What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.-2 COR.vi.16.
We have here an answer to the question, How is God going to be my God? Am I to regard Him as a great and Almighty and distant God, outside of me and separate from me in the heaven above, from whom I am from time to time to have a little help? That is what many Christians think, and it is owing to this thought of God that they experience so little of His real presence and power. No, this thought of God is only the beginning of true faith in Him. As we learn to know Scripture better, and the deep need of our heart, and the wonderful love of God that longs to enter completely into us, we learn that there is something better. The question, How is God going to be my God? finds its answer in the words I have just read. “God hath said, I will dwell in them, and I will be their God.” That is God’s answer to your question.
And what a wonderful answer it is. You know what a difference there is between the things that surround us and force themselves on our notice and occupy us, but which we never give place in our heart, and others that enter into us and take possession of our very life. A mother has a place for the child in her heart - it lives there.
The gold of a miser has his heart, with all its love and hope. How little we think that our heart was actually created that God might dwell there, that He might show forth His life and love there, and that there our love and joy might be in Him alone. How little we know that just as naturally we have the love of parents or children filling our heart and making us happy, we can have the living God, for whom the heart was made, dwelling there and filling it with His own goodness and blessedness. This is my message this evening: God wants your heart; if you give it Him, He will dwell in it.
You heard what was said this afternoon about God, and what He was to the Psalmist, in Ps.xlii. and xliii., as he calls Him, “the end of my life, the God of my strength, end of my exceeding joy, and my end.” But how is God to be the strength of my life and my God? In no other way but by coming into my life with His divine life, and so filling it with His Almighty strength- then He is the strength of my life. With His holy life and love. He comes into my heart, the very seat and centre of my life, and acts within me as my God, working out my life for me. He makes divinely and blessedly true what is written here: “God hath said, I will dwell in them, and so I will be their God.”
Do you think it would make a wonderful difference in our life if we really believe this, and in believing received the blessing it speaks of? What a holy awe there would be in us. And what tender fear lest we should hurt or grieve this holy, loving God. What a longing would be awakened- I want to know how to walk with this God and have full communion with Him. And what a bright confidence: now my God has come to dwell in me, I need fear no more that I shall not have His presence, or that He will not do for me and in all that I need.
I want to speak to you very simply about this wonderful indwelling, and to give a few thoughts that may help you to see how it is the very essence of true Christianitythe very thing man as a sinner needed to have restored to him, and the very thing Christ Jesus came to give.
And let me say in the first place, that it was for nothing less, and nothing else, than this indwelling that man was created by God. Have you ever wondered why God created man at all? The reason was this. God brought creatures into existence that He might show forth and impart His own divine goodness and glory to them in a creaturely fashion, so that they, as far as they were capable of it, might share with Him His divine perfections and blessings.
And He specially created man in His own image and likeness, that in him He might show how the Life of God could dwell in the human creature, and gradually fit him and lift him up for dwelling with God and in God through eternity. God’s love said: in his measure, I want man to be as holy and as good and as blessed as I am. I cannot give him the holiness or blessedness apart from Myself, but I can and will dwell in him, in the inmost depths of his life, and be to him his goodness and his strength. Yes, this was the glory of the divine creating love -–God wanted to give man all He had Himself – God gave Himself to be his life and joy.
In no other possible way could God do this but by dwelling in him. Just as an oil lamp has its light inside, and through the globe gives light all around, so the God of love created man that He might be within him the light of his life. This was to be man’s dignity and his blessedness, that in and through him all the glories of the blessed God should ever be shining out before the universe. Our whole nature, will and affections, and powers, were all to be the vessel to receive and hold and overflow with the blessed fulness of the life of God in us.
And it was to be man’s high perogative and privilege just to offer and yield himself to God in the consciousness of this holy partnership. What God was in Himself in heaven, living out His own life there, that He was to be on earth in and through man, living out His own life and truly in heaven. Oh! the glory and the bliss of being a man! Glory to God for our creation. But now, look next in the light of this blessed truth, I will dwell in them, at what sin has done. God had made man to be His home, His temple, where His presence, His will would be all in all.
It is of this indwelling that sin has robbed both God and us. The temptation with which Satan came to man in Paradise really meant this – would he with his whole heart yield to God as Father and doing His will alone? Or would he not do his own will, and let self rule as master in his own house? Alas! that fatal choice.
God was dethroned and cast out of His temple, and self sat upon the throne. Just as really as in later days the image of an idol was set up in the very home that God had caused to be built for us Himself, so self was enthroned in the seat of God. The description of the man of sin, when he is fully revealed come to full maturity, “who opposeth and exalteth himself about all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God and showeth himself that he is God,” is the true self at every stage and in every state: self sits in the temple of God as God.
All the sin of heathendom - and how awful it is – and all the sin of Christendom – no less terrible! - is but the outgrowth of that one root – God dethroned, self enthroned, in the heart of man. All the sin and sorrow of the life of each one of us has been nothing but this: you were not what you were created to be – you had not God dwelling in your heart to fill it with His life and peace and love.
I can with confidence ask any man here, Would you be content to have all filthy reptiles and animals occupy your houses along with yourselves? Would you allow other people to be masters of your home you dwell in? You never would. And yet, alas! you allow so much else to occupy the heart and have the place God alone is meant to have. And so many are quite unconscious of it. We come to-night with the message: let there be an end of all this desecration of God’s temple. God asks your whole heart for Himself – oh! let it be given to Him.
