During a recent caribou hunt with my 12-year-old son I was reminded again about what is really important on a “road trip.” The hunt was a success, but there was more joy in our journey than in actually arriving at our final location. My son and I grew in relationship while traveling down the road, through the rain and across the muddy trails. The road trip was not about the destination or even the hunt, it was about relationship. Sometimes in life we make practices or even things more important than relationships — especially with God.
In the Bible, the Book of Acts outlines a historical journey of the formation of the church. A hallmark of the church’s rampant growth was understanding how one can relate to and know God. Knowing God is not a place or even a destination. To know God is to be in relationship with Him and to journey through life loving Him and loving others. A problem for the people of the day was the thinking that God was just in one place and was simply accessed through religious acts and customs. A man named Stephen, full of God’s grace and power, challenged the people and religious community to understand they only needed Jesus. He shared with them that through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, people could access God directly and be in relationship with Him. They didn’t need to worship God at the temple or make ritual sacrifices, they only needed Jesus. This message was not popular with many of the religious leaders of the day who did not believe Jesus was God.
In Acts chapter 7, Stephen testified before the highest religious court in the land to answer charges of blasphemy against Moses and God. He responds by summarizing how God throughout history has used people like Abraham, Joseph, and Moses to point people to a relationship with God. While the temple became a place where people would worship God, Stephen shared it was only temporary. Acts 7:48 says, “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men…”
So what makes a place the temple of God? The Bible says those who believe and follow Jesus are God’s temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Those who are believers have full and immediate access to God. Stephen argued that God is not in any one location and the power of God is not contained in anything built by human hands, God is in the hearts of His believers. When Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man, He was all they needed. He is greater than the temple or any religion as Jesus offers forgiveness and can take away sin. This truth applies the same today. The holy place of Jesus Christ is not in a building or a ritual — even though these can help point us to Jesus. The holy place of Jesus resides in the hearts of those who follow Him and are in relationship with Him — that is what’s important!
Frank Alioto is the pastor of The River Covenant Church- Sundays, 10 a.m. at The Challenger Learning Center in Kenai. Frank also serves as a chaplain with Central Emergency Services and can be reached at 252-2828 or www.therivercovenantchurch.org.