As a Jew living in Jerusalem, we are thankful for our current situation. Cordial relations are being enjoyed between our local Hebrew leaders and the pagan dictators back in Babylon. Recently, they have allowed us to return to Palestine and rebuild our towns, homes, and businesses in in the land of promise. We are now being ruled with a softer hand; a greater degree of independence is being shown to us. Civil order is slowly being put in place, and many of us find ourselves prospering in our various vocations. There is no doubt about it; we have endured much tougher days. We are very thankful for the Lord’s kind providence.
Additionally, many in our land are enjoying a heightened sense of faith and hope. Some attention is being placed on the Temple, the priesthood, and the rites of worship. All seem to have some desire to see Yahweh praised and his people blessed. Yes, our God has been much kinder to us than we deserve. He has been so good to us.
However, last week, we received a gracious reprimand from our God. Haggai appeared with a fresh word from the Lord, and it was a good wake-up call. This is what he said:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord … Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways … Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified … My house … lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house … I am with you …. (Haggai 1:2-13)
Yes, faithfully and boldly, Haggai communicated Yahweh’s thoughts to us, and from within, we experienced the Lord changing our heads and hearts:
And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua … the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God …. (Haggai 2:14-15)
Therefore, today, we are living a bit differently than we did last month. We still find ourselves motivated to build strong defenses, growing economies, profitable businesses, top-notch infrastructure, huge walls, and great houses. We are still interested in “Making Israel Great Again” and “Keeping Israel Great.” However, we are even more interested in building a house that honors the Lord, blesses his people, and serves our community.
Yesterday, we were too interested in building houses that perish.
Today, we are most interested in building a house of faith that will stand forever.
Friends, I know that as a “professional clergyman,” I have a vested interested in this topic. For the last twenty years, planting, pastoring, and revitalizing churches has been at the forefront of my mind, and yes, I make my living focusing on such. However, for some reason, I seem to be internally consumed with building houses to honor the Lord, bless his people, and serve their community. I love the local church of Jesus Christ. I love being a pastor and seeing God’s people worshiping and working as a family. For some reason, local church development is in my blood.
However, allow me to be bold and ask you the following question:
Beloved of Jesus, has not your Lord, Savior, Best Friend, and Groom called you to be consumed with his local church as well?
Sure, I grant you that God internally and externally calls some people to serve as elders and deacons in his various assemblies.
Sure, it is also true that our Lord calls some of his elders to serve as preachers of the Word.
Sure, it seems to be the case that he calls some men and women to use their gifts in full-time, paid, religious ministry. And I agree with you, there is absolutely no difference between those laboring for Christ in for-profit, non-profit, para-church, or church sectors. There is no spiritual pecking order as all Christ’s disciples are missionaries and ministers in their Father’s world.
However, is it not also true that Christ has called all of us to be ecclesiastical fanatics?
- Christ is consumed with love for his bride; should not we be as well?
- Christ expensively sacrificed for his bride; should not this characterize us?
- Perpetually he holds her in prayer; should not his church be at the top of our list?
- With jealous affection he protects her; should we not have like-minded jealousy?
- He is ever-building and expanding his church; is not this our great commission?
- Earthy and eternal hope is found within; what can be more beneficial for our city?
- Christ’s church shall never perish; is not this the fruit that abides forever?
- His Spirit gives gifts for his family; are you discounting your vital importance?
Yes, I believe Christ would have us all be ecclesiastical fanatics. As Christ is, so too ought we to be. But this being said, is this not true of all of us that we are overly captivated by the passing toys and joys of this world, and we are too little interested in building local households of faith for God? Even as a minister, I must bow my head and admit my sin. I do not care for Christ, his church, his people, and his mission as I ought. I am the biggest hypocrite. I am guilty. I need a greater fascination for the bride of Christ.
Therefore, I encourage you to respond to the gracious reminder of Haggai. I encourage you to join me in allowing Haggai to call us back to order. It is good to be engaged in politics and focus on our country. It is good to make money, save money, invest money, spend money, and build our own households. It is good to give thanks and enjoy the passing treasures and pleasures of this world. All these are indeed gifts from our loving Lord. However, as we pursue our national and personal interests, let us not forsake the chief interest of Jesus Christ. Let us not take our eyes off the prize and have misplaced priorities. The Lord is building his church, he desires houses of prayer here, there, and everywhere, and he would have us engaged in his construction process. Friends, let’s recommit to diligently “work on the house of the Lord of hosts.”