Law or Grace? Our House or God's House? Koinonia or Koinonitis?Haggai 1:3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! 6 “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”
God sent a message to His people through the Prophet Haggai that basically said, “You place more priority on your house (your things), than on My house (God’s things)." Their misplaced priority and focus created a deficit of spiritual depth, fulfillment, fruitfulness, as well as hindering national progress.
Haggai’s message from the Lord rings true today as well. For the purposes of this article, I will express “religious church culture” and “Christ’s church” as separate realities. Much of what is done in religious church culture can find no reality in Christ’s church, in the Kingdom of God, or in the Scriptures. As the saying goes, many people just want to “have church.” This does not reflect God’s purpose as demonstrated by Jesus, early church fathers, and contemporary Kingdom ministry.
While Christ’s church reflects the language, customs, and ethnicity of every nation in which the people live, the objective is to never lose touch with those foundations and biblical principles that empower our service and lifestyles. In Christ’s church, we are “in the world” but not “of the world” in our beliefs and practices. Methods may change, but principles remain the same.
People that Jesus does not know
Attending church or doing church related activities does not necessarily affirm that preachers and parishioners are holding to God’s purpose and plan. These words from Jesus are very sobering:
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:22-23)
How can it be that Jesus would not “know” people who prophesied in His name, cast out demons, and performed wonders? Are not these activities the basis of “anointed ministry?” Having church is ultimately meaningless when people operate on religious tradition and popular culture rather than through direct relationship with God’s Kingdom.
God must sometimes work regardless of people and preachers, not through them. Genuine blessings and miracles are all about Him. This is the “secret” to how selfishly motivated and morally bankrupt preachers have functioned for seasons of time. People in their meetings were blessed through trusting in God and His Word, but some of these preachers have taken credit for the work, and then advertised it for personal fame and fortune.
We preachers are certainly called and have a gift to “preach the word.” We also have a responsibility to order our lives according to God’s Kingdom and always direct people to give glory to God. I tell preachers: “You have a gift to preach, but you do not have a gift to live properly.” We must lean strongly into the grace of God (his House). Otherwise, we can only become legalistic, self-motivated and conceited (our house). Without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5), even when busying ourselves with activities related to church culture.
Redefinition of "Law"
In Matthew 7:23, the word “lawlessness” means “contempt and violation of law,” and “unrighteousness.” In this context, Jesus is not talking about the law of Moses, which He came to fulfill. Jesus defined lawlessness in relation to people's need for a relationship with the true and living God. Rules of conduct have their place, but it only serves to reveal the weakness of people and their need for a Savior. When people do religious work apart from relationship with God and away from the direction of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' response is, "I don't know you."
Matthew 5:17 reads, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Jesus redefined the law of Moses by making it clear that mankind is incapable of successfully fulfilling its requirements. Unless one can fulfill the law 100%, he is a transgressor. A person could go 364 days fulfilling the law, and on the 365th day break a commandment and become guilty of transgressing the whole law.
James 2:11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.”Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
Only Jesus fulfilled the law 100% and thus qualified Himself as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
What Jesus did was to institute something called the “Law of Liberty.” He did this by bringing grace and truth through the redemptive and forgiving love of God (John 1:14). The Law of Liberty does not focus on “not sinning.” The Law of Liberty is focused on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength––as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves.
James 2:12 reads, So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
Ultimately, when people, great or small, place more focus on “their” house, than God’s house, they are operating outside of the intended relationship with God, and undermine the collective work of God’s Kingdom. A lot of what we see today are little kingdoms of local churches and their pastors. These “houses” too often neglect to consider the larger purposes of God’s House (Kingdom). We lack the sense of “one church" in the city and nation in favor of “my” church. We let people float from church to church without accountability. Too many pastors and ministers are not vitally submitted to spiritual authority, for reasons of personal ambition. Much of what is called "accountability" or "spiritual covering" is only symbolic.
The Emptiness of Religious Church Culture
To be sure, within today’s religious church culture, it is more advantageous to promote one’s own house and “brand” than focus on the larger Kingdom of God and the outward-looking dimensions/mission of Christ’s church. I once saw an advertisement in which the church stated they were a “Five Star” ministry. Some have said, “We have the best choir, church and pastor in town!” That focus/mindset has nothing to do with the intended purpose of Christ’s church. It is only a reflection of popular culture, of which the world holds the standard and provides the best examples, not God's Kingdom. This is how we have caused “…this temple to lie in ruins.” (Haggai 1:4)
In Chapter Two of Haggai, God sent another message to His people, in which he provided His answer to the problem.
Haggai 2:6 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
People interpret “shake” heaven, earth, and nations in various ways. The bottom-line is this: When God works in people, and people respond properly, their motivations will change. They will gladly come to “the Desire of All Nations,” not for self-angradisement, but to capture God’s heart of larger, collective, Kingdom purposes.
What the "Latter House" is and is not
The “temple” or “latter house” that God promised to fill with glory and increase in “greatness” is not a person, preacher, or a local church. It is certainly not the edifice where believers gather. The latter house is not a person or a place. The latter house is the family of God as expressed through the body of Christ. The latter house is not one church, but all churches (the Body of Christ) that recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the mystery of godliness more than religious tradition and popular culture.
Paul wrote: 1 Timothy 3:14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
The “house of God” is not one assembly, but the collective community of all believers. Together with Christ, God designed us to form “the pillar and ground of truth.” Our lack of impact in society and our abdication of moral and spiritual authority have resulted from our retreat into our places of worship.
We rightfully assemble ourselves together as believers to worship, learn, grow, celebrate Jesus, sow, and fellowship. In the Greek, this is called Koinonia. But when the sole focus of the church becomes what believers do together in their own house, an unhealthy condition develops that we can call Koinonitis.
"Having church" has actually ruined the concept of unity in the Body and collective Kingdom action. "Having church" moves our entire focus to blessing one another, and feeling sanctified and satisfied. The only real objective becomes "get some" and come back for more.
We need to abandon religion, religious church culture, and the notion of "having church." Preachers and believers need to take a fresh look at the Word of God and challenge ourselves and the people we serve to go God’s way. Through grace, we simply need to walk in the reality of being the church that God designed and commissioned.
The Great Commission is still our Mission:
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.