As we think about this Easter weekend and the opportunity that came for the salvation of our souls so that all who believe could be saved from the wrath of God because God so loved the world, we should be extremely grateful. We are not worried so much about the calendar event of Easter but the length of time that has gone by since Jesus rose from the dead. Over and over like Christmas, Easter is repeated in a cycle yet the church grows further and further away from the truth, so much so we find ourselves in desolation just like Israel when they were removed from the land. It is the 2000 years give or take that is concerning. The church almost immediately went off course following their own ways instead of being led by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:14 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” People ask when will Jesus come back but the question that should be asked when will you turn from your wicked ways. 2 Peter 3:11 “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming.” If the church was living according to God’s word the coming of Jesus would have happened long ago but because the church refused to follow wholeheartedly God allowed the enemies to attack and defeat us.
Down through the ages man has always loved to build. Deuteronomy 31:29 “For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.” Jeremiah talks about this several times. Jeremiah 32:30 “The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord.” Hosea 14:3 “Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” Acts 7:41 “That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made.” Way back in time they built a tower. Genesis 11:4 “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” There are many still wanting to make a name for themselves and build something. After the second temple in Israel was destroyed they thought another would need to be built. You then saw great cathedrals being built around the world. Then you saw the mega churches with their modern day cathedrals that impress people as did the cathedrals of architectural magnificence. Today they are still trying to build a temple for the Lord even though that is not what he wants. Acts 17:22 “Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Many think that God has blessed them because they have built something but Jesus made it very clear from the beginning, it is not about bricks and mortar. Mark 13:1 “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” He said the temple Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
When you build something it looks like you have accomplished great things yet Jesus made it clear. Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Ezekiel 13:3 “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. 5 You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. 6 Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. 7 Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken? 8 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord. 10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with? ” 13 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. 15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
It seems recently there have been many examples of the fallen. Many well known ministers have fallen from their high places. Yet there will always be someone to step in and take their place. We have seen well-known churches fall like the Crystal Cathedral, “a religious landmark, but an architectural wonder and an embodiment of flush times in Southern California’s Orange County” and yes there were bought by the Catholic church. This week one the great cathedrals of the world, Notre-Dame caught fire and yes it too will be rebuilt. I took a quick peek at some information. NAME: Notre Dame de Paris, which means Our Lady of Paris. CONSTRUCTION: The building stands on the Ile de la Cite, a small island in Paris’ Seine River. Construction was begun in 1163, and its two massive towers were finished around 1245, but the building was not completed until the beginning of the 14th century. Its central spire was added in the 19th century. MEASUREMENTS AND DESIGN: The interior of the cathedral is 427 feet by 157 feet (130 metres by 48 metres). The main structure is 211 feet high (64 metres high). The three famed rose windows date to the 13th century. FRENCH REVOLUTION: In the wake of the French Revolution, the cathedral was declared a “Temple of Reason” as part of an anticlerical movement. All of the original bells were destroyed, except for one, called Emmanuel and weighing 13 tons. RESTORATION: In 2013, the cathedral celebrated its 850 years with a refurbished organ. Each of the nearly 8,000 pipes, some of which date back to the 18th century, was individually cleaned and returned to its place. Meanwhile, nine new, gargantuan bells replaced the 19th century ones.”
While an incredible loss, this disaster gives us a picture of what the church has turned into. It has become about a structure but inside it is dead. Yes millions of people visit the building but Christianity isn’t about a building. I heard on the news the other day this statement by President Emmanuel Macron. He said in a television address to the nation. "We will rebuild Notre-Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years. We can do it," When I heard that I was impressed at the commitment but even more astounded at how fast money came in. One report said “Presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern told broadcaster France-Info on Wednesday that 880 million euros ($995 million) has been raised in just a day and a half since the fire. Contributions came from near and far, rich and poor - from Apple and magnates who own L'Oreal, Chanel and Dior, to Catholic parishioners and others from small towns and cities around France and the world. Later Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger pledged $5 million from the company, pushing the donations to the $1 billion mark.” CEO Robert Iger said Notre Dame “is a beacon of faith, hope & beauty, inspiring awe and reverence. The Walt Disney Company stands with our friends & neighbors in Paris, with heartfelt support and a $5 million donation for the restoration of this masterpiece.” Another report said, “Some criticism has already surfaced among those in France who say the money could be better spent elsewhere, on smaller struggling churches or workers. Meanwhile Macrons 5-year deadline — which happens to coincide with the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, which the government wants to make a major showcase — struck many as unrealistic.”
All that money and commitment in such a short time is amazing, but it is just a building. Christianity isn’t about tourism, though you wouldn’t know it with all the tours to the Holy Land and cruising the high seas with your favorite singing group or minister. When I heard the news report about rebuilding, I thought about the verse in Isaiah 9. The first part of the chapter is bout Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” But immediately following this amazing passage, the Lord’s anger is described. Isaiah 9:8 “The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. 9 All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria— who say with pride and arrogance of heart, 10 “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” 11 But the LORD has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them and has spurred their enemies on. 12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. 13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the LORD Almighty. 14 So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; 15 the elders and dignitaries are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. 16 Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. 17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.”
Yes I realize we are talking about a structure here and yes it will be rebuilt and people will stream to it from all over the world but will they stream to Jesus or to the building they think Jesus is in? Nehemiah 1:3 “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” Unfortunately most will miss that they need to repent and turn back to God. This should not be about rebuilding this architectural wonder but about a nation turning back to God. Sadly upon completion it will look like all is blessed by God. Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!” Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Rebuilding this amazing structure is not the answer; turning away from the things our hands have made is. Matthew 24:1 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” Luke says it this way. Luke 21:5 “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” 8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”
On this Easter weekend Jesus did not die for a building but for you. You are part of the temple he wants to dwell in. John 14:23 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Many in the church today have been deceived into thinking the building is the church and the more opulent the better, meaning God is very pleased with what your hand has made but they are deceived. As Paul said 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.” Don’t be distracted by the buildings and the beautiful stones or the stained glass windows or the spectacular seating capacity but as Hebrew 12 tells us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Nehemiah said Nehemiah 2:17 “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” Yes we need to rebuild so that the church will not be a disgrace but it is not buildings that need to be rebuilt as Nehemiah was talking about, but following God’s word wholeheartedly and restoring our relationship with Him.