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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Living as a temple of the Holy Spirit
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-09-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 84:1,2                                                                                   

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Ps 101:1,2,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 41

Hy 50:1,2,3,4

Hy 72:1,2,3,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, are you a temple of the Holy Spirit, or are you something else? I thought about that this past week, pondering the phrase in Lord’s Day 41, “Since we, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is God’s will that we keep ourselves pure and holy” (Q&A 109). For obeying the seventh commandment, that’s a key part of our identity. If we remember that we are God’s temples, if we really work with that truth and apply it to our “gestures, words, thoughts, desires,” then we’ll be on our way towards a God-pleasure purity.

But if not—if you’re not living as a temple of the Holy Spirit—then what are you? Well, what’s the opposite of being a holy temple? Maybe a garbage dump. Do our lives resemble a place where junk and waste are heaped up daily? Do we store up inside us the filth of the world, the pollution that will produce nothing good?

Temple or dump? Maybe that’s not even the best contrast, because the focus of this commandment is sexual purity. It’s about the holiness of marriage, and the holiness of our bodies as God created them, male and female. So maybe the better contrast is between being a ‘temple of the Spirit’ or being a ‘house of ill repute,’ a strip club or a whorehouse, or maybe a nightclub. These are the places where almost anything goes sexually, and where a lot happens under the cover of darkness. That’s exactly how some people live—and there’s still a strong attraction here for God’s children. The pleasure of surrendering to our sexual sin, the comforting idea of being able to conceal it from everyone, freedom from consequences: it sounds easier than being a temple for God’s Spirit.

So how do you live? As a temple for the Lord, or something worse? And it is an important question. How do we think of ourselves? And how does God regard us? This is going to make a big difference for how we talk, how we speak, how we make our choices in entertainment and in marriage and so much of life. Do we pursue holiness and purity? Let’s consider the teaching on the Catechism on the seventh commandment, using this theme:

You are a temple of the Holy Spirit, so:

            1)   remember who you’ve become in Christ

            2)   banish all sexual impurity from your life

            3)   single or married, live in total devotion to God

 

1) Remember who you’ve become in Christ: More accurately, remember what you have become! You’ve become a temple. We know what a temple is: it’s the dwelling place of a god. In our city and region, you can find a temple here and there, where Buddhists or some other religious group will gather. We don’t see a lot of temples today, but in the ancient world, pagan cities were filled with them: large and ornate homes for the gods.

And alongside these pagan nations surrounding her, Israel was supposed to stand out and be different. So even though it appeared she had a temple like the Philistines or Assyrians or Romans did, Israel’s temple was very strange. Yes, it still looked like the home of a god: it was a fancy, gold-covered, sacred space. And just like other temples in other cities, the one in Jerusalem was where the faithful gathered on daily basis for worship. Yet here was a key difference: there was no image inside it, no idol nor statue. Because the true God is spirit—He cannot be portrayed in a physical way (with wood or stone or gold), and He doesn’t want to be portrayed. Besides, a man-made temple of stones and gold can never contain him! Even Solomon knew that after he spent seven years building the majestic temple on Mount Zion. God is still so much greater than anything his people could put together as a temple.

Even so, the invisible God was there. Whenever the Israelites saw the temple, they knew that their covenant God dwelled among them. Sometimes they saw this reality in the overwhelming cloud that filled the temple. But more often, God showed his presence more simply, like by blessing the people through the outstretched arms of the priest. He showed his nearness too by answering their prayers: for deliverance, for mercy, for wisdom. God was near enough to hear them, and to answer. The Old Testament church knew that God might be invisible, but He’s not out of reach. You can find him at the temple!

At the same time, the LORD’s temple radiated with a fearful holiness. There was a splendour there that made you hesitate to come too close. Remember Isaiah’s vision, how within the temple walls he saw the God who is “holy, holy, holy!” The further you went into the temple, and the closer you got to the throne room at the back—where the ark of the covenant was—the greater the holiness that you experienced.

