We have been considering how best to glorify God in our planned building endeavor. We want to glorify God with timber, and brick, and mortar, and stones. And speaking of stones, we should pay very close attention to a juxtaposition that the Lord placed between some stones in very different situations.
“And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out . . . And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:40, 44).
If stones can speak in a way that glorifies God, they can also be cast down and crushed into pebbles in a way that glorifies God. If stones can speak, then stones can have a heart, and if they have a heart, then God requires the externals of that architecture and the internals of that architecture to be saying the same thing, with the same motive, in the same love. Isaiah warns us in this way:
“Wherefore the Lord said, forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Is. 29:13).
In order for the stones to cry out rightly, the heart of the building must consist of living stones that also cry out rightly. And in order for us to be those living stones, the sovereign God must take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. He must make us alive. He quickens the stone by taking away the stone. And when He does this, we are then able to quicken the stones by gathering as living stones to worship the Lord God of all Israel. So let the stones cry out.
As we marshal our resources, as we count our shekels, we want to remember what the biblical definition of prudence is. We want to be prudent in our how we raise money for our sanctuary, but we don’t want to be so prudent that we are tempted to think we could do something like this apart from God.
God is in the business of doing for His people beyond what they could ask or think. But He does this for His people who are walking by faith in the light of His Word. He does not do it for those vain daydreamers who build sky sanctuaries in the clouds.
In order to build a sanctuary in which to worship the Lord, we have to face the question of ownership. One of the reasons why property rights (which are actually human rights) are under assault in our day is that we have refused to acknowledge that God owns absolutely everything. We function as stewards, under the authority of His Word. If we deny the foundation, then we will have trouble keeping the house standing.
Now for the church to build a building, we need to own land, and buy brick and stone, and hire architects, and so forth. This means that we must have money, and we must have enough of it.
Scripture tells us that we need to speak to our generation with clarity. One of the mistakes that we make is that of reducing faithfulness in this to words alone. There are other ways of speaking, and we need to use them all.
Architecture speaks. It is not possible for human beings to live in architectural silence. We are always speaking. If an alien with anthropological interests were to come and walk through our cities, he would be able tell—without speaking to anyone—what was important to us. He would see business in the skyscrapers. He would see commerce in the great shopping malls. He would see entertainment in the stadiums. Where would he see the importance to us of the worship of the Most High God? We are always speaking . . . but what are we saying?
Some time ago, I gave an extended series of exhortations in this place concerning our music. Having preached a series of high altitude messages on our new church building, I want to come down to a lower altitude now, and in the weeks to come set out some very practical concerns about our upcoming building project.
“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4).
The first issue has to do with priorities in building. On the safe assumption that we will not have unlimited resources, we want to make sure that when we start in on the building that we give pride of place to those tasks that will enable us to worship God more fittingly. What this means, in blunt terms, is that we want to build a sanctuary first and foremost.
There are other architectural functions that are commonly associated with church buildings that are certainly lawful and appropriate, and we don’t want to necessarily preclude such things—fellowship hall, kitchen, office spaces, and so forth.
So if our resources limit us, we want the limitations to land on our conveniences, and not on that which would honor God the most. This is another way of saying that the honor of God should receive the first fruits.
Scripture takes a dim view of a slack hand. “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: But the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov. 10:4).
This applies to all of us—men and women, boy and girls. It applies to every station of life—job holder, housekeeper, or student. One of the plain indicators that the Spirit of God is at work is that He creates a work ethic in His people. So let us be honest with one another, and brutally honest with ourselves. Where are we being lazy?
There is an old adage that says we should not doubt in the dark what we knew in the light. This is quite true, but in this world of darkness a good bit of the dark comes to you in the guise of light. The world is not divided between those who say “I am blind,” and those who say, “I see.” No, the world is divided between those who claim to see and those who actually do.
This makes us—rightly—want to cross check ourselves. Fundamentally, self-deception occurs when we think that we see when we in fact do not. There is no way for you, by yourself, to get out of the dilemma. You cannot double-think it, or triple-think it, and find your way out of this maze.
Scripture teaches us that sin is not just bad, but that it is also deceitful. It masquerades. This is why we must exhort one another. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). There are many ways this can happen—let me give an example of one particular trick in three instances.
Once we learn we have liberty in a particular area, an area where previous generations of Christians didn’t think they had liberty, we sometimes forget that they had any reasons at all for their caution, and so we forget to be cautious at all. Thus we are muddled and hardened through sin’s deceitfulness. We abuse our liberty more than the legalist does.