Let’s point out, in general, two truths about Christians and the Holy Spirit which now dwells inside the believer. First, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, we carry God everywhere we go and into everything we do, so there’s a need for separation. The second point to ponder is the fact that as the temple of the Holy Spirit, we need to care for the temple and make it fit for a King. This fitness should be seen in the areas of spirituality, physicality, mentality, and morality.
Just a couple of points about the Israelites and the progression from the tabernacle to the eventual temple at Jerusalem. First, as God had chosen Israel, He wanted a place to dwell among them, so in Exodus 25:8, God gave the command to Israel to build a sanctuary (dwelling place). This became a tabernacle that would be mobile and travel with Israel throughout the wanderings in the desert. This tabernacle was made of tent material and cloths and was easily moveable. Now this was a very crude dwelling place for the Lord during the infancy of the Nation of Israel. But over time, hundreds of years to be exact, as the nation matured, the tabernacle became more structurally sturdy. For instance, by the time Israel reached a land named Shiloh, during the 300-plus years they were there, the wooden frame of the tabernacle gave way to more permanent walls of stone, which were then covered in cloths. Then, Israel fell away from God from time to time and were overthrown from Shiloh, and moved to other lands, traveling again with a tabernacle with less than a strong sturdy foundation…back to wooden frames instead of solid rock walls, as was the case in Shiloh. Finally, after many dealings from God and an overall increase in their maturity as a nation, God was finally able to give wisdom to the hearts of the Israelites on how to construct His permanent Temple.
The lesson here is that as newly saved individuals, we are a crude dwelling place for the Lord, but after God teaches us and deals with us about sin, our maturity should be such that we begin looking at how to make our bodies temples and not just tabernacles. This leads to the second point about the significance of realizing we house God in the form of the Holy Spirit. “For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38). God’s presence was visible to all who were in the presence of the tabernacle. So too, should people see God’s presence when they are in our presence. This is why taking good care of our bodies in the four areas previously mentioned is essential, as well as making sure we separate ourselves from anything that would keep people from seeing God…more on that to follow…
There are a few reasons for separation. First, it’s to keep us spiritually and morally strong: “Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners” (First Corinthians 15:33). The second reason separation is important in the overall responsibility of maintaining the temple is to avoid people identifying you with things other than God and the truth He stands for. For example, as a Christian, if you play in a dart league at a local bar where nearly everyone there smokes, drinks, swears, and carries on, you will be guilty of all those things in the minds of those who don’t know you, just by being there. The Glory of God that was visible in the tabernacle to those around it will not be visible to your college friends if you join them for a keg party. Second Corinthians 6:17-18 exhorts us to be holy before God, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
There is so much to deal with in this one verse. From the Holy Spirit’s urging us to come out from among them to the exhortation to touch not the unclean thing. I mean, where do you start? Well, in one sense, we’ve already come out from among them (the world) and God received us at the moment of our salvation. But touch not the unclean thing…just what is that? Well, it’s everything that is not godly or glorifying to God, or edifying to others. Because remember, we are separated UNTO God (Romans 1:1), which, by way of reasoning, separates us AWAY from the antithesis of God, which is the world. So anything that is sinful, vile, impure, defiled, ungodly, etc. is what we need to separate ourselves from, even fellow believers who are involved in sin (First Corinthians 5:11) and believers who are involved in teaching false doctrines (Second Thessalonians 3:6-14).
God is a morally absolute God, so separation involves no gray area. Any gray area is to be dismissed as wrong and the moral black and white stance must be taken. Here’s why there can be no gray area. First John 1:5-7 explains, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
If you take light and darkness and transfer the terms black and white, it’s easier to visualize and understand the problem with gray areas. Let me take you back to elementary school. How do you get the color gray? You mix white and black. Therefore…any gray area contains some element of sin!!! Socially drinking a wine at dinner (but not indulging in excess) is an area people argue is gray. However, anyone else in the restaurant will not know you only had one…they may wonder how many glasses you’ve had. Then, as you leave, you reach into your pocket for your keys and the consensus from on-lookers may be…is he impaired or is he safe to drive home? You are not letting God’s presence in your life be seen by others.
So many people look at the Christian life as a series of statements and actions to answer the question What Would Jesus Do (WWJD). That’s OK when it comes to areas of service and relating to others and the like, but it’s not an adequate question when looking for guidance with relation to separation. The question needs to be asked, What Would Jesus NOT Do. Now, in light of a sinless Jesus, gray disappears and things become morally absolute again…dare we say…black and white.
Let me just rapid fire a few of these things…Would Jesus have a beer? Would Jesus go to the movies and spend money that would eventually enter the coffers of a sinful industry that peddles very little material that we could call inoffensive? Would Jesus read worldly Romance novels? Would Jesus split hairs about what fornicating means verses lesser immoral activity in an unmarried relationship? Would Jesus pay all the bills first and provide for His family and then tithe second? The problem with gray areas is that they become each generation’s standard for holiness, and as the generations pass, more and more allowances are made and the gray gets darker and darker until eventually there will be little difference between us and the world. In essence, we won’t have separated ourselves, but rather we will have blended in with the world. We can forget about the world seeing God in our lives.
