Sermons & Sunday Schools

God’s Power Through Baked Dirt

In this sermon, Pastor Joe Babij examines Paul’s teaching about believers’ resurrected bodies in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. Pastor Babij explains how God’s amazing promises regarding what he will do with us—who are no more than baked dirt—equips us to serve him with hope while on the earth. Pastor Babij presents Paul’s teaching in four main points:

1. The Future Confidence of Baked Dirt (v. 1)
2. The Present Longings of Baked Dirt (vv. 2-5)
3. The Present Courage of Baked Dirt (vv. 6-9)
4. The Future Evaluation of Baked Dirt (v. 10)

Full Transcript:

Today we’re going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 5. We do have our Lord’s Table after the service so you should have been preparing yourselves for that already. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, but first let me have a word of prayer.

Father, this morning as we come together as Your people I pray that You would speak to us through Your Word. Convict us of sin and encourage us in our walks with You. Help us to know every day that we are weak vessels but Your power is working through us to get Your work done. We have a bright future because we’re going to spend eternity with You. I pray that You would encourage us in this way in Christ’s Name, Amen.

So today I want to challenge you all who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. It doesn’t matter whether you have been a Christian for a short time or whether you have been in the faith for a long time. Consider why the Lord did not take you home to be with Him immediately after your conversion but instead left you here. Why did the Lord allow you to be born during this time in history? Why did He allow you to be raised in a particular cultural setting? Why are you here in such a time as this? It is an exciting time to be a Christian!

He left us here to be ambassadors for Christ. If you look at 2 Corinthians 5:20 it says:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

An ambassador for Christ takes a very specific message to the world of people with the authority of God behind them and with urgency that asks people to respond. What is the specific thing they ask? To be reconciled to God! This means that people are not reconciled to God but they need to be. The command further expresses urgency. Get reconciled to God and do it now! Become friends with God today through Jesus Christ. Take advantage of the peace terms in the gospel while there is time. We keep begging people for Christ. That is what Paul is saying to us left on this side of eternity.

The message of 2 Corinthians is that the gospel ministry is carried out by the power of God through frail vessels. God puts His treasure in baked dirt. That’s us! Now if you look over in 2 Corinthians 4:7, it says:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

So all of us are like earthen vessels, baked dirt, and fragile clay jars. That’s how God decided to do His unfinished work on this earth. The NLT translation says it like this:

We have this light shining in our hearts but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure and this makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

Paul explains to the Corinthians that the moment of believing, the saved one is complete. He is delivered from sin, taken out of this lost estate, cleansed, forgiven, justified, born of God, clothed in the merit of Christ, and free from all condemnation. We actually live in the temporal while we desire the eternal as Christians. We believe that we actually live in our weakness while we desire strength. We live by faith when we desire sight. That’s where we live.

Consequently, the saved person is reconciled to God through the death of Christ and then given work to do between the day they get saved and the day they physically die. It starts with the day we trust Christ and are made to be new Christians that start living by faith. To live by faith, the child of God learns to turn his attention on the unseen. Is it better to live by sight of by faith on this side of eternity? It is better to live by faith because faith can see around corners and can see what is not seen. Faith can see into the future and we can do that by God’s Word as it tells us what is going to take place.

So even though Christians are made new, they still remain in this body of humiliation because we have inherited the consequences of the fall. Christians sense something is just not right with a renewed soul living in a mortal body. There is a tension already when we become believers that something is not right or finished yet, so we yearn for something more. Christians sense this because they’re living in a dying body as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

So living by faith is the practice of seeing the eternal. It is the confidence in what will be and in the promise of God and His power to accomplish all that He said He would. It says in 2 Corinthians 4:14:

Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

So now the Scripture turns our attention to show the confidence, longings, courage, and evaluation of people who are baked dirt while living on this temporal earth. There are going to be certain things the Bible wants us to know and what Paul wanted his audience to know. Especially those who were false converts and teachers and who were coming against his apostleship. The first thing that he says about us being baked dirt is that there is a future confidence for us who are living as earthen vessels.

