Thursday, February 23, 2006

This Is Holy Ground...

What are the telltale marks of religion? How can we tell when our worship of God has become dead and ineffective? How can we tell when we are slipping into a form rather than the reality of our Lord's presence?

Throughout history God has met with men in miraculous ways but always with a few things in common. Consider Jacob's meeting with God at Bethel, when he realized he had met with God he became profoundly afraid. He acknowledged that this place was none other than the house of God. He proceeded to make a pillar of stones and vowed to give the Lord tithes from his increase. Later on when Moses encountered the burning bush, God instructed him to remove his sandals for the place where he was standing was holy ground.

So the hallowing effect upon the ground was the result of nothing else but God's presence and His very presence had made that ground or place, holy. After the exodus from Egypt, the Lord commanded Israel to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. At the same time, He gave them instructions for the priesthood and the manner in which they could approach the ark of the covenant. When all had been completed and all the elements for sacrifice and priesthood were in place, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. That was now the holy place amongst the people of Israel, God had come and His glory was in their midst. In like fashion the temple was constructed in Jerusalem and after Solomon consecrated it the glory of the Lord filled the temple and the holy of holies.

The Lord's original intention was for all Israel to minister unto Him as priests, but since only the tribe of Levi had remained faithful in the wilderness, they alone received the honour of the priesthood.

Now fast forward to the New Testament. We are expressly told in scripture that rather than God now dwelling in a temple or building made with hands, He is now abiding in the hearts of His saints. 1 Cor. 3:16-17 tells us that we are his temple and therefore holy. In order for the Lord to dwell in us, we must be cleansed and consecrated to Him. Just as the tabernacle in the wilderness and temple in Jerusalem were sanctified and consecrated, so too we must make sure our vessel is kept clean and pure for the Holy Spirit's abiding.

Now here is where things get messy. We intellectually say we understand these matters, and yet practically we forget to apply the truth of this reality. Whether conscious or not, we have esteemed value to our buildings of worship and go so far as to consider them holy. Somehow we feel that the "worship" of God in a "church" has more weight than worship in other places. Even here we have misplaced the truth again, no where in scripture are the buildings of worship called churches, yet we have made the word "church" to simply mean a building. Now I know what you're thinking, what does it matter when we know that the people are the church? Well, the point is that when we compromise truth in anyway our understanding of scripture and revelation from the Holy Spirit are dampened. Do all the people you meet with really understand that your place of fellowship is simply a building and not the "church"?

The word church comes from the Greek word Ekklesia meaning a calling out. We are literally the called out by God and He has set us apart as holy unto the Lord. To denigrate God's bride and body by referring to a building as the church is rather insulting. Furthermore, over time we lose the real meaning and understanding of this awesome word.

So if we believers in Christ are His Church, we cannot "go to church". Simply by gathering together we become the Church in a particular place and time. The locality of believers meeting in a certain area constitutes the Church, they are the expression of Christ's body on the earth. Their physical gathering does not simply make up the Church, but rather the corporate meeting in spirit. Therefore if the Church is nothing else but the called out gathering of saints, then anywhere the saints meet the Church is meeting. This means that instead of a building or "place" being holy, we God's people are now the holy ones. God has moved from a building to the hearts of His people, that is wonderful. Praise the Lord!

The final picture in Revelation shows the New Jerusalem as a bride adorned for her husband coming down from God out of heaven. God will actually dwell among His people and He will be their temple. What an awesome picture of the final dwelling place of God with His people for all eternity. Christ Jesus is preparing His bride with whom He will share all eternity. We are so blessed!

7 comments:

Kc said...

Excellent admonition. Too many words take on a new meaning when used casually this way. I prefer to call it the Church building when refering to the location though I admit I have called it the church. I will be more diligent. Great closing paragraph. ;-)

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Excellent thoughts.

Paul M. Kingery said...

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your thoughts. I look forward to following your interesting blog. I have been writing on this subject. Are you interested in topics about the apocalypse, end times, the end of the world, eschatology, last days, the horsemen of the apocalypse, the beast, prophesy, prophesies, revelation, 666, bible prophesy, prophets, Canaan, Canaan's land, Land of Canaan, or the Christian future? If so you may enjoy reading " Land of Canaan." This is a free online book. The Link is http://landofcanaan.info/book.php
Let me know what you think.

Thanks,

Paul M. Kingery, PhD, MPH

Jim said...

Kc & Matthew,

Thanks for your comments.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for stopping by and welcome here. I appreciate your kind thoughts, I will take a look at that link as I'm always interested in more understanding of God's awesome Word.

Blessings in Christ,
Jim

Joe said...

The most powerful worship experience I have EVER had was not in a "church," but in an ice skating arena in which a group called "The Newsboys" was leading worship.

I had been dragged to the concert kicking and screaming, because "Christian Rock" is not really my thing.

Boy was I wrong! The Holy Spirit of God grabbed my heart through the singers and I worshipped as I never had before.

What a lesson!

Daniel said...

Joe - I am always surprized when I like a song on the Christian radio - not because I don't like "Christian" music, but because much of what I am hearing isn't really very good, or worse, is worldly. At least one in every two or three songs I have liked in the past couple of years has turned out to be a newsboys tune.

They seem genuine, and I like that.