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Day 103 – Spiritual Formation and the Temple of God



Note: for over 100 days, I have written to you only about what is happening in Israel. And I will certainly continue. We cannot forget Israel. She is in desperate need right now. But I want to get back to building up the body. I hope this blesses you.


I have just begun my doctoral studies on Spiritual Formation. I've already finished the first two foundational classes, and I have three more that are now specific to Spiritual Formation. What is Spiritual Formation for the believer? Keep reading. It will make you hungry for God.


Wouldn't it be great if God would lead us like the ancient Israelites, a cloud by day and a fire by night? NO! You have something far better—the indwelling Spirit. The problem is that most of us do not cultivate this relationship and are oblivious to his presence. Did you ever consider that when the Israelites created the golden calf, the cloud by day and fire by night was still visible? They could actually see the evidence of God, but they did not know him. We fill our lives with material pursuits, but if we ever made "knowing God" the priority, we would realize that we have something so precious.


But such a pursuit takes TIME and INTENTION. You must make space for God, sacred space, in your life. We make time for that which we deem important. If we don’t make time for God, it’s because we don’t value time with God the way we should. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty but to remind you of what precious riches await you.


You are a Temple

The believer must see his body as a temple. We tend to understand that only in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, where we know that we are not to sin sexually because our body is a temple of God. But let's take that metaphor further. What happens at a temple? Worship, consecration, sacrifice, self-denial, ritual... That should be taken individually in the life of every believer. Richard Averbeck, an authority on Spiritual Formation, says, “A temple is by definition a place of divine presence, a sanctuary where the presence of God is manifest and approachable.”[1]


As you make space for God, it will become less of a chore and a complete delight. We embrace spiritual disciplines, not as an end in themselves but because they position us to experience God. They make our souls an attractive landing place for the Spirit and presence of God.


Spiritual Disciplines—Yuck!

What are those disciplines? Most know that we are to pray and to read the Bible. But there is so much more. There is solitude and silence. Have you recently sat for 10 minutes in silence, listening for the voice of God? There is service to others. Humility is the most important (Phil. 2:3-4). Slowly read one scripture (Lectio Divina), repeating it, and meditating on it, asking God to speak to you through it. Praying in the Holy Spirit. Praying slowly through the Lord's prayer (is powerful!). Of course, fasting from time to time. Self-denial.


If we do these things in our own strength, they are worthless. But if we do it out of a deep hunger to know God, soon, we will experience joy and delight in God that we never knew were possible. This is what we call spiritual formation.


But no one wants to talk about discipline. Yuck. But what if the discipline of playing basketball or piano led you to be the next Michael Jordan or Beethoven? Just like learning a language, a sport, or an instrument, it’s difficult initially; however, if we keep our eye on the goal—becoming like Jesus—“the Spiritual Disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery.”[2]


The Place for God to Dwell

The Tabernacle was the first idea of a place for permanent ritual activity to God:


And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it (Ex 25:8–9).


Hebrews tells us it had to be constructed just right because it was a copy of a heavenly structure (Heb. 8:5). The result of having built the structure just as God instructed was that his glory filled the place. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). The same thing happened when the temple was dedicated.


Then, the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God (2 Ch 5:13–14).


Sacred Space

God instructed Moses, then Solomon, to construct structures for him to reside in. Solomon surely understood that God cannot be contained in a building (1 Kgs 8:27). God gave us an example of how to meet with him. We must create space for God just as Moses and Solomon did.


And this is why sin is so offensive. If I bring sin into my temple and defile it, how can I expect God to dwell with me in the same temple? One of the ways that we will identify the antichrist is that he will desecrate the temple of God (2 Thes. 2:4). Antiochus Epiphanies, in the Hanukkah story, sacrificed a pig in the Jerusalem temple. The word Hanukkah means dedication, and after the Israelites defeated the Greco-Syrian king, they had to rededicate the desecrated temple.


We will sin, but we have an advocate who enables us to re-dedicate our temple as often as we need to (1 Jn. 2:1). I don’t say that to make light of sin, but to make big of the Messiah.


If we want to prepare a place that he will come to, we must not do immoral acts which grieve the Spirit. It is one thing to make a mistake; it is another thing to blatantly commit immorality. Purity is essential when we are in the presence of God—the entire book of Leviticus is dedicated to this idea of ritual purity.


One of the most powerful stories in Leviticus is when Aaron’s sons light unauthorized fire before the Lord (Lev. 10). They made light of Tabernacle service, and the fire consumed them. The point was made. Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people, I will be honored” (Lev. 10:3).

 

Strange Fire

The actual Hebrew for unauthorized fire is aish zara אש זרה, which means strange or illegitimate fire. Sadly, we see a lot of strange fire in the charismatic world, people who focus solely on experience and ignore the need for holiness. I say this as a charismatic; someone who believes in all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t that the fire was not fire; it was just not authorized by God, according to his set order.

 

Years ago, I found myself in a public confrontation with a well-known minister who was defending another minister caught in chronic sexual sin of every kind. This minister was known for bringing the presence of God into his meetings. I can testify that while watching a video of one of his meetings in 2007, I was touched by God in such a way that I enjoyed the presence of the Holy Spirit for three months straight.

 

But that is a gift (see the life of Samson). That is different from cultivating the presence of God in your own life. I cannot believe that on a daily basis, he was spending significant time in the word or prayer. How can you be living in adultery and pulling interns into immorality while enjoying a vibrant relationship with God? Paul would say it this way, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:16). You cannot bring prostitutes into the temple of God; that is paganism.


Averbeck says, “Immorality is inherently self-centered. It does not concern itself with pleasing God or doing right by others.”[3] It is even worse when you involve those under your authority, as this man did by defiling interns and preying on ‘fans’ online.

 

Rededicate your Temple

It would appear that God is putting his finger on immorality in his body these days. This is a time, in the fear of the Lord, to work at our salvation. More than that, so much more than that, it is a time to cultivate a deep intimacy with God. That is what he desires, and that is what he offers. Don’t believe the lie that he doesn’t want that with you. As I wrote in Birth Pangs, it’s going to be that type of relationship that will sustain us in the days to come.


Make your body a temple forgot to visit. Make your body a temple to honor God. With our bodies, we can serve God or ourselves. Let's dedicate our bodies to God like the ancient Israelites did the Tabernacle and Temple.

 

 


[1] Richard E. Averbeck, “Spirit, Community, and Mission: A Biblical Theology for Spiritual Formation,” Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care Vol. 1, Bo. 1 (2008) 37.

[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for Christian Life, 4.

[3] Richard E. Averbeck, “Spirit, Community, and Mission: A Biblical Theology for Spiritual Formation,” Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care Vol. 1, Bo. 1 (2008) 42.








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