Maybe you’ve heard of a Geiger counter; it’s a tool that’s used to measure radiation levels. If you take a Geiger counter around Chernobyl in the Ukraine, where there was a nuclear disaster decades back, the dial goes crazy. You know not to get any closer, or the radiation is going to harm you. Radiation can be used for a good purpose, but it can also kill you. It was like that in the temple. Approaching God was a serious thing. If you came too close, it could actually be deadly.

So not just anyone could enter the temple, only the appointed priests. And not just anyone could enter the most holy place—only the high priest, and only once a year, and only with the blood of atonement. Even so, the temple was a powerful symbol of God’s nearness. It was a wonderful reality, and the faithful in Israel delighted to go there—think of Psalm 84, “My soul longs, even faints, for the courts of the LORD.”

Then it all came to a sudden end. The entire temple, and everything that went with it, was made obsolete with the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son. Think of the moment when Christ died, and the curtain inside the temple was torn in two. That didn’t mean that God was finished with living among humans. Rather, it meant that God would no longer show his presence in just one, physical place: not in one city and one land only, nor among only one ethnic people. God was taking his glory on the road! “It is too small a thing” that Christ should only be the Saviour of the Israelites (Isa 49:6). God is now at home in the heart of every believer. Believers, wherever they are found in this world, are now God’s dwelling-place through the Spirit.

Paul explains this astounding truth in his first letter to the Corinthians. Now, Paul is writing this letter with a heavy burden on his heart. The Corinthians seem to have forgotten what it means to belong to Christ. They’ve gone back to behaving like when they were worshippers of idols. So Paul reminds them: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19).

It’s a familiar verse. But don’t let the familiarity make you miss how amazing it is! “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” It was already a miracle that the invisible, infinitely holy, and perfectly strong God showed his presence at that humble, inadequate, man-made dwelling at Jerusalem. Now the miracle goes ‘next level’ in awesomeness: this same God is pleased to live with his believers—within his believers! As near as the breath in our lungs, as vital as the beating of our heart. Though we’re a lowly people, God is among us by his Spirit. We are his temples.

Every temple needs a foundation, and Christ is ours. Our whole life as believers is based on what He did, the blood that He once poured out so that we can forever approach the holy God. And when Christ saved us by his blood, He saved us completely. Back in Lord’s Day 1 we confess that we belong to Jesus “with body and soul.” The same teaching is in Lord’s Day 41, “We, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit.”

For when God first created us, He made us a beautiful unity, a physical frame and spiritual life joined together as an intricate whole. God is never concerned with our spirits only, as if the soul—our inner life—is the really important bit, the part going to heaven, while the body doesn’t matter, since it gets discarded and returns to dust. No, by his blood Christ redeems the whole of us, “body and soul.” Underline again what Paul says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” God is present in our bodies, deeply invested in our physical life.

So it matters very much what we with our hands, and with our eyes, and with all the other members of our body. The things that we do with our body are inseparable from the health of our soul. Being the Spirit’s temple runs deep—and so also our sexuality runs deep, perhaps even deeper than any other aspect of our life.

This is why Paul reminds us that in marriage, “the two become one flesh” (1 Cor 6:16). There’s a joining at a profound level. So what happens then, when we join our body to the body of a prostitute? Or what happens when we absorb all kinds of sexual impurity into our bodies, through the things we look at with our eyes, or what we think about, or talk about? These things touch our very soul. It threatens to grieve the Spirit who lives within us.

These are things that can ruin us. Getting caught up in sexual sin can be so harmful to your walk with Christ. Because body and soul run together, this sin can strangle a person’s joy in the gospel. It keeps you from maturing in the faith. It distracts you from service in the midst of your family, or the church. It can lead to an endless chasing after pleasure, a pursuit that in the end is only empty.

