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'
We might sing praise and worship songs which refer to God's House as being the building we are worshipping in.
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,
..and at a fixed location on earth.
Jesus referred to that fixed location of the temple in Jerusalem as His Father's house.
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.
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'
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..
Paul talking to the Greeks in the great city of Athens emphasized this again..
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.
Paul had to write to the church at Corinth and remind them of this great truth..
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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..
He also claimed that..
French philosopher and writer Voltaire said
The Jewish people have always understood that every part of their existence is sacred. Even going to the toilet.
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.
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.
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.
May we be true ambassadors for Christ. Always. everywhere.
Our heart, His home.