Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
— 1 Corinthians 3:16
In the final days of the Soviet Union, the leaders of one prominent city decided they would build a spectacular hotel to impress the many foreign guests who had begun to visit. The site for the hotel was chosen in the most prime and visible location in the city, and the architects finalized their plans for what they declared would be an outstanding architectural wonder.
The city was soon filled with people’s continual chatter about the many benefits this new building project would attract to the city. Eager to have the project finished, the city leaders announced an opening date for the hotel that was unrealistic, considering the amount of work that had to be done. Bulldozers began to move dirt, and concrete trucks began to pour concrete in great volumes. Yet it was soon apparent that the project was taking longer than expected. Impatient and fearful that they wouldn’t meet their own self-imposed deadline, city leaders urged the architects and builders to go faster and faster, even though rushing the construction could jeopardize the integrity of the structure.
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Before long, a huge, magnificent building was erected on the site — so tall that it could be seen from a great distance. You can imagine what a horror it was to the city leaders and to the entire city when they realized the building was starting to dangerously lean to the side! The foundation had been poured so quickly and with such inferior materials that it wasn’t able to hold up the weight of the structure. Eventually the building leaned so much that the entire project had to be abandoned. What had originally been intended as a great architectural achievement became the city’s greatest public embarrassment. Today that enormous building still stands leaning and abandoned in the very spot where it had been hastily built by leaders who refused to take the necessary time to ensure it was built properly. Instead of becoming the pride of the city as they had hoped, today it is a permanent reminder of how buildings should not be built.
In the apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he used the illustration of buildings and building materials to urge his readers to build their lives carefully and with materials of character that were long-lasting. He explicitly pointed out the need to construct their lives in such a way that they could survive the fires and tests that come with life. After speaking to them passionately on this subject, Paul asked them, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Notice that Paul said, “Know ye not.…” The word “know” in Greek is oida, which carries the idea of perception, understanding, or comprehension. By using the word oida at this juncture, Paul was asking his readers:
- “Don’t you understand what I am telling you?”
- “Don’t you grasp what I am trying to say to you?”
- “Don’t you get the picture I am trying to get across to you?”
- “Don’t you comprehend what I am saying?”
However, the word “know” — the Greek word oida — is preceded by the word ouk, which is the strongest negative in the Greek language. This means that after everything Paul had told the Corinthian believers thus far, he was still concerned that they weren’t getting the full impact of what he was trying to tell them. So in conclusion, he pleaded with them, “Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand?”
As a Christian leader, I have counseled vast numbers of people throughout the years of my ministry, and I can confidently tell you that most people do not think on a long-term basis about their lives. Most live for today with no long-range planning for tomorrow. A simple proof of this is the large number of people who spend every dollar they make and put no money in the bank or invest nothing for retirement. When the age of retirement comes, they have nothing more than their Social Security pay to live on, and they struggle financially. Their claim that there was never enough extra money to save is usually not true. There was extra money, but it was spent on “other things” that brought fleeting, temporary pleasure. Now those “other things” are gone; the bank account is empty; and there is not enough money to live life normally. Although it’s not always true, a person’s experience of lack at retirement age is often a matter of shortsightedness and lack of long-term planning.
Let me bring this point right to your home in order to make it clearer. What are your financial plans for your future? Are you building a financial base with savings or investments that will help you live a normal life after you retire and you no longer have a monthly paycheck coming to you? What about your children or grandchildren? When you look at the way they’re living their lives and spending their money, do you see that they’re living only for the present, or are they thinking about their future?
I know I’m hitting a sensitive issue, but addressing people’s personal finances makes the point very clear that the majority do not think long-term about what they are doing with their lives. For example, think how many people decide they must buy a new TV set because they saw one they like better than the one they already have, even though their current one works fine. To satisfy that fleeting “want,” they quickly run to the store to purchase that new TV — and if they don’t have the money, they charge it on their credit cards. Now they have a new TV sitting in their living room, but that money could have been invested in their future if they had opted to put it into a savings account or investment plan. This is all the result of short-term thinking.
Living for today with no thought for tomorrow is a flaw in human nature. In 2,000 years, people haven’t made much progress in this area. Just as I am pleading with you today to assess your life and the way you are building it, Paul pleaded with the Corinthian believers when he asked them: “Don’t you know? Don’t you get what I’m trying to tell you? How could it be possible that you still don’t understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
Building your life is very similar to constructing a big building. A building must be constructed correctly and with good materials. It can’t be built too quickly, or the integrity of the structure might be compromised. Likewise, to build your life, your family, your business, your education, your church, your ministry, or anything else that is precious to you — and to build it wisely and strong enough to endure the tests of time — requires time, energy, patience, and careful planning. Remember, you are building your life and your future, and what you do today will have a direct impact on your tomorrow. Mistakes made today will show up tomorrow, so it is wise to move slowly and deliberately and to think before you act. Never forget that hasty decisions are usually wrong decisions.
Paul told the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God.…” This statement is so very important, because it tells us that we are not only building our personal lives and things that personally affect our future, but we — that is, our lives, our bodies, and everything that we are — are in fact the “temple” where God resides in this earth. This word translated “temple” that Paul used in this verse is the Greek word naos. It is a word used 46 times in the New Testament, so its meaning is very clear. It denotes a temple or a highly decorated shrine. (For a deeper study on this word naos, see Sparkling Gems 1, February 25.)
