Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
— 1 Corinthians 3:16
When we first started our church in Moscow in the year 2000, God moved supernaturally in our church’s midst, and our congregation miraculously began to grow by leaps and bounds. It wasn’t long before the auditorium we had rented was filled to maximum capacity, and we still needed room for more people. So we rented a bigger auditorium — but once again, soon we were at capacity. This happened again and again over the years.
In addition, because our church membership was growing so rapidly, it soon meant we needed a larger office to accommodate the business end of things, and so the search began. After a period of looking, we finally secured an office in an ideal location. It was directly in the center of downtown Moscow — a two-minute walk from the Bolshoi Theatre and a short seven-minute walk from Red Square. You couldn’t get any closer to the heart of the city than this location. It was ideal in every way!
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
Because of the building’s prime location, I knew that many high-ranking visitors would come to this office to meet with our ministry. Therefore, our space needed to be decorated professionally and beautifully to make a first-class impression of the Gospel on every person who entered that office. To this end, Denise and I worked hard to choose the perfect wallpaper, carpet, and furniture to adorn our church office. Finally, the day came when the interior decorating work was to commence on the new office. The first work to be done that day was to hang the wallpaper Denise and I had so carefully chosen. We were so excited to see how it would transform the “look” of that office!
The reception area was the first room in our office to be wallpapered. This was the most important part of our office because it was where people’s first impressions of our ministry would be made. Many people in this region of the world have historically ridiculed people of faith, so it was essential to us that our guests associate excellence with the name of Jesus Christ as they entered our reception area. Therefore, we chose an elegant, intricate, floral-patterned wall covering for that space, and we knew it would take a real master to hang it correctly.
The person we chose to hang the wallpaper was a woman from our congregation who maintained that she was such a master at the craft. She had even volunteered to do the job and to do it for free as a gift to the church, and we were delighted. I met her at the office and showed her the wallpaper, and she got started. I left the site because I had a meeting in another part of the city, assuming this “master” would do a beautiful job. However, when I returned to see what she had done, I was shocked!
She had hung a lot of paper and had done it very quickly, but none of the patterns from strip to strip matched each other. I was so stunned that for a few moments, I was literally speechless.
She asked me, “How do you like my job?”
I regained my composure and replied, “Do you realize none of the patterns match?” She said, “Oh, you wanted the patterns to match? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I told her, “When I heard you were a professional paper hanger, I assumed you would know to match the patterns of each strip. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to take it down and start all over again.”
On her second attempt, she matched the patterns, but this time the wallpaper was very visibly crooked. As I explained to her that this room would be a reception for very important guests and the wallpaper couldn’t be crooked, she said, “But if you look at it like this, it doesn’t look crooked.” With that, she tilted her head sideways and framed the crooked wallpaper between her hands. She said, “If you tilt your head and look at it like this, it looks normal. See?”
I was astounded that she would try to tell me that it would look normal if I would just cock my head to the left. I replied, “People won’t walk into this office and cock their heads sideways so the wallpaper will look normal. People will walk in here standing upright, as people do, and they will think this wallpaper looks crooked and crazy. Please tear it down, and I’ll find someone else to properly hang the paper.”
When I instructed this woman to rip the paper off the walls, I heard people gasping. A staff member privately suggested, “Pastor, this wallpaper is expensive. What if we just paint it and forget about it? Does it really have to be torn off the walls a second time? Do you really think anyone will notice that it’s crooked? Can’t we just leave the way it is instead of losing money?”
I finally had to walk over to the wall and begin tearing the paper off myself — as everyone around me gazed in shock. The sound of expensive paper being ripped from the walls filled the ears of all who stood by. Piece by piece, the wallpaper fell to the ground. When I saw people staring in disbelief at what I was doing, I turned and explained to them, “This room is designed for guests. Nothing less than our best is acceptable. I want every person who enters this room to sense that we care about them and have prepared a place for them that is special and shows them respect.”
That day my staff finally realized how important it was to me that we do our best to make guests feel honored and welcomed. But as important as it was for me to treat the guests of our ministry with respect, it is far more important that we do our very best to make God welcome in our lives.
In First Corinthians 3:16, the apostle Paul wrote, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” This word “dwelleth” is the Greek word oikeo, which denotes a house. However, the word oikeo as used by Paul in this verse means to dwell in or to take up residency in a house. This means God is not like a guest who comes and goes. Rather, when a person repents and comes to Christ, God’s Spirit moves in and takes up residence. In other words, that newly saved believer’s heart becomes the Holy Spirit’s permanent home.
When a believer first accepts Christ as his Lord and Savior, there are areas in his life that need to be healed, restored, and changed. By walking in obedience to the Word of God and learning to serve in the local church, a person’s mind can become conformed to the mind of Christ, and his life can gradually become transformed to reflect the excellence of Jesus Christ. However, for these changes to occur in a person’s life, it requires his complete participation. These kinds of changes don’t occur without hard work, commitment, and determination to make one’s heart a place where God feels honored.
Never forget that God’s Spirit — the Spirit of holiness — now lives inside you. What are you doing to make Him feel welcome? Are you allowing the crooked and mismatched places of your life to remain unchecked, or are you doing your best to rip them away, one piece at a time, so you can make your heart a place that shows God honor and respect?
It’s great that we do so much to make guests feel welcomed in our homes, churches, or offices. But think about how much more important it is that we build our lives in such a way that conveys to God just how thankful we are that He dwells in our hearts!
God has moved into your heart and made it His permanent home. Don’t you think you should “hang the wallpaper” in your heart in such a way that it shows Him how happy and honored you are that He is there?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I thank You for coming to live permanently in my heart. What a miracle it is that You would want to live in someone like me. I am amazed and dumbfounded by this great act of grace — and my heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness that You have chosen to make my heart Your home. I know that I have a lot of areas in my life that need attention, and I’m asking You to give me the grace and power to deal with each of these areas one step at a time. Without Your help, I can’t change myself. But with Your grace working inside me, I can be conformed to think with the mind of Christ, and my behavior can be transformed to reflect the character of Christ. I thank You in advance for helping me get rid of all the crooked and mismatched places in my soul so I can become a dwelling place where You are comfortable to abide.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I obey the instructions of the Holy Spirit as He guides me to correct all the crooked and mismatched places in my mind, my soul, and my character. God’s Spirit lives in me, and He is giving me the insight, wisdom, and strength to peel flawed areas away from my life so I can become a shining example of what Jesus desires His people to be. By myself I cannot change. But thank God, the Holy Spirit who lives within gives me the power to confront every area of my life that needs to be brought into alignment with His perfect will. His strength is MY strength to make wrong things right. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, as He continually helps me become all that He wants me to be!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of specific parts of your life that are intolerable and hurtful to God’s Spirit, but that you have allowed to continue in your life? What are the areas in your life that you know are wrong and God is asking you to change? Why don’t you make a list of these areas and keep it nearby so you can be reminded of the changes you need to implement as you pray each day?
- What do you do in your life that especially makes God feel welcomed, honored, and respected?
- If you were God and were looking for a heart that made you feel welcomed, honored, and respected, what qualities would you be looking for that let you know you were truly wanted?