When visiting Europe and Asia, I am often struck by the realization that the houses I visit and the buildings I see are older than the country in which I was born. Structures and buildings that have been around for centuries fascinate me — the Central American ruins of the Maya, the cliff dwellings of Native North Americans, the engineering marvels of the Romans, the Egyptian pyramids, and the temples of the Greeks.

The size, beauty, durability, and the artistic hand-worked features of these structures are amazing. Eventually, however, all of these come to ruin. Time, neglect, abuse, war, wind, rain, and wear take their toll. Despite the best efforts made to preserve these marvels, even the best of these structures crumble and fall. Yet we can still be amazed at the workmanship and design of them and learn an important lesson about our value to God.

As the apostle Paul sought to communicate to the people of Corinth just how precious they are and how important their holiness is to God, he seized on an image they could understand:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 TNIV).

Corinth was full of temples. Nearby Athens had beautiful temples. These temples had taken careful engineering, elaborate architecture, enormous sums of money, tremendous human labor, and years to build. They were costly and beautiful. They were placed in prominent places for all to see. They were important to the life of the city and region and were marks of identity for the region as well as their religion.

The people of Corinth understood that importance of temples. For them, a temple was far more than an expensive and beautiful place to worship: a temple was the place where the god they worshiped lived. So when Paul wanted to emphasize the importance of personal holiness, he impressed on them that each of them was a temple of the One True and Living God. God lived in them through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Like the temples they saw around them, they were called to be a holy place, a place of worship, and more. They were called to be a fitting place for God to live and be honored.

As beautiful as the ancient temples of Corinth and Athens may have been, as carefully designed and constructed as they were, and as enduring as they have been, God wants us to recognize we are far more precious. The eternal God of glory has chosen to live in us! What we do in and with our bodies is worship to God and a direct statement of how we value God's presence in our lives. We are to be a suitable dwelling place for God through the Holy Spirit. And way after the magnificent structures of ancient architecture, engineering, and worship have crumbled and returned to dust, the Holy Spirit, who is alive in us, will still be with us making us God's holy dwelling place (John 14:1-23;  Revelation 21:3-4)!

Too often, I fear, we forget that our bodies are the dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit. I want to encourage you to think about the following questions, discuss them with others, and even share your thoughts on them with me on the blog: http://thephilfiles.com

What difference should it make realizing that God lives in us through the Holy Spirit?

  • How should this affect us in our sexual ethics? (1 Corinthians 6:9-20)
  • What other areas of our body image and bodily behavior should be changed by realizing that God lives in us?

If God lives in us through the Holy Spirit, what impact does this have on our understanding of worship as a way of life and not just a place centered religious activity? (John 4:19-24; Romans 12:1-2)

  • Why do you think it is so easy for us to segment our lives into secular and sacred, allowing us one set of "worship" behaviors and another set of work, play, and private behaviors?

Recognizing that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" from conception (Psalm 139:13-16) in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27;  James 3:9) and we are the dwelling place of God in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), how should we view our own value to God?

  • How should we view the value of others?

Since our bodies are the dwelling of God in the Holy Spirit, what do we — what do you and what do I — need to do to honor God with our bodies?

  • Is there a physical discipline that you need to commit to doing to honor God?
  • To whom will you be accountable to do this?
  • How will you remind yourself each day that what you do in and with your body is part of your way of honoring and welcoming God?
  • How can we do this in a way that is a joyful act of worship and not a daily drudgery?