There are four things about our new bodies that will give us confidence in the power of God. The first thing that he mentions is that our future confidence will be in our glorified bodies. In 2 Corinthians 5:1 says:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Notice first that it says we as believers know something. He is using the perfect tense indicating that the present state of affairs results in a past action which was salvation. The present state of affairs is a future hope in a glorified body. In fact, all true Christians know what is so comforting and strengthening for all of us that our true home is Heaven. But it is more than knowing that Heaven is home. It is knowing that each of us individually have a permanent, glorified body to live in Heaven. If you look again at our verse above in 2 Corinthians 5:1 it says:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down.

This also means that we can die, or broken down like a tent. But either way, we have an assurance that we have a Heavenly body that we shall dwell in forever. So brethren, we occupy mortal bodies that are transitory in nature just like a tent, which we use for camping. It’s put up as a temporary structure and can be taken down quite quickly. The idiom in the Greek is to lose completely or to loosen the rope from the pegs that hold the tent so that the stretched canvas collapses and can be rolled up.

So the tent is never meant to be a permanent dwelling. It is temporary. But our new bodies will be permanent. So the contrast in this whole section of Scripture is supposed to illustrate a house not made with hands, but manufactured. The heavens are in contrast with the earthly and the eternal is in contrast with what decays. The second thing he says about this new body in 2 Corinthians 5:1 is that we have a body on reserve. It says:

We have a building from God.

We possess the title deed right now by faith and the title deed to things hoped for is faith. That’s what we find all over Scripture where it says in Hebrews 11:7:

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

So we possess a heavenly body and we possess it by the eyes of faith. It is waiting for us in Heaven. When people reserve things, they usually call ahead to have someone else put something aside in their name. If someone else tries to claim it, the person who put it aside is going to say that it is on reserve already. The other person is waiting their arrival to pick it up. That’s what God has done. He put on reserve a body for each and every one of us and our names are on them like it says in Luke 10:20:

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.

That’s the confidence and encouragement God gives His people while we dwell in these frail bodies. There’s a third thing that builds confidence about our bodies and that is in 2 Corinthians 5:1:

A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

This building has its whole source in the origin or God. It has no human origin at all and this word house gives the picture of a permanent, very suitable structure too ouse our redeemed souls in. It is not temporary like a tent that can be torn down. God has instead made this durable and He has guaranteed it forever. A tent, like our earthly bodies, is temporary but our glorified bodies will be permanent.

Now why does the Apostle Paul even say these things? This is not a normal way of thinking and people do not think like this. As a matter of fact, there are not many people who actually think about dying. They want to avoid that subject at all costs and I understand why. The reality is that we don’t really want to die. We want life to go on and that’s also something that the Bible teaches us that is real. We want life to take over everything. As we grow in the Lord, we are going to find that this is what God is actually producing in us. All our forefathers were looking for the same things as it says in Hebrews 11:10:

For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

This is something we all are yearning for: a glorified body made by God into a permanent one. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:2 that our glorified body is eternal in the heavens and we will live in our glorified bodies in Heaven and that is the place where God dwells. The fourth thing that builds confidence is we live in this temporal state as baked dirt. Here we see the example of our Lord’s body when He rose from the dead. He could eat but it was not necessary. He can appear in a room through closed doors, and was free from all the restrictions of space.

He had an immortal and eternal body, free from all limitations through time. It’s also an exalted body raised in honor, no sickness, death, or conception. Neither will people be given in marriage in this new state that we’re in. Mark 12:25 says:

For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

It will also be a body of happiness as it says in Revelation 21:4:

And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

It is also a body that is conformed to Christ’s body where 1 John 3:2 tells us:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

But until that day, we have some difficult things to go through. It is very natural for baked dirt indwell by the Holy Spirit of God to experience genuine fears while living in a collapsible tent. That brings to the second thing: the present longings of baked dirt in 2 Corinthians 5:2-5:

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.

The groaning we have while in this tent is internal within oneself. By faith all believers are hoping for the future. The real cause of groaning won’t be what we think it is, but rather this internal yearning for a glorified body. God does that in us as believers. It is not necessarily the weakness or frailty that we experience on earth in our bodies, nor the sufferings that come our way that cause us to groan. We may groan in these things but for different reasons. The reason we groan here is because we want a new glorified body and we want to be in the presence of Christ. So this verse it is like longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. Remember clothing is very personal and sits closely on our bodies as if enclosing them.

