3rd Sunday of Easter – Sermon 68

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN

Introduction

Buildings are important to us – we eat in them – sleep in them – work in them – worship in them – the’re a sign of our prosperity – our culture and our security –

They are built well – stand firm and last – it’s the same with our church

One of Paul’s favourite images for describing the church – is a picture of a building under construction – with the people of the church – its builders

As far as Paul is concerned – we are all “building for God” – and what – we do – for Him – is our contribution to the building – and a sign of how much we love Him –

God’s house needs to be the best we can make it –

Our readings this evening focus on three things that are important – both – in building and in the church – the foundation – the building materials – and the commitment of the builders

We are going to look at each one – to see if it helps us understand what God wants us to do for His Church –

First Point Firm Foundation

Ask any building contractor – and he will tell you that a building is only as good as its foundation –

If the foundation is faulty – the building will topple – if the foundation is solid – the building will stand for a long time

In our NT lesson Paul tells us how he had the privilege of setting down the foundation of the Corinthian church – like “a skilled master builder”

He was there before the first convert – and nurtured it during the first one and a half years of its life –-

But he isn’t the true foundation stone – that had already been prepared by God –

“There can be no other foundation than one already laid”: said Paul, “I mean Jesus Christ Himself.”

Paul knew it wouldn’t stand the test of time – unless it was built on the blood of Jesus –

Everything we do in the church must start from Jesus Christ – if we try to do it any other way – it will fail – because we will be rejecting God’s blue print for salvation –

Laying foundations requires excavations – digging up and getting rid of the old – clearing it away – and starting in a new setting –

In the same way Jesus clears away – our old life – cleansing us of our sins – so we can begin again – and rebuild – on a much firmer footing – Jesus died on the cross for our sins – so we can begin a new relationship with God – and receive His free gift of everlasting life –

In God’s church – the foundation stone is exclusively Jesus – nothing else can be used –He is the rock – on which everything else rests – a rock that is here for us and for eternity

Point 2 Building materials

So we’ve looked at the foundations – now what about the building itself –

A good foundation needs a good sturdy building on it – no sensible builder would put a cardboard box on top of such a unique foundation

we are the builders – each one of us has a part to play – and God allows us to choose the materials we use –

but building up the church is no easy task –as Paul says, “Let each take care how he builds”

Paul makes an analogy with the different materials that would be used in his time –

Gold, silver, precious stones – wood, hay and straw –

those that perish – and those that don’t –

Those that are meant to last – and those that are temporary –and require constant replacement –

Wood, hay, straw were materials used in the poorer homes – shanty towns – they were plentiful – easy to find – cheap to obtain –

To build a house with these materials – would take days – rather than years –

We all know what happened to the two pigs – who thought their houses of straw and sticks were good enough – that their time and effort was better spent on other things – when the big bad wolf came along – everything went flat –

Gold, silver, precious stones – on the other hand – were materials of extravagance – used in some of the great public buildings – of the time – used in the buildings that were special and important –

Such materials – were hard to get hold of – costly in terms of effort to get them out of the ground – costly in terms of commitment – to give them up to God – to use them was a real sacrifice –

the two pigs laughed at the pig in the brick house – they thought they had done a good job – and he’d overdone it – but what looks good in our eyes – will not necessarily be good in God’s eyes

The key issue is whether our building materials will survive fire – the day of God’s judgment –

What counts is endurance – we need to use materials of permanence – quality not quantity – everything we build – for God – needs to be the best we can do –

We need to focus on things of eternal value – the things that please God – rather than the people around us –

We need to build a God centered church – one that will help us and others grow in their understanding of who God is and what He is like – one that relies more on God – than on us – one that prays more than it plans

We need to avoid short cuts – genuine Spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight – it involves reading the Bible day by day – week by week – slow and steady growth – is much better than a quick fix – we all have a responsibility to put long term construction into practice –

Putting God’s work first is not easy – its hard work – we have to be prepared to make sacrifices – in the end –we know it’s the most important thing we do –

Point 3 Personal commitment

And so we come to the third – point – our willingness to keep on “building for God”

To help us in this we turn to our OT lesson –

The exiled Jews had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple –

Some 16 years earlier – they had their first attempt – but because they decided to put their own interests first – by finishing their own houses – and with the arrival of a succession of problems – drought – pest infestations – failed harvests – rampant inflation – they got discouraged – and stopped –

Now with Haggai’s encouragement they decided to have another go –

And wouldn’t you know – within the space of a month – back came the problems again –

Satan didn’t waste any time in dampening down their enthusiasm – a second time – it was a question of hitting ‘em hard and hitting ‘em early

The temple was beginning to take shape – and it wasn’t long before some of the senior members realized that – the new building was no carbon copy of the former Temple –

The old timers soon began to voice their dismay – and as more and more of the younger people were told about the beauty and grandeur of the old Temple – pretty soon – things
stopped –

But Haggai counters the attack – urges them to be strong and build – he reminds them who is in charge –

“I am with you says the Lord of Hosts … my Spirit remains among you. Do not be afraid.”

Its God’s wish that the work should continue and He is in control – even if we feel we’re not –

There are many things that discourage us in our work for Christ –
Negative thoughts like –

I can never be as good as so and so – or – my contribution won’t make much difference

And then there’s the comparisons with other churches – We’re not doing as well as the other church down the road – they seem to be getting all the new families – they seem to be more committed – they’ve got the better facilities –

And the comparisons with what was done in the past – no point in going ahead with that – we tried that before – and it didn’t work –– it’s a waste of time and money –

There are times when we feel the past outshines the present – what we are doing seems like a small thing – but like the Jews – of Haggai’s time – we need to understand that – even though our contribution doesn’t seem like much – God has big plans for it in the future

“I will surpass the splendour of the former – I shall grant prosperity and peace”

He wants us to keep going – stay focused – and give our best – He is with us – and He will use everything we give – for His Glory –

Conclusion

“Church Building” is certainly uppermost in our minds at the moment – with all the re-ordering plans we have – but “building for God” is more than improving the bricks and mortar

When the Jews challenged Jesus to justify His actions after upsetting the tables of the money lenders in the Temple in Jerusalem – He told them He would “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up again”

The temple Jesus was speaking of was His body – the church – you and me –

“building for God” is about looking after all of God’s people – you and me –

As Paul says “surely you know that you are God’s temple, where the Spirit of God dwells” –

Are we putting God first in our lives? – giving Him the very best – giving Him all we can give? – How firm is God’s temple within you?

Closing prayer

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit

AMEN