I’m so curious to know how you’ve reacted to the idea of Jesus tabernacling among us. I’ve tried to imagine what it must have been like for Him to leave His heavenly place and power to take on a tent–human flesh–and live among us. And I can’t. The only way I can reconcile Jesus choosing this path is that He truly, truly loves us. Our Savior chose to live within the limitations of humanity and with the pain of torture and death because He could see the good, even the joy, of what would come of such a gift (Hebrews 12:2).
For thirty-three years He lived among the brokenness–the putrid smells, the unfairness of illness, the cold of night, the betrayal of loved ones. He walked among the lonely, the liars, and the lepers. He knew the loss of a father and went about His Father’s business. He knew temptation’s pull yet never stepped into sin.
For three years, He sat at tables with cheaters, beaters, and defeaters. He taught. He healed. He raised the dead to life. He changed water into wine and wasted women into walkers of The Way. The One who’d created the heavens and the earth stepped down from His throne to remake the ones who’d failed to care for His creation. The Rabbi of all rabbis led His flock then asked them to feed His sheep (John 21:17).
This Jesus, He defied the odds by fulfilling every prophecy and prediction ever made about the Messiah. Yet even the people closest to Him struggled to see Him as He was, rather than who they wanted Him to be. His parables perplexed them. His explanations of His coming death confused them. His promises puzzled them–though they yearned to understand such assurances:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”John 14:16-17 NRSV
Just as He had said, He suffered. He died. He came back to life then walked among the living–still teaching, still encouraging, still passing along messages of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). When it came time to ascend to heaven–to return to the place from which He’d descended thirty-three years earlier–He implored His beloved disciples to do all He’d taught them with one caveat:
“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. …You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.’”Acts 1:4-5,8a NRSV
The disciples waited, just as they were told, and Jesus fulfilled every promise He had made:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:1-4a NRSV
Filled. With the promised Spirit.
Fallen humanity now holds within them the holiness of God–the third Person of the Trinity. God’s Rescue Plan includes a flesh-dwelling-Messiah who sends a sacred-soul-filling-Spirit to live in His people. The Spirit of God inhabits humanity. And in the greatest turn of events that ever occurred, we–the fallen and broken–become the dwelling place of the Holiest of the Holies. We become the tabernacle (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Friends and fellow followers of this miraculous Messiah, this is us. You. Me. We. The moment we believe Jesus to be the One sent to earth to live and die and rise again as atonement for our sins, as saving grace for our abundant life now, as a means for our own defeat of death and life eternal, we are filled by the Holy Spirit. Just like the original disciples, we who live in a tent of flesh become the inhabiting place of God Himself.
We’ve circled back to the beginning where we embraced the idea that we can step into God’s presence and encounter heaven here on earth. With the Holy Spirit IN US, we can cross the barriers–beyond the veil–and into the holy place once reserved only for high priests.
“Jesus expands the thin places of life by saying: ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ Scholar N. T. Wright tells us, ‘Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.’”NT Wright
In God’s most generous, mysterious ways, He’s rescued us to Himself. Sending His Son to dwell among us, allowing His Beloved to carry our sins and to die for them, and raising Christ from the dead, God has done what no one else could ever hope to do–He has saved us from ourselves. He’s redeemed us back to Himself.
As we move into the Lenten season this week, let’s keep these miraculous truths in the forefront of our minds–we were once kept from His presence; we were once lost to our sin and shame, but now we know salvation. Our restoration means power and freedom and grace and love–holy, unconditional love.
We have become the Temple of God, the very place where the presence of the Holy One dwells.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:4-21 NLT).
- This ends the first series I plan to write on this idea of DWELL. We’ll pick up again after Easter on the idea of remaining. I have prayed Paul’s prayer (Ephesians 3, above) over you so many times this week. I pray that its truths take root in your souls and become your reality!
- Next Sunday, we begin our Lent series called Kingdom Living Now. We’ll ask Jesus Himself to teach us what it looks like to live in His kingdom here on earth by unpacking lessons from His Sermon on the Mount. This will be a great opportunity for you to invite someone along!
- This Lent series is for anyone who wants to root deeper in Jesus and flourish more fully for Him. The blogs will flow each Sunday as we’ve grown accustomed to.
- It will also be a collaborative series in which I partner with my friends at New Covenant UMC in Edmond, Oklahoma. Pastors Jay Smith and Cali Eck will be preaching on the Sermon on the Mount there while I’m writing about it here. Won’t it be fun to see how the Spirit moves among us!?!
- Our Dwell Playlist continues to grow. I found a few songs that capture where this series ended–Jesus dying for us, the Holy Spirit living in us. I’ve peppered them in, so have fun finding them!
- Finally, I’m so honored to announce that I’ve contributed to a book that is now published and ready for purchase!! Reading Through Genesis with The Devoted Collective* can be purchased on Amazon, as can the companion journal.* We’ll be creating a forum/space for communities around the world to gather and discuss the daily readings and corresponding devotions, which will begin March 28th. I’ve linked the book(s), and if you are interested in being part of the community, let me know!!