July 4th means so much to us as Americans. On this day, July 4, 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence that formally declared our independence from the British Empire as the thirteen American colonies became a new nation. For this special occurrence we are both grateful and appreciative. We understand the significance of our independence and freedom we enjoy; in addition, we recognize what it cost to initially gain our freedom and, since that time, to defend it.
Today is special for another even better reason. In the wee hours of this morning, my sweet friend Miss Coialeen Monday moved from this life to the next one. She looked forward to the end of this 91-year journey to begin a new eternal journey with her precious Savior, Jesus Christ. We often sat and discussed the joys of heaven that awaited her. She recognized the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
What makes this a better kind of Independence Day?
The Christian’s Eyes Are Looking toward Eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
As Miss Monday increasingly became weaker, she realized the truth that even as her outward man was perishing, her inward man was being renewed. She looked forward with pleasure to the eternal rather than the temporary. She understood that her sickness was just a light affliction as she made her way toward heaven. This earth and her life were not her final goal. She often would pray with me as we considered the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory – that which awaited for her.
This Earthly Body Changes to an Eternal Body (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
God builds in the Christian a desire for eternity. I often explain it as a built-in homesickness for heaven. Our eternal body waits as this earthly body moves toward death. Paul describes this work of the Spirit with the word “groan.” In this body we groan for our eternal body. We groan to put off the sin and suffering of the present and for our resurrected bodies and life. We anticipate it. We think about it. We long for it. For the past three years Miss Monday has regularly said how she longs to go to heaven. She dearly loved her friends. She enjoyed working in her garden and living in her house. She made friends with the birds who would wait each morning for food. She enjoyed living. However, her life – as good as it was – was not to be compared to her future body and life.
Understanding the Future Impacts Our Present (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)
The Bible makes it clear that this life is not the end-all of existence. While at home in our bodies here on earth, we are away from the presence of God in heaven. We live by faith in what the Bible teaches and not in only what we can see around us in this world on this side of eternity. In fact, because of our eternal future with Christ, we simply and sincerely desire to be with the Lord. Paul wrote, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Sweet words for the believer in Jesus Christ… “Absent from the body, to be present with the Lord.” Miss Monday understood this. She recognized the next step from this world was into the presence of her Lord. Her nightly prayer was, “Lord, let me go to sleep and wake up in heaven if it is your plan.” Last night she did just that.
Because we understand the significance of going to heaven, every day we make it our aim to honor God in everything we do. We live the kind of life that magnifies the grace and holiness of Jesus Christ. We seek to imitate Him. We desire to live today on earth just as if we were with Him in heaven. We recognize as Christians that one day we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to account for how we lived on earth as we anticipated our future eternal life with Christ.
Our Confidence Is in God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Why can we have this confidence? How did Miss Monday have this assurance? Because she placed her personal trust in Jesus Christ. She understood what Paul taught: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God placed the Christian’s sin on Christ and placed Christ’s righteousness on the Christian. In other words, God punished Jesus because God held our sin against Jesus and not us. He blesses us with righteousness as those who are in Christ and provides for us heaven – all because He sees us through Jesus’ righteousness.
For this reason we excitedly share the good news of the Gospel. Any person can look forward to and long for heaven because Jesus Christ paid for everyone’s sins on the cross. Because of the payment for sin, God now offers forgiveness through Jesus to each one of us. However, we can only enjoy forgiveness and the promise of heaven if we go to God in humble repentance for our sins and ask Him to forgive our sins through the personal work of Jesus – His perfect life, sacrificial death on the cross, victorious resurrection from the grave, and His ascension back into heaven. This is the only way we can have the confident assurance of eternal life after death.
Today We Celebrate a Better Independence Day!
As I sit in an empty house that once was the dwelling of a sweet friend, my mind is not on death. My thoughts are on life. Her confidence was in the person of Jesus Christ. She depended not upon her own ideas or works to earn her salvation; instead, she trusted in the finished work of Christ on the cross. She has given up this earthly tent for something greater and better. Jesus won her independence and eternal life on the cross. This morning, she peacefully realized for so long what she had desired and prayed. She met her Savior. This Independence Day begins the first of an eternity of days where she will rejoice over the marvelous grace and mercy of God through Christ that provided her eternal life. So I sit here this morning not thinking about her death but considering her new life. The sweet memories of my friend are being swallowed with wonder as I consider what she is now experiencing.
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What about you? Have you placed your personal trust and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins? And, if you have, are you longing to be with Him in His presence?
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:21
4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. …
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
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