In a similar way, the dwelling from Heaven will both be a covering and residence for redeemed spirits. We long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. You gotta admit that as we live in these bodies and time goes on and we get older, it is not so pleasant, right? As we grow older, we should yearn as Christians for our Heavenly bodies. Part of the groaning is that we do not want to be found naked without bodies. As much as we having put it on will not be found naked, the term here naked means to be uncovered, bear, and in need of clothing. For this it is quite definite that we will put it on and not be found naked.

We groan not to put off but to put on. Another translation (NLT) says it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:3:

For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.

This groaning that goes on in the inner person of the believer is produced by the Holy Spirit of God. I guarantee you that people who are not genuine believers do not have this groaning and as Paul is really writing against false teachers, they also do not have this groaning. They want to stay here and be healthy and wealthy here. For a believer who is growing in the Lord, the more we grow in Christ, the more we want to be with Him. There is another burden we have as believers in 2 Corinthians 5:4

For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

We know we are going to die and we have attended enough funerals to know that when the soul leaves the body, the body becomes lifeless as far as we can see. The body goes into the ground, experiences decay, and completely turns into dust or it is consumed via cremation. Then we wonder what is next after that. We only know what’s next by divine revelation. So our burden is that we don’t want to die. In other words, we don’t want to be without a body or left naked.

The body that we have now is better than nothing but it is a dying, decaying, perishable body that is temporal. There is something unnerving about the soul separating from the body at death. Death is always strange and weird and doesn’t belong here. So we have this tension between dying and dropping off these mortal bodies and taking on something that is eternal. One teacher from Scotland wrote, “Man is not complete without his body, so when death comes and he leaves the body, he is in an abnormal state of nakedness and will remain so until the Lord comes.”

Again in verse 4 it says that we don’t want to be unclothed, but we want to be fully and forever clothed with our new garment and to be done with this death. Still to this day, I hate to go to wakes and funerals especially when I know people don’t know the Lord. Look at the end of verse 4 again:

So that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

We want life to take over completely so that death is done away with once and for all. That’s what Christ has done. He defeated Satan and death on the cross and nothing shall be left of it. Christians are desirous of the resurrection of their bodies and Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54:

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Therefore the ideal state for the saint is to leave the mortal body and without any interval be clothed by their spiritual body and that is the ideal state. It is good to know these things so we Christians are not in the dark or confused concerning death and the body. My fellow Christians, don’t you think it strange to think like this and to be thinking and feeling in these terms? Groaning and being burdened for a perfect, glorified body that has been planned for us all along by God Himself? The thought that we wish to die that we may live points to the evidence of God’s Holy Spirit working in us.

Try talking about this with someone who has no reference point of that context and they’ll think you’re crazy and insane! It sounds like a sci-fi movie but it’s reality for the Christian. Just follow the Apostle Paul when he says to die is gain. Who even says that? This is very strange language but very important for baked dirt ambassadors to grasp because we’re not home yet. But God has something for you to do until you get there. So what does God do for us? He gives us His guarantee, just look at what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:5:

Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

So our great God has done this by His Spirit which indwells in us and gave us the Spirit as a down payment and all the rest as it is recorded in Scripture. We have it by faith so it’s the idea of ownership and to be sealed as God marked us for His own. Of course the Spirit is the Pledge, the Guarantee, and the Down Payment for what is to come. The first araban means payment there which Paul uses to assure the recipient of the final payment in full. Paul again picks up that same theme in Ephesians 1:13-14 where it says:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise, who is a first installment of our inheritance, in regard to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

So it is part payment on the total obligation that we use the very expression of earnest money. This is the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts and is the witness of the Spirit that we are gods. He is not really talking about those who face eternity blindly or plunge to their doom with no thought of Christ. He is talking about the confidence in the face of eternity that is more real than things that are seen. We Christians have an assurance regarding death and eternity that no one else has. That means that the conduct that Christians are to have are much much different than would be expected. In fact, a third thing he tells us baked dirt people is that we have a courage. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9:

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.

We have boldness and confidence and that is in what God has already said in Scripture. Christians are armed with this revelation and can always be of good courage because truth gives us confidence to live each day. It also tells us that we ought to know as believers that we are only away from the Lord a little while. We as Christians are only on short trips here. We’ll be home sooner than we think.

