Our Atonement Today

A blessed Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement to you all. Earlier this month, I subscribed to Bible Gateway’s newsletter Holy Land Moments with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. It’s described as a way to learn about the Jewish background of Scripture by exploring the High Holy Days.

I’m finding it fascinating. I grew up keeping these Holy Days, but not always with much understanding of the Jewish perspective on them. While some of the Jewish tradition doesn’t relate to Christian observance of these days, they often teach a perspective that deepens my understanding. Take the Days of Awe for example. Using the 10 days between Trumpets and Atonement for self-reflection and repentance deepens the meaning of and my engagement with this holy time. And sometimes, the Jewish perspective sparks a thought about how my Christian perspective differs, such as today’s comment in the Holy Land Moments newsletter:

The central part of the Yom Kippur service is missing today. Chapter 16 of Leviticus is dedicated to the description and instructions for the Yom Kippur service that was performed when the Tabernacle and later the Temples stood. Today, we no longer have a high priest, nor do we participate in ritual sacrifices. So how do we achieve atonement?

Those who believe Messiah has come have a different answer to this question than those who don’t. Rabbi Eckstein writes,”There are three keys that take the place of the service performed in biblical times” and they “can undo our wrongdoings and change things for the better.” These things are “repentance, prayer, and charity.”

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While those things are important, I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord that I’m not trying to atone for myself. There’s no way I could ever do enough or be good enough to undo my own sins. Today, we do have a High Priest and He has filled the ritual sacrifices with His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 7:23-28). The “central part” of Yom Kippur isn’t missing for Christians who keep this Holy Day — it’s more real than ever. Read more

Consider the High Priest

In Hebrews 3:1, the writer tells his “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” The word “consider” invites us to “observe fully” (Strong’s G2657) and “fix one’s eyes or mind upon” Jesus (Thayers). That’s what we did in last week’s post for His role as Apostle, and what I hope to do this week for His role as High Priest.

Consider the High Priest | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Changed Priesthood

Christ’s priesthood is “after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s a key point in Hebrews’ discussion of Christ as our High Priest, even though we know very little about Melchizedek from his 3-verse appearance in the Torah. Read more

Giving God More Than The Leftovers (Lessons from Malachi)

In most Bibles, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, leading directly into the Gospels. It’s an intensely personal book where the Lord challenges His people regarding the way they worship Him. This happened some time after the temple rebuilding described in Haggai and Zechariah — long enough for the spirit of revival to wear off and the people to grow lax in their worship.

Malachi’s call to return to God comes before the first coming of Christ, but it’s equally relevant as we wait for His second coming. Like Israel at this time, we could slip into lax, lukewarm worship that doesn’t honor God and won’t qualify us to live in His family.

Honoring God

God opens this book with the words, “I have loved you.” He’s writing a letter to Israel, and that’s the first thing He says. The very next thing is Israel’s question, “In what way have You loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). It’s a common, heart-breaking theme in the scriptures — God loves us, but we don’t love Him back and we won’t even admit the problem is ours.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” says the Lord of hosts. (Mal 1:6-8)

When we offer God our time, money, and/or efforts on a level that wouldn’t be acceptable to other humans, we’re demonstrating contempt for God. If you rush through prayer in a way that would be rude if you called up your Dad on the phone, then you dishonor God. If you volunteer to help out with something at church and turn in a performance that wouldn’t be good enough for your boss at work, you dishonor God. He deserves our best, not our leftovers.

You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ and you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord. “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished — for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations. (Mal. 1:13-14)

We know from the story of the widow’s mite that God respects sincere offerings, however small. But we also know from the story of Ananias and Sapphira that pretending to give God one thing and then trying to slip in something of lesser value is abhorrent to Him.

Warnings for Priests

Malachi's Message | marissabaker.wordpress.comI think about this when I see a minister stand up in front of his congregation and say he just pulled an old message out of his files for today. A message about one of your old messages, which you freely admit you just cycle through every once in a while, just doesn’t seem like giving God your best. It’s something we all have to beware of — any time we set things we’re doing for God at a lower priority we’ve fallen into a dangerous attitude.

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.” (Mal. 2:1-2)

These messages to priests can apply to all of us. After all, Peter tells use we’re a “priesthood” being built up to serve God (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). However, the warnings are more serious the more responsibility a person has in the household of God. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.” (Mal. 2:7-9)

God has little patience for leadership that fails His people, as evidenced by Jesus Christ’s reaction to the scribes and Pharisees. He even said if we can’t do better than the religious leaders of His day, then we will not enter God’s kingdom (Matt 5:20). These were people who memorized the Old Testament, tithed regularly, and were held in high regard for their religious learning, yet Jesus said that people like them won’t be part of His family because their attitudes were wrong.

