God has given you spiritual gifts. But your life is also a gift—and so are the opportunities you have to serve Him.
You are not an accident. Before the creation of the world, God decided that you would be born in this generation. He chose your family, the place where you would be born and the situation surrounding your birth. He carefully designed you so that you would be able to make a contribution to the master plan He has for His creation. He designed you to be His friend, His co-laborer, His ambassador. And He intends for you to spend eternity with Him.
You were not designed to fail. You were not created to be endlessly frustrated. God wants you to do some things, and He wants you to do those things well.
Everything in the natural and in daily life as we see it around us and in the media suggests that you could never be what God wants you to be. You should be arrogant, high-minded, unprincipled, shallow and loveless.
But God’s plan for you trumps all that. You might feel as if you are doomed to that kind of life, but don’t believe it. It’s a lie.
God loves you. He wants you to have a great life. He wants you to be someone others want to be around. He wants to use you for His purposes from now until the day you get to go home to Him.
In order to ensure that you understand His purpose and plan for your life, He gave the picture of the tabernacle. Through looking at it and its makeup, you can know His protocol for meeting Him and abiding in Him. The tabernacle is a picture of the most perfect life we can have in God.
Your relationship with God is so important that He has preserved this picture during thousands of years so you can have clear information about how to know Him. Just as a child needs to grow in his understanding of relationships—parents and siblings, friends and colleagues—to mature and have a wise and successful life, so God wants you to grow in relationship with Him to have the life He designed for you.
God wants this for all of us, which is why He desires to take us into His most holy place.
There, we learn about the core beliefs that protect us. There, we learn about the life of God that annihilates our rebellious intentions. There, we learn to balance an appreciation for God’s sovereignty with our personal responsibilities. These principles, covered in the blood of the mercy seat and surrounded by the angels, place us in God’s presence with such power and assurance that we can live the good life—for good.
Bible scholars have long highlighted the most holy place as a space in which to meet with God in a special, powerful way. No doubt this is true.
But I think it begs a question: Why would God want to meet with us?
For love? Yes. And for fellowship, for revealing His purposes and more. All that is essential.
But there is something else: competence. The good life in its best, most able form. Nothing highlights competence like the most holy place.
What I want you to understand is that the most holy place is about being solid. It is about stability. It is about having depth, nuance, flexibility and stature.
The most holy place is a picture of the Christian life at its most successful. It is not super-spiritual. It is not hokey. It is competent.
In the most holy place, we come to a place of responsibility and friendship, peace and fear. I think we come to a place of absolute love and divine terror. And I think this place turns us into capable people. Quality humans. Dependable. Trustworthy. Lasting.
The most holy place makes our lives incredibly proficient. It brings everything we have experienced to fullness as we live for Him day after day. It means that we really know how to live, and we do it.
From Having Gifts to Being a Gift
How do we get to this place? By maturing spiritually and growing in our relationships with God. We begin in the outer court of the tabernacle; progress to the inner court, or holy place; and then move on to the most holy place.
In the outer court, we receive and learn about the operation of the gifts of the Spirit. There, we need them to operate for our survival, strengthening and edification. There, the gifts assist in the continual transformation of our lives.
In the holy place, the gifts of the Spirit are used to bring Him glory and honor. They infuse our lives with His life and focus us on His purposes and His calling during our generation. They flow naturally and accomplish the work of the kingdom.
In the most holy place, the gifts of the Spirit are so much in us that we actually become them. Here’s what I mean.
Paul writes: “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:8-11, NIV).
For centuries, Christians have read this passage and prayed that God would impart these gifts to them. And He freely does so according to His will.
Usually, however, we understand these gifts to work in particular moments. In a prayer service or church meeting, for example, a believer will experience a message of wisdom and speak that message out to the church, to a smaller group of people, or to an individual person.
Likewise, a believer may suddenly receive a word of knowledge and speak that word to the person for whom it is intended. That is the way we normally understand these gifts to operate in us, and that way has been a blessing to the church for ages.
But the most holy place brings a subtle and important alteration. Here, rather than having occasional, momentary experiences of wisdom, we become wisdom. Wisdom inhabits us.
Rather than enjoying the delight of having faith work in us from time to time, we are people of faith—rock-solid, unshakable faith. Faith becomes our entire worldview. It exists at the core of our beings.
