Sermon title:  OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR GOD’S HOUSE

 

Mark 12:41-13:1; Luke 21:5; 2 Kings 22:3-7

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, October 6, 2019

 

 

 

 

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been looking at

our Lord Jesus’ final public sermon.

 

He first addressed his disciples and the crowds

in the Temple courtyards in Jerusalem,

and warned them against acting like their religious leaders.

 

And then he turned his attention

to the scribes and Pharisees themselves

denouncing them as hypocrites.

 

Finally, he concluded by saying

that the punishment for rejecting and killing God’s prophets

would soon come upon Jerusalem

within that very generation.

 

Now the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12, Verse 41

tells us what our Lord did next

after he finished that fiery sermon.

 

He was still there on the Temple grounds,

and he and his disciples were looking around

at the people and at the buildings.

 

Mark 12:41 says,

 

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place

where the offerings were put

and watched the crowd

putting their money into the temple treasury.

 

Those donations would be used

to support God’s worship at the temple.

 

The buildings needed to be maintained,

and the priests, and their helpers,

and the musicians and singers

all needed to be supported.

 

The fact that Jesus

watched the crowd

putting their money into the temple treasury”

makes us realize

that he takes an interest in such things,

and so he likely watches us today,

as we donate to support the church

and Christian ministries.

 

Mark’s account goes on to say,

 

Many rich people threw in large amounts.

 

42 But a poor widow came

and put in two very small copper coins,

worth only a fraction of a penny.

 

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said,

 

"I tell you the truth,

this poor widow has put more into the treasury

than all the others.

 

44 They all gave out of their wealth;

but she, out of her poverty, put in everything

all she had to live on."

 

This shows that the Lord appreciates

even small things that people do

to promote and support his place of worship.

 

This poor widow’s tiny donation

was important to God,

and he appreciated her sacrifice in giving it.

 

Notice, too, that Christ said

this woman’s tiny donation

was worth more than the large sums of money

that the rich people

were putting into the treasury.

 

Jesus said they all “gave out of their wealth

so their donations were not as much, relatively speaking.

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A friend was telling Penni recently

about a man she knew

who regularly gave 10% of all his income

to support the Christian work.

 

This man had just had a very successful business dealing

and earned $35 million for himself,

and Penni’s friend remarked

about what a generous gift

10% of $35 million would be.

 

Of course, we saw in a recent sermon

that tithing 10% was God’s law to the Jewish nation,

and is not required of Christians.

The Scriptures tell Christians make their own decision

how much to give to the work of the Lord,

while promising that God will reward generous giving.

 

Well, Penni’s response to her friend was

that 10% of $35 million wasn’t generous at all,

considering that he would keep

90% of that money for himself.

 

“Couldn’t he give $30 million,

and keep $5 million for himself?”

Penni asked her friend.

 

“I could live on $5 million, couldn’t you?”

 

That millionaire’s donation helps us see why Jesus said

that "poor widow” “put more into the treasury”

than all the rich people who

“gave out of their wealth.”

 

They were just giving excess money

that they didn’t really need, anyway.

 

The poor widow was giving money

that really mattered to her.

------------------------

 

Now, we don’t want to misapply that lesson, either.

 

This poor widow had only herself to care about.

 

When “she, out of her poverty,

put in everything—

all she had to live on,"

she must have been trusting in the Lord

to provide food for the next day.

 

And she could well do that, because she was alone.

 

But, I’ve heard of men with wives and children

mis-applying this passage

by short-changing their families

while giving their money, time and energy

to the church.

 

Jesus never meant for us to do that.

 

1 Timothy 5:8 says,

 

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives,

and especially for their own household,

has denied the faith

and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

So, God wants us to have a balanced view,

not neglecting our families,

while recognizing our responsibility

towards the house of God.

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After our Lord commented on the poor widow

and the rich people,

he and his disciples moved on.

 

The next verse, Mark 13:1, tells us,

 

1 As he was leaving the temple,

one of his disciples said to him,

 

"Look, Teacher! What massive stones!

What magnificent buildings!"

 

The parallel passage at Luke 21:5 puts it this way:

 

5 Some of his disciples were remarking

about how the temple was adorned

with beautiful stones

and with gifts dedicated to God.

 

Yes, God’s holy temple in Jerusalem

was magnificently beautiful,

as was only fitting for the house of God.

 

It was a building that was awesomely beautiful—

enough to make the disciples

burst forth with admiration for its appearance.

 

But that temple wasn’t the first structure

dedicated to the worship of the true God.