Doing Better

So much of the minor prophets’ messages to ancient Israel put me in mind of our nation today. We started out with at least the intention of being a Godly country, but we don’t even a have that any more. In addition, many of the churches have become slack in keeping the law of God.

Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ in tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” (Matt. 3:7-9)

When we turn away and refuse to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21), we bring a curse on ourselves. To do better and “return to God,” we have to turn completely away from sin and start serving God.

We live in a world that says evil is good (Mal. 2:17), that boasts of pride and wickedness (Mal. 3:15), oppresses the innocent, and regards not God (Mal. 3:5). Our lives as part of God’s church — His temple — must be a sharp contrast to this attitude.

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Mal. 3:1-3)

God’s not going to let His people stay polluted by the world. I believe this prophecy is being fulfilled now — that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, is in His temple right now purifying His servants. If we learn through this refining process to serve God in righteousness, we will be part of His family. We have to acknowledge our shame and guilt, turn around, and begin serving God as we never have before. We need to stop being scared and live boldly for Jesus, meeting together to encourage each other and built up the temple.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Mal. 3:16-18)

How To Clean A Temple

We’ve talked about how to build up spiritual temples and the fact that the churches today need a good temple cleaning, but not much about the practical how-to for cleaning temples. Back when there was a physical temple standing, God gave specific instructions about how to purify the temple and clean it when things got dirty. You couldn’t just throw some soapy water across the floor and say, “Clean!” Today, we are the temple of God, and He has set in place ways of cleaning us out as well.

How To Clean A Temple| marissabaker.wordpress.com

Step One: Clear Out Junk

One of the most complete Old Testaments accounts we have of cleansing a temple took place in the days of king Hezekiah.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. (2 Chr. 29:3-7)

And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord. Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the Lord to the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron.
Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. So they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.
Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offerings with all its articles, and the table of the showbread with all its articles. Moreover all the articles which King Ahaz in his reign had cast aside in his transgression we have prepared and sanctified; and there they are, before the altar of the Lord.” (2 Chr. 29:15-19)

I find it very interesting that, in addition to purifying the house and cleansing it (presumably with water and blood) the priests had to carry out debris and rubbish. There were things inside the temple defiling it that needed to be thrown out before the other purification could take place.

This puts me in mind of two incidents that took place during Jesus’ ministry. In several Bibles I’ve read, the section heading here reads “Jesus Cleanses The Temple.”

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (John 2:13-17)

This happened in John chapter 2, at the first Passover during Jesus’ ministry. That means one of the very first things He did as part of His ministry was throw certain things and people out of God’s temple. It was a pivotal moment, and it didn’t just happen once. A very similar incident occurs right before His last Passover.

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Matt. 21:12-13)

Look how important this was to Jesus. He made a whip to drive out sheep, oxen and people. He poured the exchangers’ money onto the floor, and threw tables over. He probably raised His voice as He ordered out people who’d made His father’s house a vehicle for personal gain. He spent the time leading up to two Passovers before His sacrifice, which fulfilled all the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament, throwing defiling elements out of the temple.

Is there anything that needs thrown out of our lives before God can really start to work with us? The temple today is in our minds, so that’s where we need to look. Anything inside us that is crowding God out of His temple must be thrown out. Jesus can help with that if we ask Him, but – like the priests in Hezekiah’s day – we have to be willing to carry out the rubbish and dump it somewhere it won’t come back.

Step Two: Apply The Blood

Back in the Old Testament, the physical temple had to be cleaned and purified before God would put His presence there. Even when the first tabernacle was built and things started out exactly as God commanded, purification was a daily necessity. I suspect this was because people were involved, and no matter how hard we try we still can’t keep things clean enough for God on our own.

And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it. (Ex. 29:36)

As Israel fell into sin, the temple was often neglected. Throughout history, it was forgotten by Israel, defiled with idols, and ravaged by conquers. Whenever Israel came back to God, the temple needed fresh purification.

Thus says the Lord God: “In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a young bull without blemish and cleanse the sanctuary. The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and on the gateposts of the gate of the inner court. And so you shall do on the seventh day of the month for everyone who has sinned unintentionally or in ignorance. Thus you shall make atonement for the temple. (Ezk. 45:18-20)

The animal sacrifices used to purify the physical temple were a stand-in pointing to how Jesus’s sacrifice would purify His people. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins,” but Jesus was able with one offering” to have “perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:4, 14).

