Consider your ways Rework #3
1. Modern Temple
A. Introduction*open in prayer*Good morning! I hope you're all doing well today! I decided that I wanted this morning to start off with a joke. Shortly after deciding that, I realized how few jokes I actually know, which makes me think that jokes probably aren't my thing. This morning we'll be starting in Ephesians two, verses nineteen through twenty-two, .
B. Ephesians Context (Slide title, include author, date, location, recipients, basic purpose) Ephesians was written by Paul during an incarceration in Rome about sixty to sixty-one AD (60-61 AD). The letter is a general explanation and encouragement in the faith to the church of Ephesus. It was perhaps also a circuit letter, distributed to multiple churches in Asia Minor. The first three chapters of this letter are purely informational, not a single command. These chapters are explaining the transition that gentile believers have gone through; from darkness and sin to the light and the abundant blessings they have in Christ. The last three chapters are more instructive, telling how to live as recipients of these blessings. Here in chapter two Paul has been explaining the wonderful new access the gentiles have been given in Christ.
C. "We the Temple" (slide title, include Ephesians text) *Read *
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
We gentiles, who were previously separate from God's people and unable to share in all the blessings the Jews enjoyed, we are now equal members of God's household. We went from foreigners to family members.
This household, was built on the foundation of God's Word, as delivered through His prophets and apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone.Some of you are probably familiar with what a cornerstone is, some of you may not be. In ancient architecture, the cornerstone was the most essential piece of any building. It served multiple purposes in construction. 1. The cornerstone was a point of reference to orient and square the entire building. A well-positioned and perfectly square cornerstone would produce a well-oriented and perfectly square building. 2. They were also a vital load-bearing part of the foundation, a solid cornerstone was necessary for a strong and stable building. Then referring to Christ as the cornerstone has powerful meaning. Christ is the most important block in the God's universal church, and in any church. The squareness, the stability, and the orientation of the whole building depend on Him. The apostles and prophets are also vital, because they were messengers who carried God's word to us, but their contribution is useless without Christ.In plain words, if you deny the authority of God's inspired word, the Bible, you effectively destroy any hope of having a sound foundation. But even if a church accepts the Bible as God's perfect Word, the soundness of the whole structure depends on Christ. It's exactly the same with individuals. If any person wants to build a relationship with God, they must break ground by believing in Him first, then they must select a perfect cornerstone, the essential building block of the relationship. That person must accept that Jesus was the Son of God, came to earth as a man, died an unjust death to pay for their sins, and rose from the Grave on the third day, proving himself to be the Son of God and showing how death has been defeated. Then they have the essential block. The other blocks of the foundations are very important, but the most vital is Christ. As with the individual, so with the church. A sound church is based on the cornerstone of Christ, and the authority of Scripture as God's inspired Word is the rest of the foundation. In Christ we are being joined together and growing into a holy temple in the Lord. The term "being joined together" is one word in Greek, it means to be putting parts together to form a whole structure. Like laying bricks, or connecting Lego pieces. Now the form of this word tells us that it's a passive process, it's something that is being done to us. It's also a present process, something that is happening right now. The best that I can make of this, is that in Christ we are being divinely placed and joined together. As mentions, the bond we have is the Spirit of God. “…the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We are unified in Christ, but only by the Holy Spirit can we actually live in close unity with one another. And as we are joined together by the Spirit this way, we grow as a holy temple. The growth is totally dependent on the blocks being joined together. If the parts aren't fitted together, there will be no growth. The reason we are called a "holy temple" is because in the Lord we become a place of worship. Temples in general were built to serve and to honor a deity. The pagans had holy places, but we are a holy people. We as individuals are the raw material which God's holy temple is made from. So as we are joined together we grow and become a living monument to God’s glory. Verse twenty-two is a complimentary parallel to verse twenty-one. It says the same thing, but also adds different details. In the Lord we are also being built up as a unified body into a dwelling place for God, in the form of His Spirit. So in the Lord we are being set and fastened in place together, the materials which are being made into a dwelling for God's Spirit.Individually we are indwelt by His Spirit, but collectively we are also a dwelling. It is the same Spirit in all of us, so it is like we are the cells in a human body, each is separate, but each contains the same DNA. Collectively these cells with the same DNA form a single being. "Dwelling place" points to God's personal presence on earth. Before Christ came, the Jewish temple was the only earthly dwelling place for God. But now, as the body of Christ, God's presence is found wherever there are believers. It has always been God’s will to dwell among mankind, from the time that He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He expressed the same thing when the Israelites were being given the law. , God says to the Israelites “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” All they had to do was obey Him.The temple at Jerusalem was small, God simply doesn’t fit into a building made with human hands. As Solomon said “But who is able to build Him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain Him?” But on the cornerstone of Christ and the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, God is constructing a holy temple, a dwelling place, using us as the building blocks. This living structure covers nearly the entire globe, and can expand with every person who turns to Christ. This is what we are, this is what God is doing.
