Identity Crisis: Temple

This morning, we continue our “Identity Crisis” message series where we are faced with that question, “When everything else fails, at your core, who are you?”  Last week, we were reminded how we were created on purpose and for a purpose.  Our nation, and the church alike, is suffering from identity crises in many different ways.

We learned that there is a huge difference between who we are born to be and who we were created to be.  We are all born into sin by our humanity and need to be born again by the Spirit.  When we ask Jesus to save us, we are born again and our identity immediately changes.  First and foremost, we are a child of God; adopted into His family. 

If we choose to identify ourselves by our career, our relationships with others, what we own, what we are able to do; by any worldly thing that can be taken away from us, then we do not know who we truly are and we are setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment.

Jesus had to remind the disciples of this when they began to find their identities in their new found abilities.

Luke 10:1720 NLT

17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

18 “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! 19 Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. 20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Jesus redirected their focus so that they would find their identity and reason for rejoicing not in casting out demons (what they can do), but rather in who they were; members of Heaven.

Sometimes, God strips those things away from us to reveal who we truly are.  We were reminded last week of Joseph’s journey through many titles, positions of authority, gains, and losses.  It was only His relationship with God and who God called Him to be that endured all those things and could not be stripped away from him.  Prayerfully, we each come to realize and understand our own true identity as he did.

Once we realize our true identity, we are unstoppable!

Once we realize our true identity, we are unshakable!

Once we realize our true identity, we will have confidence and contentment!

Jesus said:

John 14:12 (NLT)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

Why, then, is it so challenging for us to discover and understand who we were created to be?  Why does it feel like this is hidden from us, not for us?  Why is it that we are always tempted to strive to be something that we are not and to compare our weaknesses to other’s strengths?

I believe that one significant reason that we struggle with our identity is because of this reality.

From the beginning of our creation, a war was waged against our identity.  Satan was the most beautiful of all of God’s creation (Ez. 28).  He became corrupted by pride on account of his great beauty and began to believe himself to be equal with God.  He who was created to worship instead desires and demands to be worshipped (Ez. 28, Rev. 13, Matt. 4). 

God did something interesting in the sight of the most beautiful creature in existence.  God shaped some mud, breathed life into that being and personally created mankind in His very image.  He then personally walked and communed with them.  I get the impression that Satan might have been a bit jealous of this. 

Why?  Satan and a third of the angels waged war in Heaven and were cast down to the earth (Rev. 12).  He then waged war against us, who were created in God’s image and created to worship.  This war left Heaven, continued in the garden of Eden and still continues to this day.  It will continue to rage until Jesus returns and puts an end to his corruption in this way:

Revelation 20:10 (NLT)

Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Why does the devil wage war against our identity?  Why does he deceive people to wage war against God’s identity?  Why is this so valuable to him?

Once we realize God’s true identity, we can’t help but to worship Him!

Once we realize our true identity, we will surrender our lives to God, the purest of worship!

To keep this from happening, the devil is determined to keep our identity crisis going and to further confuse who God is and who we are in Christ. 

At one time in our history, Satan was presented with the ultimate opportunity to challenge both God and man’s identity.  This was made possible when Jesus humbled Himself, wrapped Himself in flesh to become fully God and fully man, and was about to fulfill the Father’s true purpose for His life.

Matthew 4:1-11 (NLT)

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

Our true identity, the purpose for which we were made, is most clearly revealed through challenges.  We can’t know ourselves by ourselves.  It is only when our identity is questioned and challenged and tempted that we discover who we truly are.  This was such a time for Jesus; the ultimate identity showdown.

3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

“If you are the Son of God”, the devil questioned the identity of Jesus.

4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.

And they will hold you up with their hands

    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

“If you are the Son of God”, the devil again questioned the identity of Jesus.

7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

When Jesus remained firm and confident in His identity without the need to prove anything, the devil went for what he truly longed for: worship!

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God

    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

If the devil can get you to question who you are, your true identity, then he wins the worship war.  If Satan can get you to question who God truly is, then he wins the worship war.  Either way, our worship of God will be incomplete and lacking in the passion and zeal that God so rightfully deserves.

