He Dwells In Us, Not Our Sanctuaries

“There’s nothing magical about these steps. But we can come up here and take the humble posture of prayer by kneeling.”

I got into the habit during the invitation component of my sermons of saying something like this. I point to the altar in our sanctuary and downplay its significance. The posture of prayer is significant, but not the carpeted steps leading up to our stage. There’s nothing significant about them, in terms of holiness.

We are living in unprecedented times. Unprecedented times that are affecting the way that we gather together as the church.

I do not envy one bit those who have had to prayerfully make decisions for the coming weeks for their churches.

I don’t know what the right answer is.

Our church leadership has chosen to gather together over the radio or over livestreaming as opposed to in person. We believe this is what is best for the time being.

So right now, our sanctuary will be empty for the foreseeable future.

There has been a proliferation of posts that fit the following mantra: “the church isn’t the building. we are.”

And as much as this language makes me cringe a tiny bit, it’s true.

But I want to talk about it from a slightly different perspective.

I want to talk about where God dwells.

God doesn’t dwell in the sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Vernon, Texas. He dwells with His people. Somewhere along the way (and I’ve studied zero minutes about this) we began to believe that God dwelled in a building like the temple that Solomon built for Him. So we started making sanctuaries these holy places where God dwelled with man. And yet God doesn’t dwell there.

He dwells in us.

I’ve been studying the book of Ephesians (my last two blogs have been out of this marvelous book of the Bible) and I’m reminded again and again that the message of the entire scope of Scripture is not God coming to dwell in a building, but rather God coming to dwell with a people.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. - Ephesians 2:19-22

I mean, come on y’all.

The second chapter of Ephesians details the amazing work of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It tells us how utterly broken we were in our sin, in the kingdom of darkness. Then we see the work of God. We see how we were SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. The implications of this wonderful news continues on into this passage.

We are fellow citizens with one another.

We are saints and fellow members of the family of God.

Even those who go to other churches in town.

The implications and applications of that reality alone is far-reaching.

But look at the conclusion. We have been brought together, built up into a dwelling place for the Lord.

Let that sink in.

It’s always been about the people.

In Genesis, we see the framework of this, as God promises to bless all the nations through the line of Abraham.

In Revelation, we see the culmination of this, as every tribe and tongue and nation bows before King Jesus.

All throughout the way, in tabernacles, temples, and Jesus, God has dwelled with His people. Paul tells explicitly in Acts 17 that God doesn’t dwell in buildings made by human hands.

So what does that mean for today?

It means that maybe, just maybe, we come to know this truth of Scripture like never before.

Maybe, just maybe, we will remember that we have always been called to primarily live in the world, not in judgment, but in hopes of bringing the good news of the gospel to bear on the lives of our friends neighbors (just read 1 Corinthians 5, 8, and 9).

Maybe, just maybe, we can live out the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (joy and kindness) when we interact with others (Had to repent just today for some judgmental responses to others. This isn’t easy).

Maybe, just maybe, families will wake up and realize that the job of the church is to merely supplement their discipleship practices at home, not the other way around.

Yes, church community is going to look different for a while. I absolutely dread how awkward it is going to be for me to teach to an empty room this Sunday. But the community has never been about the building in the first place.

Y’all. This gets me pumped. When my church family gathers on Sunday mornings, it should be an opportunity to celebrate what God is doing in our community as well as to remind ourselves of the task ahead.

We should be doing far more outside the walls of our sanctuaries than we do in them. More people should be encountering Jesus outside than inside. We should be studying Scripture together far more outside than inside. We should be singing praise to God far more outside than inside.

Y’all.

God has chosen us as His people to dwell with. Every single believer who follows Jesus as Lord is part of this.

The sanctuary may be empty, but His presence is in us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

God Is Love

“When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”

РPeter, Paul & Mary, Lemon Tree

lemonsRomantic love is not always reliable, brotherly love is not always trustworthy, familial love can let you down. Love in almost every relationship we can have on earth can be strained and leave you hurting. This folk song speaks about¬†the woes of that reality. Love from the outside, love desired, can be very pretty and appear so sweet. But when actually partaken of, it’s not always what we expected it to be.

There is a passage from the book of 1 John that blows holes in this mindset that we can fall into regarding love, and it’s worth sharing and expounding upon.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:7-11

Don’t miss the power of those three little words wedged into the middle of this passage I shared.

God is love.

There is a tremendous difference between the idea that God is loving and the assertion that is made here.

Your friend can be loving. Your boss can be loving. Your neighbor can be loving. Your mother can be loving.

But none of the men or women in our life are love itself.

God is not simply loving.

That being said however, it is a wonderful thing that He is loving, but that is not all that God is in the context of love. God has shown that He is loving, namely in the fact that He sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world to bring us life. We don’t inherently love God. We don’t inherently and naturally pour out praises and adoration to our Lord. Instead, before we even sought out His love, He gave His Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. All of them.

When things don’t go smoothly in my life, when things don’t go exactly as I would like, it’s naturally easy to immediately start to question or doubt God’s love for me.

It’s easy to say, “if You love me, why is this happening? If You love me, why aren’t you responding to my cries?”

Yet when you doubt God’s loving nature, look to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. There will you see the unadulterated message of God’s love for you. Even while you were an enemy of His, He gave Himself for You.

God is loving, and He is perfect in that love.

Yet, what calls us to deeper action is the reality that God IS love. That means that God is the perfect embodiment of what love is. Because of this, all love comes from Him. Because of this, we cannot claim to be in an intimate relationship with the God who perfectly embodies love if we do not strive to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way that He loves us.

Because God is love, love comes from God. God is the source of love. Like the electricity running through electrical wires, love comes from God to us, then flows through us to others in the community. When John exhorts his readers, let us love one another, he is encouraging them to allow God’s love to flow through them. – Marianne Meye Thompson

If my phone charger is plugged into the outlet, it will charge my phone (I’m a genius, I know). My charger cannot charge my phone without being plugged into a power source. If it is not charging my phone, it is not plugged into a power source.

If we as disciples of Jesus are abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God, we will overflow God’s love out onto our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We cannot be a conduit of God’s love to our Christian community if we are not abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God.

If we are not loving our Christian community, we are not in full connection with the God who is love.

That is what John is stating in this passage.

Now if you’re anything like me, there are bumps in the road. It is not easy to love our brothers and sisters in Christ at all times. There are times where I feel like I’m walking with the God who is love but still struggling to allow His love to come through me. In the case of my phone charger, sometimes I have to untangle the wires and make sure the connection is coming all the way through. In the case of my spiritual life, sometimes I have to take the time to untangle the dark recesses of my heart and mind as I allow the gospel of grace to deal with any bitterness or unconfessed sin in my life.

We are imperfect followers of Jesus. We are still on the journey of learning to love like Jesus.

I implore you to spend daily time with the Lord, meditating upon His great love for you. The more you come to terms with His love for you, the easier it will become to share His love with others.

And unlike the lemon, when you truly taste the love of God, you will see that it is good.

God is love.

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu.

– Nathan Roach