“Oh my goodness, you guys have to see this house!”
When my friend sent this message, she wasn’t kidding. The home in question was every decked-out, gorgeous, spacious house-lover’s dream. Imagine our collective, slightly-vicarious joy when she and her husband got the house—and the communal stress when we found out they had less than two weeks to move in! Life becomes a whirlwind when you’re changing houses, whether it’s to a house right next door or right down the street or halfway across the country. The dimensions of life get reconstructed; pictures need new hangings, bedrooms change configuration, things you knew to fit in this one corner now have to find a new corner, if they’ll find one at all.
Moving always comes with its share of downsizing, too—thoroughly cleaning house, putting off the things you no longer need, holding the things you’ve held onto for too long and suddenly deciding they don’t go with you into the next phase of the journey. So off they go to Salvation Army or some other charity instead, hopefully to serve another family as well as they served yours. In light of this rigorous and often draining task, many home-movers make a solemn vow never to pick up so much clutter and junk again. They’re downsizing for good, living that minimalist style from now on—a noble and healthy mindset both for the newly-moved and longtime home-dweller!
While watching numerous friends start moving house all around the same time, upsizing and downsizing and feverishly packing, I got to thinking about the concept of “house” in the eyes of God.
First, I pondered how important the homestead or dwelling place was; it was the beating heart that helped gather family together. Home meant shelter and safety; it was also meant to be a place where godly principles were modeled and taught to future generations. The Book of Proverbs is full of instruction on how to keep a peaceful, lawful household free of quarreling and strife, and it’s clear throughout Scripture that dwellings that allowed bickering, infighting, corruption, sin, idolatry etc. did not fare well if they lasted long at all.
Another important house mentioned in the Old Testament was the “house of God”, otherwise known as the Temple. This temple was built so God would have a dwelling place among men, and men would have a place to bring their sacrificial offerings and make prayers and petitions before Yahweh. Now, this was a house where you had to do a lot of “downsizing” and thorough cleaning before you could go in! Priests went through a rigorous routine of washing and cleansing the physical, a reflection of the intention to cleanse the spiritual as well (something that would only come about fully by the shedding of Christ’s blood, an event toward which the sacrifices on the altar pointed!). They were also forbidden from engaging in certain activities leading up to their priestly duties, the execution of which also had to be done in certain ways.
No doubt about it—you had to clean some serious house to enter into the House of God!
But as strict as it might seem when we read the Law of Moses, it’s also so understandable; the Temple, God’s house, was a holy place, and like when we move from one house to another, we tend to notice—or at least we should—the things that are just hanging on for hanging on’s sake; the things that don’t really add to our quality of life or augment our ability to live it, but instead just clutter up the corners. In a sense, when “moving house” from the physical to their service in the spiritual—God’s House—the priests had to “declutter” themselves of everything that left them stained.
Now let’s look ahead to yet another kind of house—God’s current dwelling place. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and later rebuilt by Jews under the allowance of King Cyrus; nevertheless, by this time God was speaking prophetically to a new day that was coming when His “dwelling place will be with [His people], and I will be their God, and they will be my people. The nations will know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel when my sanctuary is in their midst forever.” (Eze. 37:27-28). In 2 Corinthians 6:16, Paul interprets this passage in the light of the new spiritual reality: the coming of Christ and the gift of holy spirit.
How exciting is it that we live in that day NOW, when Christ has already come and we have the gift of holy spirit! This changes so much for us, as the Book of Ephesians lays out so clearly:
So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together by means of the spirit into a dwelling place of God. [emphasis added]Ephesians 2:19-22
One of the many beautiful truths revealed in the Book of Ephesians is that we, being the Church, have replaced the Temple as God’s “dwelling place”—His “home”. With His Son Jesus as the chief cornerstone, the spiritual reality of the Church—the Body of Christ made up of every born-again believer—is now God’s house. It is not a place where His people make pilgrimage at sets times, nor are only the Levitical priesthood allowed inside. In our union with Jesus, we are all members of a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) with full access to God (Heb. 4:16, Eph. 2:18, 3:12).
Now when I got to thinking about that notion in light of moving house, a certain sense of duty settled over me.
Before we move house, we generally take time to put off what’s no longer of profit or value. As part of God’s new dwelling place, we are actually charged to do similarly in Ephesians 4:22—to “put off the old self that belongs to your former way of life.” I don’t know about you, but I can hardly think of anything closer to the effort required of us when we move house!
So the question I found myself dwelling on in light of all of this was, when we moved from our old way of death into life in Jesus, did we clean house? Did we take the time to put off the useless, trash the worthless, and downsize to what mattered most when we moved from our old home in the cruel, fallen world into becoming part of the House of God?
And for those of us who have been part of the dwelling place of God for a long time, have we stuck to our “minimalist” professions, keeping only what’s beneficial to the household? Or have we let the clutters of life creep back in, darkening the corners, shrinking our space, making our part of the household dingier and darker than our God desires and deserves?
Most of us recognize how important it is to keep a clean house—not just for hygiene’s sake, but even to help with mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Similarly, we should take inventory of the kind of dwelling place we’re keeping for God. With eyes like a mover’s preparing to shift into a new space that’s untarnished and pure, full of delightful possibilities, let’s take careful stock of what we’re allowing into our God-space, what we permit in our piece of the sanctuary.
Like the priests of old, we have a duty to ensure this temple—being our body, mind, and heart—are kept clean and clear of distraction and disorder. Let’s do that duty well, discarding all that doesn’t profit as we move continuously with our God to better and brighter things…taking with us only what matters, and leaving the clutter behind.