Rather than having an occasional message of knowledge, our very lives—day in, day out—become messages of knowledge. We can gain, comprehend and correctly appropriate information.
Instead of being able to prophesy from time to time, our lives will prophesy to the world that God is doing great things in the earth. We live the gifts. We are the gifts.
In no way do I mean to diminish the significance of the manifestation of singular gifts in people during worship services or prayer times. The gifts of the Spirit will continue to operate just as Paul explained to the Corinthians.
But the most holy place is about God’s building everything into our hearts in such a way that we no longer simply host the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are so much in us that they actually become the core of our being.
The good life means that God’s work in your life positively impacts normal situations. The way you respond to the daily news will communicate true knowledge. The way you respond to television will communicate faith. The way you respond to sexuality will communicate healing.
God will integrate power into your life. You will be known as a person with substance, a person with an unshakable core.
What is true for the gifts of the Spirit is also true for the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
In the most holy place, these characteristics are naturally part of your life. You won’t have love for some and hatred for others. You won’t feel joy at times and despair other times.
In the most holy place, these traits burst forth from your life. You are kind. You are faithful. You are patient. You can control yourself. That’s most-holy-place living.
Why is this so important? Because it’s not enough just to enjoy the things of God. We instead have to become competent people whose lives are the things of God.
The gifts and fruit of the Spirit are no longer guests in us. They are our personalities. They are our entire framework. They are the formative characteristics of our lives. We don’t strive for them as attributes; they are simply part of who we are.
With these character qualities imbedded in our hearts and showing up in our daily lives, we can live in the fullness of God’s perfect plan by faithfully doing what God places before us to do each day.
The Good Life
Clearly, this issue gets at one of the pressing issues Christians grapple with today: calling.
I don’t think our callings are necessarily defined by what we do for a living. I think our lives are directed by His sovereign will as we competently execute the tasks He lays before us. We need to study, we need to learn, we need to be wise. And we need to do joyfully whatever is presented before us today.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
In this verse, Solomon is saying that because life is precious and time is short, the time to be competent is now. Do what is in front of you. Don’t chase God’s will all your life. It is right in front of you. Embrace what you see.
Many of you know the story of the talents that Jesus told His followers (see Matt. 25:14-30). Jesus told this parable so that we could decide what kind of servant we want to be.
He is giving us the choice. Either we can take what He has given us—whether one, two or 10 talents; whether a fancy house or an apartment; whether a position of authority or a position of service—and make it grow for Him, or we can bury His gifts.
We know what He wants. He wants us to do whatever our hand finds to do every day, and do it well. He wants us to be competent. He wants us to live in the most holy place.
Currently, I serve as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. But because I am a most-holy-place man, I serve there not because I deserve it but because my life is available.
I serve as president just as joyfully as I would serve as usher at one of our events. I am called to serve. The difference between the presidency and ushering or cleaning up after a meeting is indistinguishable to me.
I would be just as happy helping a single mom balance her budget as I am discussing forgiving African debt with the prime minister of England and debating the economic consequences of such a move. To me, those projects have equal value.
I am available to God. If God wants me working on African economies, Middle Eastern security, right-to-life issues in America or a wayward teenage boy, I am available.
Maybe it is unwise for me to say this. It sounds noble, but people might say it cannot possibly be true. But I guarantee you—it is true. I am not concerned for my own nobility. I am concerned that you understand the life God offers inside the most holy place.
Inside the most holy place, we cannot lose. We are so utterly dependent on God’s sovereignty and so fully aware of our responsibility to serve Him that everything makes sense. Nothing dissuades us from that core belief. From the point of view of our purpose in life, nothing bad can happen to us.
Whether we live or we die, we joyfully and wisely serve. We don’t serve for earthly rewards, even though God wants to give them. We serve because of Him.
When we are His, everything in life is an opportunity to be faithful and honorable. When we are His, we live lives of extreme availability.
That’s the most holy place. That’s the good life.
These concepts are not only for those who can think in hyper-spiritual terms. The good life isn’t a far-fetched idea. It is a place of grounding.
It is where you are ready, able and willing. Your eyes are open. Your heart is prepared. Your mind is sharp. You are a competent Christian, and God wants to delight in you and use you every day.
Enjoy the good life. It is the life you are meant to live.
Ted Haggard is president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He is also founder and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado (www.newlifechurch.org), and the author of several books, including Primary Purpose (Charisma House).