Remember that the tabernacle and then the temple layouts were divided into different sections. In the book of Hebrews, it talks about how there was a main section of the tabernacle where the priests served throughout the year, and then the Holy of Holies which the high priest could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience — concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. (Heb. 9:6-10)

What’s really interesting is that in the Greek, there’s one word to describe the entire temple complex and another word to describe the inner sanctuary or Holy of Holies. It’s this second word, naos, which is used when talking about us as the temple of God. The book of Hebrews tells us there is a spiritual version of the Holy of Holies in heaven, where Christ presented His blood to atone for our sins, but each Christian today is also a type of spiritual Holy of Holies.

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. 9:22-26)

The high priest was the only one ever allowed into the Holy of Holies, just as Jesus Christ was the only one who could clean the spiritual temple. The law requires blood purification of holy things, and Jesus is the only one who’s blood is precious enough to cleans a polluted spiritual temple. Accepting Him as our Savior and asking Him to wash away our sins is a vital step in cleaning the spiritual temple.

Step Three: Keep Scrubbing

As the great High Priest over the church today, Jesus is the only one with a right to come into the temple and clean it out. We can help as best we can, but we must never forget that He’s the one doing the cleansing. It was His sacrifice that removed sin once and for all, and He’s the one continually working to clean His people.

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. (Tit. 2:13-14)

John the Baptist testified of Jesus Christ that He would baptize His people “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). When we accept Jesus Christ as our savior and are baptized in His name, we’re washed with His blood and covered in the spirit of God. That’s just the beginning of our purification process, though.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)

The church today is God’s temple – His personal dwelling place – and we must do all we can to set it to rights by working on ourselves individually and collectively under the Headship of our High Priest Jesus Christ. The closer we draw to Christ and the more we point others to Him, the cleaner this temple will get.

Back in the Old Testament, the priests were assisted by Levites whose “duty was to help the sons of Aaron in the service of the house of the Lord, in the courts and in the chambers, in the purifying of all holy things and the work of the service of the house of God” (1 Chr. 23:28). This was supposed to keep happening on a continual basis. In much the same way, we have to continue repenting when we fall short and continue submitting to the refining process Christ is accomplishing in our lives.

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Obstacles To Temple Building (Lessons from Haggai, part three)

Both letters to the Corinthian church remind them, “You are the temple of God.” Each member of Christ’s church is a temple, and we’re being built up into a spiritual house of God. This applies to the body as a whole, as well as to individuals.

We’ve been spending time in the book of Haggai the past couple weeks, talking about God’s challenge to the people who were neglecting His temple and what we can do about building up the temple we have today. Like those of us in the modern churches of God, the people of Haggai’s time faced a number obstacles to temple building. They let these obstacles discourage them for many years, but it turns out they weren’t really anything to worry about. Once the people turned back to God and started working on what He commanded, the obstacles didn’t seem so significant.

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Droughts

This isn’t so much an obstacle as it is a result of neglecting the temple in the first place. God tells the people their lives lacked good things “because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house” (Hag. 1:9).

Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Hag. 1:10-11)

Confronted with these struggles, the people might have said, “We can’t build God’s house while so many bad things are happening.” It would have been an understandable reaction from a human perspective. Nothing we do is bearing fruit, so why bother with the temple? God wouldn’t be happy if that falls apart like everything else. But in reality, all the problems they were seeing came as a result of neglecting the temple.

In our own lives, we often find ourselves discouraged from contributing in our local churches, or distracted by other worries from building-up the people around us. We might think we have very little time or ability to contribute to  God’s temple because there’s so much other stuff going on, and often going wrong. In reality, if we prioritize God’s temple, the other things in our lives will start to fall into place (or at least get easier to deal with because we have God on our side).

Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.” So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God (Hag. 1:13-14)

We need to let God “stir up” our spirits. Focusing only on things that are going wrong in our lives, and then trying to fix them without working on God’s temple, is just going to make things worse.

Comparisons

The previous temple had been the one built by Solomon. Physically speaking, it was the most glorious temple ever built for God. The people working on this new temple knew they couldn’t approach that magnificence, and it was discouraging.

Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ (Hag. 2:3-5)

You’ll hear something similar today in the church – people looking back to a time when the church was larger, or had more money, or seemed more influential, or had more respect in U.S. Culture. But God doesn’t want His people looking backwards except for productive reasons.

We can learn from past mistakes or take encouragement from past examples of God’s goodness, but being paralyzed in the present because you’re living in the past is unacceptable. God is moving us toward a great and glorious future, and that’s where we must look if we want His blessing now as we build the temples of our lives and churches.

Unstable Foundations

Whatever you’re building, it has to start with a firm foundation. The temple of God is no exception.

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:6-9)

These passages are prophetic, reaching beyond the completion of that physical temple to a new house constructed by God Himself. Part of it is being fulfilled today, as we are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), and part will be fulfilled in the future.

but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:26-29)

The author of Hebrews looked back to these verses in Haggai when talking about our future kingdom. To get there, we’re going to have to go through “shakings.” In my Messianic congregation, the Rabbi has given several messages where he reminds us that “everything which can be shaken will be shaken.” In other words, things that are not firmly grounded on Jesus Christ will topple over.