Sometimes we need to be like Jesus and just say, “Get out of here, Satan!” and remind Him of who we are and what his destiny is.

As if being created in the very image of God was not enough, God took it a step further.

As if walking in the cool of the day in the perfect garden of Eden was not enough, God took it a step further.
As if hearing our every prayer, knowing our every thought, wiping away every tear with not enough, God took it a step further.

As if Satan wasn’t ticked off and jealous enough of us, God took it a step further!

The promise of God in Joel 2 and which Jesus reminded His disciples about on several occasions was fulfilled.  God chose to pour out His Holy Spirit on all who put their faith in Him.  He offered to baptize us in the Holy Spirit – truly filled with His Presence.  The very Presence of God dwelling within us!

You are a child of God, but you also have another identity!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  I won’t go into all of the history, but I urge you to take a look at God’s plans and purposes for His design of the tabernacle with Moses, then the temple with Solomon, then the rebuilt temple with Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the other Levites.

The temple was an incredible place built with high grade stone paneled with cedar boards and juniper flooring.  It was finished with ornate details carved into cedar and all overlaid with gold.  There were all sorts of bronze decorations and pillars.  The furnishings were all pure gold.  There was so much gold and bronze used in the construction of the temple that it couldn’t even be weighed!

One day while Jesus and His disciples were walking past the second temple:

Luke 21:5

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.

The temple was a holy place – a place set apart to worship God and to bring offerings and sacrifices.  It was the place where God chose for His Presence to dwell.  In fact, when Solomon had finished constructing His temple and brought the ark of the covenant into the inner sanctuary, the glory of God came as a cloud in such a powerful way that everyone fell and couldn’t continue their service.

God was very specific about how the tabernacle and temple were to be constructed.  The materials and skill and time that it took to construct them were tremendous.  In fact, the first infilling of the Holy Spirit happened to give the skill needed to build the temple.  I’m sure that no words can even begin to describe the beauty and awesomeness of these places.

And yet, in these later days, God has chosen you as His temple.  The place where Heaven meet earth are right there at your toes.  The holy of holies is right here within us.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wherever you stand is holy ground.  You are the place of the purest of worship.  Your very existence, the image of God filled with the Spirit of God, is worship and the devil wants it all!

You are a temple constructed by God, Himself, and treasured and valued more than the tabernacle and both temples combined!

The moment that Jesus chose to give His life for you this happened:

Matthew 27:51-54

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

The curtain of the temple was torn.  This curtain was designed to separate the holy of holies where God’s Presence dwelt from the inner parts of the temple.  The separation between God and man was destroyed so that His Presence might fill the ultimate temple – YOU!  Not only that, the identity of Jesus was confirmed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

You are the temple of the Holy Spirit!

1 Corinthians 3:16

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

2 Corinthians 6:16-18

16 …we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them

    and walk among them,

and I will be their God,

    and they will be my people.” (Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27)

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them

    and be separate,

says the Lord.

Touch no unclean thing,

    and I will receive you.” (Isaiah 52:11; Ezek. 20:34,41)

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,

    and you will be my sons and daughters,

says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Samuel 7:14; 7:8)

You are a child of God, you are the temple of the Living God!  God has chosen you to live with and walk with and to host His very Presence!

This is what God said regarding the second temple built after Solomon’s was destroyed.  He was writing to those who had seen Solomon’s great temple and had been tasked with rebuilding it.  I firmly believe that this was a prophetic word regarding not only this newly rebuilt temple, but about you!

Haggai 2:3-9

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? 4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

The glory of this present house, YOU, will be greater than the glory of all of the former temples.  We are moving from glory to glory!  We don’t go to some physical temple to meet with God, we dwell with God, we walk with God, we live life together with God through the Holy Spirit poured within us.

Stop thinking so lowly of yourself!  Stop questioning your value!  God sees you and considers you more valuable, more precious, more glorious than Moses’ tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, or Zerubbabel’s temple that the disciples were in awe of!

Make the devil jealous!  Give to God what He alone deserves, but the devil longs for!  You are a temple of God – created in God’s own image and filled with His own Presence!