Sermon by Gareth Dicks 27.02.2022

A LAMPSTAND CHURCH

 

On the side of the St Mark’s facing the vicarage is a foundation stone that was laid when the church was first built in 1880, and at the top of the foundation stone it says: “To the glory of God and for the increase of His Kingdom.”

 

I’m not here to talk about what we need to do here at St Mark’s but rather who we are called to be — a Church that glorifies God and where His Spirit is pleased to dwell.

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism of faith is a list of Q&As that explains the Christian faith — and it begins with a short, simple question: What is the chief end of man? In other words, “What’s it all about? What is the point of our existence?

 

The Catechism answers this vital question like this: Man’s Chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever — The whole point and purpose of human existence is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

 

This means that the Church is for the glory of God — the apostle Paul in Ephesians says that our salvation itself is “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph 1:6) The whole purpose of man and the Church is that God is glorified, and when God is truly glorified then He is pleased to dwell with His people and draw people to Himself.

 

This foundation stone at the back of this church building really gets to the heart of what our calling is as a church.

 

Jesus says in John 18:36 “My Kingdom is not of this world” — that is  the difference — we are talking about a spiritual, eternal kingdom not an earthly kingdom. Jesus says “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

 

We are talking about something that is spiritual and supernatural, not something that is earthly.

 

1. THE GOLDEN LAMPSTAND

 

The prophet Zechariah had a powerful vision of a golden lampstand — a stunning sight to behold, and this golden lampstand had a bowl on the top of it with lips that fed each of the lamps with oil and two olive trees by it. But Zechariah did not understand the vision and he asked the angel what it meant.

The angel then gave Zechariah a message for Zerubbabel the governor, who had the task of rebuilding the Jewish temple after the exiles had returned back to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity, the angel gave him a message from God:

 

“This is the Word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (v6)

 

What is a golden lampstand?

 

Firstly, we may ask — “but what is golden lampstand and what is its significance?”

 

We need to answer that before can begin to better understand the meaning of it…The golden lampstand appears a number of times in Scripture — in the Old Testament we see the lampstand in Exodus in the Tabernacle in the first section called “the Holy Place” and the lampstand was a visual representation of the presence of God, the Spirit of God with His people. In the New Testament we see the seven golden lampstands with the seven Churches in Revelation — those churches that are faithful will keep their lampstand, but those who are not, will have it taken away.

 

If the golden lampstand represents the presence of God by His Spirit, it means that the church that has a golden lampstand is a church that pleases God — it is a “lampstand church” it is a church that God says “this church is faithful to my Word and in obediently following Me, My Spirit is with them and I will bless them.”

 

A lampstand church is a church that glorifies God and where His Spirit is pleased to dwell.

 

We are called to be a “lampstand church” — a church that loves God and His Word and worships Him in Spirit and in Truth. A Church that is faithful to the Bible in our doctrine and our teaching, a Church that loves the Lord Jesus, loves one another and our community around us — the lost and those in need.

 

A Church where we put the glory of God before anything else, in all areas of life and worship — a golden lampstand is the presence of the Spirit of God and we cannot be a true Church with it.

 

2. THE OIL OF THE LAMPS

 

But there is more, above the golden lampstand the prophet Zechariah saw a bowl which contained the oil and seven lips fed into the seven lamps so that the oil kept the lamps burning…

 

The oil represents the Spirit of God — The Holy Spirit.

 

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (v6)

 

This is the motto that God gives to Zerubbabel and to the whole community of God that would guide all of their efforts and spiritual life — no success would come to them through the mere efforts of man, but only by what the Holy Spirit enables them to do.

 

There is a kind of similarity here for us today at St Mark’s — the governor Zerubbabel was charged with the task of rebuilding the temple is Jerusalem after it had be completely destroyed by the Babylonian invasion 70 years previously… God was giving the prophet Zechariah a message for Zerubbabel that I believe He is also giving to us today in 2022 “you cannot undertake this task of rebuilding my house in your own might or power.”

 

You can’t use your intellect, you can’t use your financial clout (we don’t have any!), you can’t use your own abilities which are limited… only by the Holy Spirit will the house of God be built and prosper.

 

“By My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

 

3. THE TRUE REMNANT CHURCH

 

The vision of the golden lampstand also represents the people of God — in the OT it was Israel and in the NT it is the Church of Christ.

 

Our motto today needs to be, not a business plan but God’s message to Zerubbabel, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

 

At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles it was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that led to the apostle Peter preaching the Gospel outside the temple in Jerusalem, under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit and three thousand people that day believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were saved.

 

The Church was born.

 

Not by winning them over with slick oratory or impressing the crowds — but by Peter proclaiming Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit moved powerfully that day in the heart of all those who were listening — It is by The Spirit of God that hearts and lives are transformed and the church grows.

 

But this message has mostly been lost in the modern church today as many churches now look at their need to grow and survive and so they choose to adopt “might and power” as their motto.

 

So worship becomes entertainment and attractional — if people like the rock band then the young people will come in, or if we turn the Sanctuary into a giant play pen then hopefully the kids and families will come to worship on a Sunday. A consumer approach has been adopted and the kind of challenging Bible teaching that might offend unbelievers is dropped in favour of something that is something between a short homily and a TED talk.

 

But that is not what God tells Zerubbabel and it is not what God tells us today — we are called to rely on His Spirit, to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul says “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Rom 1:15)

 

Without the Holy Spirit a person cannot come to faith in Christ, without the Holy Spirit a person cannot be changed and sanctified in their life and without the Holy Spirit the church cannot grow — spiritually or numerically.

 

After all, it is the light of Christ that shines in us as humble light-bearers in the darkness of this world — Jesus says: “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matt 5:14;16

 

So may we be a “lampstand Church” where the Spirit of God is pleased to dwell, always reliant on the Spirit’s power and not our own, bringing glory to God so that His Kingdom might be increased among us.