Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Some Words For Wednesday - The Contagion of Sin and the Costly Commitment of God

(These are some brief notes from the message shared last Sunday when we gathered as a church.)

We've reached the final part of our series in the book of Haggai.  What have we learned so far?

a.  The temple today is the people of God built upon the Son of God.  The foundation of the temple is the gospel, and the walls are the people who believe the gospel.

b.  If we want this temple to be a dwelling place for God, we must learn to live as the family of God.  If we are parts of the walls, we are not to behave like bad Lego, dropping in and out of the community life of the church.  The temple is to exist everywhere and all the time, not just Sunday and not just in the building the church uses for meetings.

c.  When God dwells within the temple, His glory will be revealed.  We will begin to reach out more confidently, know God's glory is being displayed.  We reach out with the gospel not to hold onto God, but because He holds onto us.  We work because He is with us, and therefore nothing is impossible.

We now arrive at the end of the book of Haggai.  The people are now engaged in rebuilding the temple.  God seeks now to encourage them to continue trusting in Him.

1. The Contagion of Sin

Haggai initially gives a couple of illustrations (v12-13).  Essentially, he points out that holiness does not transfer itself from one object to another, but uncleanness does.  Imagine wearing some pure white gloves, then picking up a clump of mud.  The mud does not become "glovey", the gloves become muddy.  The gloves do not transfer "pure white gloveness" onto the mud - the mud transfers dirt onto the gloves.

The Lord is telling His people about what happens when they ignore Him.  Their previous rejection of God affected and infected everything that they did, even their acts of worship.  "What they offer is unclean" the Lord says (2v14).  And so God had withdrawn His contribution to the community life of His people.  Their expectations regularly became disappointments (v16-19).  But God's aim was to prompt them to turn back to Him (v20).

Today, a sinful rejection of God creates a sin-spreading infection.  Sin is contagious - it soils everything we do.  This is referred to in the prophecy of Isaiah: "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." (Isaiah 64v6)

But if our best efforts can never be good enough because of our sins, what hope is there for us?

2.  The Costly Commitment of God

The people have now been rebuilding for two months.  The Lord has already expressed His commitment to them: "I am with you" (2v4).  But they had had to wait for renewed blessings (v16-18).  Now the Lord says: "From this day on, I will bless you" (v19).

We cannot earn the favour of God by being good.  But God has done something instead.  Before we could contribute, he committed Himself to us, to bless us.

"But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5v8)  God didn't wait for us to crawl out of the mud.  He sent Jesus to take our place - to take our sins upon himself - to carry the contagion and become untouchable, even by His Father.

God committed to being with us and blessing us, and the cost of that commitment was His only Son.

How do we receive the blessings of God?  By faith.  We must trust God's promises of eternal life and eternal blessings that are won through the death of His Son in our place.  We then wait to receive all of those blessings in full, but they belong to us now because God is faithful.

God then tells Zerubabbel, the leader of the people, that everything is going be shaken (v21-22).  But He would remain faithful to His people, and choose a leader to be His signet ring (Haggai 2v23).  What does that mean?

A signet ring was used by a monarch to give the seal of approval.  It's a bit like the image of the Queen's face that is on a stamp, which gives the seal of approval for a letter to be delivered.  God's disappointment with previous kings of Judah had led Him to remove them like removing a signet ring (Jeremiah 22v24-25), but now He promises a leader who would be that signet ring.

We find that leader today in Jesus Christ.  He is God's seal of approval - it is Christ's image stamped upon our prayers that gives the seal of approval so that they can be delivered to God.  "For God, who said "let light shine out of darkness", has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4v6)  

If you live in Christ, you are sealed with God's approval.  In Christ, you are blessed forever.  As we continue to do the Lord's work, we can trust in our God - He has demonstrated His commitment to His people.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be!

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