In this sermon Tim unpacks how the Holy Spirit dwells amongst us, how we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, and how we are being built together as temples of the Holy Spirit!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday August 14, 2022.
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Welcome and Introduction
- So nice to hear about the HOHI dinner… well done to the two Rachel’s and all the volunteers.
- That feels like an amazing thing for all of us to go on supporting!
- In the Book of James it says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
- So this is a 101 course requirement for all of us if we are going go by the name Christians!
- So well done.
One of the things I have loved in this series on the Holy Spirit has been tracing some of the ideas or themes of the bible through the scriptures
- And how they often find their fulfilment in Jesus in the most profound way…
- But then remain relevant and available to us as the church today.
- We have obviously mainly done this just with the idea of the Holy Spirit.
- And we call that a biblical theology… the story of the bible through a theme!
- And you can do this with heaps of themes in the bible.
Example: So David is a shepherd who become a King and looks after his people.
- Obviously Psalm 23 “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
- And in Ezekiel it talks about where have all the good shepherds who will look after God’s people gone… and this promise that God himself will come as a Good shepherd
- Jesus then declares himself what? The good Shepherd… my sheep hear my voice
- But then as the church gets established… leaders are encouraged to be shepherds of the flock…
- Right? So it’s a great way to understand the bible… and specifically who Jesus is.
- And you can do this with the theme of Priests, or Kings, or Family or even Vineyards and Light.
- Do it… or don’t… whatever…
But the one I want to speak on today is presence…
On the presence of God, and particularly as it relates to how God dwells on earth.
- So I just want to go through some bible today tracing this idea…
- And then think about the implications for how we live our lives and how we come together as a church in worship?
- Sound ok?
- I think these are my favourite types of sermons…
Of course the bible starts and ends with God himself being present amongst his people.
- In Genesis God walks with Adam in the garden. Now however you understand that story… it shows us God’s original intent for his creation.
- To be present and known. The creator with his creation.
- In the Book of Revelation at the very end in chapter 21:3 it says “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
- So God dwells with his people at the beginning and at the end of the story…
But what we are really interested in, is what happens between those times, or the time we live in now.
- Because to know the presence of God, is to know God.
- And that is what I think we are after… to walk with God and to be his people who enjoy his presence.
- And that is the kind of church that I long to be a part of. One where God by his Holy Spirit is present in our midst.
- That is an exciting place to be! Pete spoke on that last week.
- And he encouraged us to be a church of love, life and worship in order that God will come!
- That’s the kind of house the Lord loves to dwell in.
So here is the verse I want to focus on today and then we will look at everything that leads up to this reality…
1 Corinthians 3:16 says; “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
Ephesians 2:21-22 gives us some more insights into this when the Apostle Paul says, talking about the Jesus and the church;
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit
1 Peter 2:5 says; “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house”
So there is this image of the church – that is you and me who follow Jesus and have been filled with his Spirit
- That we are like a temple made up of living stones… human stones.
- That are constituted by the fact that we are all filled with the Holy Spirit.
- That is being built together in some sort of way that resembles the temple in which God dwelt in ancient times.
- In other words… when we gather together, we are the temple in which God’s presence and glory manifests.
Gordon Fee puts it this way; “God himself by the Spirit has chosen to be present in our world in the gathered church.”
- He says, talking about the Ephesians verse (and this is big);
- “the church as the new temple, (is) the present place of God’s habitation on our planet”
- So as we gather and worship him, that is the place of God’s presence manifesting.
- Not the actual building… you know, this lovely brick and mortar building…
- Though that helps to have one… but its not the point…
- But you and me. Living stones… a place to host the presence of God!
And that is why I two weeks ago, and Peter last week talked about these manifestations of the Spirit’s power being evident when the church meets.
- God is here, because he lives in you… and when we meet, we are being built into a spiritual house as it says in 1 Peter
- Or in 1 Corinthians 3 a temple where God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.
- So we should expect God like things to happen.
- And as we will get to later on in this message, how do we most understand what God things we might expect?
- Well we look to Jesus who the most perfect example of God dwelling in human form.
- Are you with me?
So biblical theology time…
Now in the Old Testament (the time before Jesus) there was an actual temple that God’s glory was found in.
- There had been glimpses of this before the building of the temple by Solomon
- For instance with Moses and the tent of meeting, where Moses could enquire of the Lord.
- And this is during the Exodus when they are wandering to the promised land.
- So in Exodus 33:14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
- It went with them in the tent of meeting… called the tabernacle.
And again in Leviticus 26:11-12, God promises
11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
So in the story of God’s people, we then get to 1 Kings. The people of God have finally entered the promised land and defeated their foes…
- Then Solomon becomes King after his father, David…
- And a lot of his life is dedicated to building a temple in which the presence and glory of God can dwell amongst his people.
- If you are into the details… 1 Kings 6 is your place
- And there is this elaborate plan for the building of the temple
- And it is to be a place where the priests of God’s people will make sacrifices and meet with God.
- So it finally gets built….
Then something amazing happens in 1 Kings 8:10-11. It says;
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.
