However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?” You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Acts 7:48-51 Why is the Christian world so obsessed with holy spaces?
Two thousand years ago, as Jesus breathed his last on the cross, God finally declared that the age of the holy space was over. The curtain dividing the place of God’s presence from the rest of the Temple was ripped from top to bottom. Up until this point, God’s presence was in some mysterious way contained in a small room called the “Holy of holies.”
Of course, even under the Old Covenant God’s presence was never truly contained in that room. But He did choose to reveal His presence to the nation of Israel in a small room in the Temple – a “holy space.” This room was so holy, that no-one but the High Priest could enter. Once a year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of holies. If he failed to follow the prescribed procedures, he would be struck dead and dragged out by a rope tied to his ankles. This was extreme stuff! Then God, in a dramatic event, declared this age to be over. The cross marked the end of the holy space.
Stephen is confronting some very powerful religious leaders in the passage above. He is challenging their religion with the statement that God refuses to dwell inside the holy buildings they had built for Him. He is God of the heavens and Lord of the whole earth. He is not contained by buildings. Stephen gives a long speech and the religious leaders listen patiently. But then comes the moment of truth. Stephen challenges their holy space. Nothing else he says seems to really anger them, but this statement causes a violent reaction. Stephen is stoned to death. The religious man still loves holy spaces. And he will often still kill to defend them. These spaces come in the form of buildings specially dedicated to religious rituals. Or they come in the form of emotional experiences created by skilled professionals.
I recently heard a young lady claim that she “missed God’s presence.” She was referring to the fact that she had not recently attended a church service where a band created an emotional experience for her. There is nothing wrong with good worship music. But somehow we have convinced an entire generation that God’s presence is locked up inside a musical emotional “high.” In doing so, we have robbed people of experiencing the presence of God in their everyday lives. We have created a holy space industry that has also become the drug of choice for a whole generation of consumer-driven believers. Often their life goal has become to escape ordinary life as often as possible to dwell in these specially created holy spaces.
But there is a new breed of believer emerging who does not buy into this consumer-driven theology. This new believer does not need an emotionally charged preacher or professional band to connect him to God. He understands that God does not dwell in buildings, spaces or experiences fashioned by the hands of men. God dwells in the lives of His people. Holy spaces are everywhere, because God makes the space holy when we enter it. God wants to reveal Himself in the homes of ordinary people, the public streets and parks, the business world and the shopping centre. I urge you – allow God to “rock up” in your everyday life.
Don’t wait for the church service or latest worship CD to be released before you can connect with God. He does not dwell there. God is in your home, in your workplace, in nature as you reflect on Him and he is even in the gym! He wants to speak to your heart in the quiet of a reflective moment, not just the ranting of a preacher on a mission. He wants you to worship Him in the beauty of a budding flower and the majesty of a thunderstorm. He wants you to encounter Him in the struggles of parenting and the sadness of loss.
Allow the power of the cross to demolish your “holy space” thinking and open your entire life to God’s Spirit. You’ll be amazed to discover that God “shows up” in the most unexpected (and sometimes unholy) places. And you won’t have to “miss God’s presence” ever again!