Correction is not a welcome thing these days. Introspection and examination are unpopular to folks who would prefer to be their own judge and make their own rules. A “Keep Out!” sign is the tone that we like to set when it comes to critique from others, even in the church. Yet without these, there is no opportunity for repentance. Without a confrontation between a person “as he is” and “as he should be” there is no rub, no push, no understanding of the problem or realization of the sin. And yet, it is God’s glorious design and pleasure to bring his children into the conformity of Christ in greater and greater measure through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the chiseling power of his Word. Holy holy holy is the Lord God almighty! It is central to who he is and central to what he is doing in the lives of those who have been bought by him with the blood of Jesus. As we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification. In fact, your life as a follower of Christ should be one of continual repentance, continual striving for holiness, continual pursuit of reflecting God’s glory in your thoughts, your actions, your desires….continual sanctification.
One of the great needs in the church today is repentance from giving our lives to the wrong things. That’s why the book of Haggai is some a welcome indictment to the body of Christ. It’s a stinging barb that leaves us clinging to the grace of God, amazed by his mercy toward us, and ultimately compelled to radically invest our lives in the right things.
If you’ve read Haggai, you know he was sent by God to deliver a message of repentance to formerly exiled Jews who had returned to Jerusalem. As God directed, they had begun to rebuild the temple previously destroyed by the Babylonians, but the thunderous joy that had marked the beginning stages of rebuilding had trickled away and the building campaign came to a halt (see book of Ezra). For 16 years the temple remained in fragmented pieces on the ground while the people had moved on to new agendas, improving their own homes and caring for their own needs. Of course, they could easily rationalize their sin, saying we wouldn’t dare rebuild now. How could we ever duplicate the magnificence of Solomon’s temple! No, no, no…we’ll wait, “the time has not yet come.” In fact, there were apparently no outwardly gross sins. These people were probably comfortable carrying out their religious duties and content in their disobedience. But what a gift to the people when Haggai declared, “consider your ways”…get to work…start building…the Lord is with you! And what a magnificent response from the people – obedience to God’s command. They had been awakened from their sleep and the temple was raised from the ground and finished within a few years.
Is it not just as easy for us to justify and coddle our sin, abusing the grace of God and ignoring his commands while throwing ourselves into selfish pursuits? Even doing so under the banner of “God’s will”! What dishonor, what shame! So many of us drift through life pursuing defiled pleasures and ignoring the great commission that we’ve been given, which is nothing less than to turn the world upside down with the gospel! What else have you put off that God has called you to do? What will it take to shake you of your complacency? What are we doing church!? Do we not see the grand task set before us? Did the God of the universe not pour out his everlasting love on you, declaring you innocent in spite of your guilt, adopting you as his child and giving you eternal joy with him and the saints forever and ever? What grace! Do you not see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan unfolding in the world? Like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, would you not joyfully give up all you have to invest in that field? (Matthew 13:44). God has set you free in Christ to live in joyful obedience to him. Yes, it’s hard, but fight my friend, fight! He is with you. Do not run back to the muck of worldly pleasures and invest in “bags with holes” as the people of Haggai’s day had done. It’s all emptiness. Serve Christ with all that you are, with singular focus.
Consider your ways! Give deep and precious thought to how you will give God glory with every molecule of your being. Invest everything him. Yes, we will continually fall short in our obedience, which is exactly why we must continually repent. Pray that God would drive you to the very root and depth of your sin; feel its weight so that you will receive the full benefit of brokenness over it and the experience the full receipt of his grace. Let God’s Word search and sift you so that you can see the wicked depths of the hole you have dug deep into the well of sin. In your brokenness God will certainly fill this well to overflowing with his generous mercies! His love toward you is steadfast and abounding.
There is no physical temple for us to rebuild today, but don’t miss this – we are the temple of God. “…You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) This is utterly amazing. God is building his church to reflect his glory. We are his presence in the world, an outpost of his heavenly kingdom. So consider your ways. Become thoroughly disgusted with your excuses. Buy the whole field and give your life to the advancement of God’s kingdom, to the praise of his glorious grace.