- “the glory of the Lord filled his temple” (keep that in your minds)
- Can you imagine that…. They’ve spent years building this place for God’s presence to be in their midst…
- And then what they can only describe as a cloud of glory comes and it is the Lord filling his temple.
- Right? 2 Chronicles 7:2 “The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.”
- So when this happens the priests are overwhelmed and fall back.
But of course it doesn’t really work as a dwelling for God as it is just a building… and it is at the whims of being overtaken and desecrated by foreign armies…
- And tragically that is what happens… the people of God are not very faithful and they come under judgement.
- In Ezekiel 9 the prophet says to them “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice.”
- And then tragically in the next chapter we read that the glory of the Lord leaves the temple.
To my mind it is one of the most heart breaking incident in the Old Testament.
- Can you imagine… you are God’s people. He has rescued you from slavery in Egypt.
- He has driven out your enemies and given you the promised land.
- You have received his Word, the law that is designed to give you life…
- But then because of your unfaithfulness… the presence of God departs.
- Just like that… his glory is gone!
- And that temple is actually destroyed by the conquering Babylonians a few decades on.
But like so much of what happens in the Old Testament… there is always a promise looking forward to a saviour figure who will come and fulfil where they have gone so wrong…
So in the Prophet Ezekiel in chapter 37 God promises (verse 26);
“I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them.”
And then… and then what happens… well to be honest its hundreds of years of silence…
But then something remarkable occurs…. And this should get us up out of our seats singing!
- We read something remarkable in John’s gospel…
- It is the truth that we must behold… that has changed history
- It is the single hinge point upon which all history depends.
John 1:14 “the Word became flesh and made his (what?) his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- Dwelling… glory… full of grace and truth.
- All that language is coming from this ancient story…
- If you want to understand Jesus. If you want to understand the Christian faith, it is all here.
- It is the story of God’s presence coming to dwell with mankind!
- We have seen his glory it says – in Jesus the same glory that filled the temple has filled a man!
The Greek word for dwelling we find here in John 1 is Esken-osen.
- It is often translated not just as dwelling but as tabernacling. Sound familiar?
- And at its most basic it means “pitching ones tent”
- This is the story of Jesus… it is God’s glory coming to tabernacle amongst us… it is God pitching his tent in our camp here on earth, dwelling amongst us!
- Are you with me?
So if we want to understand Jesus, that is how we understand what he does.
- When he heals the sick… that is God’s glory dwelling amongst us.
- When he has mercy on the broken… that is God’s glory dwelling amongst us.
- When he teaches with grace and truth… that is God’s glory dwelling amongst us.
- When Jesus dies on the cross to take away the sins of the world… hear this clearly – behold (as John would say) that is God’s glory dwelling amongst us!
- Like the glory of God that entered the temple… God is most perfectly at home in the person of Jesus Christ!
- To know Jesus is to know God’s glory… it is to know God!
So what has all of this got to do with a series on the Holy Spirit?
Well what did Jesus say?
- In John 14 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you… the Spirit of truth… you know him for he lives with you and will be (what?) he will be in you.”
- Just as God’s glory dwelled in the temple
- Just as God’s glory, his Spirit dwelled in Jesus
- The promise is, God’s glory, His Spirit will now dwell in you!
2 Corinthians 3:18
“We… are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
- Now that is a mind boggling thought after all we have looked at today.
- We are being transformed into Jesus image… it says with ever increasing glory!
- We are beginning to reflect more and more of glory it says… as we are filled with his Spirit.
- Like the glory that entered the temple…
- Like the glory that was on display in Jesus…
- The goal of the Christian life is this kind of glory transformation…
- Are you with me.
Just to repeat it one more time…
- If you wanted to meet with God in the Old Testament you would go to the temple, as fleeting and imperfect as this was.
- If you wanted to meet God 2000 years ago, you could have met him in and around Jerusalem in the person of Jesus Christ.
- And if you or people want to meet God today… then 1 Corinthians 3:16 reminds us… that it happens here in the gathered church!
- Temple, Jesus, church… the place of the dwelling of the glory of God!
So back to 1 Corinthians 3:16 which says;
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
- I told you we would get back there! It’s taken us a while…
- But I wanted to give you more of the story…
- But that friends then is who we are as a church.
- Not a Jesus admiration club or just a charitable works society or a place to make friends…
- Listen to Gordon Fee again; “God himself by the Spirit has chosen to be present in our world in the gathered church.”
Now I think we will do more on this next week because 1 Corinthians 6 goes on to challenge us in living lives of purification in the knowledge of our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit…
- So there are all kind of implications for this in our personal holiness
- And all kinds of implications for how we do life together as living stones being built together
- And I think we need to do some more on the refining work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification…
But I want to finish today on where all of this has really been pointing.
- And that is that when we gather it should be an experience of the glory of God manifesting
- As each one of us, a Spirit filled follower of Jesus come together like living stones…
- Like a temple with God’s Spirit dwelling in our midst.
- That our church, that every church might be a place of the presence of God.
Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding California is famous for a line.
- He says “we owe the world an encounter with God.”
- That is what changes our lives…
- That is what will change the lives of the people we love.
- That they might meet God powerfully when they come to the gathered church… God’s place of habitation on earth!
- Shall we stand?