I don’t want to put sexual sin in an entirely separate category. And I do want to preach a message of grace: God forgives our sexual sin when we repent of this sin, when we repent specifically—when we actually turn away from this sin, and we press on towards holiness. There is forgiveness, for the firm foundation of our temple is Jesus Christ.

And if Christ has shed his blood and sent his Spirit, then He also calls us to live in holiness. As Scripture says, “You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20). And such glorifying of God surely begins with fleeing sexual immorality.

 

2) banish all sexual impurity from your life: Do you think the present time is more wicked than any previous age? Today, is it harder to be holy? Sometimes it feels like it must be, but then again, we’ve never lived in any other time. And Satan has always been busy corrupting the good things of God’s creation. We see this in 1 Corinthians, where it’s clear that sexual sin was infecting a good many of the believers.

The history books tell us that Corinth was a notoriously wicked city. It was full of pagan temples. And at the shrines to the gods, sex was always the top item in the liturgy. If you wanted a good time, you just had to drop in for a visit. Confronted with the temptations of the temples, the Corinthians found it hard to be holy.

It’s fascinating then, that Paul still describes the Corinthians as “temples.” Maybe he’d want to use a different illustration! But this is what they were: by Christ and his Spirit they were living, breathing, walking temples. Not temples to the false gods who had loose morals and dirty minds. Rather, they were temples of the true God, the holy God.

This reality has a world of meaning for the Christian life. Here’s just one, when Paul puts it to the Corinthians (and to us) very directly, “The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). If you’re a temple for the Lord, then your body—and everything that happens in it—is for God’s service.

Just think of the magnitude of that truth, how we are never apart from the living God. He always remains with us! We can never run from his presence. We can’t throw a blanket over his glory. You cannot minimize the LORD to a small corner of our life when you’re busy with other, more interesting things. You’re his temple, and God says to you, “Be holy, just as I, the LORD your God, am holy.”

This is hard for us. Like in the first century, sexual perversion in the 21st century is unbridled, almost unrestrained in its wickedness. In 1 Thessalonians 4:5, Paul talks about how “the Gentiles who do not know God” live in the “passion of lust.” If you don’t know the Lord, there is little reason for you not to give in to your bodily urges.

This is what we see in our time. It’s easy to make a scary list of all the sexual sin that swarms throughout our culture. We have become very used to the rainbow flag, to the constant pushing of the LGBTQ agenda—and it still stirs up a righteous anger, at least sometimes. We know too, how society regards God’s gift of marriage, for today there is less marriage, more divorce, and more common-law arrangements than ever before. And then there is the push for all things transgender: we find it confusing, and sad, and offensive. This is the kind of city and country where our temples are founded; it’s the kind of corruption that bangs on the door and begins to seep through the cracks.

So God warns us against being defiled. He wants us to look into the mirror of his law and consider these things, not just in relation to wider society, but in relation to ourselves. How do we honour the seventh commandment? Maybe our own idea of marriage is unbiblical. Maybe our view of women (or men) is badly twisted and selfish. Maybe we have a harmful sexual habit that we’ve kept hidden, and not repented from.

We don’t have to look hard, or go far, to find things that stir up our lust. It’s right there, on your device, on your computer, on your television. If you’re looking for this sin, it’s easy to find and simple to access. Pornography used to be tucked away on the top shelf of local shops, but now it’s just a click away on the Internet. The adultery accessible through these images and videos is anonymous and affordable. Temptation always thrives on accessibility and opportunity and privacy, and so it thrives today.

God’s words should be listened to again: “The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor 6:13). The body we have—these limbs, these eyes and hands and mouth—this body is for the Lord. It’s his temple. So to take part in sexual sin is to defile God’s house!

