What Does it Mean to Be Absent From the Body and Present with the Lord?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A song goes:

One day Jesus will call my name As days go by, ‘hope I don’t stay the same. I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change, On that day that Jesus calls my name! -Phil McHugh, One Day Jesus Will Call my Name

This takes us head on to the point of a Scriptural passage that many Adventists shy away from.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 NKJV

Does this verse put us into defense mode? Do we feel pressured to explain what it is not saying? We should never study God’s word in defense mode. Acts 17:11commends people for searching the Scriptures with open minds, not defensive minds. So instead of getting defensive let’s look at what Paul is saying. I find the expression Paul uses being absent from the body and present with Christ similar to the same type expression he makes in Colossians.

For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, Colossians 2:5 NKJV

Paul is simply using a figure of speech as when he says absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

As I read all of 2 Corinthians, I seem to pick up on a theme, and it is not the state of the dead. The theme to me seems to be living in the Spirit as opposed to living in the flesh or the body. In 2 Corinthians 5 that theme is very apparent. For example,

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 NKJV

To me, Paul’s reference to being absent from the body and to be present with Christ is ongoing as we live on this earth. I see it here in Ephesians too.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV

To be present with Christ, and to sit together with Him in heavenly places would be the same, and is a currently ongoing process. In all of Paul’s writings he talks about living in the Spirit as opposed to living in the flesh. I see 2 Corinthians 5 as a continuation of his theme. Paul is describing the life in the flesh or body which separates us from Christ, as opposed to living by faith and being present with Christ right here on earth. He goes on in verse 17 and describes a new creation right here on earth.

This leads me back to the point of  Phil’s song, I want to be so close to Jesus now that it is no big change when He comes.  2 Corinthians 5 is teaching us to crucify the flesh, and live with Christ here on earth. Paul strongly hits this point again in Titus.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 and again in Titus 2:11-14 grace changes us right here on earth in the present age. And it is because of this that we look forward to Jesus’ glorious appearing.

I am in my 50’s now, and to be honest, when I was young I thought I would be a lot more like Jesus by now. I know it’s possible for me to be more like Jesus, because I see people half my age or less, who haven’t known Jesus a fraction of the time I have, and yet they are way so much more like Jesus than I am! But instead of comparing myself to others and getting discouraged I stay focused on Jesus.

forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

I know Jesus loves me, and I keep my eyes focused on Him as His grace draws me closer to Him day by day. The Scriptures describe how Jesus’ coming will drastically change the world with earthquakes and islands and mountains falling into the sea. But the plan is that it won’t change me much. I left the flesh when I was baptized and crucified to self.The plan is, that long before the second coming it will be seen that every day I am not living in the body or flesh, but in the Spirit as I practice the presence of Jesus. See Romans 6:3-6 and Luke 9:23. My heart is not with my body. My heart is already with Christ. When Jesus comes I will continue in eternity the life Jesus began for me here on earth. Today I want to crucify the flesh and be absent from the body and live with Christ here today as well as in heaven after Jesus comes.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Why I Can’t Believe in Myself

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was having a conversation with a young man who was studying eastern religions. He asked me about my faith so I told Him I believed in Jesus. “But this faith in Jesus leads you to believe in yourself, right?” He asked. “No.” I said. “It actually makes me not believe in myself at all. Only in Jesus.” The young man did even try to hide his scowl, and as to this date has not wanted to hear anymore about my faith.  Apparently believing in yourself is very important to this young man, but how can I believe in myself, when I know all too well what Paul confesses?

 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18 NKJV

Hard for me to believe in something where nothing good dwells.

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:23-24 NKJV

Romans 7 knows me all too well. This is why I wrote in a previous article, “The Bible is the only book that knows me.” But there is hope! Not in me but in Jesus.

 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:25 NKJV

My mind wants to serve God but my flesh wants to serve sin. So what is the solution? Paul shares the solution in chapter 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NKJV

Jesus took my flesh with nothing good in it and crucified it. Now I can walk in the spirit and the law of love can be fulfilled in me.

 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NKJV

In the physical world one must be born before they can die. In the Spiritual world one must die before they can be born.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17 NKJV

When the Spirit wars against the flesh is it the good things or the bad things we cannot do? Which is stronger? The Holy Spirit or the flesh? The previous verse makes it obvious.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NLT

So if I walk in the Spirit I have victory over the flesh. Why do I need victory over my flesh? Why can’t I believe in my own flesh like my friend wanted me to? Let’s examine the works of the flesh and see how many of them are good things that I can believe in.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV 

Eeeww, I didn’t find anything good in there, did you? No wonder Jesus had to crucify my flesh on the cross, and I must crucify it daily. See Luke 9:23 You may ask how does one crucify the flesh? To be honest, I don’t know! Good thing Jesus took my flesh to the cross and did it for me! When I look at the cross the pride of the flesh dies.

For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. Galatians 6:13-15 NKJV

Its impossible to look at the cross and glory in my flesh.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. -Isaac Watts

What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. -Ellen White, Faith I Live by, Page, 111

Now that my glory is laid in the dust look at what is possible.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV

 Notice while these fruits of the Spirit are seen in my life, they are not my works! We saw earlier how disgusting all my works are. No, these are not the results of my works, they are the result of the Holy Spirit living in me and producing His own fruit. 

When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 676 

See why I told my friend the answer is not for me to believe in myself?

 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3 NKJV

The circumcision are those like Abraham, who stopped trusting his flesh to produce the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce. God had Abraham put away the part of the flesh he was trusting in so He could trust God’s promises instead. I pray God will give me another opportunity to talk to my friend again, so I can explain all that is possible when we stop believing in ourselves and believe in Jesus. Then again, the Holy Spirit can have anybody explain that to him. What the Holy Spirit does in me He can do in anyone. After all, its not me working. It is the fruit of Spirit.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here.