Intrusion into a Religious World
October 2, 1999, Salima, Africa
I want to talk with you for a few minutes about the People of God who lived 3,000 years ago. They were the Israelites. They had a temple in Jerusalem on a mountain called Zion. It was a building. It was covered with gold and beautiful woodcarvings. Many times a year people would come to the building. There were special days. There were holidays. When they would get there, they would sing songs to God. They would offer God sacrifices. They would want to draw close to God. There would be priests there who would help them at the temple. The priests’ job was to help people draw close to God. The priests would offer the animal sacrifices. The priests would kill the animal and sprinkle the blood on the altar so that the people could have their sins forgiven and draw close to God.
That was 3,000 years ago. Let’s talk about the People of God today. Let’s talk about the true Israel. Brothers and sisters, if you have given your hearts to Jesus, you are the true Israel of God. Amen. If you have given your heart to Jesus, He is your King, and you are the Israel of God.
I was sitting here a few minutes ago watching a man walking across the yard. As he was walking, there was a shadow behind him. When the man walked, the shadow walked. When the man moved his arms, the shadow moved its arms. The shadow had legs. The shadow had arms. The shadow had a head. But was the shadow a man? No. The shadow was not real. It looked like a man. It moved like a man. But it was only the shape of a man. Brothers and sisters, the children of God from 3,000 years ago were a shadow of the children of God today. Let’s talk about what some of those shadows mean.
In the past, there was a temple. Today, we do not have a temple made with hands. Today, you are the temple of God. God does not live in a building. Jesus lives in the hearts of those who have chosen Him to be King. You don’t need to go to a holy place. If you are holy, then this is the holy place. You don’t need to go somewhere special to be close to God. You can know God in your heart. We are the temple.
Brothers and sisters, you do not need a special day. The Bible says, “Today is the day of salvation.” It says, “Today do not harden your hearts.” It says to encourage one another daily. We don’t have to wait for a Sabbath day. We don’t have to wait for a time of worship. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day we can live close to God. So we don’t need a special place or a special time.
What about the priests? The priests’ job was to draw people close to God. Now that we don’t have a shadow, we have something real. Today the priests of God are YOU. Your job is to draw close to God in your heart and then draw other men and women close to God, too. You don’t need a man to dress up in special clothes or call himself some special name because you can be a priest of God.
Today the Kingdom of God is not about a place. It’s not about a time. It’s not about special songs. It’s about a people who live for Him, a people who live to serve Jesus seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. A people who love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.
When Jesus was walking on this earth, He talked to a woman. She asked Him a question: “Where should we worship God? Do we worship on this mountain or on that mountain?” Jesus answered, “Neither place. The Kingdom of God is not here or there. The Kingdom of God is within you.” The kind of worshippers the Father wants worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Amen. So the people of God are the people who worship Him seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day by loving Him with all their hearts.
There is more to the temple as well. One person cannot be a temple. Yes, God can live in one person’s heart, but each person is a stone that is built together with other stones and built together to become a temple. We must have each other. How am I to worship God each day? According to the Word of God, unless I have encouragement from my brothers and sisters every day, my heart will grow hard to God. My heart will become full of sin. I will become hardened to my sin. I must have other brothers and sisters encouraging and exhorting me, and it must happen each day. In that way, we can be stones that are built together. In that way, we can become the temple of God. In that way, true worship to God can be offered in our hearts.
Let’s talk a minute about worship. Today we don’t need an animal sacrifice. What is the sacrifice we are to offer to God? According to the Bible, the sacrifice we are to offer to God is our lives. We are not a dead sacrifice, we are a living sacrifice. Our minds must not be like the minds of the world. We must think with the mind of Christ. We must offer ourselves to God. We will be living sacrifices. That is worshipping God, even if we are not singing or praying. We can worship God when we are working. We can worship God while we are cooking or washing clothes, or sitting with our friends.
If we have minds that are controlled by Jesus and if we are offering ourselves to Him as a sacrifice, we are worshipping God. Brothers and sisters, that is the Kingdom of God. Not a place, not a time, but a people. A people who live as priests of God, all day, every day, encouraging and helping one another so that they can love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, so they can offer their lives to Him each day. That is our inheritance as His People. That is what God wills for His People. We can live that way. We don’t have to be like the shadow. We can be the real man. That’s what God wants for us today. Is that what you want, too? Okay, let’s learn how to live that way together.
Build According to the Pattern
I know that many things that you have heard so far today might be a little bit difficult. But we have seen all over the world that this is very good news. We came because we are very excited to tell you about a way that God has always wanted to build His House. We have met people all over the world that are very good people. Some are Pentecostal, some are Baptist, and some are other denominations. They have spent their lives being divided from each other. They have spent their lives with their hearts broken by sin. So many good people have spent their lives with heartbreaks with relationships in the family. So many disappointments, so many things that are not like Jesus. Even disappointments in ourselves; things that we know we want to do for Jesus, and then we can’t. Sin that we want to put away and then we find ourselves too weak to put it away.
The Bible says in 1 John 3:8 that the Son of God came into the world to destroy sin. He didn’t come just to forgive sin. That is so indescribably wonderful that He would forgive sin, isn’t it? Amen? But He also wants to destroy sin. He wants to take the devil and crush him under His foot. That is our inheritance as a people of God, to crush satan. Not just to survive, but to destroy the devil’s works. Many of the reasons that we have not seen God manifested that way to heal broken hearts and to destroy sin is not because there are not many wonderful people—there are. It’s not because there aren’t many special gifts in the Body of Christ—there are many special gifts. Much of the reason that we have failed with our hearts’ desire to please God is because we have not built God’s way.