When we hear the word “shrine,” our minds immediately evoke images of a building with arched, vaulted ceilings; marble, granite, gold, and silver; hand-carved etchings; and lots and lots of smoke from incense being burned as a part of worship. Shrines are impressive with all their ornamentation. In Russia where my family lives, there are many huge cathedrals that fit this description — and they are very impressive. However, in the New Testament, the word naos doesn’t describe only shrines such as these. It is also the word most often used to depict the Holy of Holies, that special room in the Jerusalem temple where God’s glory dwelt.
Please take heed to what I am about to tell you. Life is busy, and there are many things that occupy our thoughts and schedules. In the rush of it all, we are tempted to forget who we are and who lives inside us. We tend to think of ourselves as mere human beings, but the Bible plainly teaches that we are much more than that. According to Paul’s words in First Corinthians 3:16, you and I are the “temple” of the Spirit of God. Let the realization sink into your heart that God’s Spirit actually lives in us. This means we are His dwelling place, His residence — the place where He continually abides.
God lives in you! That’s why as you build your life and future, you must be careful to build it gloriously and not shabbily, for it is the place where God lives. That’s also why it’s good to regularly evaluate yourself. Are you building your life wisely so that you survive every season of life, every attack of the devil, every period of hardship, and every fire that comes to you in life? Are you building your life in a way that demonstrates your respect for the One who lives inside you? Are you building your life so carefully, wisely, and honorably that the Spirit of God who dwells inside you is honored that you are His place of residence? If you were God, would you want to live inside you?
I realize that time is precious and that we are all tempted to do things as fast as possible. But some things are worthy of taking extra time to make sure they are done correctly. You don’t want to build so quickly that you build incorrectly, in a way that ultimately forces you to abandon the project or to tear down what you’ve built and start all over again. I promise you that it will cost you more than it would have if you had done it right in the right place. Building correctly from the beginning usually takes more time, but it pays off in the end.
As you make your plans for today, seriously consider how your actions may affect your tomorrow. You may be tempted to take shortcuts to speed things up, but do all you can to resist that temptation so you can be sure you’re not adversely affecting the quality of what you are building with your life. And as you examine what you have already built, ask yourself:
- Have I built my life strong enough to survive every test? Or have I built it so shabbily that much of what I have achieved will have to be torn down and started all over again, ultimately costing me much more than if I had done it right from the start?
- Will my current decisions and actions make a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit that is glorious, or will my actions create a place unbefitting of His residence in my life?
These are important questions to ask as you consider what you’ve already done with your life and the future actions you’re about to take. Don’t forget that what you do today will affect your life tomorrow, so determine to build carefully and wisely. Never forget that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit and that what you do with your life brings Him either honor or disrespect.
In light of what you’ve read in this Sparkling Gem, do you hear the Holy Spirit pleading with you to make a change in the way you are building your life, your family, your business, your education, your church, your ministry, or anything else that is precious to you? Do you hear Him saying:
- “Don’t you know?”
- “Don’t you get what I’m trying to tell you?”
- “How could it be possible that you still don’t understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
Before you do anything else, why don’t you take few minutes today to get on your knees and ask the Spirit of God to help you assess what you are constructing with your life? It is far better to ask now and let Him tell you what you could be doing better than to never ask and later regret that you didn’t. James 1:5 promises that if you ask God for wisdom, He will answer you. If you’ll take time to ask, He will take time to help you see everything that is needed to build your life so well that it can pass all the tests of time.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I want to thank You for speaking to my heart today about the things I am building both correctly and incorrectly in my life. In retrospect, I realize that I have built many things in my life that I now wish I had done differently. I no longer want to live my life in regret for making wrong decisions. I confess that much of what I have built, I have built hastily and with no regard for the wisdom of long-term thinking. As a result, I am reaping the consequences of my past decisions. I ask You to forgive me for not thinking more soundly in the past, and by faith I receive Your forgiveness. Now as I look to the future, I ask You to speak to my heart and show me how to bring correction to what I have done so that I will not repeat the same mistakes. Holy Spirit, I look to You for counsel and direction. I thank You in advance for Your help as I begin to build a life that will bring honor to You and that will gloriously survive all the tests that come in life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare by faith that I build my life according to the wisdom of God, with forethought and sound planning. God lives in me — and because I respect His presence in my life, I build my life in a way that brings honor and glory to Him. I give place to the counsel of the Holy Spirit who helps and directs me in such a way that I build orderly, not hastily. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I carefully build my life in a way that honors His presence in me. I repent for my carelessness in the past. Today I choose to be careful, thoughtful, and prayerful about building my life and my future. I ask for wisdom from above and God answers me — providing me with all the answers I need to build a life that lasts and a life that brings glory to His name.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- When you look at your life and the things you have built with it, are you satisfied that you have built your life correctly, or do you see areas where you know you could have done better? What are those areas that you wish you had built more wisely? Can you correct them? If so, how will you go about that task?
- What has been the long-term affect on your life from building too hastily and without thought of tomorrow? If you had it to do all over again, what types of changes would you make in the way you have built your life?
- In order for you to build the rest of your life wisely and strongly, what changes do you need to make in the way that you think? What habits do you need to change? What plans do you need to incorporate concerning your family, your relationships, your job, your education, your finances, and the way you spend your time?
- As you assess what it’s going to take for you to make these significant changes, can you honestly say you’re willing to do what is required? If not, are you willing to ask the Holy Spirit to give you the desire to change?