Blog Archive

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Dwelling Place of God-- Geoff Thompson

 This message I brought to the two Renmark Uniting Churches last Sunday.
  I am an occasional lay speaker there.

The Dwelling Place of God

Renmark Uniting Church

Many years ago, as a new Christian, I went to hear a sermon at a mission being held in Adelaide with a Southern Baptist preacher as the guest speaker.
Renmark West Union Church

The night I went, I might have gone more than once, but this one sermon left a lasting impression on me.

It was called “What’s right with the Church?”

I still have somewhere a very poor copy of the tape I recorded that night.

This man was tall large and probably a texan.

He started off slowly and gently but wound up to a crescendo.

Some of the old time southern Baptist preachers I think you needed to fasten your seatbelts.

In the talk he really got home to me, or God actually did, of how important the local Church is and how essential it is in the greater scheme of God’s plans for humanity, for us as individuals.

In Church you will more than likely be in the only place that you will actually hear the Gospel.

Hear the challenges that we need to hear about our non Christian behaviour.

How we should live our lives as we make Jesus not only our Saviour but our Lord.

So what is the Church, who is the Church and how relevant is it today in this age when the Church is so ridiculed at times in the media?

We had read out earlier these words.

Ephesians 2:
“19 Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.
20 What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself! 21 We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. 22 And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit and are part of this dwelling place of God.”

“The dwelling place of God!”

“20 What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself! 21 We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. 22 And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit and are part of this dwelling place of God.”

What does that mean? 

The dwelling place of God?

Surely God lives in Heaven?

Well that’s the popular notion and has some validity but-----------
Consider this.
Ephesians 4:4-6
“Jesus said the Church is His body, that He is the life of the body.
“There is one body,and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call,
one Lord,
one faith,
one baptism,
one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
In light of this God lives,
dwells in us,
the living Body of Christ.
In many places today it seems the life has gone out of the body.
In the early Church all Christians were intimately and actively involved in the vibrant life of the body..
Their witness to unbelievers coupled with their deep love for each other rocked the Roman world.
And it must be so again.”

I have been quoting from inside the cover of  the book called “Body Life” by the late Ray Stedman.
He was a Church pastor in California. The Peninsula Bible Church.
It is based on principles outlined in Ephesians Chapter 4.
Apart from the Bible this book and it’s message is one of the most life changing books I have read.
It tells how a local church decided to reach out to their community with a view to re introducing Jesus to their community in the way the early church did.
They did so in their church by learning what it meant to be part of the body of Christ and thus what were their(our) responsibilities as Christians.
This church, that Ray Stedman had been called to be it’s minister, learnt that each Christian according to the scripture, is given at least one spiritual gift.
Sometimes more than one.
There are lists of these spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12,(the most detailed list),Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4.
1 Corinthians 12:4-31
Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10 He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11 It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.
27 Now here is what I am trying to say: All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. 28 Here is a list of some of the parts he has placed in his Church, which is his body:
Prophets—those who preach God’s Word,
Those who do miracles,
Those who have the gift of healing;
Those who can help others,
Those who can get others to work together,
Those who speak in languages they have never learned.
29 Is everyone an apostle? Of course not. Is everyone a preacher? No. Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? 30 Can everyone heal the sick? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in languages we’ve never learned? Can just anyone understand and translate what those are saying who have that gift of foreign speech? 31 No, but try your best to have the more important of these gifts.
Romans 12
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, then prophesy whenever you can—as often as your faith is strong enough to receive a message from God. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it. If God has given you administrative ability and put you in charge of the work of others, take the responsibility seriously. Those who offer comfort to the sorrowing should do so with Christian cheer."

In our Church here, we are the dwelling place of God.
Using the gifts God has given us, we can and should fulfill our calling.

To tell others about Jesus and manifest His love in this community.

