John 4:19-26 (ESV)
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Jesus, Our Messiah
Our God is a triune God – Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. He exists as three distinct persons in one being – one God. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was with God from the beginning, and he is God, and he is our creator. He was sent by the Father to the earth, took on human form, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. And, this was so he could sympathize with us in our weaknesses, and so that he could be our pure sacrifice for our sins.
But, the Jews hated Jesus, even though he was one of their own, because he confronted them with their sins, he warned of divine judgment, he told them he was God, he didn’t submit to all their traditions, and he wasn’t fooled by their hypocrisies. They were jealous of him, too, and they were threatened by his (temporary) popularity among the people, feeling that their own positions of power might be at risk. So, they harassed him at every turn, and eventually they put him to death by hanging him on a cross.
But, it was the Father’s will that Jesus should die on that cross. For, in his death he took our place, our punishment for sin, so that we could be delivered from our slavery to sin, and from the penalty of sin (eternal death), and so we can now walk in his righteousness and holiness in his power. Yet, he didn’t remain dead. He rose from the grave victorious over sin, on our behalf, so that we can now live with him to his praise and glory.
Thus, when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we die with him to sin, we are transformed of Holy Spirit from death to life, reborn of the Spirit of God in newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The Temple of God
When we put our trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, the Holy Spirit comes within us to dwell. He lives within us to empower us for godly living and to strengthen us for resisting Satan. He also lives to counsel, encourage, urge, comfort, teach, correct, and rebuke us, as necessary, so that we have the guidance of God within us to teach us the right way to walk, and to warn us against following after the wrong way.
Because the Holy Spirit now lives within those of us who believe on Jesus with God-given and God-inspired faith, that means we now have God living within us. So, WE are now his temple, the body of Christ, his church. So, the temple of God is no longer a building built by human hands. Thus, the church is not a building. It is not a denomination. Thus, First Baptist Church or West Hill Presbyterian Church are NOT the church. We, the people of God, are the church, and we exist everywhere, all over the earth.
Yet, many people have carried over from Jewish and from Catholic tradition that the church is a man-made structure, and that it exists within a building, and that the building is the “house of God” and that God’s Spirit lives within that structure. Thus, they will teach that when we enter that building that we are on holy ground. But, that just isn’t true.
No building is the church. No building or denomination is the house of God. God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands. So, just because a structure or an organization has the name “church” does not make it the church. For, the church is not an organization, and it is not a business, although that is what it has largely been turned into. But, the church is a living organism made up of God’s people, no matter where they gather.
Many people have left the organized institutional church. But, that does not necessarily equate to them leaving the church. For, they may leave the organization called “church” in order to unite with the true church, which is comprised of those who truly are following Jesus Christ with their lives. So, just because they don’t attend a gathering of people called “church” does not mean they are necessarily forsaking the assembling of themselves together. For, they may be gathering together outside of the human structure called “church” to fellowship with Christ’s body, his church.
For, the institutional church is a mixture of the world and the church. It is a mixture of God’s people in an unholy union with the government. And, it is not God’s design for his people to be unequally yoked together with the ungodly or for them to turn his body (his house) into a marketplace.
In Spirit and Truth
Since God now dwells within those of us who are his, by faith, and we are his body, the church, we can enter into his presence anywhere, at any hour of the day. For we are his temple, and the Holy of Holies now lives within us.
So, in order for us to enter into God’s Holy presence, all we have to do is talk with him, just like we might talk to another person who is in our presence. No formalities are required at all, just simple faith and trust, and a heart open to hear what the Lord wants to say to us, and a willingness to obey. We don’t have to say any fancy words. We just need to be sincere.
We can worship God any time of the day, too, in any location. For worship is also not a formality or a routine, but true worship of God is giving our hearts and our lives to him in full surrender to his will for our lives.
It, too, is forsaking our former lives of living for sin and self, and it is following our Lord Jesus in obedience to his will and his purposes for our lives. And, it is no longer being conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but it is being transformed in the renewing of our minds away from our sinful patterns of behavior to now walking with our Lord in his holiness (See: Rom. 12:1-2; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:16-26).
As the body of Christ, his church, we are thus to encourage one another in these ways. We are to help one another to grow in our walks of faith, and to live godly, holy and pure lives for the glory of God. And, we are to speak the truth in love, one to another, and we are to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, for our spiritual encouragement and strengthening in the Lord.
And, we are to use the gifts of the Spirit, which God has given each one of us, to instruct one another and to build one another up in the faith, to help, nurture and comfort one another, and to minister to one another’s needs. And, this way we will all be able to work together as one body so that we might all reach maturity and unity in our faith in Jesus Christ and, thus, no longer be tossed here and there by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (See: Eph. 4:11-24; Rom. 12; 1 Co. 12).
And, this is how the body is supposed to operate. This is the church. And, this is what we all need to be doing, because the days are evil, and we don’t want anyone to lose faith. But, we want to see all our brothers and sisters in Christ living holy lives for the glory of God, which is where we will find true peace, hope, comfort and healing.
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.
Monday, January 28, 2019