 

Soon after Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt,

the Lord gave Moses instructions

on how to build a portable tabernacle

where he would accept

the people’s offerings and sacrifices.

 

At Exodus 25:9, God told Moses,

 

9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings

exactly like the pattern I will show you.

 

And that pattern called for it to be exquisitely beautiful.

 

Now, God could have created a beautiful tabernacle himself,

and could have simply given it to Israel,

just as he gives us beautiful sunsets

and beautiful woodlands,

and just as he gave Adam and Eve

the beautiful Garden of Eden.

 

But, instead, the Lord gave that privilege

of creating the tabernacle

to the Jews themselves

just as he gives us the privilege

of building and maintaining churches today.

 

But God’s Holy Spirit works through the men and women

who provide the materials

and who do that work.

 

Exodus, Chapter 31, tells us

how the Holy Spirit was involved

in guiding the hands of the workers.

 

We tend to think of the Holy Spirit

just in the context of empowering miraculous gifts

or in guiding the inspired prophets

to speak the word of God.

 

But the Holy Spirit is also intimately involved

in beautifying and maintaining

God’s place of worship.

 

We see that here, beginning at Exodus 31:1,

where the Lord named the individual

he was inspiring through the Holy Spirit

to lead the work on the tabernacle.

 

It says,

 

1 Then the LORD said to Moses,

 

2 “See, I have appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

 

3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God,

 

with skill, ability, and knowledge

in all kinds of craftsmanship,

 

4 to design artistic works

in gold, silver, and bronze,

5 to cut gemstones for settings, and to carve wood,

so that he may be a master of every craft.

 

So, God inspired that man Bezalel with his Holy Spirit.

God said he “filled him with the Spirit of God

to do this work

of carpentry and metalwork,

just as he inspired Moses

to preach the word of God.

 

And that makes sense,

because the appearance of God’s place of worship

is a spiritual thing,

not just something mundane or ordinary.

 

God takes a personal interest in how his house of worship looks.

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Centuries after Moses,

1 Chronicles, Chapter 28 tells us that

the Almighty gave to King David

the architectural plans

to build a stone temple in Jerusalem,

to replace that portable tabernacle.

 

And, again, God’s Holy Spirit

was involved in designing that building.

 

1 Chronicles 28:11 says,

 

11 Then David gave his son Solomon

the plans for the portico of the temple,

its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts,

its inner rooms and the place of atonement.

 

12 He gave him the plans

of all that the Spirit had put in his mind

for the courts of the temple of the Lord

and all the surrounding rooms.

 

So, God’s Holy Spirit inspired

all these construction details.

 

And God’s Holy Spirit is involved

when we plan and execute plans

to build and maintain our church buildings today.

 

The Lord wants the work to be done

in ways that will honor him

and that will attract others to his house of worship.

 

His Holy Spirit works along with

those who prayerfully dedicate their time and abilities

here at this church

to do carpentry work,

to clean, to paint, to mow the lawn,

to fix and repair,

and whatever else needs to be done.

 

It is God’s house,

and he is intimately involved in maintaining it.

----------------------------------------

 

Centuries after King David

gave those Holy Spirit-inspired architectural plans

to his son King Solomon,

that temple was destroyed

by the invading armies of the Babylonian Empire.

 

After 70 years in captivity,

God’s people returned to Jerusalem

faced with the huge job

of rebuilding the city,rebuilding their homes,

and rebuilding God’s house of worship.

 

The Old Testament Book of Haggai

tells us how God spoke to them through his prophet

about the work of repairing the temple.

 

Haggai is the third book from the end of the Old Testament.

 

The Old Testament ends with Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi,

just before Matthew begins the New Testament.

 

Haggai is called one of the “minor prophets,”

because he gave us such a short book

of just a few pages,

but his message is an important one.

 

The people of Jerusalem were delaying the work

of repairing God’s house of worship,

even though they had finished their own homes

and were living comfortably in them.

 

At Haggai Chapter 1, beginning with Verse 2,

we read the prophet’s message from God:

 

2 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

 

“These people say,

 

‘The time has not yet come

to rebuild the Lord’s house.’

 

3 Then the word of the Lord came

through the prophet Haggai:

 

4 “Is it a time for you yourselves

to be living in your paneled houses,

while this house remains a ruin?”

 

5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says:

 

“Give careful thought to your ways.

 

6 You have planted much, but harvested little.

You eat, but never have enough.

You drink, but never have your fill.

