Rebuilding the City- Maintaining Our Focus

September 16, 2008

‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.’ Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? . . . You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.‘” -Haggai 1.9

At this point in the book of the prophet Haggai we find that God has allowed for the exiled Jews to return back to Jerusalem under proclamation of the king in order that they may rebuild the temple of God. Yet, once in Jerusalem, we find that the Israelites have taken up resting in their own houses, gathering their own fortunes, while neglecting the house of God. It is to this mindset which God speaks in the above verses.

Similar to the Jews returning from exile I think the church in America suffers from the same problem: we know that things aren’t the way they should be in the church, but we are so concerned with our own creature comforts that we have little urgency for doing the work God has called us to. We create programs and “fellowship” events which, though necessary in moderation, soon become the core purpose of the ministry. We exist to please each other. And in pleasing each other no one ever takes the time to see if God is being pleased by what we do.

John Piper champions the idea of Christian Hedonism, announcing that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Note the emphasis here, “when we are most satisfied in him.” When we build these church worlds where everyone’s good time revolves around the presence of a big screen TV or the cheese dip brought by Sally Servant, where are we finding ourselves satisfied in God? The big question is, if God wasn’t there would anybody notice? Would anyone notice if there was no God there for us to worship and serve or would everybody continue to act the same as always?

It is important that we maintain our focus in the church. Yes, we can have big events. Yes, we can have extravagant children’s ministries. Yes, we can eat, drink, and be merry. But none of that stuff is worth anything if we aren’t doing it with the ultimate goal of the deepening of our communion with the One True God and the furtherance of the Gospel message to all peoples. If our children’s ministry just exists to give the parents a break for a few hours a week we should kill it. If we are getting together just to make each other feel good, we might as well stay at home. In the Christian life, doing nothing means your moving backwards since at all times you are either serving God or serving the Devil.

God has given us a calling to rebuild the city, to rejuvenate and reinforce the strength of the church in a nation which is becoming more secular every day.  And if we are to see that goal accomplished then it is incumbent upon us to keep our focus in the right place at all times, that being the throne of Christ, seated at the right hand of God.