Our Dwelling Place
By Mary Kroeger and Bev Lewis
“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. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 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. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and 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 of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:1-8)
Although this passage is frequently quoted at funerals, let’s take another look at it and let the Spirit of truth bring us a deeper revelation.
In this scripture passage Paul is contrasting the temporal with the eternal, the natural with the spiritual just as he has been doing in chapters 3 and 4. Our earthly tent is contrasted with our house from heaven – a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. This building is our home. A dwelling place is not a hotel or a temporal shelter. It is a home - a place of relationship and love. It is a place where we are fed and cared for; a place where we can rest and enjoy ourselves!
Our “tent” symbolizes our natural thinking. A tent cannot shelter us from all the storms of life. It does not have the permanency of a house that is built on a sure foundation. It does not have the beauty and comforts of a house. If we live in our tent of natural thinking, groaning and dissatisfaction will take place because there will be discomfort and a desire for something better. Our natural mind is always against the will of God. On the one hand, it flatters the pride resident in our humanity, and on the other hand, it keeps account of failures and delights in accusations. It tells us that we should do more good things, attend more meetings, get more involved in ministry, etc. In its inability to find peace and rest, it consoles itself with the thought that it will obtain all it wants after physical death. There in heaven, in glory land it will enjoy pleasures for ever more. For the present, the tent will have to do.
Despite the discomforts resident in our 'tent,' that is our natural thinking, feelings, perceptions and attitudes, there is the comfort of familiarity and predictability. We like to make decisions based on what feels right to us rather than hearing from God and obeying Him. Our way is faster and feels right. It is acceptable to those around us. To be released from all that is familiar makes us feel naked or out of control. Control is so important to the natural mind!
The transition out of our tent of self-reliance to our home in Christ is a bumpy one. We long to move into our heavenly dwelling where God governs, but stressful situations seem to demand instant attention. This triggers an automatic response to the familiarity and predictability of our own perceptions and ways. We feel that it takes too long to hear from God before acting on the situation. Also, we often don't trust Him to be able to get His message across to us. Obeying our natural thinking is quick but keeps us bound to our tent life.
The thought of moving out of our home in the body is accompanied with fear. We fear that the desires and pleasures that we treasure won't be acceptable in our 'home with the Lord'. We fear our loss of control. We are afraid that God will not do our will. It's scary to let go of the old nature. Tent dwellers know things about God, but they have not experienced intimacy with Him.
To be at 'home' means to be among one's own people. It may take a bit of time until we feel at home with our new nature that loves the home
where God governs. Old ideas and old feelings have to be overcome in order to become comfortable in our home with the Lord. When we are at home with the Lord He becomes our identity, our comfort and the source of all we do. He is also the source of our pleasures and joys.
Many think that this passage is contrasting life on earth and our home after physical death. However, I do not believe that this was Paul's intent. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says he is crucified with Christ. He no longer lives but Christ lives in him. So clearly Paul was not away from the Lord while he was in his human body. His new home was Christ! He had moved out of his home of traditions and self-effort where he was 'away from the Lord'! We too have to move out of the rule of our carnal mind and let Christ be our rule! He is our new home!
In Ephesians 2:6 it says that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ. He goes on to say that in Him we are being built together to be a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. (Read Eph. 2:14-21) This is all for the present time, while we are in this body. If we are away from the Lord while we are in our physical body, Christ, our hope of glory, cannot reside in us at this present time. If we relegate being 'with the Lord' to after the death of the physical body, we miss out on so much.
In 2 Corinthians 5:5-21 Paul talks about no longer regarding ourselves and each other according to the flesh. How profound it is to walk on earth being aware of the fact that we are at home in our new dwelling place! We no longer see a ourselves according to appearances (sight) but according to God's revelation (faith).
Paul says that if our earthly house is torn down we have a house not built with hands. He says that we have it! It is a present possession, but we have to put it on! We have to live in this house at the present time! Having it is not enough; it needs to be enjoyed. We need to move into our wonderful home! How do we do that? To possess it we need a key that will open the door. This key is called faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. Walking by sight belongs to the tent inhabitants, for they cannot leave their natural thinking. This keeps them from rising into a higher realm – to their home in Christ. To make that move, the natural, the mortal, has to be swallowed up by life! That which is swallowed up is no longer in the seen realm.
Christ is the life that swallows the mortal! In Romans 13:14 we read, “But be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not listen to the flesh to fulfill its desires.” Our life in Christ is a life of faith! Walking in the obedience of faith eliminates a walk ruled by our natural senses! We are spiritual beings, born of the Spirit, born from above, and thus need a dwelling in the spiritual realm – a house not made with hands! Christ is that house!
In John 14 Jesus said that He was going to prepare a dwelling place, an abiding place for us so we could be where He is! He said, “Where I am you may be also.” Where was He at the time He said that? He was on earth, in a relationship of obedience, love, and feeling at home with the Father! This is what He wants for all of us while we are living on planet earth.
In chapter 15 Jesus explained that this dwelling place is in Himself! He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The branches have their home in the vine. What a fantastic dwelling place! Our home is rooted in the very life that Christ is! His life becomes our life, and His life produces the fruit of the Spirit in us. He has become our righteousness, our resting place and our home!
Not all Christians have discovered their true home, so they feel at home in their self-effort. They want to please God by doing good things for Him, and pride themselves in their accomplishments, their IQ, their good works, etc. Some even feel at home in their negatives - such as their fears, discouragements and general complaints about life and the state of the world. Feeling at home in their life of self-effort may bring satisfaction for awhile, but deep within there is a longing and groaning for something better. Those who feel at home in their own ideas of pleasing the Lord, do not realize that their own ideas do not have their source in the Lord. Therefore they are operating in absence from the Lord.
This brings to light a very important principle. The religious, natural mind can never be at home with the Lord, for it is always AGAINST the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-17) The religious mind is one of deception, so it weaves its own clothes - clothes of unrighteousness that have the appearance of righteousness. Since deception flows out of the carnal mind, it can never be at home with truth! Only the mind of Christ can please God! It functions in obedience, so Christ is the source of its works!
In our zealousness to please the Lord we often do not think of the source of these works, so an unhealthy marriage takes place. Instead of being led by the Holy Spirit in all we do, we listen to our carnal mind and resort to works that seem good to us. It constantly accuses us, make us feel guilty, and tells us that we can earn God’s favor. At other times it will flatter us and tell us that we deserve better than what God is handing out to us. It tells us lies about ourselves and about God. If we obey that voice, we function in a mixture of truth and lies, and we are unequally yoked with the carnal mind. This brings us into turmoil and guilt. Instead of enjoying the forgiveness and no condemnation that is ours in Christ, we are continually striving to obtain what Christ says we have in Him.
The mind of Christ functions in obedience to the Father’s instructions, and has faith in the promises of God! As we function in His mind, we will feel at home with the Lord! We will feel the comfort of His presence and the peace that comes as we rely on His ability to do His work in and through us! We will enjoy our intimacy with Him and enjoy being at home with Him!
Union with Christ takes place when His life becomes our life! In the security of this knowledge, we can go out to do the Father’s bidding! His life in us is protecting us from embracing wrong thoughts. His life flowing into us will produce the fruit of the Spirit, and that fruit will enrich the lives of others!