Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Temple of God-My Body

Whenever any person comes to see God as God, his life must change. David has affirmed this reality about God: "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 139:2). Turning from his own thoughts and ways he declared, How precious to me are your thoughts, o God! How vast are the sum of them!" (v. 17).

I wrote in the preceding post: The Temple of God, how little we tend to think of the temple of God in his church, as a general rule in North American evangelicalism. I have begun to see that there is a boulder, fashioned over decades, tied to our culture and perpetuated by massive inside evangelicalism organizations that has, in its attempt to make the church "user friendly", succeeded in making it an "assembly of the onlooker". And so God is not present in any power at our services. Those who are trying to stop this boulder can't simply swat it aside, but must begin to lay the groundwork of a barrier, they must begin to through down pebbles. that can slow the boulder a little. And many are doing so.

The place to start is in each one of us. God wants holy vessels. Paul warns Timothy, "Guard your LIFE and your doctrine closely" (1 Tim 4:16). That is the theology of the church as the temple of God, the very body of Christ on earth, the expression of God's glory to the world in the salvation of sinners, must go hand in hand with a lifestyle that matches that belief.

I think this is why the Bible, while emphasizing the corporate nature of the assembled church as the temple in which God's Spirit dwells, also refers to each believer's body as such. "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20).

This individual temple, seems to echo the priesthood of believers and leaves us with a tension between recognizing the individual's standing before God on the one hand, as priest, and the Church's standing on the other as bride and body. To view it only from the side of the church, risks a sacramental view of the church's worship, to view it only from the individual side is to reject the headship of Christ. So both must be preserved.

The context of 1 Corinthians is sexual purity. You don't join the temple of God to fornication! This is why 1 Thessalonians 4 is so forceful, "this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality". (1 Thes 4:3).

Sexual immorality particularity defiles the temple, but to a lesser extent, so does any lesser form of non-sanctification. However, drawing on the thems of sexual purity, as temples of God, what lusts do we indulge? Prostitution? No, of course not. Monogamous premarital sex? Well... ? How about, "loving" homosexual unions? Vicarious lusts through television and movies?

I think when we start asking these questions we are doing the wrong thing entirely. Why ask, just what is the line that defiles the temple? Why not ask, "how can I sanctify to the utmost, how can I honour the Spirit of Christ in my body? Then, Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, and live in light of the words of Paul, "to live is Christ".

Yet once again, we cannot legalistically set benchmarks and rules for ourselves, the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life (Rom 8:6). Only God can sanctify, through our hope and faith in Him, by the spirit. We must begin to see
1) God, as God. If ever any person begins to see God, as God, according to the Scripture they are devastated. And this devestation produces godly sorrow, which leads to repentence, for the Lord, "exults teh humble".
2) Our Bodies as Indwelled by God. He is not a passive observer in our sins or sanctification, he is an active participant, "do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" (I cor 6:15). Having seen God, as God, and been humbled, we begin to see ourselves in God, as part of Christ's body, as representatives of Christ, as having Christ live within us, then we will finally see
3) The Church as the temple and glory of the living God, and we will cry "better is one day in your church, than thousands elsewhere".

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Temple of God

God, as God
If ever any person begins to see God, as God, according to the Scripture they are devastated. God is not like us. God is Holy, God has infinite power, "who can endure the heat of his anger" Naham asks (Na 1:8). Yet we treat God, as less than God in our culture, in our lives and most devastatingly in our churches, yet: "This is what he LORD has said, 'Among those who are near me I must be regarded as holy, and before all the people I will be glorified" (Lev. 10:3). Does this mean anything?

Isaiah sees God, as God
Isaiah, for example entered the temple to pray, with ordinary, low expectation. He came to the temple, to the place where the glory of the Lord dwelt, without really knowing what the glory of the Lord was, or what the temple was... But suddenly all that changed as the earthy temple began to take on its heavenly reality. The robe of God's glory filled the temple in what must have been a light of glory, (cf. Is 6:2), the temple's foundations "shook at the voice of the one who called, and the house filled with smoke" (Is. 6:4). This is reflected in the book of revelation: "and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary" (rev 15:8).

Looking at Revelation we clearly see that this is the fierceness of God's glory coming to judge sin. Is it any different in Isaiah? The prophet seemed to think not. The smoke, the wrath, the glory of God is summed up in his nature, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory" (6:3). God is Holy, he is set apart, he is sinless and hates sin. He is perfect, he is just, and "He repays those who hate him" (Deut 32:43).

Isaiah suddenly saw God, as God and cried out: "Woe is me" (6:5), a prophetic curse against himself!

Israel sees God, as God
When Israel stood at the foot of mount Sinai: "there were thunders and lightenings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God" (Ex 19:16-17). And this God they met, what was he like? "Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln and the whoe mountain trembled greatly." (19:18). Now how did they respond?
"‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it." (Lev 19:24-27).
God told Moses, "they are right in all they have spoken" (28).

The Disciples see God, as God
Now in the New Testament, we find the presence of God in the Temple of Christ's body, "the word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us" the same word in the OT LXX used of the Tabernacle built by Moses, "and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14). The disciples responded each time they saw God's glory in Christ, the same way, when he demonstrated his power to calm the storm, "they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this?'" (Mk. 10:40). Then on the mount of Transfiguration, a greater glory was seen by the inner three, just as in Isaiah's vision, the earthly temple began to take on its heavenly reality. Peter it is noted, "did not know what to say, for they were terrified" (Mk. 9:6).

The Church sees God, as...
John Prophecied concerning Jesus, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire" (Matt. 3:11). As I studied this verse today I began to meditate on the Scripture, and tried to seek an answer as to what exactly this means. He will baptize his followers with the HS and fire. We have seen that the presence of God has been the presence of God, who is Spirit, and exemplified by fire. To this we could add the burning bush of Moses, and the words, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29). It seems John is prophecying the presence of God, through the Holy Spirit will be given. Now John 15-17 seems to bear this out, Jesus will not leave us as orphans, but will come to us, by sending his spirit and then dwell in us forever.

In Acts 2, we read that the disciples where praying and seeking the Lord, when suddenly, "there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house" again the presence of heaven appears on earth, and "divided tongues as of fire" appeared (v. 2-3). This event speaks of the Disciples, "being filled with the Holy Spirit" (v. 3).

Many people witnessed their preaching and "all were amazed and perplexed" (v. 12). God was in their midst. Now the rest of the NT Epistles clarify that the church, as an assembly of believers, "grow into a holy temple in the Lord" and is "being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph 2:21-22). 1 Cor. carries this on as well warning that there is a consequence, the church is "God's temple" in which "God's Spirit dwells".

And we show up, if we bother to show up at church at all, with a sense of ... nothing. We are not devastated. We expect nothing, we fear nothing, and we wonder why are churches accomplish nothing! When God's glory appears, what terror will fill the world, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengence..." (2 Thes 1:7-8). To paraphrase Jesus, "when he comes will he find faith in his church?"


I need to think through the implications of this more, but I need a break till tomorrow.