I was reading in Acts 7 this morning where Stephen is preaching to a very hostile crowd. If you know the story in Acts, Stephen gets stoned to death by those listening to his words, and while being stoned that Bible records that he looked up to heaven to see, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The crowd of the high priest and synagogue attendees was so angry at Stephen that the text says they “ground their teeth” at him and were “enraged.” So, what did Stephen say? Well, there were several aspects of the old system of religion that Stephen criticized, but I think the nail in Stephen’s coffin happened when he spoke of the Temple in Jerusalem. He said this:
46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’”
The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands… God lives in the heaven and the earth, God created his throne and God crafted his dwelling place. God lives with us, not separated from some stone barrier. …and this didn’t go over all that well, but we should understand why. In fact, that mound that still exists in Jerusalem sure does continue to get a lot of attention from religious people. Stephen tells them that they resist the Holy Spirit…that is God’s indwelling, God’s presence among his people. They resist it because they have put their faith, trust, and allegiance in the Temple.
God is bigger than that temple, and maybe we might say that God is bigger than our temples. I know we don’t have stone structures that contain God, but we all have boxes that contain God. I know how God thinks and I know how God acts. I know given a particular situation God would do this…and I know that if we don’t fully do what God wants then God will respond in this way. But Jesus changes all of that, we are talking "law" and Jesus came to SAVE…which the law only condemns.
So, let’s check our “temples” today and not try to contain the Most High in boxes created by human hands (or minds). Lord God, show us your glory as high as the heavens and may we see your throne not as a temple, box, or doctrine, but as a Kingdom where you reign and a Kingdom we live today, now, and forevermore in your presence! Amen.
If you grew up in an evangelistic church, or have a natural tendency to be extraverted and somewhat loud about your faith, then this verse below might come as a challenge to you and to the evangelistic movement as a whole. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:
1 Thessalonians 4:11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
The first line of this passage is interesting because in the original language it reads make it your ambition, or zealous pursuit, to live a life of silence or tranquility. Most of us, whether our natural tendency is to be extra- or introverted, would be comfortable talking zealously about the things that peak our passions and we use these things to create a niche for ourselves or some sort of career for ourselves or at least a fan page or group on Facebook! But for Paul, there was something to be emulated in the life of peace, one that allowed someone to “mind their own business” and “do their own work” contributing to the life of the community.
Interestingly enough, this life of quiet confidence leads to the same result that many who stand on the street corners with a bull-horn so desperately want to see; that people take notice, the text reads, “people who are nonbelievers will respect the way you live…” maybe they will begin to ask us questions, or wonder why we are not panicking like those around us and want to know more about what gives us hope.
Now, I’m not against those who have a calling to be evangelistic and more “in your face.” There are some who have chosen to believe in Jesus because their life was interrupted, or they were confronted with the message of Jesus. However, I would also like to assert that for every person who this works for, there are many others who are negatively impacted by the same tactics. Many of the people I know who are believers, either had someone they really respected lead them to Jesus, or there was some sort of relationship that then led into faith conversations.
Another thing about this teaching from Paul to the church is very important; everyone can do this. You don’t have to be a certain type of person, have a particular set of skills, or you don’t have to feel guilty because you just can’t do what others so seemingly easily can do. All of us are asked to be an example of Christ to those who don’t believe, and the question is not a matter of if we do that, but usually it boils down to how we go about doing it. So, make it your goal to live a peaceful life with those around you through the Spirit of God, especially among your neighbors in your community. Do the work of loving your neighbors with your hands and not so much with your mouths, don’t just talk politics, service, and Jesus…but in your actions towards them live your politics, carry out your service, and be Jesus in situations you face. They will respect you, and they will respect that your happiness and peace doesn’t depend on others, or come at the expense of others.
God, help us make a lasting impact on those who have yet to believe in your son Jesus. As Francis of Assisi prayed, may we preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.