EPIPHANY 7, A – February 23, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Lev. 19:1-2, 9-18; 1 Cor. 3:10-23 Matthew 5:38-48

 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Cor. 3

 

My wife loves to watch the Home and Garden channel on TV. She especially loves programs featuring the buying and selling of homes, as well as the fixing up of homes. And, you know, whenever I mention this to someone I find that she is not alone. Many people – many of you – also enjoy such programs.

 

What would your ideal home be like? Our ideal homes might differ in certain ways – in the number of rooms and the color schemes, for instance – but I’ll bet they’d all be the same in one way: they wouldn’t be bare and empty, neither inside nor outside. No, the ideal home is beautifully landscaped outside and has great curb appeal. Inside it is tastefully furnished; painted with appealing colors (or perhaps wallpapered); and maybe even filled with nice music from a good sound system. White-washed walls and bare, empty rooms? No way! You would never be pleased with such a house.

 

Neither would God. Do you think His home in heaven is bare and ugly, empty of beauty and joy? Of course not! A wonder of beauty for the eyes; of joyous music for the ears; of fabulous scents; of exquisite things to feast upon; of comforting and stimulating things to touch and hold – surely such things fill God’s house in heaven. Joy and beauty fills it, for the Triune God, who is joy and beauty, fills it!

 

And they are to fill you, for God’s house is not only in heaven. He also has homes on this earth. You are God’s temple,” Holy Scripture declares. God’s Holy Spirit dwells within you who believe in Jesus! The beauty of His holiness is also to be seen in you.

 

Filling; gladdening; beautifying – this is how we must think of our God, the holy God who has revealed Himself and come to us in Christ Jesus. This is what we must think of when we hear His command, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus puts it this way: “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” These are no mere words. They are the stern and clear command of God, His requirement of us, His people. What does God expect of us?

 

If you think of holiness as emptying – turning away from and cleansing yourself of selfish and sinful thoughts, desires, and actions – then you have grasped the beginning. Sin corrupts. You cannot be holy if sinful thoughts and desires dwell within, as a beautiful home is not good if its foundation is cracked and its pipes leak and its wiring and insulation are poor. And so, God explains holiness by saying such things as: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart… You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge.” People may look upon you as good and praise you if your actions are good, but God sees your heart. It must be good in order for your actions to be good. Yes, holiness involves emptying, turning away from and striving to rid yourself of selfish and sinful thoughts, desires, and actions. This is the beginning.

 

But, holiness is far more than emptying. It is filling. God is goodness and love and mercy. And so, just as a beautiful home not only has a good foundation and plumbing and wiring but is also attractively decorated and filled with beautiful furnishings; God expects the beauty of His goodness and mercy to fill us and flow forth from us. For, we are His temples, His homes. But, oh, how difficult it is in this sinful and fallen world to shine forth with God’s love and mercy!

 

Did any of you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, are you still keeping them? How quickly do we break our promises! And, how quickly and constantly do we let our selfish desires, and not God’s holiness, shine forth. It’s a constant battle.

  • You try to cut down on your swearing, and then somebody rudely cuts you off on the highway and out it comes!

  • You determine to forgive and forget, and then get angry again when something stupid is said.

    It’s like owning a home. There’s always something breaking, always something else to do! Constant are the struggles we have with the sin that fills us. How easily it flows forth!

     

    This is why we must continually be filled with God. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” God Himself did not only come to us in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago; He continually comes, to dwell within you, make you His home, and make you beautiful within and without! But, beware: Christ doesn’t come merely to renovate and improve. He comes to demolish and rebuild.

     

    When it comes to holiness, man’s wisdom says: Ok, let me know what I have to change; what I have to improve; what I need to get rid of or add. Give me the right information and I’ll plug it in and move forward. Many view Christianity in this way. “Give me the rules and let me know what I have to do. I know I’ll fail at times and will need to keep working at it, but as long as I’m trying that’s what matters.”

     

    God doesn’t want improvement. He wants perfection. God is not content with effort. He wants the finished product. He wants a home that is beautiful within and without. He wants the perfect holiness of Christ.

     

    And so we come to God’s house, week after week. We come to confess the truth, that we are utterly sinful and unclean, wrecked homes deserving only to be condemned and torn down. But, God does not condemn us. He fills us. He forgives us in Christ, joins us to Him and fills us with His Holy Spirit, so that we are beautiful in His sight, within and without. “God’s temple is holy; and you are that temple.” These are not just words that the apostle Paul wrote to make the Christians in Corinth feel good. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit He wrote God’s truth. You are holy in Christ, for He gave His life to forgive your sins. “All things are yours, for you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” In Jesus you are holy. You are God’s beautiful house. God says so.

     

    Believe this! Rejoice in this! Live this. Let the beauty of God’s holiness, His goodness and mercy and love in His Son, flow forth from your life. Let the goodness and undeserved love and mercy you show to others be the curb appeal that draws people to Jesus through you, to their eternal blessing and to the glory of His name!