A place to start is:
1.     Make sure we are Christians according to what the scripture says.(5 things that man does, the rest is continued by God)
Recognise our sin. Believe Jesus is our only saviour through His death and resurrection.Repent. Turn our backs on sin.Be Baptised. Receive the Holy Spirit.(Receive Jesus)
2.     Decide we want to work together as the body of Christ.Build each other up and support each other.
3.     Decide we want to share the amazing message of the Gospel in our local community.
4.     Identify what our own individual spiritual gifts are. (often our gifts can be found among the things that come naturally to us) Often others may recognise our gift or gifts before we do. Use the lists for this.Ray Stedman has good info on the gifts in his book and his tape library.
5.     Start using our God given gifts to reach out to others.

When Lesley and I were new Christians we had the privilege of having two fine Bible teachers as our Pastors.
One was Harold Long and the other was Frank Hunting.
They taught us many things including about the gifts of the holy Spirit.
We did a whole series of Bible studies on what we called Mutual Ministries including some of the teaching found in Ray Stedman’s Body Life book.
Ray came and did a Bodylife seminar in our Church back then.
I was unable to attend but have listened to the tapes of those meetings many times.
We were so inspired by what we learnt that we started using the gifts we thought we had.
I was asked to be the leader of a new Youth Group.
The old one had ceased to operate.
I was also given a role as a Sunday school teacher with a small group of teenagers.
Lesley started up a Kid’s Bible club in our home.
She used some supplied material but also modified the teaching where she thought it necessary.
The Kids Club grew to the point where we had to move it to the local Scout Hall and then eventually to the local Church of Christ.
There were two other thriving kids Clubs in our Church family at the time and many home Bible studies started up.
I heard Ray Stedman talk about a young man who worked in the Post Office in Ray’s home town who decided to start a work place Bible Study.
He thought he had the gift of teaching.
I was inspired by this as I worked in the Post Office in Adelaide.
I started up a similar group under the expert guidance of our two pastors.
The group met every Tuesday for about 15 years until I left the organisation.
It was great blessing to all of us who took part and became multi denominational.

Lesley and I have continued to regard ourselves as Christians who exercise the Spiritual Gifts we discovered we had.
We now use our gifts in ministering to residents of a nursing home.
This is not about us boasting how good we are but about Jesus who lives in all Christians.
All Christians are the dwelling place of God.
We are all equipped with gifts for the Church to function properly.

Everyones' role in a Church family is just as important as everyone else.

It’s about how we can be part of God’s Body.

Part of His plan.

So do we in Renmark want to go the way of so many Churches just close our doors eventually?
Or do we really want to manifest ourselves as the dwelling place of God?
Do we want to be the caricature or popular opinion of the church or the real thing?

A word of caution. The studies on spiritual gifts can be the breeding ground of false doctrine.
We shouldn’t  get too bogged down in discussions on tongues,miracles and apostles.
The other gifts are the important ones for this day and age.
For instant the gift of Helps is a very important gift.
I have seen many in both the Renmark Churches who have this gift.
The Church is the dwelling place of God.
God lives also in the Christian through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
The early Church turned the whole world upside down.
If we return to New Testament Christianity, as it should be practised, there is no reason why the town of Renmark cannot have a revival.
Does anyone here have a heart to reach out to others with the Gospel?
The Good News?
One of the gifts you will find listed in the NT is the Gift of Faith.
Faith means the ability to walk in Faith, not by sight where we might say this situation or that situation looks bleak,but to be able to see things through God’s eyes.
To see the possibilities.
To apply Faith that works.

So do we know the Dwelling Place of God ?

He lives here within us.

Do we want to be resuscitated?

Resurrected if you like?

New life surging through our bodies and our Church.

In a moment we are going to sing our closing hymn.
“The Churches one Foundation”

We are His body.

Here in Renmark.

Waiting to be renewed.

I quote again from Ephesians 2:20-22 to close.
20 What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself! 21 We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. 22 And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit and are part of this dwelling place of God.”


NB. Below is a link to the late Ray Stedman's library of works and in particular his book Body Life. 

Please note if you go the link you will find some excellent study guide questions that can be used as a congregation.

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