Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Some Words for Wednesday - An indwelling God will create an outreaching church

(Some notes from the message shared last Sunday when we gathered as a church.)

We're continuing our series in the book of Haggai.  Last week, we looked at chapter one and started to consider what a modern day temple should look like.   We recognised that the temple today consists of a gospel foundation with gospel-believing walls.  The foundation is Jesus Christ and his saving work, and the walls are the people who have trusted in him.  This community becomes a dwelling place for God.

So what does God's home look like?

1.) Gospel-centred, Spirit-filled and God-glorifying.

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the church, and the teaching of the apostles and prophets (recorded for us in the New Testament) fills the rest of the foundation.  The foundation is the gospel and all its implications, and therefore the teaching of the church will centre on Jesus Christ and what he did to save God's people. The church will be gospel-centred, and the lives of believers will demonstrate their response to the gospel.

The church community will seek the help and direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Spirit to make us gospel-centred.  When Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit, he said "he will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16v14).

It's no surprise, then, that when the apostle Peter is "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4v8) he declares "this Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4v11-12).

When we are Spirit-filled, we become gospel-centred.

As Jesus approached the hour of his death, he declared that his aim was to glorify the Father (e.g. John 17v1).  When we are filled with the Spirit, we will glorify the Father by recognising Him as the source of all good things (Ephesians 5v18-20).  In other words, when a church is gospel-centred and Spirit-filled, it will be God-glorifying.  Informed by God the Spirit, our response to the gospel of God the Son will glorify God the Father (John 15v8).

2) Everyone will be involved, but not in the same way.

In Haggai 1v14, everyone is involved in the building work - but clearly not in the same way!  Within that diverse community, there would have been people with different strengths, knowledge, passions and abilities.  They would have taken different roles in the work.

In the church, God enables everyone to be involved, but we're not identical.  We are like different parts of the same body.  Everyone is able to contribute to the life of the church in different ways.

We must therefore learn to be patient and submit to one another, and recognise that people will respond differently to the same situation because they have different gifts.  I must learn not to be offended by other peoples' gifts because they aren't passionate about the same things as me.

We must also learn not be scared as the church changes.  If you're at home, and the walls start to move, it's right to be scared!  That's not meant to happen!  But that isn't the case with God's home.  In God's home, the walls are meant to move.

In other words, the structure of this temple is always meant to be developing, just as a body matures and develops.  The foundation should not change, but the structure is meant to change as individuals grow up in the Lord.  In fact, the more solid the foundation is, the more movement you'll see in the walls.

Finally, this temple isn't meant to exist only on a Sunday, and lie in ruins for the rest of the week.  As a church, we must be a dwelling place for God everyday, everywhere.  Whatever the setting, when we're with other members of our spiritual family, we should be ready to love and serve one another.  We must crucify our embarrassment, and replace it with encouragement.  For example, praying, singing, and sharing from the Scriptures are not activities reserved only for prearranged church meetings.  They are to be a part of the community life of the church.

But why focus so much on being a community, a spiritual family?  What about unbelievers?  Shouldn't we be focused on them instead?

3) An indwelling God creates an outreaching church, not the other way around

As I mentioned in the last blog post, it is tempting for churches to think that as long as they're busy, they're being a church.  E.g. As long as they're busy reaching out to the community through social events, then corporate prayer, Bible teaching and fellowship aren't that important.  Outreach makes them a church.

But that isn't the case.  We mustn't assume God dwells within our church community because we're too busy to notice Him.  He wants to be sought, acknowledged and enjoyed.  It is not the activity of sacrifice that draws Him, but the attitude of heart (Psalm 51v16-17).

God is then glorified as He dwells in the temple among His people (Haggai 1v8).  If we want unbelievers to see the glory of God - to hear the gospel and, by faith, see "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4v6) - it doesn't begin with God working within their hearts; it begins with God working within our hearts.  God must dwell within us as a community rather than as individuals who happen to get together occasionally.

This doesn't mean we wait to begin outreach work.  But we're not to view our ministry to each other as being unrelated to our ministry to the lost.  How we share the gospel with each other as a spiritual family has an impact on how we share the gospel with unbelievers.

As you reach out with the gospel, recognise the importance of God dwelling within the church.  No matter what you do, a torch will not shine if the bulb has been removed.  God's glory will not shine if He is not dwelling within a church community.  

But it will shine wherever He makes His home.  An indwelling God will create an outreaching church.

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