Friday, May 3, 2013

How Is It Our Bodies are "Holy Temples"?

In the fifth and last sermon of his series, "Spirit", Erwin McManus talks about diving into this space where most of us only spend small amounts of time exploring. So many times, when we are moving through life, we become absorbed in the material world, but then something will happen in our lives that turns us to the spiritual realm; the invisible world versus our visible world.  If we don't have a language for these experiences, we put together our own glossary of terms saying it is an "energy" or it is a "force" or some impersonal power.  We think of it as a "life force".

Sometimes, when we are working through a life crisis, we start looking for ways to be empowered; ways that might help us make it.  Other times, we need a competitive type of power to self actualize.  We start looking for an outside source that will elevate us to a "higher level", but the challenge is always the same; making this "life force" personal.

Scriptures tell us that this "force" is far more profound than what we, ourselves, could imagine.  The Creator of the universe works in our lives and He is personal, creative and has a purpose for all of us.  But in order to establish a relationship with this Creator, we have to change the way we think about reality.  If we approach the Holy Spirit with the scientific view, we are approaching Him incorrectly.  Science says everything comes from nothing.  Scripture says that the Spirit is the intention of God and it was from this Spirit that the earth was created.

Long before Erwin came to Christ, he had spiritual experiences.  As a young boy in El Salvador, Erwin regularly would sleep walk.  The houses in his neighborhood were interconnected with high walls, barb wire and locks, so there was virtually no way for people to get in, but when he would sleep walk, he would wonder out of the house!  The police would find him walking in the streets.  He would have no memory and no one could figure out how he was getting out.  During these times, Erwin was always dreaming that he was flying.  He imagined he was going to other places in the world and sometimes he would dream he was going to other parts of the universe.  Years later, in Raleigh NC when he was 16, he found himself still wandering around in the night.  What's more, he often found himself drawn to the guest room in his house.  In this room, he felt comfortable even though he says he actually felt an invisible presence there.  At one point, his aunt from El Salvador came to stay with his family and she was to sleep in the guest room.  But that night, she knocked on Erwin's door and said she couldn't sleep because she felt there was a presence in her room.  Erwin immediately knew what she was talking about and told her that "they won't hurt you".  This was too much for his aunt, who then screamed and refused to sleep in the room!  Yet Erwin continued to be drawn to the room and continued to feel connected to whatever was present.  He knew, by this experience, that he had a connection to the invisible world.

As humans, there is something in us that connects us to the spiritual realm.  We are not the same as buffalo and orangutans.   Despite so many commonalities to every creature, man (and woman) has a soul.  Yet every creation here is a manifestation of the spiritual world.  In 1 Corinthians 6, we read, "19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

What Paul is talking about is the essence being human.  It is our spirit that distinguishes us from animals.  We are a temple of the Living God.with this unique intention of being inhabited by Him.  Because we have all this evidence of the material world, we lose the reality that we are the spiritual essence of His image.  We think of our modern spirituality more as being associated with a building, a temple, a mosque or a church.  As incredible as Erwin thinks their church building is, he doesn't like that it helps contribute to the misread of this sacred space.  Our bodies are the temple, not the building and we have been bought at a price.  God purchased our sacred space so that He could live in us.  The Creator of the universe occupies us!  

However, because we were designed to live in the Spirit, we also have a design flaw which Jesus alludes to in Matthew 12:43-45,  43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

e imagery He is giving us is that, although we were created to live in the image of God, there are also other spirits that exist in this intersection of the visible and invisible world.   These spirits can come and go in "houses" that are "unoccupied".  If these problem spirits come and our bodies are unoccupied by the Holy Spirit via our faith, we are an exposed space subject to them.  We are then in danger of being influenced by them as well.

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you didn't connect with God, but you desperately tried to just be a better person?  You might have even tried religious things to do and hoped it was a enough.  We have all gone through all kinds of religious interventions to deal with the brokenness of our soul.   This is a house "swept clean" .  Notice that when Jesus speaks of the Spirit of God, He refers to Him as "He", but when Jesus talks about the of other spirits, He uses the word "it".  Nonetheless, Jesus is clear that these other spirits will, when given the chance, take over .  This is unbelievably disturbing!!   Erwin speaks from experience, "I see people all the time who try to get there house in order, but do nothing to bring God in to rule over their lives".  It's tragic and, on top of that, the human soul longs to be reconciled with God!

