Occasional editorials written since 2001 

Passion yes, aggression no. Harry Potter All roads lead to God?  
Value of a soul. Homosexuality Passion of the Christ
Islam and Christianity  Love not the world Persecution coming
Biblical or secular worldview? Freewill offering Letter or Spirit?
Faith The sacred and non-sacred Test your self
Discernment The gospel of me Repentance
Sinking sand That awful four letter word Sin
When God offends. Walls, gates and electric fences The curse of pornography
Gender confusion    

 

The sacred and non-sacred

It is easy for our understanding to veer slightly left or right of Kingdom truth without realising it.

Then as we continually lavish plenty of spiritual words and phrases upon that misunderstanding it solidifies into absolute truth within our thinking.

It can seem so right. And yet be so wrong, producing unfortunate consequences.

Let me explain.

It is common for our church building to be referred to as 'The House of God'

"Welcome to God's House sir"

"Let us stand and worship in God's great House this morning"

We might sing praise and worship songs which refer to God's House as being the building we are worshipping in.

"..come and move in this your dwelling place"

Now, while there is a flavour of truth in this understanding - since it is a building set apart for God, dedicated to God, and we dearly trust will be used by God - it is actually not scriptural. 

The church building is made with hands.

It can get dry rot, be burnt down. Fall down. Be blown down. Eventually maybe be sold and become a restaurant.

It is a building commonly used for preaching, teaching, fellowship, ministry etc, but it is not 'God's House' in the sense that He lives there. It is not His 'dwelling place'.

Is this an important point?

It is vitally important, as we will shortly see.

But back to the building made with hands.

The accurate Old Testament understanding was that God dwelt first in the tabernacle and then in the temple, behind a veil, and that dwelling place was sacred. Only the High Priest could enter and that once a year after much ritual cleansing. No one would dare to defile that temple, because God dwelt there.

The understanding was that God dwelt in heaven of course,

Hear in heaven Your dwelling place;... 1st Kings 8:30

..and at a fixed location on earth.

They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem 1st Chronicles 6:32

Jesus referred to that fixed location of the temple in Jerusalem as His Father's house.

Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” John 2:16

However, this was but the shadow of what was to come.  A physical picture to illustrate the spiritual.

Jesus spoke to the Jews saying that if the physical temple was destroyed - which it was eventually - He would raise it up in three days. What was He talking about? It was the new understanding.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. John 2:21

The place - the temple - became a Person. Jesus became the 'place' to meet with God. Jesus became the 'place' appointed by God.

Calvary changed everything, for ever.

The temple veil was torn from top to bottom. And soon that great physical temple was brought to ruin, and to this day lies as a ruin.

Not only could man go in through the torn veil, but God could 'come out!'

With Christ as the Head the whole worldwide church became the body of Christ, the 'house of God' or 'My Father's House'

...by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God. Hebrews 10:21-22

In the New Testament there was never again the sense of a particular place being designated as the dwelling place of God. 

The Holy Spirit made sure that the correct New Covenant Kingdom understanding was written into the New Testament.

In Stephen's great speech, recorded for us before he was martyred, we read..

It was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?' Acts 7:47 - 50

Paul talking to the Greeks in the great city of Athens emphasized this again..

"God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands". Acts 17:24

So if God does not dwell in buildings, even magnificent temples, made with hands, where does He dwell.

The truth we know, and yet somehow we miss it.

He dwells in you and I. We became 'the temple of His body'

When we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit (God) who comes to live in us as His Holy temple.

"He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit". John 20:22

"Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit". Acts 8:17

Paul had to write to the church at Corinth and remind them of this great truth..

"..you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “ I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16

Wow!  God will dwell in us and among us. He is no longer 'confined' into a Holy building made with hands where we go to meet Him. He has come out to meet with us.

 

Christ is 'in us' and us 'in Christ'.

As a Christian, God's Spirit dwells within you and me, and the 'church' is wherever we, the household of God may gather at any moment in time.

"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 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'. Ephesians 2:19 - 22

 

WE are corporately as well as individually His sacred dwelling place, and if anyone defiles this corporate dwelling place, then he or she will have God to contend with.

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17

Therefore wherever Christians gather together in Jesus' Name can be referred to as a the household of God, or as the church, but only because the people are there. In most places in the New Testament the word "ekklesia" (church) refers to a local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ and should be accurately translated "assembly" or "congregation."

Physically that meeting place where the believers assemble or congregate can be a house, a jail, a beach, a rooftop, a magnificent house, a cathedral, a gospel hall, a mud hut, a tent, a rented hotel room or a mountainside.

Thus,"we, His dwelling place" is more scripturally appropriate than 'this His dwelling place'

When believer's meet in His Name He, Immanuel, - the temple, the tabernacle - is there. We meet God in Him and through Him.  We can truly move the physical worship to the spiritual and say,

How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! Psalm 84:1

Instead of our prayer requests going to God by being pressed into a physical temple wall, (as the Jews still do to this day) we bring our prayer requests to God by 'pressing into' Jesus.