2. Old Temple
Introduction We're going to jump to the Old Testament now, moving back around five hundred and eighty years from the book of Ephesians, to the book of Haggai. We'll only be in the first eleven verses, so if you're following along, turn to Haggai one, one (1:1).
A. Context (Slide: verse 1, Author, date, setting, building time-line) The year is five-twenty BC (520 BC), and the author is the prophet Haggai. Haggai is addressing the group of Israelites who returned to Judah from the Babylonian exile. These people returned about five-thirty-eight BC, following a decree from Cyrus the Persian king who overthrew Babylonia. Cyrus decreed that any Jew who wished to return to Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, would be supported in the venture. About fifty thousand decided to return under the leadership of Zerubbabel.The work on the temple began in five-thirty-six BC, but stopped shortly after the foundation was laid. The work stopped because the surrounding people had been opposing the work of the Jews, discouraging and intimidating them until they finally secured a royal decree from the Persian king Artaxerxes for the work to end. The people were then forced to cease work on the temple.At this point it had been sixteen years since the work on the temple was halted, and God had a message for the people.*read *
English Standard Version Chapter 11 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” 3 Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. 7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
We’re going to start on verses seven and eight.
B. What is Your Task? (Slide: ) *read *
English Standard Version Chapter 17 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.
God, using the title “LORD of hosts”, commands the people to Consider their ways. Eventually we’ll take a more in-depth look at what His title means, and why he says “consider your ways”, but right now I want to focus on the rest of this section. So after telling them to consider their ways, the LORD goes on to give them a clear action plan, He tells them to go to the place where there is wood, bring it back to Jerusalem, and build the house. This is clear instruction, gather materials, and build.
What is your task? (Slide: Question, )The Israelites had a clearly defined task, and so do we the church. Turn to Ephesians four, seven through sixteen ().*read * God is ultimately the one building His church, but we are privileged to serve as his agents. As pastor Joel covered some weeks ago, each one of us has been specially gifted to help in the building up of the body. Everyone has something to contribute to the ministry of building-up God’s holy temple. And if God has given us these gifts for such a specific purpose, then we should use them! If you have been wondering what God's purpose is for your life, here it is.But why? We’ve been given these gifts, we’re encouraged to use them to build up the church, but what’s the purpose? (slide: )It is the same today as it was with Israel, "That I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD." God wants the glory and pleasure that come through His people, the church, being built and growing into a holy temple. I want to look at more of what that means for us as individuals, but later. Right now we’re going to look at what hinders this work, let’s jump back to verse two.
