Before the Renovations can Begin
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1Co3:10-11
When we started planning our new church, we had to make special provision for the foundations because the soil conditions were not favourable. Good soil had to brought in to form a firm platform on which to build. Our lives are God’s houses. Unfortunately many of us have houses that overlap onto different foundations. Parts of our lives are on the solid rock of our faith in Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Other parts are on other foundations: – The potential sinkhole of trusting in material wealth and possessions – The heaving clay of our emotions and desires – The subsiding soil of “good intentions” and own effortWhat other soil types can you think of?God can work where we let Him. When we make Him the foundation of a part of our life then He can work there. How do we do this? – Trust that He is a loving Renovator and that He will do what is best. It may require scraping off that yucky paint, or chipping off that dodgy plaster, but the end result will be beautiful. – Let Him be the boss, don’t go changing the rules once He has started… – Get stuck in and work with Him.Are there rooms in your life that are on another foundation? Ask God to help you get the basis right…
Doorposts and Lintels
6 These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, 7 and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the way, as you lie down, and as you get up. 8 You should tie them as a sign on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. 9 Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates. Deu6:6-9
There are two things that the Israelites were asked to place on their doorframes and lintels: – The blood of the Passover Lamb (which looked forward to Jesus sacrifice for us) – The commands referred to here (Ch.5 is about the Ten Commandments)What a beautiful picture!!!The blood came first – reminding us that we will never be perfect, and so God has prepared forgiveness for us through Jesus death on the cross. The second part is a response to the first – because of the foundation He has laid for us, we strive to live lives that are pleasing to Him. But this does not come easily to us and we need to be continually reminded, to teach, and to be taught. If we are serious about working with God as He renovates our lives, we must fill our hearts, minds, and lives with reminders of His gift of love to us and with reminders of His standards so that we can begin to look like Him.We are continually going through doors in life. Have you stuck reminders of His sacrifice and His nature there?
A Corporate Temple
3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1Co3:16
A corporate temple? A temple with a trademark and logo? No! A temple made up of more than one. A temple that goes beyond just me! Elsewhere (and we’ll look at it soon) Paul talks about our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. But here in the Greek of his time Paul used the plural form of “you.” Do you remember Bowser in “Sha na na na”? He would say “Don’tcha know that yous are God’s temple?”There is a sense in which our renovations can’t happen in a way that only affects the one doing the renovations. True house-redesigning affects the relationships we have in a very vital way. Allowing God to have His way in my life means that I will change the way I relate to those around me. Sometimes getting closer to God is not a matter of praying more or reading my Bible more, but apologising to my wife if I have been inconsiderate. Sometimes the grudge I hold against a colleague at work can be as big a blockage in my spiritual life as prayerlessness.Are you and your relationships with others a temple where the Lord can live?
A Body Temple
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1Co6:19
How many of us are positive about our bodies?Paul identifies our mortal fleshly bodies as the temple where the Holy Spirit lives. To bring yesterday’s message and today’s together, think about the way the congregation joins hands at the end of Sunday service at Emmanuel congregation. This brings both aspects into consideration. We are a corporate temple and we are a body (bodily fleshly temple!)Serving God more effectively means that we check what shape we are in. – Are you in good shape physically? – Do you have a good self-image? – Are you getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods? – What about exercise?A healthy body means a healthy mind and a happy heart. Getting into shape requires discipline and you should strive for it. It will have benefits for your relationship with God too.”God gave us our bodies, how are we gonna feel when it’s our turn to give them back to Him?” (Unknown)
3 So the Lord spoke through the prophet Haggai as follows: 4 Is it right for you to live in paneled houses while my temple is in ruins? Hag1:3-4
The book of Haggai (tucked away at the back of the Old Testament) is a great example of dynamite in a small package! It was written after the expectant Jews returned from exile in Babylon with dreams of all God’s promises coming true. This did not happen:- their crops failed, bandits attacked them, and a sense of gloom pervaded the land. The prophet Haggai prescribes the cure for the downward spiral of defeat and failure that they experienced: Rebuild the temple. This sounds like strange advice! Jeremiah had taught them not to make an idol of the temple and now Haggai is promoting the temple again! But if one reads more carefully, the issue is not the temple, but their misplaced priorities. The temple represented their focus on God, but they were concentrating on building their own houses and kingdoms first. They were living in paneled
houses! Not just any old house, but luxurious, comfortable, well-established houses and in contrast the temple was in ruins.The lesson is obvious. God wants to build a temple in you and me. What are our priorities? What are we chasing after? Some of the temporal things we chase after are just that: – temporary! Are other areas of your life panelled and ostentacious whilst the temple of our relationship with God is looking tatty?What do you need to do?