A second thing a Christian knows is that they cannot go to be with the Lord while occupying these collapsible tents. This body belongs to us in the present state only for the time being and that also means that the only thing keeping us out of the Lord’s presence are these bodies. They have to be removed and they will be. I’m reminded of a true story of a Christian man who just retired from his job as an electrician at age 59. He was enjoying his first day of retirement and said to his wife that his first day was wonderful.

Well, a large branch from an oak tree fell on him and killed him that very day. What are we to think? Tragedy for his loved ones left behind. But looking at this incident through these Scriptures, for this man retirement continued in the presence of the Lord! How amazing is that?! That is seeing clearly but we don’t always see like that. As a matter of fact, our minds sometimes don’t even want to go there. A famous storybook character and I quote, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” Peter Pan said that.

Brethren, for a believer death is an awfully big adventure. Going from this temporal life to a new dwelling with the Lord in a place He prepared for us with a body He prepared for us is going to be the greatest adventure that we would ever experience. It seems like Peter Pan had good theology, wouldn’t you say? So why is this the way to think about death? Christians who vacate the body have a better portion that’s why. If you notice in 2 Corinthians 5:8 it says:

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

Our portion is that once we leave the body we will be at home with the Lord forever without change. Don’t get me wrong, Christians on the one hand desire to stay at home in the body because we are amongst our people and family and don’t want to leave them too soon. But on the other hand, as long as we remain here we are away from our other home with the Lord. We’re absent and to be away from one own’s people means that we are pilgrims, strangers, and living in aliens surroundings while absent from the Lord’s presence.

After awhile, you don’t want to be there anymore because the Lord is out of sight and we can’t see Him with our real eyes. But we will and that is the hope and encouragement that we have. Until that time Christians ought to know something else that their journey, while away from the blessed existence in the visible company of the Lord, is a faith journey and walk. That’s why it says in 2 Corinthians 5:7:

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Faith is better than sight while we are here on this earth. God has given us this faith that we are growing in. And we see the things not seen by faith. Someone made a great observation about faith, they said: “For this life faith is everything, the all sufficient substitute for sight.” Isn’t this what Jesus said to the disciples in John 20:29:

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you now believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Living by faith is the practice of seeing the eternal. It is a confidence in what will be and in the power, the presence, and the character of God. The patriarchs saw these things and it says in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

In Hebrews 11:6 it says:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

In Hebrews 11:13, it says:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

They believed in the One who promised! That is what Christians do. All those who live by faith will die in faith and by doing so, they will actually gain approval from God. While we walk on this earth, we actually lack sight. But what is quite amazing for the believer is that faith and sight have the same object: the Lord. By faith we know Him and see Him. We don’t walk around trusting in something that doesn’t exist or someone who doesn’t exist. What we long for will become a reality. What faith now embraces as being unseen, it shall presently embrace as seen. The thought that we Christians are approaching nearer and nearer to the Lord and will soon see Him face to face should make us ashamed to do anything displeasing to Him. It should move us to do everything that would be pleasing to the Lord and that is exactly what our text says, that we are living by faith but we’re also living in a way to please God. Notice what it says 2 Corinthians 5:9:

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

Are you pleasing to the Lord? The word ambition is really a good word but it misses something in the original because the original has to do with affection and honor. We’re pleasing to the Lord because we have an affectionate connection to Him. We honor Him and look at Him quite differently than before because we know more of who He is. So have you thought about your life in this way? We all ought to because it should be our driving ambition while we still occupy these bodies on earth for ways we can be pleasing to the Lord. And of course one way to be pleasing is to be ambassadors and witnesses for God on this side of eternity.

It should start right now if it hasn’t already. Christians should live each day knowing they are getting closer and closer to being face to face with the Lord. The next thing after death is the judgment seat of Christ. That’s why he says there will be a future evaluation of baked dirt which impacts all of us. There will be a future evaluation at the bema seat, the judgment seat of Christ. So that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in his body according to what he has done whether good or bad.

So in other words, we must take our Christian life seriously because we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. While no Christian will endure the wrath of God, because Christ has already done it in our place, our work will be tested by God’s fire. So with all the groanings and burdens we have while here, we must live before the eye of the One who matters the most: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Of course the phrase the judgment seat of Christ is a picture of the athletic games in the Greek culture in the New Testament world. After the games were concluded, a dignitary or the emperor himself took his seat on an elevated throne in an arena and one by one the winning athletes came up and received a reward, usually a wreath of leaves or a victor’s crown.