C. Where are your priorities? (slide: title, verses 2-4) *Read -4* God uses the title "LORD of hosts" to start off. "Hosts" refers to an army, angels of heaven, or to the stars of heaven. So the word has the idea of a multitude of people or things. When it’s used in this way, with no specific reference to an army, or anything of heaven, the term takes on the general meaning of “a multitude of things.” LORD of hosts then, is Him introducing Himself as the God of everything, the ruler of all the multitudes of things. So He's starting off strong with a title that introduces Him as the supreme ruler of the universe.The LORD of hosts saw a problem with how the people of Israel were living. They said that it wasn't time to rebuild the temple, but the problem God saw with this was that meanwhile they had spent excessive time and money working on their own homes. In case you were wondering, paneling wasn't the norm for that time period; most houses would have had single-layer mudbrick or stone walls, with no interior lining. To install paneling would be going from necessity to excess. So they had indulged themselves in regards to their own houses, and God's house was still in shambles. This was an insult to the God of heaven. The Jews were only a people because God had made them a people. They were only significant because they were chosen. They had the unique privilege of having the only true God desire to dwell among them, willing to reside in the temple at Jerusalem. But they ignored this, and instead of rebuilding that temple they chose to occupy themselves with the temporary things of this life.So that's my question for you,
where are your priorities? It is a privilege to be members of God’s household, but we have been given an even greater privilege to be able to contribute to the increasing of that household, the building of God’s temple. I am not saying that God’s house in in shambles, but we know that the building is not complete. Because this building expands boundlessly the work will not end until this world does, that means that our priority should always be contributing to the building-up of the body. This world WILL end, and it’s delusional to call yourself a Christian while simultaneously ignoring what God’s word says:“remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” Don’t live a life of foolish investments. Invest your life in the eternal work of God’s church.
D. Do You Have His Blessing? (slide: title, verses 5-6) *Read * In light of this situation, the Ruler of All tells the people to “consider their ways”. This is a command to take to heart both how they had been living and the outcome of it. God wants them to realize their mistaken priorities. And their choices were not inconsequential. God hadn't been passive while His house sat in ruins, at some point, when it became apparent that the people weren't going to resume the work, God had begun to withdraw His blessings and punish the people. He says they've been making a poor return on their crops, they can't get enough to eat or drink, clothing is insufficient for warmth, and the money people earn doesn't seem to last. The people are under God's curse. God had warned Israel that their material blessings were dependent on their obedience, Leviticus twenty-six verses two through thirteen (). (Slide: )*read * As you can see God puts conditions on His blessings, "IF you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,"But on the opposite side of that, God also warned of discipline to follow disobedience. That's in the following verses. (Slide: ) *read * As He says, "IF you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, IF you spurn my statutes, and IF your soul abhors my rules..."This whole section covers almost everything that was happening to the Jews, they were clearly under God's discipline. But note, the Jews weren't reprimanded for any moral failure other than leaving the temple unfinished. They may have thought they were pleasing God, keeping His law, while they were actually insulting Him by ignoring His dwelling.
Do you have His blessing? In the Christian life, we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit for our spiritual lively-hood. He is our means of killing sin (), our means of Godly character (), our means of access to God in general (). But He isn’t just “along for the ride”, He is supposed to be the driver. So if you don’t submit to the Spirit, following the His desires, then your growth as a believer will suffer. You could say that disobedience to God brings a spiritual “drought.”
F. What are you busy with? (Slide: ) *read * As we already covered, the people of Israel were under a curse for their disobedience. God was actively opposing their work to provide for themselves, there was a drought. This drought was unique though, it was a drought on everything in the land, not only on water or food. Even the people, their animals and their work! God has done this because His house is in ruins, and the people who were tasked with building it were instead running about, busy with their own affairs.
What are you busy with? Because I know many of you are really invested in the work of the ministry, whether here at Richfield Life, at other churches, or in your own endeavors. But many of us aren't. I say "us" because I have realized my own lack of involvement in ministry. I personally could be doing a lot more, both here with the ministries of Richfield Life, and in the unique opportunities God has given me elsewhere. And I'm not saying that we all need to take more on, I'm recommending we put some things off. Some of us simply don't have time for anything else in our schedules. But let me say that if the Lord is telling you that you need to engage in some specific ministry, then look to see what you can cut out to make room. When you truly "consider your ways" in light of the Truth, you will find that many of the things we think are "important" are actually trivial.
Get on Task: Recognize that the Lord has called us all to be ministers in some way, and embrace it (, )
Prioritize God’s Church: Don’t allow ministry to be an after-thought in your life, look at the facts and chase what matters. (, )
Live a Blessed Life: Seek to live in harmony with God’s desires, thereby maximizing His blessing on your life’s work. (, )
Minimize Your Busyness, Maximize God’s Business: You will need to let go of some things if you really want to use your time for what counts. (, )