Building Your Temple of the Lord

Building Your Temple of the Lord

Wisdom's Friend

In this world, the distinction between what is true and what is false, between the genuine and the fake, is often muddied–and that, often by design. There are those who do not want the true and real and genuine to be easily discerned, for that would mean that their own perverse nature would also be revealed for all to see (Jn. 3:20). Therefore, they seek to obfuscate the truth, to muddy the waters regarding what is real and true. This happens in advertising, in politics, education, and most seriously of all, in religion. This last, religion, is singled out by God himself for his own personal attention for judgment.

“I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats (Mt. 25:32-33). Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture (Jn. 10:9)? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet (2 Ptr. 3:16)?

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away (Mt. 23:14-15), I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another” (Ezk. 34:17-22 NIV).

This is the promise of our God to make a distinction between those who are his true sheep and true shepherds and the false. This distinction needs to be made because false shepherds harm the precious sheep for whom the Son of God gave his life (Jn. 10:11).

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:28-31 NIV).

We are commanded to be on our guard against all those who would have us believe that they are true worshippers of God, the same as we are. An example of this is found in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem by the returned exiles, who encountered a fake offer of help from wolves in sheep’s clothing:

“When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, ‘Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here'” (Ezra 4:2 NIV).

But the people of God who had returned from exile to rebuild the temple of God were not fooled by the claim of their enemies who had been planted in the land. They replied to them, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us” (v. 3).

These ancient people of God heeded the command of the king to build the temple. In order to do that, they had to pay attention to those who would worm their way in to construct it to their own liking instead of following the commands of God on how that temple was to be built. And God has given commands on how his temple is to be built.

When king David desired to build a temple for God, he was told that his son, Solomon, was chosen by God for this task (1 Kgs. 8:19). Nevertheless, God gave to David the plans–and those plans were specific.

“Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things” (1 Chr. 28:11-12 NIV).

“‘All this,’ David said, ‘I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan'” (1 Chr. 28:19 NIV).

Notice that it was the Holy Spirit who directed David in the building of the temple. It is to be the same for us. For we who believe in Jesus Christ are the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). This temple of God which we are is therefore sacred:

“God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:17 NIV).

We dare not, therefore, treat our lives as though they were our own to live as we see fit. Our lives are not our own:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NIV).

Just as God’s people of old were careful to discern pretenders to the faith and refused to allow them any part in building the temple, so too must we modern-day people of God watch how we build ourselves up in our most holy faith (Jude 1:20)–we who are the temple of the living God. We must not let the people of the world and worldly ideas of religion have any part in the construction of our temple, our lives wherein God lives. We have been so commanded by our King.

“Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11 NIV).

That is the foundation. But a foundation is not the finished building. God expects us to build upon this foundation, to grow in our relationship with him.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Ph. 3:12-14 NIV).

And what is that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us? It is to become like him. As we surrender every moment of our lives to him and to the working of the Holy Spirit within us, we are transformed into his image.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV).

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be built up into the living temple of the living God. He is the One who teaches us and helps us build this temple (1 Jn. 2:20), not anything from the world or even from those who think that they are part of God’s church simply because they go to a church and participate in outward signs of religion (Lk. 13:26-27), or even if they perform wonders in Jesus’ name (Mt. 7:22).

In order not to be distracted away from our charge of building God’s temple in our lives, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and not be fooled and distracted by things of the world nor even things of religion. It is Jesus himself upon whom we must focus and build. For the world is always more than willing to help us build some sort of temple to some sort of god, especially in this age of “tolerance”. The world will tolerate any sort of religious temple–except the one devoted to truth that is exclusive, truth that says that the God who reveals himself in the Bible is the only God (Is. 45:22).

There are thus two ways to build a temple for one’s god, the way of the world and its religions, and God’s way. We are commanded in God’s Word to be on our guard that we do not allow any of the world’s building materials or workmen to have any part in the construction of our personal temple (lives) for the Lord. He will not honor any such human-inspired buildings.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:24 NIV).

“We should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill” (Acts 17:29 NIV).

Idols and false temples are not always actual, physical structures. Far more often, especially in our time, the temples which people construct for the worship of their god is an idea or mental construct or some conception of a divine being, or perhaps a certain theological outlook–the list is endless. None of these, however, is the temple which God desires. The only temple he will accept, in fact, is that which his Holy Spirit builds up for the individual believer in Jesus Christ, that is, a godly life and soul, united by faith in his Son (Rom. 8:9).

Both the warning to not allow ungodly, worldly forces to influence our temple building and the declaration that it is the Holy Spirit who directs the building of our individual temples of the Lord, are found in the book in the Bible that immediately precedes the last one. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has much to say about the last times of this world, and the next-to-last book of Jude leads into that final book with this statement of dual emphasis:

“In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:18-20 NIV).

The work and power of the Holy Spirit becomes ever more crucial as we approach the final end of this world. Complacency and luke-warm relationship with God become ever more dangerous and must not be tolerated in the believer’s life/temple.

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31 NIV).

The one who thus ascended from the dead is the same one who will shortly descend from heaven for judgment (Acts 1:11). He is coming for a church, a temple where he is worshipped, that is free of spot and blemish (Eph. 5:27). However, before that climactic moment in all of history, a very pertinent question is asked by this same coming one:

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8 NIV).

As the whole book of James makes clear, the faith which the Son of Man is looking for is not mere mental acceptance of him by the mind but a living temple of God, where he is worshipped by the daily life of the one agreeing that he is worthy of such worship. He is looking for faith that is lived out in one’s life by the power of the Holy Spirit, not outward adherence to a set of rules of religion. He is looking for a temple built by the Holy Spirit, not by man.

Right now, in this world, these two types of temples exist side by side. It is not always possible to know which is the real and which is the phony. The wheat and the tares grow side by side (Mt. 13:27-30). But the day is coming when the weeds will be pulled up and discarded. “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not” (Mal. 3:18 NIV).

That is the day when all that a person has built upon the foundation will be tested by the fire of God’s judgment.

“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:12-15 NIV).

This has been written to encourage all who read it to examine how they are building their temple to the Lord. Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to direct that building, your life? I pray that you, dear friends, will “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:18-20 NIV).

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