
He wastes nothing.
A friend told me his life had been changed by praying this simple prayer early in the morning:
“O Lord, you are in charge of everything that will happen to me today, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative. Please make me thankful for everything that happens in my life today. Amen.”
That’s a wonderful prayer because it takes the focus off of us and puts it squarely on our Sovereign Lord. If we believe that God is in charge of all things, then we ought to be thankful in every circumstance. This will sometimes seem very difficult, but as so many others have testified across the years, we are more likely to encounter the Lord at midnight than in the blazing light of day. God “sensibly” reveals himself to us by causing us to hope in the face of despair and by giving us strength to keep believing when we’d rather give up.
God prepares us for heaven by giving us grace that is itself a “foretaste of glory divine.”
If you don’t know where else to begin applying this sermon, start with that prayer.
Pray it every morning for 30 days.
Print it out or write it out.
Put it in your Bible or on your computer screen.
Pray that way for 30 days and see if it doesn’t change your attitude.
IV. God’s Conclusion
God’s “deposit” of the Holy Spirit should give us hope at the moment of death. How do we know that we know that we know that death will not have the last word? I often think about that, and I’m thinking about it in light of a dear friend who has recently been placed in hospice care. What will happen to him when he dies? Humanly speaking, we will have a funeral and bury him. That’s what we do when people die.
Is that it?
Is that the end?
On our recent trip to India, I asked our host if it is true that the Hindus practice cremation. The answer is yes. They cremate the body because it doesn’t matter. It’s only the “shell” that holds the spirit, and since the Hindus believe in reincarnation, you burn what doesn’t matter anyway. But Christians have generally opposed cremation (though it is not explicitly condemned in the Bible) because they believe in the resurrection of the body. To be sure, we come from the dust and we go back to the dust. God can raise his children no matter how they die or whether they are cremated or buried.
But the difference in India is very stark.
Christians and Hindus believe different things, and you see this most clearly at the point of death. The Apostles Creed states unambiguously that we believe in “the resurrection of the body.” The resurrection of the body is necessary to reverse the effects of sin, such as old age, cancer, disease, and terrible tragedy. These things are all part of the curse upon the earth because of sin. Redemption will not be complete until our bodies are finally redeemed and changed forever. Redemption touches the body, not just the soul. Your salvation will not be complete until your body becomes immortal and imperishable. This clarifies a crucial misunderstanding about the saints who are already in heaven. Sometimes I hear people say things like, “I know he’s up there playing football in heaven.” Well, not without his body. Football is a contact sport. If you don’t have your body with you, you’re not going to play much football. It’s not correct to speak of our loved ones in heaven as already having their glorified bodies. If the body is still in the ground, then it’s not glorified yet. Better to say that their spirit or soul is with the Lord, and that they in heaven (like us on earth) await the day of resurrection. The body that is raised will be a new body–not just the old one patched up. If a loved one dies of cancer, it won’t do any good to be raised with cancer. Personally, I don’t want a “renovated” body. I want something brand-new that won’t wear out or run down, a body suited for eternity.
We believe in resurrection, not reincarnation.
We believe in resurrection, not reincarnation. I won’t come back as someone else or something else. I’ll be raised as Ray Pritchard with all the destructive marks of sin removed from all parts of my being. The parts of me that annoy other people will be gone forever, thank God. What remains will be Ray Pritchard, cleansed and purified and perfected by the grace of God. I will still be me and you will still be you. But we will also be like Jesus because we will see him as he is (1 John 3:1-3).
When Lathrop wrote his sermon on the “deposit” of the Spirit, he included a lengthy section on the expectations of the children of God. He says that our current progress in our spiritual journey ought to give us great hope for the life to come:
From his present experience he justly concludes that when these tempers (he means the various parts of our human personality) shall be wrought to their perfection in the future world, his joy will be full. There he shall know God as he is, and love him with enlarged and lively powers.
That will be a glorious day when we “know God as he is.” Between now and then we have the “deposit” of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for that moment. And we know that we have nothing to fear, not even death itself, because death will not have the final word.
Death will not have the final word.
Will God take care of his children? Yes he will. Will he keep his promises? Yes he will. Will he one day make us fully into the image of Christ? Yes he will. These words are not idle speculation. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guarantee the complete fulfillment of every part of every promise.
The Holy Spirit is the “first installment” of our salvation. His presence in our lives guarantees that the blessings we receive today are but a foretaste of what God will one day reveal to us. Though we may often doubt it, God always finishes what He starts. He will complete the work of redemption.
Hold on to that thought, Christian. God finishes what he starts. You can count on that.
Almighty God, in a world filled with broken promises, it’s good to know that you are a God who finishes what you start. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who is the deposit guaranteeing what is to come. Amen.