tAKE HEED HOW YOU BUILD
Reading: Exodus 33-34 / Psalm 90-91 / 1st Corinthians 3
Once more then brethren & sisters, we find ourselves gathered together around these emblems of our Heavenly Father’s love. But these emblems before also emphasise and witness too us of the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father personally and to his covenant promises in Christ Jesus. We see in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord, that faithfulness, a faithfulness we can trust and rest in brethren and sisters.
Ephesians 2 and verses 19 – 22
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.
This passage brings before us the centrality of the one we have come to remember the Lord Jesus Christ, he being the foundation stone of the new creation. Notice after he is named, there is a further three references to him in the phrases, firstly “in whom”, which is repeated for emphasis and then secondly “in the Lord”.
These two phrases powerfully exhort us brethren and sisters that this mighty work of God is rooted and grounded in our Master. That this ongoing construction of which we are all a part is not something abstract, but personal (for in whom we read), because it’s speaking of our relationship to the one manifest before us in these emblems.
Secondly our relationship to the Master is defined precisely for us in that second phrase (in the Lord). We are each and collectively are subordinate to him and to his direction and control.
This temple which is being developed through the spirit brethren and sisters has been a long time in fabrication, as we read that we are being built up, erected upon the apostles (New Testament) and the prophets (Old & New Testament), which in turn are founded upon the Lord Jesus Christ. So then brethren and sisters we are connected to a long line of fellow workers and saints of old. Because of this connection, we are duty bound then to work with our Heavenly Father and with one another to build in accordance with what has gone before and according to the divine architectural plan.
Verse nineteen emphasises this very point for us in the terms that it uses to describe our position within the Lord Jesus Christ. For now we are “fellowcitizens” and this great privilege, brings with it responsibilities, just as it does in the natural sense, living here in the UK. Now although these responsibilities are not defined for us here in this passage, the next term “saints”, begins to place upon us direction.
For the Greek word for “saints”, informs us firstly that we have been separated out of the current world for our God and secondly according to his purpose. As such we are to live accordingly, pure and holy lives that reflect the character of the one who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Finally in the last descriptor in verse nineteen we are all drawn together into “the household of God” into his family through the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being related now together in Christ, we are to function as a family, but a family orientated by personal holiness and according to our divine citizenship.
Returning to verses twenty-one and twenty-two we see here the overall purpose of our being bound together brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus. In verse twenty-one we have the collective intention, as an ecclesia and then in twenty-two find the individual application of that same incredible goal. Our Heavenly Father desires that we function as a holy temple and as such then a habitation for him through the spirit. What an awesome and stunning design, but equally brethren and sisters what an inspiring and high endeavour we each have been called too.
Now it is crucial to note that the collective purpose is placed before the individual application in verse twenty-two. For we live in an age of hyper individualisation, where self and the personal expression of self – rules absolutely!
Sadly within the truth I am seeing a growing and disturbing expression of this in the misappropriation of the principle of ecclesial autonomy. Ecclesias rightly function as discrete self governing units within the larger body of Christ, but increasingly I am hearing and seeing individual brethren and sisters taking this approach to their own spiritual life, desiring to be autonomous and not subject to the ecclesia they belong too. This false concept of spiritual autonomy is the very antithesis of what our Heavenly Father is doing in and through the current high priestly work of our Lord Jesus Christ brethren and sisters, as witnessed too in these verses.
Verses 21 – 22:
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.
Now in both of these verses the same twin actions are occurring, but at different levels, in the first its is on the ecclesial level. We note the word states that in Christ “all the building fitly framed together” is fashioned and then moved into place for final assembly. This process is exactly that which took place with the work of the temple in Solomon’’ day when everything was prepared off site and then only slotted in to place on the temple mount. So our Lord is doing exactly this with our own ecclesias today.
At the same time our ecclesias are meant to be incubators and promoters of personal holiness, as is evidenced by the following phrase “groweth unto an holy temple”. So then on an ecclesial level the brethren and sisters are to be continually moving and being connectedly interrelated one with another. For it is through this interpersonal interaction that growth is properly achieved:
Ephesians 4 and verses 15 – 16:
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”.
Within this passage from chapter four we learn that each one of us is an individual “joint” within the body and that those joints are to be connected and touching and its through this interaction that nourishment and growth or increase is achieved.