Making the Temple Fit for a King
The battlefield of the mind is a good place to start to learn how to make our temples fit for a King. This is usually where sin first finds its way into our lives. Whether or not the devil uses any of our five senses to tempt us is irrelevant, because it’s in our mind that we formulate the decision to sin or not. I may see a magazine cover that’s not the most modest, but if I walk away and determine to forget about what I saw, I have not sinned. However, if I saw that same magazine cover, but this time I opened the magazine to see more of the cover model with the intention to admire her beauty…and then some…then I have sinned. But it starts in the mind.
Romans 12:1 instructs us to renew our minds daily. Why? Because of the reasons I just gave. Look at Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” So whether or not we overtly act out our desires is not the issue, we already commit sinful acts in God’s eyes by just deliberately thinking the thoughts. If we give into the temptation to harbor hatred toward another, the Bible declares us murderers (First John 3:15). If we lust in our minds, we are guilty of adultery (Matthew 5:28). This is probably because God knows that our thoughts will eventually become actions, if not properly dealt with. Then, not only will we commit murder in our hearts, but quite possibly, under the right circumstances, can commit murder according to the laws of the land and suffer the consequences. And there are multitudes of other examples. Therefore, be wary of what you purposefully allow to enter into your minds (books, movies, music, erroneous preaching, etc.).
In the physical aspect of temple upkeep, one should consider the outward appearance to those around you who know you are a Christian. Dress modestly, especially around mixed company and those to whom your life should be a testimony. I heard a preacher say once that sometimes people dress better to go to a ballgame than they do to come to church. We clean our houses before company comes over because we know our house is a reflection on us, but our outward physical appearance is a reflection of how much we honor and respect the Person living within us. Remember, the tabernacle of the newly established nation was crude but still shewed forth the glory of God, but as the nation matured, eventually a temple of much greater magnitude and grandeur was built. So too, as we mature, our appearance may first be not unlike an unregenerate world, but should eventually display outwardly our reverence for the One who makes His abode in us.
We already talked about it briefly, but it goes without saying that if we can appreciate the fact that we drag the Holy Spirit into sin with us, that there should be little to no physical contact between members of the opposite sex, whether in committed relationships or not, until married (First Corinthians 6:15-20). Language is another area in which Christians need to change their attitudes and behaviors. Obviously singing and praising God on Sundays and then using His name in vain the rest of the week is silly. How can you be a witness and let the light of the Holy Spirit be visible while dropping curse words in every conversation you have outside of church? Again, because of our trashy, vile, disgusting mouths, we take the Holy Spirit from the pinnacle of grandeur all the way down to a slum condition.
The other aspect of physicality, as it relates to caring for the temple of our bodies, is that of the condition of our bodies themselves, not just how we adorn them with clothes. Many of today’s sins (alcohol, drugs, compulsive eating, fornication, smoking, etc.) all have detrimental effects on our bodies. Listen, we only get one body with which to serve the Lord and fulfill His purpose for creating us. If you drink, you run the risk of being the cause of a drunk driving accident which could leave you maimed for life, dead, or imprisoned and otherwise marginally useful to God compared to His perfect plan for your life. The same with drugs; you run the risk of overdosing with the same potential consequences as alcohol use. You can destroy your body with eating (too much or too little). We would probably all do well to follow the diet the Lord prescribed to Israel, but regardless, you can eat your way to 600 pounds and be literally stuck in your own home physically unable to perform for the Lord. The same is true with eating too little…anorexia can also lead to death. Physical exercise may profiteth little (First Timothy 4:8) but it does have some benefits.
Fornication is another aspect that can destroy our testimony and our temples. The big one that comes to mind is AIDS. If you engage in a monogamous relationship within the confines of marriage, and your spouse does the same, you won’t contract any sexually transmitted diseases. But if you cheat or engage in frequent fornication, you just may end up with a fatal sexually transmitted disease…and get very sick…and die never having reached your potential.
Separation has a lot to do with the physical upkeep and preservation of the temple bodies, which are to be presented to God daily. To sum it all up, let’s look at Romans 12:1-2 a bit more closely. “I beseech ye therefore brethren (It’s a big deal to Paul, so he begs us to listen and heed his teaching) by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies (in every respect of the word) a living sacrifice (voluntarily) holy (separated unto God and away from the world) acceptable unto God (in the manner He created them to be for use by Him) which is your reasonable service (what a little thing to ask compared to what He did for us)…And be not conformed to this world (don’t become like the world…don’t keep making darker shades of gray…don’t blend in…don’t even try to fit in) but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (keep in the Scriptures and don’t give way to temptations that turn to sin in our hearts and minds…be better than that) that ye may prove (demonstrate and show others) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (the purpose for which He created you).
One final thought…to the early Jews…the temple was the center of worship. Anytime an Old Testament saint found themselves in the presence of God, they fell prostrate out of reverence and proper fear of the Lord. Many Orthodox Jews will not use the term “temple” and “synagogue” synonymously, because the temple was of such importance in God residing with the Israelites that to refer to synagogues today as “temples” is offensive. Revelation 21:22-23 describes a time when there will be no need for a temple because the Triune God will be physically present. Their Shekinah light will be radiant, eliminating a need for the sun and moon (vs. 23). This Shekinah radiance was what dwelt in the tabernacles and the temples. But until that time is here, it’s up to us to show that light to others…may God help us.