You put on clothes, but are not warm.

You earn wages,

only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

 

7 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Give careful thought to your ways.

 

8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber

and build my house,

so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,”

says the Lord.

 

9 “You expected much, but see,

it turned out to be little.

What you brought home, I blew away.

 

Why?” declares the Lord Almighty.

 

“Because of my house,

which remains a ruin,

while each of you is busy with your own house.

 

10 Therefore, because of you

the heavens have withheld their dew

and the earth its crops.

 

11 I called for a drought on the fields

and the mountains, on the grain,

the new wine, the olive oil

and everything else the ground produces,

on people and livestock,

and on all the labor of your hands.”

 

So, we see that the Lord was withholding his blessing

from that whole worship community

because they were neglecting his house of worship.

 

How did the people react

when they heard that message from God

spoken through the prophet?

 

Beginning with the man who was their governor,

it goes on to say,

 

12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,

Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest,

and the whole remnant of the people

obeyed the voice of the Lord their God

and the message of the prophet Haggai,

because the Lord their God had sent him.

 

And the people feared the Lord.

 

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger,

gave this message of the Lord to the people:

 

“I am with you,” declares the Lord.

 

14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit

of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,

and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak,

the high priest,

and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people.

 

They came and began to work

on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God,

15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.

 

So, God’s people listened

and responded to the prophet’s inspired message,

and they went right to work repairing God’s house.

 

And the Lord was pleased with their repair work:

that he had the date they started their work

recorded in the Bible.

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What a blessing it is

that this church family

has been working on this church building

for several months, now.

 

We’ve raised money through wonderful Saturday night dinners,

and we’ve dipped into the $100,000.00 we had in the bank

to undertake needed repairs.

 

The roof has been replaced with a new roof.

 

Cracks in the interior sanctuary walls have been re-plastered,

and the sanctuary beautifully repainted.

 

In the kitchen downstairs

we have new flooring under foot,

the ceiling repaired overhead,

lovely new cabinets,

a better refrigerator,

more fixes than I can keep track of,

and everything has been neatly put in order.

 

Other work has been completed on the stairway

and in the towers

and in places I’ve failed to mention.

 

Those involved in getting this work done

can rejoice at how beautiful everything is.

 

And they can also rejoice

in knowing that God’s Holy Spirit

has been working along with them.

 

Just as the Holy Spirit is involved

in preaching and teaching the Word of God,

the Holy Spirit also works through those

who maintain God’s house of worship.

 

What a wonderful privilege and blessing that is!—

to be fellow-workers with the Holy Spirit.

---------------------------

 

When I read the passages in the Gospels

that we read earlier this morning

about the disciples admiring the Jerusalem temple’s

massive stones . . . magnificent buildings . . .

and beautiful stones

I can’t help but think of the first time I saw

our church building here at 195 Whitman Street.

 

I thought, “Oh, no!  It’s stucco.

That’s going to be hard to maintain.”

 

I used to be under the impression

that repairs to a stucco building

      are best done with the newer fiberglass synthetic materials.

 

But I recently researched it on the web.

 

And what I found out was that,

while the synthetic fiberglass materials

may be the best way to go

in the dry climate of Arizona and New Mexico,

here in our wetter climate along the coast,

we’re better off doing our repairs

  using the old-fashioned, traditional stucco.

 

I found this on the website “HomeAdvisor.com”

under the heading “Benefits to Traditional Stucco Siding.”

 

It says,

“The benefits of traditional stucco

come in wetter conditions,

as it is less likely to absorb water

(and be damaged by it)

than synthetic stucco siding.”

 

And then it adds,

 

Traditional stucco siding will hold up better

to dings, hail, and woodpeckers.”

 

So, that’s good news for us,

because it means that the gray patches

on the outside of our church building

can safely be painted to match the rest of the building.

 

Without any huge expense,

we can do that needed painting

to make our church’s appearance

pleasing to the Lord

and more inviting to visitors.

 

And we have the joy of knowing

that the Holy Spirit will continue to work with us

in making God’s house beautiful

and a suitable place

for his worship.

 

Just as the Spirit of the Lord gave Moses the plans

and empowered Bezalel

to work on that Tabernacle in the wilderness,

 

and just as God’s Spirit gave King David

the architectural plans for Jerusalem’s temple,

 

and just as the Lord spoke through Haggai

and stirred up the governor and the high priest

to re-build the temple,

 

so God’s Holy Spirit works hand-in-hand with us

as we maintain and beautify the house of the Lord.