Summary: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” 1 Cor. 3:16-17.
Theme: You are called to a life of righteousness
Text: Lev. 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; John 3:7-14
One important question that affects the quality of our life and that has been asked in every age and generation is where do I come from? Why am I here? And where am I going? Unfortunately many people still do not know the answer or have been deceived and as a result go through life experiencing untold hardships, problems and difficulties that are totally unnecessary. The right answer would not only lead us to our roots but also help us discover our true identity and the purpose and meaning of life. In his bestseller novel ‘Roots’ Alex Hailey, an African-American traces his roots to Africa. This knowledge was enough to change his mindset and the nature of his relationship to people of other races. It gave him an identity and a sense of self-worth. He no longer saw himself as a descendant of slaves ruled by a slave mentality but as a valued member of the society. Psychologists confirm that not knowing your roots results in an identity crisis that manifests itself in broken relationships, drugs, alcohol, suicide, crime and violence. It is therefore not surprising that we are confronted with these evils in our world today. We do not know our true identity although the Scriptures clearly reveal that we come from God because He created us and that He desires that we return to Him after living for Him here on earth in a way that glorifies Him. This is why God has placed something valuable in every human heart to witness about Him. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, had this inner witness and wanted to find out the truth about God. He came to Jesus at night, learnt from Him and left a changed man with a new understanding of God and of himself. He learnt the truth that the only way to approach and know a righteous God is to be righteous and this is why you are called to a life of righteousness.
God is righteous, created man righteous and demands a life of righteousness. This was necessary for a relationship with God because an unrighteous person has no access to the presence of a righteous God. When man sinned his covering of righteousness was stained and he could no longer enter God’s presence. Although God is righteous and hates sin, He is also love and this love was demonstrated in His provision to make it possible for man to come into His presence. God through Christ has restored man’s righteousness, first by covering man’s sin with the blood of sacrificed animals and then removing it completely with the eternal blood of His Son Jesus Christ. This has been clearly illustrated in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament a veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies signifying that unrighteous man had been separated from a righteous God. In spite of that one person, the High Priest was allowed into God’s presence once a year with the blood of sacrificed animals that covered his sin and that of the nation for a further year. The application of the blood of sacrificed animals on the mercy seat had to be repeated yearly and it is for this reason that the High Priest never sat down in the Holy of Holies. All this pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ who after He had offered His eternal blood sat down at the right hand of the Father signifying that the sacrifice was complete and that no other sacrifice will ever be needed again. This was clearly demonstrated in the Temple when the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, unholy man from a Holy God, was rent in two from top to bottom signifying that it was an act of God and not of man. God, through Christ, has paid man’s penalty for sin and restored man’s righteousness. The price has been paid and righteousness restored but to benefit from Christ’s provision we must accept His sacrifice on our behalf and confess Him as Saviour and Lord.
A life of righteousness is only possible with a new birth. Christ refers to this as being born again or being born from above. This new birth is necessary to deal with the nature of sin and the tendency to sin that is a normal consequence of normal birth because of the sin of Adam and Eve. What a person is incapable of doing because of his physical birth he can accomplish because of his spiritual birth. Everyone comes into the world after the breaking of the water. When a woman says, “my water broke” it is an indication that the time of delivery is near. And just as we are born into this physical world so we also need to be born into the spiritual world. We are all born spiritually dead and need to be born of the Spirit if we are to deal with the sin element in our lives by becoming alive spiritually and living a life of righteousness. Real life is a life lived in the spirit and begins with being born again. It is coming into a new realm of life - the realm of the Spirit. An unborn baby has no knowledge or contact with the outside world. In the same way every individual who has not been born of the Spirit of God has no knowledge or contact with God, and with the things of heaven and eternity. Without normal birth a baby has no ability to use all the potentials of life within it and without spiritual birth a person will have no ability to understand the things of God. Imagine if two unborn babies could communicate with each other, and one said to the other, ‘I don’t believe in what I have heard about this life after birth’. To us that may seem ridiculous when we realize all the tremendous possibilities that lie before a young life as it is born into the world. But the same thing is true of spiritual life. The unborn baby has ears but it cannot hear and a mouth but it cannot speak. It has the potential of hearing and speech before it is born but has no ability to communicate. In the same way there is the ability to hear God through spiritual ears and communicate with Him. God has always desired to communicate with us so He makes us alive in the Spirit so that we can hear Him and talk to Him. The first thing a baby does when it is born is cry. It breathes air for the first time. In the same way when we receive Christ God breathes His Spirit into us. And just as a baby is washed after birth, so also after spiritual birth a cleansing takes place in our souls. All the dirt is washed away and we are clothed with new garments – garments of righteousness. This is the only way we can enter heaven. Even Nicodemus with all his religion, piety and learning needed to be born again to enter heaven. Being religious is not enough to get us to Heaven. It is not enough coming to Church on Sundays, neither is it enough when we do not lie, steal or drink. There is only one way to Heaven and that is God’s way – by being born again. Have you been born again?