Unclean Hearts

Sometimes, we ourselves can be the obstacles standing in the way of building up a people that glorifies God. Other people can also act as obstacles, of course, but we have to be very careful to make sure we’ve gotten any beams out of our own eyes before trying to pick slivers out of someone else. We must examine our own hearts for uncleanness before we can hope to help others who are engaged in temple building.

And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord – since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord. (Hag. 2:13-17)

This takes us right back to where we started this chapter. If bad things are happening in our lives, it should prompt us to engage in self-examination and turn back to God – not stop building up God’s house.

What sort of things do you see holding the church back from growth? what steps could we take to overcome them?

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credits for photos used in blog images:

  • Roadblock” by Greg Westfall, CC BY via Flickr
  • Roadblock” by Olle Svensson, CC BY via Flickr

Building Up Temples (Lessons from Haggai, part two)

Inspired by Haggai’s message to those rebuilding the temple in 520 B.C., we started a conversation about the state of the church in last week’s post. Via Haggai’s prophecy, God challenged His people about their choice to neglect rebuilding His temple. Sadly, today, there is a similar neglect in building up the individuals in God’s church, who are described as His temple. We talked about that last week, though. This week, we’re going to talk about what to do about it.

Edification

Having challenged the people with their lack of productivity, God again asks them to consider their ways.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. (Hag. 1:7-9)

For us in the spiritual temple, we need to be careful to maintain a balance between individual growth and serving the body. Though our lives depend on developing a close, personal relationship with God, He never intended for us to act in isolation. Rather, the more we become like Christ, the more we should want to serve our brethren. Focusing only on building your own house is selfish, and is not pleasing to God.

In the Greek New Testament, every time we’re told to edify one another, it’s related to the idea of building a house. The Greek word for house is oikos (G3624), and it’s the root word for oikodomeo (G3618). This word literally means “to be a house builder,” and is translated “build,” “edify,” and “embolden.” This connection even exists in English – the word “edify” is related to “edifice.”

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

We know Jesus is ultimately the Builder who is creating His church (Matt. 16:18). He builds the house, has more glory than the house, and rules us “as a son over His own house” (Heb. 3:1-6). He does, however, have people within the house working with Him as He builds us up.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:9-11)

This principle works on an individual as well as a group level. You are a temple of God, and you are part of the House of God. Everything that you build must be founded on Jesus Christ, or it’s not going to last. In contrast, if we commit to building up God’s temple properly, He will be pleased and glorified. As we talked about last week, it’s not just the responsibility of people in leadership positions, either. We’re all to be teaching and building up one another.
Building Up Temples | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Where to Build?

Any good building has to start with a good foundation. With God’s spirit in us and the Son of God as our foundation, we have all the tools we need to build well in the eyes of God. He’s given us the opportunity to build something glorious, if we’ll take it.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:11-13)

We get out of our walk with God what we put into it. If we give Him the perishable, useless stuff of our lives – the stubble left over after we do what we want – then our house will burn back down to the foundation and we’ll have to start over. But if we give Him our best, we will endure and be rewarded.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:14-16)

God’s glory once filled the tabernacle and the physical temples, and He wants to fill His temple today as well. But He won’t dwell in a defiled, falling-apart temple. It is our responsibility as His temples and as His church to put our best effort into making this building something fit for God’s use.

What Next?

I don’t want to end this post without actually giving some practical steps we can take to help rebuild God’s temple. Principles are good, but what does it really look like to edify other people and to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ?

  • Don’t shy away from talking about spiritual things. There’s often a tendency when we get together for church to chat, gossip, and just share what’s been going on since we saw each other last. But if we’re there with people who love God to honor God, we should be talking about Him at least a little, right?
  • Avoid negativity whenever possible. If you’ve had a terrible week and you need to vent, go ahead and give people the opportunity to comfort and encourage you. But if everything coming out of your mouth is critical, complaining, or pessimistic you’re not helping anyone (including yourself). It takes about 5 positive comments to balance out 1 negative remark. What ratio are you offering God’s temple?
  • Stop thinking small in terms of what the church is. The church isn’t United Church of God, or Living Church of God or whatever your local church calls itself. The church is every individual within the Body of Christ, and that’s where we need to be serving and edifying.
  • Study the Bible, especially Jesus Christ’s example. Corporate growth starts with individual growth, and individual growth starts with developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the foundation we have to build on, and the One who builds us up.

What would you add to this list? please share in the comments below!

Building Up Temples | marissabaker.wordpress.com

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