The Living Sacrifice
My friend, Ralph, drove some miles to my area of residence in Lagos one Saturday morning, some years ago. He was invited to the wedding ceremony of his nephew and was to serve as the chairman of the wedding reception after the church programme. Ralph drove round, looking for the church but could not locate it. Therefore, he decided to stop over at my house to help him locate the church. I was glad to see him but was not sure of the particular church he was looking for because there were many small churches in the area. I took him to one I suspected to be his target. However, on getting there, there was no life in the premises. The building was not impressive and the entire compound was deserted and unkempt that Saturday morning. Ralph looked around with disappointment and impulsively uttered, “Ifeanyi, let’s leave this place. God cannot be in this kind of place.”
Obviously, Ralph’s understanding was that God would only reside in well-built and attractive churches and would be uncomfortable in poorly maintained and dirty ones. He is not alone in this thinking. Some people still believe that the church is where God lives and you need to go there to meet Him. This is the reason we invest heavily on churches to make them habitable for God and provide conducive environment for the worshippers.
The truth is that, historically, God has always sought to dwell with His people. In the Garden of Eden, He had fellowship with Adam. After Israel left Egypt, He instructed them to build a portable tabernacle where His presence would dwell. In the land of Canaan, God dwelt with His people in the Ark of Covenant. The temple was built in Jerusalem under King Solomon.
However, the coming of Jesus Christ has changed this situation. God now dwells in us and not in buildings made by man. His children and not structures are now the temples or sanctuaries or churches. This truth can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
There are inherent responsibilities in God taking up His residency in us. God is holy and perfect, and, therefore, His presence demands a particular atmosphere in which to dwell. The totality of our being is to be presented as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).
Romans 6:12-13 says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Our total being is for serving God. Our hands, eyes, feet, lips, mind and so on are for the service of God. The tragedy is that some people use these organs to work against Him and serve the devil. Being temples of God demands that we guard ourselves against the defilement of the world.
We are temples of God because when Christ saved us, He purchased us as a dwelling place. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” This implies that we have lost the ownership of our bodies. We are merely stewards or caretakers of the dwelling-place of God.
It is indeed a great honour and privilege to be a dwelling place of God. I met one colleague during a conference I attended in Finland some years ago. He was the President of a large pharmaceutical company and he invited me for a tour of his facility. The report was published in Pharmanews. We exchanged phone calls a few times and then stopped. Surprisingly, he phoned me last year to inform me that he was visiting Nigeria for a few days and would like to spend the first one night with my family and then check into a hotel to receive his business associates. He told me to ask my wife to prepare local dishes for him to enjoy. As soon I got this message we started cleaning every part of our house and planning for the type of food to serve him. We purchased some fresh local fruits and also invited two family friends for dinner with our guest. We did all these because he was actually honouring us by spending one night with us.
Now I compare the visit of my friend with God coming to reside in our body. The body must be made ready, fit and pleasing to Him. This implies that we must keep the body clean. The type of clothes we put on the body matters to God. What we eat and drink is important to Him. The exercise we give to the body, the sleep we have, the medicines we take and the general care we give to the body are all important to God, who is the owner of the body.