Monday, January 24, 2011

The Glory of What We Are Building

Christians are building something. With our every prayer, our every telling of the gospel; with our encouraging and our singing and our preaching and our giving food to the hungry in Jesus' name - with every act of obedience, inside the church and out to the world, we are building something.
Something eternal. Something amazing. Something that is worth our sacrifice; worth giving up the pleasures of sin and pouring out our lives to build.

We are building God's house, the church.
And it will be glorious!

But it's easy for us to lose sight of the glory of what we are building, become discouraged and even sit on the sidelines and build nothing. This is what happened to the Jews in the midst of rebuilding God's old covenant house, the Temple. No, God does not live in Temples, but he chose to identify himself with Israel's Temple under the old covenant. He even called it his house in the book of Haggai! This was THE place of worship and glory. In fact, God told them they couldn't worship him anywhere else (Deuteronomy 12)!! The Temple was crucial to Israel. It was where they worshiped God and saw his glory. So when the exiles returned from Babylon and gave up on rebuilding the Temple, they were giving up on God himself. They built their own houses instead, and God rebuked them for it (Haggai 1). They listened to the rebuke and obeyed God! They began to build!

And they lasted about a month.

Discouragement set in. The older generation could look at what they were building and see that it was not going to be as glorious as Solomon's Temple. This new Temple looked like a cheap imitation. Same thing happens to us in the new covenant doesn't it? We compare what we are building to what others are building. "My spiritual gifts aren't as impressive as this guy's. My ministry isn't as big. My local church, my fruit, my work...looks like nothing."

God sent Haggai to encourage the Jews. God wants to encourage us in our work of building his house; to bring our eyes to him through preached truth so that we share his perspective on the work!
God's message through Haggai was (Haggai 2:4-5):

Be strong! (repeated 3 times).

Work! We cannot let discouragement stop our work.

I am with you! We learned in chapter 1 that God is with us as we are prioritizing him, his glory and his house (Jesus’ promise in the Great Commission to be with us always as we go). “How can we belittle a work when God is with us in it?” (Piper).

Fear not! Do not fear that you are wasting your life, your money, your time, your everything. It is not in vain!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58
God wants the people to rise up out of their discouragement, trust him and build!

Then God says that this house they are building will be even more glorious than Solomon's Temple!! This called for faith – the people had to believe God over what they saw with their eyes; they had to trust God’s word about their work. They needed to trade in their perspective of their work for God’s perspective of the work, and so must we!

God’s promise to these Jews was fulfilled years later when the Messiah himself, Jesus Christ, actually walked into the Temple they were building! (Dever) Jesus, the fullness of the glory of God (Col 2:9), entered the house; and he then “assumed the role of the Temple” (Fee & Stuart; see John 2:19-21).

Just as the Jews in Haggai’s day could not fathom the value of what they were building, so we also cannot fully grasp the glory of our work in building the church! You build more than you see (Piper). Be encouraged as you sacrifice for the building of God’s house, the church! No matter what your gifts, your function in the body, or the fruit you see with your eyes, the church we are together building with Christ will shine forever with the glory of God! Get God’s perspective of the work, take courage, and get back to work!

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” [10 ] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, [11 ] having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. … Revelation 21:9-11, ESV
It may not look like much now, but God says stop the pity party! Look to him and build his house! Build it within the local church where you are committed. Build it outside by taking the gospel out in word and deed. Build the house, and remember that it is worth it!
We are building something glorious!

• Sermons on Haggai from John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Luke Geraty.

• Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament; Mark Dever; ©2006, Crossway Books.

• How to Read the Bible Book by Book; Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart; ©2002, Zondervan.

• ESV Study Bible Notes; ©2008 Crossway Bibles

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