All believers will face an evaluation before Jesus. Every day we get up we must say to ourselves that we are God’s servants and it matters what we do in our bodies. We must say to ourselves that we are ambassadors for Christ and while on earth, we represent someone else, Christ in this world and country! We are aliens, foreigners, and strangers on earth while here. We are representatives of Christ’s Kingdom and this evaluation that baked dirt is going to go through is not to determine whether we enter Heaven or not. The issue of our eternal destiny was settled when we believed in Jesus and received eternal life by faith alone through His grace alone.

Also, we Christians will not face condemnation or punishment for our sin when we stand before Him. God has promised that no condemnation will ever fall on those who are in Christ by faith. The evaluation will focus on what we did in life after we trusted Christ and what we did with our gifts, resources, and opportunities. It will focus on what we gave God with our loves and whether we endeavored, though imperfectly, to please Him in all things.

The outcome of this evaluation will be reward or loss of reward. 1 Corinthians 3 tells us that we are a building on God’s construction project. The foundation of the building was set when Jesus died on the cross and each of us is building upon that foundation. Gold, silver, and costly stone refer to Christ honoring motives: personal integrity and joyful obedience. Wood, hay, straw, and stubble are perishable things and sinful pursuits. Selfish motives, pride-filled actions, and underhanded manipulations affect how we run our lives. We want to live in a pleasing manner.

Erwin Lutzer in his book, Your Eternal Reward wrote this, “Imagine staring into the face of Christ just the two of you, one on one. Your entire life is present before you. In a flash you see what He sees. No hiding, no opportunity to put a better spin on what you did, no attorney to represent you. The look in His eyes says at all. Like it or not, this is precisely where you and I shall be someday: standing before the Lord.” So you see baked dirt has burdens, desires, and they live in clay pots but they have responsibilities that God has given every single one of us as believers that we would live for Him.

Now if you today are seeking to serve God with commitment and in obedience, you are building with the right stuff. If you are coasting along with no desire for spiritual growth or demonstration of sacrificial ministry to others, you’re building on God’s house with wrong materials. Now if you are there in a permanent state, you may not be a believer at all. God knows we’re fragile as baked dirt, and He knows we need help that He has provided. He takes us from point A to point B to bring us into His presence. So my fellow Christian, the fact that we will be giving an account of our lives to christ should make us realize how serious the Lord is about how we live our lives as His children, knowing at the same time the promises that He has given us and the power He has given us to live the Christian life.

So God chose to carry out all gospel ministry through frail vessels like you and I. I wouldn’t have chosen that way but God did. He chose that way for one specific reason, that when things get done through our lives, people can’t point towards you but have to point to the power of God to give Him all the praise and glory. That’s what God does! Believe me, it’s counterintuitive to what we think as human beings but that’s what God does. So give yourself to the Lord, serve Him, and make it your ambition to please God in all you do. Believe me you will receive the blessing of God that only God can give and that’s the only way to live. Any conversation I have with believers all say in some way that it is great to be a Christian.

Somebody this morning asked me what their life would be if they weren’t a Christian. I don’t even want to think about that based on where I was when I became a believer. I would end up in a horrible place. God rescued us and put us in a place of blessing, joy, good encouragement, and He has given us a future that is already taken care of. Just serve Him while you are here. Let’s pray.

Lord, thank You this morning. Your goodness to us is beyond measure and Lord these Scriptures really do change our thinking about what’s next and what we ought to do. Lord, every single one of us here today have felt very often the weakness of the flesh. Sometimes we feel like we can’t even go on because of our weakness. But Lord, the burdens are different than we thought and the desires are different. The natural desire of a child of God is to want to be with Christ. So thank You for that Lord. While we are left here, let us be good ambassadors and representatives of the Kingdom of God. Let us do things with the motive of pleasing You. Lord, we know that we do that imperfectly but let us obey Your Spirit and that the Word of God would transform our minds so that we would know the good, the acceptable, and perfect will of God. And that we would go out to serve You with zeal and love. I pray this morning in the precious and great Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.