We’re not Building Alone!
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, along with the whole remnant of the people, obeyed the Lord their God. They responded favorably to the message of the prophet Haggai, who spoke just as the Lord their God had instructed him; and the people began to respect the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s word to the people: “I am with you!” says the Lord. 14 So the Lord energized and encouraged Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the whole remnant of the people Hag1:12-14
Picking up from yesterday’s devotion…Haggai was speaking to a dazed and despondent people. His words convicted them and they responded and as they did, God helped them.Let’s look a little more closely…1.The leaders set the pace. Zerubbabel was the King and Joshua was the high priest. They set the example in faith and the people followed. We should never underestimate the power of leadership!2.The people responded. Their response was small at first but it was considered to be obedience: – The responded favourably to the message – They began to respect God. (The actual re-building only began later.)3. When we respond in even the smallest ways, God is there to help us. We are told that God energised and encouraged His people. That’s what depressed people need: energy and encouragement. These two actions are beautiful pictures of the Holy Spirit.And He still does it today! Is God calling you to do something and you’re not sure you’re up to it? Have you been disappointed and let down and not sure you can get up again? As soon as you take the first steps toward God, He will be there to help you!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit41 is love,42 joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,43 5:23 gentleness, and44 self-control. Against such things there is no law. Gal5:22-23
Have you noticed how some houseguests bring the best out in you and other bring out the worst?What’s the ambience of your life like? What is it like for those who live in your space? What is their experience of you?In this chapter Paul paints the contrasting pictures of those who live by the flesh and those who live by the Holy Spirit. It seems that when we are allowed to do our own interior decorating that the flashy stuff soon turns out to be junk, and the shiny furniture is not all that comfortable to sit on, and the hi-tech equipment like the stove is prone to breaking and tripping out the whole house. (See the fruit of the flesh in vs.19-20) In contrast, when we allow the Holy Spirit to do the interior decorating the theme is warm and solid, the furniture is comfy, and the stove, although a little old-fashioned is reliable. We may try to decorate in our own strength, but the decorations Paul describes in the verse above are original pieces, they cannot be imitated. We can only have them if we allow the Lord to live in our lives. He is the houseguest who brings the very best out in us.So what is our job? Turf out the guests that bring the worst out in us, and make room for the One who will decorate our homes beautifully.
Interior Decorator – Part 2
Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight 1Pe3:3-4
Although Peter is directing this mainly at wives, the principles are tansferable. How much time do we spend on exterior values? To change metaphors: we can panelbeat the exterior as much as we like, but if there is something wrong at the core, then we will never attain our full created potential.There are two aspects to the interior that Peter hints at here: – The heart in Hebrew culture is not the seat of emotions (the kidneys did that!) The heart is the control centre of life. The beauty must be found in an orderly heart that knows what it is about even when chaos reigns.- A gentle and tranquil spirit. What atmosphere do you carry around with you? Someone in whom God lives can bring the same kind of peace into life as Jesus brought to the disciples in the storm-driven boat.To have lives like this, we need to take time to give the control centre over to Him. To remind ourselves that He is in control and that there is nothing that can happen that will catch Him by surprise. It means spending time in His presence and then take His presence with us into the day.
The Final Word
1 If the Lord does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain. Psa127:1
We come to the end of our series on Renovations.To undertake spiritual renovations is to become more fully human and more integrated than ever before. It is to make our lives as attractive as they can become. It is to grow wiser, more loving, more disciplined. It is to achieve our full created potential and it is to achieve our very best.This is achievable if and only if we realise that this is not just therapy, self-help, or the power of positive thinking. We need – we cannot do without – the help of a loving Father God who will empower, direct, guide, and inspire the change within us.He is the start, the middle, and the end of the process of growth in us. It begins because He has made it possible, it continues because He gives us strength, and it culminates in Him (not us!) being glorified for the change that happens in you and me.If we don’t get this, we are squandering our time and effort…