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13

This is truly a hard mind-set to break. 

We, the Christian Restoration in Ireland team, worship, teach, disciple, minister and have fellowship with believers in many places in Southern Ireland, such as a hotel ballroom, a converted garage, or a large rented ex-bed and breakfast house yet none of us would instinctively refer to it as church ("ekklesia" ) because we have been trained to think of those terms as applying only to Sunday's physical venue.

As a team we have been meeting in an upper room in a large farm house for worship, teaching, prayer ministry, discipleship training, breaking of bread and fellowship for more than twelve years, yet it would never naturally enter our minds to even call it 'church' because we have been trained to think of  'church' as only happening at the venue where we go to on Sundays. Yet it is church. The New Testament church. We the believers are God's dwelling place.

"...when you come together as a church"  1 Corinthians 11:18

To sum it up, God is 'out and about', wherever believers are. Especially where they 'come together'.

He is not sitting waiting for us in 'His House' at the Sunday venue.

 

Again I ask, is this important?

Yes it is, because so often we live our lives as if they were divided into the sacred and non sacred. That's dualism, the fruit of Plato-ism. The early Greek and now the western mind-set.

For instance, a man might speak graciously to his wife in a certain way because on Sunday they are in 'God's House', then the moment he exits the door he might feel free to talk to her in a less honouring way because they were now out of God's House.

A woman might not indulge in gossip or grumbling and complaining while in Church because she is aware that she was in God's House, yet on returning to life outside she might give free reign to all these because she was no longer in God's immediate Presence. He lives 'in Church'

Non Christians see the hypocrisy in behaving righteously in church on Sunday and living another way the rest of the week.  And are influenced away from Jesus.

Mahatma Ghandi was turned away from Christianity and remained Hindu. He said..

"I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ"

He also claimed that..

"If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today"

French philosopher and writer Voltaire said

"If Christians want us to believe in a Redeemer, let them act redeemed"

The Jewish people have always understood that every part of their existence is sacred. Even going to the toilet. 

"Blessed be the Lord God, King of the Universe, who has created humans with wisdom, with openings and hollow parts, revealed before your holy throne, that if any part of the body was to malfunction, it would be impossible for us to exist and stand before you for even a short time. You cure all flesh and perform wonders"

Muslims understand that there is no divide between the sacred and the non sacred. They are shocked at what they see as Christian double standards.

In the Old Testament the priests were people especially set apart by God to minister to God and to the people. Their positions were indeed sacred.

In Church, under the New Covenant, we still tend to regard the Pastor / minister who holds Kingdom office as 'sacred' and we the laity as not.

Yet we are all sacred because we are the Temple of God. And we are all priests.

"..you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". 1Peter 1:5

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" 1 Peter 2:9

Now let's stop at this point and think this through.

We would be horrified (rightly) at the thought of our Pastors fiddling their tax returns, watching pornography, gossiping, grumbling and complaining, being rude to their wife etc, because we have placed them into the 'sacred' room.

Yet God is horrified (rightly) when we do that.  Because He has placed us in the same sacred room.

We would be horrified (rightly) if at church a large screen television was set up and certain unsavory television programmes or movies were played. Because we define the church building as sacred.

Yet in our homes, we cross these boundaries continually because we do not classify our home as sacred.

Missionaries are regarded as sacred and our prayed for at the front of the church.

Yet the men and women who go to secular work every day and try to be light in darkness receive no such prayer at the front. Because we classify missionaries as sacred and the rest of the congregation as not.

Our tithe is sacred, the rest is usually not regarded as such.

Our ministry or church work is sacred, but usually our business, our marriage, and especially the marriage bed is not thought of as sacred..

Quiet times at home are sacred. But as soon as we move into the day we revert back to au natural. Because the rest of the day is usually not regarded as sacred.

Can you see?

If we use terminology or church behaviour that helps to develop a wrong Kingdom mind-set we can hinder the development of authentic Christianity amongst the sheep and the lambs.

Once we confine omnipresent God, who fills the universe, into the sacred and the non sacred, starting with our church building, we fall into the trap of dual thinking and thus dual behaviour.

The 'Sunday saint and the Monday sinner'.

Part of us set apart for God and the rest set aside for ourselves.

In God's eyes very part of our life is sacred.

We are spirit (heart) soul and body and all is sacred to the Lord. All day. Every day.

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength". Deuteronomy 6:5

"What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul", Deuteronomy 10:12

"love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:4 - 6

"Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’" Matthew 22:37

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship".  Romans 12:1

If we behave outside the church church building the way we do inside it on Sunday then we are on our way! All is sacred.

"but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 1st Peter 1:15

May we be true ambassadors for Christ. Always. everywhere.

Our heart, His home.

 

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