And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Mark 13:1-2
This fascinating video fills me with sadness. The one place on earth where God located his manifest Presence, the place where sinners could come and draw near without being incinerated but made new — that sacred place was truly impressive. It was also doomed.
We do not handle sacred privilege well, especially over time. To quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Every institution tends to produce its opposite” (What is an Evangelical?, pages 9-10). The temple came under the control of values and emotions opposite to what it was originally there for. It had to be destroyed.
Like that disciple so long ago, we tend to be impressed with the wrong things. Buildings are necessary. We are not disembodied spirits, like angels. We are embodied spirits. That means we need a roof over our heads and air conditioning and parking spaces and seats. But heretics and apostates build buildings too. They build buildings, to serve purposes immediately opposite to the gospel. Believers can build buildings, to serve purposes eventually opposite to the gospel. Let’s not take psychological refuge in buildings: “What an awesome building we’ve built. This proves we’re okay.” The Lord might say, “Nothing will be left. Or it might be a Walmart. Or a Catholic cathedral. But it’s only a matter of time.”
If our ministries are projections of our own self-idealization, they are idols, no matter how biblical outwardly. And every idol is doomed. Whenever the Lord enables us to build a new building, let’s say, “Thank you, Lord, for this building. Now, please help us not to prostitute your gift. This is from you, for you. Please make it stay that way.”
Our refuge is the Lord himself. And he safeguards not buildings but people who walk before him in integrity, for his glory alone, no matter what the cost, both personally and institutionally. Let’s keep our churches under the judgment of his sacred purposes, his alone.