A third thought is, in the light of this indwelling of God, look at Christ’s work of redemption. What was the object of Christ’s coming from Heaven? It was to show us the possibility and blessedness of being a man with God living His life in Him. We teach children by means of pictures and models. When God’s Son became man, He lived a perfect human life – “made like us in all things” – and told us it was by the power of the Father dwelling in Him. “I do nothing of Myself – the Father in Me doeth the work.” Here is no question of abstract thought or deep theology – here is a true man, sleeping, hungering, wearied, tempted, weeping, suffering like ourselves, telling us that the Father dwells in Him, and that this is the secret of His perfect blessed life. He felt it all just as we feel it, but He could do and bear all because the Father was in Him. He showed us how a man can live, and how He would enable us to live.
When He had done this in His life, He died that He might deliver us from the power of sin, and open up the way for us to return to God. On the cross He proved that a man in whom God dwells will be ready to suffer anything and to give his life even to the death, that he may enter into the fulness of the life of God. When sin entered, man lost the life of God dwelling in him, and became dead to it. There was no way for man to be freed from the life of sin but by dying to it. Christ died to sin, that He might take up into His fellowship and that we too might be dead to sin, and live unto God and His own life. And so He won back for us the life man had been created for, with God dwelling in him, by giving to us His life, the very life He had lived. As He spake, “As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they may be one with us.”
Oh! my beloved fellow Christians, this is the salvation Christ has won for us: a deliverance from self by a death to it in the death of the cross; a restoration to the life we were created for, with our heart a home for God.
And how now are we to become partakers of this salvation? Look once again in the light of this blessed truth of the divine indwelling at Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Have you realised what the meaning is of God’s sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts? It is nothing less than this – Christ who had been with the disciples on earth, but not in them, came back to them in the Spirit, now to dwell in them just as He had before dwelt with them.
All that we read of the wonderous change that came over the disciples – their selfishness changed into love, their pride into humility, their fear of suffering into boldness and joy, their unbelief into fulness of faith, their feebleness into power – as owing to this one thing – the glorified Christ had come to dwell within them as their life. That was the joy of Pentecost in heaven: God regained possession of His temple, and could now again dwell in men as He had meant of which Christ had said that it should be broken down, was the temple of His body, in its connection with our sin laid upon Him. The temple He was to build in three days was His resurrection body, with its holy, heavenly life. In union with it we are now the temple of the living God. The Holy Spirit takes possession in the name of the Three-One God; and the Father and the Son come to make abode with us.
When we look at the great promise – “I will dwell in them” – and its fulfilment at Pentecost, we are reminded of the great difference between the preparatory working of the Spirit in conversion and regeneration, and His Pentecostal indwelling. The former every Christian must have: without that there is no life. The life may be feeble and sickly, still where there is life, it is the Spirit’s working. But that is only to prepare the temple. Pentecost is the glory of God filling the temple, God coming to abide. Let us believe that the promise can and will be fulfilled.
One more thought. In the light of our text look at the state of the Church of Christ. How many believers there are of whom one would never say that their hearts are a temple that God has cleansed, and where He dwells. How much there is of coldness and worldliness, and selfishness and sin, and inconsistency of profession, that makes one sometimes doubt whether there are Christians at all. The state of Christ’s Church is sad indeed. How little zeal for God’s honour, delight in His fellowship, devotion to His service and kingdom, how little of a life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It surely manifests that promise “I will dwell in them” has never been understood, or believed, or claimed by a large majority of Christians.
Let me ask, Have you claimed it? Do you seek to live it out? If not, the one great object of our Convention is to set before you this blessed life to which God has redeemed you, to urge and to help you to enter upon it and walk in it. Need I tell you what the way is. Begin by confessing how little you have even sought to live as God’s temple. Think of how it must have grieved the love of your Father, that after all He had done through His Son and the Spirit to get His abode again, you have cared so little to know about it or seek for it. Confess, too, your helplessness. You have tried to be better than you are, and you have failed. You must fail, until you receive His word that nothing less is needed, nothing less is offered, than that God Himself become the strength of your life.
Set your heart upon the blessing. You know how desire is the great moving power of the world. Fix your desire upon this divine, this wonderous grace: “I will dwell in them.” Let no thought of your unworthiness or feebleness discourage you. Here is something that is impossible with man: but with God it is possible. He can and will fulfil His promise. Let it become the one desire of your heart. Understand that this is the salvation the Holy Spirit brings you as soon as you are ready to give up all for it. As soon as the heart is ready to lose all, to be emptied of all, to be cleansed of all that is of self or nature, the promise will surely be fulfilled – “I will dwell in them, and I will be their God.”
“Wherefore,” hear now the words that follow immediately on my text: “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Come out from all that is of the world and a worldly religion, from all that is inconsistent with the holy privilege of being God’s holy temple and dwelling. Come out and be separate, take your stand as one who is going to live a life different from the crowd around you, be separate unto God and His will. “And touch not the unclean thing” – be as a cleansed temple where nothing that defiles in the very least may enter – be wholly for God and holy to God – and He will make His word good: “I will dwell in you.” He Himself will reveal and impart and maintain within you all that the promise means.
Believer! will you accept of this full salvation? Will you do it now? I pray you, reject not this wonderful love. Oh! let your God have you, to satisfy His love and yours by dwelling in you. This moment accept it, and you can trust Him to work it in you. Amen.