Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cleaning the Sanctuary

It has been many months of preparation and, mostly, waiting. The sale of our home is going through and we have found a lovely town-home to rent. Lord willing, we will be settled in our new home by mid to late January. In short, this past week has been nothing short of busy and full. I was finally motivated to go through a bunch of my stuff and pack, as well as get rid of things. Because my sister and I shall have to share a room in our new home, my aim was to lessen my measure of stuff. Sometimes, you don't care what it is, you just want to get rid of it. One accumulates so much when you have your own space.
As I was looking through my mass of folders and papers (no matter how many times a year I clean through my room, my storage boxes and desk breed paper!!), I couldn't help but relate the cleaning of my room to the need that the Spirit has pressed upon me to purify certain selfish tendencies, habits, and motives from my life. It brought to my mind some very simple, but significant and foundational teaching from Leslie Ludy's book, Authentic Beauty.

More than likely, most of our “trash” has been residing within us for so long we don’t even realize it’s there. And yet its presence will hinder true intimacy with our Lord for as long as it is allowed to remain in our hearts. A lifestyle of lily whiteness can flow only out of an inner being that has been made lily white by Jesus Christ.
...Regular trash removal became a vital, ongoing process in my life from that point forward. And each time I allowed myself to receive Christ’s cleansing touch, as painful as it might be, it chased me even deeper into the loving, healing embrace of my heroic Lord.
Invited your Prince to thoroughly examine every nook and cranny of your heart….ask Him to show you any hidden sins lingering within you, any subtle compromises or wrong habits you have allowed to creep into your life, and any situation or relationship in your life that needs to be made right.

We often need the fresh reminder to clean out the sanctuary. The significance of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, a bearer of the name of Christ, and a vessel for the Lord's chosen work demands us to deal with the areas of compromise in our life. Often times, I have found that they are habits that we've lived so long with that we hardly recognize them as something sinful in us that needs to be dealt with. It could be as small as the way in which you choose to converse with a friend; the focus of a conversation or subject matter is, perhaps, less than edifying. It's in "small" areas such as that, that I have recognized so many selfish and immature tendencies. Are we allowing the Spirit to gaurd the door of our mouth and heart? Or, are we willfully turning to fleshly habits?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

I'm always reminded of the zeal that Josiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and countless other men from Scripture who sought to keep the Temple sacred, pure, and truly set apart for the worship and service of God. In chapter 13 of the book of Nehemiah, we find Nehemiah, once again, needing to restore the Temple. After spending much devoted time to its rebuilding, establishing reforms, and confirming the convenant between Israel and the Lord, he returns to his post as cupbearer of King Artaxerxes. However, after some time, he asks leave of the king to return to Jerusalem, where he soon finds the Temple defiled.

...and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. (v. 7-9)

I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. So I confronted the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" (v. 10-11)

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath." (v. 15-17)

As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, "Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you." From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. (v. 19-22)

In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. (v. 23 - 25)

Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. (v. 30-31)

Not only did he cleanse everything that was foreign from the Temple, but he also set up the things that were holy and sacred. He intentionally set out to restore the duties and services. How many times do we deal with the sin and impurities in our lives, but never make the changes needed to maintain a pure and devoted life to Christ? His grace is sufficient and He supplies us with everything needed to live a life wholly consecrated to Him; will we not walk in the power of His calling? Let us not become negligent of these earthly temples, but let us press onward to know the fullness of the life that we are called to in Christ.

What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts. ~ Amy Carmichael

1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)

2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”
[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.
[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.
[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord...bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

8. For God to be glorified.
Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)