Summary: God has a great plan for the church.
August 30, 2009
Text: Haggai 2:1-9
Subject: Building the Church
Title: Moving Forward With a New Vision
It is good to be back home from vacation. For the first time in recent memory we have come back really refreshed. Now it is time to get back to the work of God in the church. I have to tell you, though, that the work of God didn’t stop while we were gone. All the while, as we were on the road, the thought kept coming to my head, “Where does the church go from here? What is our next step?” I believe that God was revealing His purpose for this church to me all the time we were traveling.
Let me bore you a little with our travels. I love driving because I enjoy seeing the different types of scenery that you find in various parts of the country. This was my first time driving across southern Nebraska. Larry Harlan told me it would be flat and it was. You can be going down the interstate and look in any direction and see – flat! It didn’t bore me, although it didn’t bother me when it got dark and we kept on driving. It changed when we got into northwest Colorado and all the way to Denver. That is the one thing that amazed me – how different everything is. I love the rolling hills and vast prairies that lead up to the foothills of the Rockies. Then it was the Back Hills of South Dakota – and then across I-90 and then south through Iowa on I –29. As we made this gigantic loop the one thought that kept coming back to me was how vast God’s creation is. Almost everywhere we went you could see as far as the horizon in any direction.
The closer we got to home the more that began to change. The one thing that strikes me about Missouri as compared to many of the other parts of the country that we have traveled was the trees. You see, when we were in the other states you could look out and the view was endless. There seemed to be no limitations on your vision. But back in Missouri the highways are tree lined and often your vision is obscured so that you cannot see beyond the edge of the road. We found that to be specifically true as we traveled down Highway 19 to Eminence, MO. The highway is built on the tops of ridges in the Ozark Mountains and you very seldom get a view past what is right in front of you. Now for me that was the most boring part of our trip. I knew that there was a beautiful view waiting for me beyond the tress, but I couldn’t see it from the road.
What it did for me, though, was to make me think about the church. Too often the vision of the church is obscured by the people, events, or circumstances that are close to us, to the point that we fail to remember that beyond those things there is a limitless horizon waiting for us to view.
That is where I want to take you today. I want you to see the limitless possibilities that God has in store for you as individuals, and the church collectively.
Lord, Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
I. THE WORK OF GOD IN THE PAST. I want you to see what is happening in Israel at this time. King Cyrus of Persia has authorized the release of fifty thousand captives from Babylon just as Isaiah had prophesied would happen back in Isaiah 45:13, 13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty…” These people came back with the intent of re-inhabiting the city and rebuilding the temple. But when opposition from Samaria arose the Israelites backed down from their temple construction and concentrated on building their own homes. Sixteen years after the foundation for the temple had been laid no more work had been accomplished. Even though it was clear what God had done for them in the past, they could only see the here and now. Here is what was happening in Jerusalem. Go back to chapter 1. 1) The people could not see past their own circumstances – the threats of their enemies – so they blamed their lack on God’s timing. Verse 2, This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’S house to be built.’” . 2) The people could not be motivated past the comfort of their own homes. 1:4, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 3) God reveals the results of their sinful attitudes and actions. 1:6, You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” After their enemy had risen against them with threats the only thing they became aware of was their own comfort. 4) God calls the people back to work. 12Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. You understand, don’t you, that the work of rebuilding the temple is about who God is and not about who we are? If God spoke to His people then He still speaks today. 5) God encourages His people with the promise of His presence. 13Then Haggai, the LORD’S messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. 14So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, 15on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius. Now we get to chapter two. God continues to speak to His people. One of the excuses that the people used to keep from rebuilding the new temple was that the old temple was so magnificent there is no way we could ever match it. Maybe they were sincere in their doubt. Maybe they thought in their hearts, “If this is going to be God’s home then it has to be the best, and we just can’t do it” 2:1-3, 1On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 2“Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? Look, God is calling the church, both here and everywhere else, to rebuild the temple. Are you concerned that this church can’t match the church that was here under Pastor Skinner or other pastors who were here when the church was flourishing? Are you afraid that revival now can never be the same as what it was for you in the past? God isn’t asking you to match what has happened in the past. He is asking you to rebuild. He isn’t making any demands for the best materials – He is just asking you to give your best – the best of your efforts, your time, your offerings. He isn’t concerned that we have the largest, most up-to-date sanctuary. He just wants a heart that is willing to serve. Colossians 3:23-24, 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.