So what is your ecclesia doing here to support and to promote such increasing interconnection and growth between its members?
What policies and strategies are your arranging brethren focusing on?
What specific Bible classes upon your plan foster such activities and body life?
Another personal observation here, as a community we are excellent at giving in terms of our service for the ecclesia. But increasingly I think and feel we are becoming poorer at sharing life together outside of that service, we unfortunately to some extent have come to mirror the society around us in its lack of community.
Returning to chapter two we can add the other necessary action required of us:
What is your ecclesia doing to stress the importance and develop personal holiness in its full membership?
Colossians 2 and verse 19:
“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God”.
This is the corresponding passage in the Epistle to the Colossians, but here it is couched in the negative. So when we “hold” the head Christ, where he is meant to be in our lives and in our ecclesias then there will be godly growth. That concept of “holding” up Christ from the Greek is meant to be a habitual daily practice of those within the ecclesia. So then brethren and sisters how well is your ecclesia or indeed my ecclesia doing at up holding the Lord Jesus Christ and keeping him central to all that we do? Indeed how good are you or I at holding up our head daily?
Now each of these principles which apply on the ecclesial level to our individual ecclesias, also apply personally to each and every one of us brethren and sisters. So then over the coming week ahead:
Who will you connect with this coming week?
Who will you seek to nourish this coming week?
What will you do to encourage your own personal holiness?
What will you do to encourage others in personal holiness?
For the stress in verse twenty-two of Ephesians two is on. How will you as an individual brother and sister within the ecclesia co-labour with the other brethren and sisters and with our Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ to edify the ecclesia?
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.
Now if we personally and indeed collectively as an ecclesia are to be a “habitation of God through the Spirit”. How then do we endeavour to become so brethren and sisters, personal holiness is a prerequisite as is clear from verse twenty-one? But what else can we each personally do?
Well we can endeavour to the best of our ability to be personal vessels of the spirit word of our God, through study, meditation and prayer. Scriptural memorisation is not just for our children in Sunday school, we must work at getting the word into our hearts and minds and enthuse one another to do likewise. For our spiritual growth and our ability to withstand temptation and sin is in direct proportion to our hunger for, the intake, and digestion of the word of God. Therefore our ability to be dwelling places for the Father, as a temple for our God is equally in correlation to the word being found in us both individually and collectively as an ecclesia.
2nd Corinthians 6:16 – 7:1:
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”.
Here we see again those twin actions of separation and holiness and this is to be done “in the fear of God”. Here is the motivation for such action the fear of our God, which we are told elsewhere is the beginning of wisdom. Now both aspects of fear must be present brethren and sisters reverence and dread and as another aside it is a shame and to our detriment that we no longer speak of or reference the dread of the Almighty.
This thought takes us in the middle of the first of our Psalm readings for the day:
Psalm 90 and verses 7 – 11:
“For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath”.
These verses powerfully lay out before us the toil, the way-wardness and fleeting nature of our lives in contrast with the eternality of our Great and holy God. The dread / fear of our God brethren and sisters ensures that we will never minimise our sin and sinfulness. After all just glance to the table before us and see the price, which was paid to redeem you and I from the nature that we bare and its consequences.
Equally in our first reading for the day back in Exodus thirty-three and thirty-four we have the same point being powerfully emphasised for us in that remarkable instance of Moses receiving the revelation of our Heavenly Fathers character. For Israel like us are a stiff-necked people and God does not want to consume them by his presence.
So Moses intercedes on their behalf, because of their sin in the matter of the golden calf and in doing so becomes a type of our Lord whom we shall shortly remember. Only after this is the covenant ratified and Moses is blessed to have that personal revelation of God’s glory and importantly his goodness, which he made to pass before Moses.
Moses took very seriously his responsibilities in leading / shepherding the people for God and we brethren and sisters need to take our work of ecclesial edification with that same soberness. Now what helped Moses to be able to do this was the fact that he developed a close personal relationship with his God, he cultivated it and he always had a sense of the big picture of God’s person and his plan and purpose.
Exodus 33 and verses 13 & 18:
“ Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory”.
Are our prayers brethren and sisters as bold as Moses is here? Do we have the desire that Moses had to know our God intimately? Do we have this same desire to know the Master as closely?
The prayer of Psalm 90 continues in verse 12:
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.
