Are We Serving an Empty Temple?
There may come a time where we need to examine our motives for attending a church. Why are we there? Do we show up to serve and worship God? Are we there to learn more about Him? Or are we there for any other reasons?
We may love the music.
We could be tied into the tradition.
We might even be chasing an emotion that we feel when we are there.
These are understandable human motivations. They are also terrible reasons for going to church. They get us no eternal rewards. We are there for God or we are wasting our time.
If we are to live a fulfilling and faithful life in Christ, honesty is crucial. Regularly assessing our lives is important. Included in this examination should be testing why we attend our chosen church. Why do we get out of bed and go to service each Sunday morning? If it is for anything other than Jesus and Him Crucified, there is a big problem.
It is possible that despite our attendance, God is not even there with us. He is not there when He is not wanted.
We see a picture of this in Israel after Jesus ascended to heaven. The Temple in Jerusalem remained standing for another 30 plus years after the Ascension. It was once the dwelling place of God among the Jewish people. It was once a glorious statement of God’s favor on the Jews…but God’s glory came and departed with Jesus. The building that stood in all of its grandeur until 70 AD no longer played any part in God’s plan. God makes His views on the Temple clear when the Romans are allowed to destroy it, but for not it is intact. It was still a beautiful structure. It was a marvel to look at and one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was covered with gold and sandstone so that it appeared to shine when struck by the sun…but GOD was not there. It was just an empty building as a result.
A Shadow of Past Glory
The Temple was never meant to be God’s permanent home. It was a glorious building and it stood for something important. It was a picture of God living with His people. Yet, it was just a shadow of something so much greater. The Messiah to come would be God literally living with His people.. Jesus is that Messiah and He came with all of His glory. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and upon His death tore the veil of the Temple from top to bottom. Jesus in His Body fulfilled the pictures represented in the Temple and ascended into heaven in His glory. A whole new world opened to all mankind. The proof was plain for everyone to see.
The Jewish people had a big issue, though. They did not want to leave their system. They liked their tradition, comfort, and feelings. They loved their sins. So they rejected and killed the Messiah. They denied themselves a wonderful future with Jesus and pretended the entire affair never happened. The priests served in all their pomp and circumstances at the Temple each day. They said all the right things, fasted and followed the hundreds of laws and regulations they set up for themselves. They gave grand offerings to the priests and to God at the Temple. Their religious attendance and devotion were unmatched. And it was all worthless. God was not pleased with them. They rejected Him and were worshipping an empty building.
They chose rituals, costumes and feelings of self-righteousness over Jesus. They chose a building and traditions over God.
Millions of Israelites came to Jerusalem to the empty building each year. They offered lamb upon lamb as sacrifices. They gave their money to those who were running the Temple and expended great energy to get there. The people were likely comforted by the great ceremony of it…and it offended God.
They chose a pretty building and a comfortable system over His Son. No lamb could take the place of the Lamb of God.
Tradition over Truth
The Jewish people rejected the pure and undefiled gift of the Son of God because they were more comfortable with what they had. They chose tradition over the Way, the Truth and the Life. They said all the right prayers, they gave money and went through all the correct motions but they chose what they had over the King of Kings. The saddest part is they did not seem to realize it. Their religion was worthless without God, but they kept it up anyway. What a waste of time, right?
It is easy to see the error in the Bible, but it is so easy to get caught up in the same mistake. There are many churches today in great transitions. They were once great, faithful Bible teaching churches. They built their sanctuaries and denominations through the power of God that comes with worshipping the Lord. They were once filled with joy and reverence. But along the way, they slowly but steadily lost sight of why they were called churches. Jesus was removed from the center of church life. He was replaced by a social club, social justice or comfortable tradition and ritual. It doesn’t really matter what replaced Him, just that the focus on Jesus was lost. For More read, We Preach Christ Crucified or Decline or Avengers and the Dangers of Social Justice. Jesus left the building and the band played on.
Despite the relentless drift away from Jesus, people stayed with these churches. Despite knowing better intellectually, their feelings keep them plugging along just like the Jews did after Jesus. They liked the denomination, the building or the people they have known for years. They love the music. Their family goes there so they can’t leave. They love the work the church does despite Jesus’ name never being mentioned. Like the Israelites, they choose rituals, tradition, people, costumes or feelings of self-righteousness over Jesus. They feel good attending the same church their grandparents did and love the soaring arches, but haven’t heard the Word of God preached in years.
Make Jesus is the Center of Church or Flee
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20
It is noteworthy who Jesus is speaking to here in Revelation 3. He is speaking to a church that has lost its way. People are inside the church presumably doing churchey things. Yet, Jesus is outside the church asking to come in. No one in the Body seems to realize that God is not already inside with them. Again – JESUS is outside the church asking to come in and no one seems to realize that He is not already inside with them. The door to the church is shut on Jesus.
It is a shocking but all too common picture. Some people cannot have the pure worship of God get in the way of their church service. Jesus might convict them or ask them to change…that is so uncomfortable.
We can choose a stained glass Jesus over the Lord who challenges us. We can choose a pretty building and a comfortable system over His Son. We can love the “church” so much we can’t bring ourselves to follow Jesus out the door when He is kicked out. We may not have even noticed that Jesus was no longer there. The robes are still there. The incense is still burned, candles still lit and songs still were sung. It still feels great to be there, so many comforting memories, but not for the right reason. We are going through the motions of an old comfortable dance yet there is no music playing.
Why are we in church on Sunday morning?
Why our particular church?
If the answer is not very clear, we need a Sunday makeover.
As Christians, we don’t follow a church, a denomination, a style of singing or a comforting system.
We follow the Mighty King Jesus. If He is not why we are in church then we are just wasting our time. We don’t get any credit for attendance.
Just for worship.
Love to all,
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