It has been a wonderful week here in Israel. I had hoped to write more often while away from you, but our schedule has not provided me enough time. Every time I come here, I think about the privilege it is to visit the land and point out the places where many of the biblical events occurred. Christianity, however, is not about locations. It’s about a Person and those who surrounded Him. You do not have to visit Israel to know the Person whose path it is that our tour group is following. You can press hard after Him right where you are.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ ” (John 4:21–24). The Jews and Samaritans zealously disagreed as to where proper worship should take place. The Samaritans worshipped on Mt. Gerizim, and the Jews worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem. As Jesus engaged this Samaritan woman in conversation at the city well, his answer to her question about the place of worship was simple and direct. It doesn’t matter where you worship; it matters only Who you worship and that your worship should be done in both spirit and in truth. In other words, worship must be done with the truth of Scripture guiding us and with the heartfelt enthusiasm that is befitting an encounter with the Creator and Redeemer.
You do not have to come to Israel to do this, of course. You see, the temple of Jerusalem, where God dwelt among His people and where He was worshipped, has been torn down. Just as Jesus predicted, the Romans destroyed it in AD 70 (Matt. 24:1–2). But another temple has been built! Where can we find it? In what nation does it reside? What is its reference points on the GPS? The good news is that we do not have to go on a long pilgrimage to some distant land to find it.
As Paul confronts the Corinthian Christians about sexual sin, at the same time he points us to the temple where God’s Presence resides: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:18–20).
The Presence of God has relocated from a temple built with man’s hands to the Christian’s “heart.” In other words, Christ is in us and our worship is focused upon the ever present One. He will never leave you or forsake you. You do not have to find Him because He has found you.
Visiting the land of the Bible is a great encouragement and I’m happy to be here, but I always remember that I’m no closer to Him here than I am at home. Walking in this land does help us visualize the Bible passages we read and understand distances and settings. But don’t feel handicapped if you cannot come to Israel. He is with you where you are today, and that’s what’s most important.
DENNIS NEWKIRK | LEAD PASTOR | HENDERSON HILLS BAPTIST CHURCH