Can you imagine the Israelites having a pig roast in the temple courts? Can you imagine them treating the tabernacle like a restroom during the wilderness journey? It’s unthinkable, for that was God’s house! Uncleanness, and defilement, and impurity had no place there. So what if your whole body is God’s temple? What if your spirit is his dwelling place? Think about what that says for what you wear, or look at, or talk about, or think about, or do. Do you live as a temple for God, or something else?

Remember the Catechism’s words: “Since we, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is God’s will that we keep ourselves pure and holy” (Q&A 109). God delights to walk among us. He wants to live among us, to have a home in our bodies and souls, to be as close as the breath in our lungs. God is serious about holiness—so we should be too. As Paul exhorts us, “You should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess 4:3).

Or as the Catechism says: Flee from “whatever may entice us to unchastity” (Q&A 109). So we should not listen to the music that entices, or watch the videos that titillate and tempt. Don’t allow anything inside this temple this impure, unfitting for the children of God.

Of course, it’s not only sexual sin that threatens our holiness as God’s temples. Anytime we set up an idol in our life, that’s a great offense to him. Any sin can make us impure before the LORD, like lying to our parents, or being lazy, or being jealous, or passing along gossip. God is displeased with all impurity! None of it’s fitting for a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever we do with this body—or this mind, this heart, this spirit—ought to be done for Christ. Being temples of his Spirit means that at every moment, God expects a different kind of life. He expects holiness, because He is holy. He expects purity, because He himself is pure.

God expects it, but the best news is that He also makes it possible. Think of how near God is to us—He’s even living within us. Think of how ready God is to show mercy, and how He delights in our worship and service. His power through the Spirit is without limit, so ask for the Spirit. Seek his strength in prayer. Seek his fullness through Scripture. These are the kind of things that will give the Spirit more of a place to live and to work in our hearts. Don’t crowd the Spirit out of your life but give him plenty of space!

 

3) single or married, live in total devotion to God: One of the beauties of that image of being “temples of the Holy Spirit” is how widely it applies to every member of the church. It’s not just for the married people, who are called to stay faithful to their spouse. It’s also not just for the single people, who do not have a partner and who might face special challenges in this regard. By God’s grace, whether we are single or married, young or old, male or female, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. That’s what we have become in Christ.

And that’s an encouragement, for we said that each has their own struggle with this commandment. The singles have their struggles here. But the struggles do not disappear the moment we become married. They don’t even disappear once we get old and desire begins to fade. We all face the ongoing struggle of living in a sinful world, and having a heart that would still love to crawl back to Satan’s dungeon. It can seem better to us there, like there’s something missing if we choose holiness and pursue purity.

But there is nothing good that comes from such a life. God has purchased us for higher things! Paul reminds us, “You were bought at a price” (1 Cor 6:19). Christ paid his precious blood for you, He set his Holy Spirit upon you, and He claimed you as his own, in body and soul. He purchased us for higher things: “to glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (v 19). That’s a immense calling, a privilege to live for the Lord’s worship.

It is particularly in this area that God’s people can demonstrate that we are holy. In a world of perversion, it’s here that we can show that we’re set apart from sin, that we are set apart for God’s glory. We show that we belong to Him by our hard-fought purity, whether we are single or married. We show that we belong to God by our commitment to godly marriages, and by the strength of our families.

For this is the purpose of Christ’s redeeming work: so that we’d be holy and without blemish. So that we’d belong to him—and him alone. And as his temple, God calls us to be faithful in worship. Think of how the sacrifices at the temple were almost never-ending, morning and evening, day after day—it was unthinkable that they’d stop, because the glorious God was right there! He expected worship, He wanted worship, and He was worthy of worship! Isn’t that even more true today? If we are the temple of God, then worship must be our chief activity, it must be our top priority—delighting in God, drawing near to God, serving God in all things.

So whether single or married, is that how you live? Do you live as a temple for the Lord’s Spirit? Or are you living as something less than this? Something worse than this? It should not be this way. For God saved us for himself, gave his Son, and gave his Spirit—that we might live for him! Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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