The shadow we were speaking of about God’s House, God’s temple in the Old Testament, was supposed to be built according to the pattern. God told them how to build that temple, and they built it the way God said. What if they had taken all the stone and all the gold for the temple and then just did it any way they wanted to do it? God would have been unhappy, and the house would have fallen down.
God has many wonderful people all over the world. What has happened very often in the last 2,000 years is that these people have been desiring to change their lives and please Him, but they have been frustrated. They have been unable to find their full potential and really serve Him well. It is their whole heart, but they fail again and again. The reason why they fail is because we have often built the wrong way. We have not built according to the pattern, the design, that God has given us. When anyone attempts anything, but attempts to do it in totally the wrong way, they will seldom find success, no matter how sincere they may be.
We want to talk about how good people can reach their potential now. We can allow the gifts in the Body of Christ to be built together into a habitation of God, filled with God’s glory. There is a way God wants us to be built so we can see sin’s power broken in real life and no longer be slaves to all of our weaknesses. God’s plan is to build relationships, not to have problems all the time. God has a wonderful way to build His House with wonderful people. Religion in the world, until now, has usually built God’s House wrong, with men as bosses and holy men and attending meetings as their definition of “church.”
In the natural realms, we have learned over the years how to build with concrete. There is a certain amount of sand that has to go in the concrete, as well as a certain amount of water. If you put in too much cement or too much sand or too much water, the concrete crumbles. We have learned around the world that in order to make concrete strong, you have to put reinforcement steel in it so that it doesn’t crack when it gets hot and cold. We know that when we make bricks or mortar, there are certain ways to build buildings and how to put the brick in a furnace. There are things that we have learned about building in the natural realms.
After ten years of being a Christian, most people in clergy-controlled, attendance-based religion are not very much stronger than they were after their first year. This is not good. If our one-year-old children grew to be ten but they were still not any stronger or wiser than when they were one, that would be very sad. If you had a ten-year-old child in your family who was still as weak as a one-year-old, and still couldn’t walk or talk much better than a one-year-old—as a father or mother that would break your heart, wouldn’t it?
How do you think our Father in heaven feels when all of His People should be strong and wise and “full of the Holy Ghost and full of wisdom,” and “ought to be teachers by now” “no longer infants,” doing the work of God... yet many of us are still no stronger than one-year-olds? This is true around the world, and it breaks God’s heart. We can’t sing enough songs or “preach” enough sermons to change that, because we have not been building God’s way in God’s House. God has designed His House to be built so that sin can be redeemed and crushed. God’s way to “have church” allows relationships to be healed and sin and weakness to be removed. This is God’s heart for His people around the world. We have not known how to build, but now we must learn how to build. God said we must be “very careful how we build.”
So, hopefully by God’s grace we will talk about many practical things in the next period of time. Just as engineers have to learn how to use concrete, how to make it right so that it will be strong, also God’s people have to learn how to build correctly so that His House is strong. The same good people, the same gifts built correctly, make a glorious House. That’s what we want to talk about, how to build God’s House better with the same good people. This is not an insult of the past. We are not angry with the system. With humble hearts we just want to say that it is time to go forward now. The past is the past. Let’s grow up now. Out of love and patience and kindness let’s go forward now. We have spent too many years being one-year-olds. It’s time to go on now, with our hands open.
The Holy Spirit has given us much to think about. I just wanted to add a short word of encouragement. A little while ago we were singing. A few of the songs were in English, and I understood them. One of the songs we sang was “Lord, You are Excellent, I Know You are Excellent.” It’s a very true song. Jesus is excellent. I thought of a scripture in 1 Peter 2:9. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Our Lord Jesus has called us out of darkness into light, and we are grateful. Are you grateful? Amen. Do you want to declare that He is excellent? There are many people around us who need to hear that the Lord Jesus is excellent. This morning on the bus we passed by groups of Muslims. Would you like them to know that Jesus is excellent? I want them to know that.
Around the world we have found people who worship ancestors or idols, and some people who don’t worship anything at all. They need to know that Jesus is excellent, and it is our job to show them. But this matter of showing that Jesus is excellent is more who we are than what we say. That’s what Peter says here. He calls us a “royal priesthood.” We have talked about that some this morning, where there is not just one priest, but many priests. It also talks about us being a holy nation, a people belonging to God. That means that among Christians, the Lord Jesus is King, and we obey Him. In that we will declare His excellencies.
I live in the United States of America. On our trip, I brought an American passport. But I am not, in truth, really an American citizen. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. You are citizens, not of Malawi, but of the Kingdom of God. Now usually that means that citizens of the Kingdom of God are the best citizens of their country because they obey the laws, not out of fear, but out of a desire to obey. But if their nation tells them to disobey God, they say, “No. We will obey God, not man.” That’s what it means to be a holy nation. In the same way, we will not let our cultures tell us what to do. We will let God tell us what to do. I come from a country where the culture is very sinful. Our culture in America has forgotten how to be ashamed of sin. I will not obey my culture. I will obey God. Amen.
I don’t know Malawian culture very well. But you, too, must obey God, not your culture. That’s part of what it means to be the Kingdom of God. The same thing is true about denominations. This morning we passed by a building that said “Nazarene church.” We passed by a building that said “Lutheran church.” We passed by a building that said “Church of Christ.” All of them are meeting today. They are all serving their own traditions. Part of the Kingdom of God means that we obey God rather than traditions. Amen? Tradition will not be our king. The Lord Jesus will be our King. We are that kind of holy nation. We will be able to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ. When we are a holy nation, our proclamation will be clear, not confusing, and all men will be able to decide whether they will bow their knee and obey Him. So this morning we are not bringing you a new denomination. We are just bringing you the Kingdom of God. Let’s live that way together. Amen.