The Final Countdown 3. God’s Guarantee
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. 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.” 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. 1. 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 a deposit so that the seller knows we are serious. Once the contract has been accepted, if we change our minds, we lose the deposit. 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. Financial advisors 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 chequebook 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. 2. 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 of you may have had that happen. Maybe you thought a certain house would be perfect so you put down a deposit 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. 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. 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. We have many blessings from God, and what we have received is only a fraction of what God intends to shower upon us. 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. 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.” 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. 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. No marriage can survive unless two people take deep pleasure in each other. 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. 3. God’s Intention 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. “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. 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. 4. 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. What will happen when we die? Humanly speaking, we will have a funeral and be buried or cremated. That’s what we do when people die. Is that it? Is that the end? Hindus practice cremation. 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 believe in the resurrection of the body. 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. 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. We believe in resurrection, not reincarnation. I won’t come back as someone else or something else. I’ll be raised as William Davies 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 me, 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). 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. 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 fulfilment of every part of every promise. The Holy Spirit is the “first instalment” 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.