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Friday, August 21, 2009

Building God's House (Haggai 1:1-15)

Zerubbabel and Joshua and the rest of the people of Jerusalem were able to avert God’s anger and receive His blessing because they redirected their energies and refocused their priorities. They did not give up rebuilding their homes and the rest of the city, but they gave top priority to completing the work on the temple, which was God’s top priority. This is one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture. Praise God if it can be said about us: “The people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God . . . . And the people feared the Lord.”

And how did God respond to this change of heart and mind? “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.” What greater encouragement and affirmation could we ever desire?

All of this is well and good, but it does not give us much guidance on making Christ-honoring changes in our own lives. Assuming that we want to stop working on our own metaphorical houses and focus on the Lord’s house – that we want to give our first attention to His top priorities and not our own – how do we know what God’s top priorities are?

Priority Number One is the same today as it was in Haggai’s day. We are to build God’s temple. Today, of course, the temple of God is not a building or structure; it is the bodies and lives of Christians. I Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

The first step in building a temple pleasing to God is to have a personal relationship with Him. Christians come in many styles and flavors: we may be Presbyterian or Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox, Pentecostal or fundamentalist, Calvinist or Free-Will. Some of us worship by singing hymns; others sing contemporary Christian music and choruses. Some churches baptize infants; others baptize only believers. There are legitimate areas for Christians to differ on these issues, and room for diversity within the Kingdom on non-essential doctrines and preferences.

But one point is clear: no one ever attained salvation by merely belonging to a church, or being baptized, or singing in the choir, or serving on a committee, or doing good to the poor. All of these things are good, but God demands more. He demands a personal, heart-felt acceptance of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the Cross, and a recognition that only faith in Him, and not any merit on our part, can make us acceptable to God. If we have not reached that level of personal faith, then we have not even begun to “build God’s temple.”

What about those who have accepted Christ as Savior, but are not really giving that relationship much time or effort? That may describe many Christian lawyers. Our salvation is secure, but we are so consumed with our lawyering and the tremendous demands on our time that God more and more fills the role of a comforting after-thought. We focus on Him Sunday mornings in church, but during the rest of the week He slips from our consciousness. We don’t deny Him, but we ignore Him.

In doing so, we have duplicated the mistake of Haggai’s day. We have neglected the repair and improvement of God’s temple in order to do things that are good, but not God’s best. “Good enough” is always the enemy of the best. Like the people of Jerusalem, we must hear God’s call and make our daily focus on Him and His word to be our top priority. We must obey the voice of the Lord, so that God can say, “I am with you.”

~ Prof. Brad Jacob, Regent University School of Law

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