Cause us to fully grasp how little time we have to us to apply our hearts where they should be unto wisdom. Moses implores our Heavenly Father using seven imperative commands within verses twelve to seventeen; with the first being the word “teach” in verse twelve. Let me give you an exercise here, if I may, take Psalm 90 and break into two parts, I suggest:
Verses 1 – 12
Verses 12 – 17
And over the next two days brethren and sisters take the appropriate part of this psalm and spend five to ten minutes meditating* upon it. Thinking what it tells us concerning God, about ourselves and his purpose and having done that I want you to then use those thoughts and the part of the psalm concerned to form a personal prayer. Then the following day, you can repeat the exercise with the final portion of this Psalm.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.
This need and desire expressed by Moses is exactly what we need brethren and sisters if we are to be found faithfully building within the ecclesia. Our hearts stand for the whole of our lives, our thinking, our emotions, our will and our actions and it is the heart, which is the true battleground for God. Will he win our hearts in Christ, as he had won Moses’?
Proverbs 4 and verse 23:
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life”.
The Psalm begins with a nod to that which God did in the creation, establishing the mountains, which seem to us such a fantastic symbol of permanence. But this Psalm ends with God sharing his beauty with men in the kingdom age and beyond, making them permanent in Christ. Thus brethren and sisters it has been said that the initial creation of the universe pails into insignificance to his new creation in Christ. Where ordinary people such as you and I are transformed from a state of sin to being as our Lord is now!
The emblems before us upon the table brethren and sisters show to us the desire of our Heavenly Father in Christ to perfect and complete that work began in each one of us. As Philippians declares, “being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”.
Psalm 90 and verses 13 – 15:
“Return, O Yahweh, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil”.
Here Moses appeals to the Father to show mercy unto his wayward people to bless them in proportion to their affliction to restore the fullness of their relationship. We brethren and sisters as we read these verses also long for the kingdom and the return of our Lord.
Yet there is within these verses a partial fulfilment in that we have the Lord Jesus Christ. His mercy as evident in the emblems before us upon the table ought to satisfy us brethren and sisters. In Christ we have everything to be glad about and to rejoice over due to the great hope, which is ours vouchsafe for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed brethren and sisters we have been afflicted and seen evil in proportion to our sinfulness, frailty and our mortality. Moses agrees with Jacob who told Pharaoh, “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been”. Yet we contrast that statement with the spirit word through the Apostle:
2nd Corinthians 4 and verses 16 – 18:
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”.
Brethren and sisters Moses finishes his prayer here in Psalm ninety, which is thought to be the earliest of the Psalms written; praying for our Heavenly Father to revive his work in the nation and complete and fulfil his covenant promises in them.
Psalm 90 and verses 16 – 17
“Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of Yahweh our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it”.
Such should equally be our prayer brethren and sisters, because undoubtedly the beauty of God here is his character so perfectly manifested in the one we have come to remember. Those essential qualities embodied by our Lord now perfected in a nature free from sin. A state we each long to be in, as we read elsewhere, “we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”.
The Psalm ends with that repeated call for our Heavenly Father to “establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it”. And as we acknowledge from another psalm, “except Yahweh build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. This brings us full circle brethren and sisters for we started contemplating the work of the ecclesia and our part in it.
Our New Testament reading for the day is principally concerned with this work and how you and I will build the ecclesia / the temple of God?
1st Corinthians 3 and verses 9 – 10:
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God, which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon”.
Now the end of verse ten contains a commanded warning for us brethren and sisters, “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon”. For build we must and so let us apply our hearts unto wisdom that we build with enduring materials of Gold, silver and precious stones. Gold equals building faithfully, silver speaks of being redemptive in our motivation and attitude to construction. Then finally precious stones are symbols of people our brethren and sisters involved. This speaks of the relationships within the ecclesia. For there are only two things which will go into the kingdom my dear brethren and sisters our characters and our relationships (people).
As we come now to break bread and to drink wine brethren and sisters. Let us see in this bread a symbol of the word of life, which is able to edify us and we so can build up one another after the example of our Lord. Likewise in the wine, let us see the sacrifice of our Master who willingly and obediently laid down his life for us and let his example inform each one of our lives to give our lives in service and community for the brethren.
Jude and verses 20 – 21:
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”.