An interesting side note here.  This idea of other spirits coming and going explains the concept of reincarnation.  The scriptures make clear that we all live only one life.  We are born, we live and then we die.  But the spirits live in many lives and when they come to inhabit a human space, they bring with them the memories and experiences of past lives.  So, when people have "visions" of past lives or feel they have spiritual evidence of out of body experiences, it is actually not inconsistent with scripture.  These are real memories....!

Ephesians 2:21-22 says,  21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

The scriptures are telling us right away that God sent Jesus to give His Spirit so we might be reunited to God,  Through Jesus, we have access to God and, consequently, In Him, your "building...becomes a holy temple".

Our ultimate design is that we would have the living space filled by the presence and the purpose of the Living God.  You may not know this, but you are a spiritual creature and what makes you different from other animals is you have a soul.  "Dogs may be smarter than you," jokes Erwin, "but they have no souls...we all know cats have no souls!"  We live in two kingdoms; the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God. Both of these kingdoms were framed and are empowered by two very different types of spirits.

"I can tell you that I have stepped into experiences with other people where I saw spirits of darkness and I never want to see it again... I have seen the worst sides of them ... It explains why humans do the worst kind of things....we describe them as being 'out of (their) mind(s)' or 'not (themselves)'".  We sometimes try to deny that there are other forces outside of ourselves, but rest assured, they do exist.

The kingdom of darkness and kingdom of God have hugely different evidences of their existence.  1 Corinthians 13 directly describes the fruits of the Holy Spirit; the evidence of Him occupying our spiritual houses.  

 13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Paul tells us not to be surprised when God shows up in our lives.  When He manifests Himself in unexplained ways, we shouldn't be be overcome by it or lost in what the Spirit is doing.  Erwin has had moments where he has laid hands on the sick and he has watched them be healed.  He has seen rains stop suddenly and snow begin falling due to prayer.  He has stood on a platform speaking many times and he has watched many people coming to Christ.  He has correctly discerned the struggles and hurts of others, knowing it wasn't his own capabilities but those of the Holy Spirit.  But even with his experiences, Erwin doesn't have clear communication to do what the Spirit is doing all the time.  Yet he cannot deny the power and presence of God.

We are weird when it comes to Jesus and this is no different than the way it was with the first century church.   It was filled with neurotic, psychotic, broken and shattered people.  But this was God's people and He made Himself manifested through them.  Sometimes it isn't Jesus that makes us bizarre!  It's us who makes us bizarre.  Jesus is not the cause of neurosis, but He can still reflect himself through the neurosis.  If we but allow Him, He will work through us.

Galatians 5:22-26 Paul again gives evidence of the fruits of the Spirit; 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other. 

So, we see there are fruits of the Holy Spirit, and likewise, there is evidence in the lives of those who have allowed other spirits of darkness to occupy their space.  These traits are bitterness, greed, selfishness, conceit ...etc.  But none of these characteristics can stand when the Holy Spirit enters in and conquers hatred with love, bitterness with forgiveness and arrogance with humility.  Paul encourages us to keep in mind the rewards of following God; 1 Corinthians 14:Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit,especially prophecy.

You will never know what it means to live in the presence of God until you choose the way of love; fully becoming alive with the love of God.  Once you begin to, you will begin to learn what it means to love more and more.  There are amazing things God does in our lives, but there is nothing like Him filling us with His love

Years ago, Erwin would perform with a guitar on the streets at Marti Gras where he experienced some strangely, spiritual and sensual people.  During that time, he met this girl who looked so empty and hollow. Erwin started talking to her about Jesus and God .  Her response to his words has always haunted him.  She said, "I can't give my life to Him".  Erwin paused, "Sure you can!"  The girl then said, "No, I can't because my soul doesn't belong to me".  Shocked, Erwin asked, "What do you mean?"  The girl explained that she had gotten involved in Egyptian mysticism and that her soul belonged to a woman who she pointed out in the crowd.  At that point, Erwin looked up to see a woman rushing towards them.  This other woman jumped in Erwin's face screaming out that her soul did, in fact, belong to her.   "I remembered trying to stand her down and to tell her that Jesus could free her, but it was to no avail... The woman commanded her to come and they left".

You were designed to be inhabited by a spirit.  You are a living soul; the intersection of the visible and the invisible, between the spiritual and material world.  Your soul is trying to let you know who you are. You were designed for love.  You are designed for a relationship with the living God and the Spirit of God will always drive us towards love.

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