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The New Jerusalem—a Pattern for Living—the Building Materials

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Tamarajo is an avid Bible scholar who loves nothing more than seeking out the treasures in God's Word and sharing them with others.

the-new-jerusalem-a-pattern-for-living-pt2-the-building-materials

Introduction

A full description of the New Jerusalem, the topic of this study, is recorded in John's book of Revelation.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

— Revelation 21:10-21

This heavenly depiction is so much more than just a fantasy home to look forward to at the end of our earthly journey. It is the blueprint of an entire Christian life lived for God.

Much like the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, where every detail spoke of salvation through a sacrificial system that Christ fulfilled, likewise, this structure's every element will have something to say about a life lived in fellowship with Christ. Both structures' main goals and focus are to dwell with God eternal.

This structure consists of the individual lives of believers, and It is also a picture and symbol of how God was able to take sinful humanity and bring forth a new and beautiful creation.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.

— I Corinthians 3:9

. . . you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

— I Peter 2:5

Every foundation and gate of the New Jerusalem will include people that were not perfect but submitted themselves and surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the end, God creates a beautiful and suitable habitation with their lives.

Our individual lives may not bear much beauty from our mistakes and may even be marred by the sins committed against us. But as we place our faith, trust, and hope in the saving work of Jesus's death for our sins, the sins committed against us, and in His resurrection, we can believe that our lives will be resurrected and transformed into a beautiful new and perfect creation.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

— Romans 8:28

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

— Ephesians 2:10

Jesus, whose name means salvation, is the only sure foundation. Our life with God must begin with this groundwork laid. Jesus is the chief cornerstone, and all else is to be built upon faith in Him and what He has done for us.

This article begins with the materials and their spiritual applications used to start building upon the foundation of forgiveness through Christ alone.

the-new-jerusalem-a-pattern-for-living-pt2-the-building-materials

Building Materials

Once the foundation is laid, we need to be mindful of how we build and the materials we use.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

— I Corinthians 3:9-15

the-new-jerusalem-a-pattern-for-living-pt2-the-building-materials

Gold Silver And Precious Stones

In the I Corinthians Scripture in the above section, there are two sets of three materials with which we can build. The first three materials consist of gold, silver, and precious stones and are good solid everlasting materials. They reveal how godliness, redemption, and glory are installed in our lives.

  • Gold in the Bible represents God's divine nature of love.

With an unerring eye on eternal life, believing and trusting in who He is in all His goodness, splendor, and majesty will impart to us these very qualities.

. . . we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord

— II Corinthians 3:18

  • Silver in the Bible represents redemption.

Believing we have access to God and all the good that he has for us through Jesus, who paid the redemption price for our sins, knowing we are forgiven and forgiving others, enables us to live life on new terms. As new people delivered from the power of darkness, we are then set free from the things we have done and the things done to us.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

— Colossians 1:13-14

  • Precious stones represent the result of faith in God's redemptive love through His one and only Son, Jesus. Here, we begin to see ourselves as God's redeemed children reflecting His goodness, glory, and majesty to others, including suffering for His namesake.

The Lord uses the same metaphoric language through the prophet Isaiah to describe His great saving grace.

“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.

— Isaiah 54:11-12

the-new-jerusalem-a-pattern-for-living-pt2-the-building-materials

Wood, Hay, and Stubble

The second group of life-building materials consists of wood, hay, and stubble. In contrast with the first three elements, these are unstable destructible things. They represent Christian activities that look important but have little eternal value and are generally self-serving. Or they can be blatant and obvious sins of the flesh.

  • Wood, in the Bible, represents the carnal man. It is trusting in our human abilities and reasoning to meet our needs and primarily focuses on this life.
  • Hay is justifying ourselves and making ourselves "seem" right in what and why we do it.
  • Stubble represents believing that the above two will get us to our destination.

Heat and pressure during life circumstances will either cause us to become a precious jewel or a heap of ashes.

Heat and fire will refine and beautify the first three materials. Heat and fire will inevitably destroy the last three. There is no way to avoid the heat and fire of living life. Heat and fire will reveal the actual substance of the materials.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

— I Peter 1:6-7

The Chief cornerstone that Jesus laid is the revelation that God the Father, the creator of all things and the giver of life, loves us. Jesus' life, teachings, and His interactions with people were all attempts to communicate love to the human heart, which was finalized by His death for our sins.

When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, the doubt of God's ability to satisfy them entered their souls. The faith and provision that came with it were never again retrieved in the human experience until Jesus came to restore it. Most of our sins have to do with attempts to please, satisfy, and comfort ourselves and the genuine needs of our hearts without considering God. A lot of our religious activity centers upon the very same motivation.

The needs of our hearts are love, acceptance, value, peace, protection, and knowing that our lives have meaning and purpose. This revelation is the framework for our house. What we build upon and the materials we use to make that structure determine if that house will stand on this earth and into eternity.

. . . whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.

— Matthew 7:24-27

Examples of Wood, Hay, and Stubble

Trusting that my good deeds will buy me God's love, acknowledgment, and acceptance of others is one example of inferior material.

Years ago, I had a friend whose daughter died of cancer, and I tried to do so many things for her that I felt weren't even noticed. One day I was complaining about it in my heart. Minutes later, I received a phone call from my friend saying she had a gift for me to thank me for everything. My heart was immediately convicted, and I believed the Lord told me, "here is your reward." I understood this to mean that if earthly acknowledgment and appreciation were what I was looking for, then this was it. I certainly felt that I missed out on something so much bigger, better, and eternal.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

— Matthew 6:1-3

We are not doing God favors by our good deeds. God wants our good deeds to be born from the knowledge and experience of His love for us and our desire to reciprocate that love.

We love Him because He first loved us. Our "works" are not good deeds our "works"are to be this:

— I John 4:19

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

— John 6:29

When we believe that He first loved us and do deeds for others because we love Him, our motives will be pure and not self-serving.

Another thing we might try to use in building a life structure is the opinions of others. In this case, we set out to please people rather than God. We become dependent on their acceptance of us, and whether they think well of us or not becomes paramount.

The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

— Proverbs 29:25

The need for human approval can lead to self-hatred for not meeting up to others' perceived expectations or hatred towards others because of their inability to fulfill our expectations. If someone says something bad about us and that shatters us, our house is built on sand. God only becomes God to us when His thoughts are esteemed above the opinions of others.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

— Matthew 6:24

We cannot serve God and mammon, ourselves, or the opinions of others. When we are loyal to the views of others, we will think little of what God thinks. God ceases to be God to us when we exalt others' opinions over the thoughts of God in this way.

When we get our sense of value from good deeds and others' opinions, we are founding our lives upon the premise that we are only valued for what we do. The result is being used by others and accomplishing nothing of spiritual value in their lives or our own. We endlessly busy ourselves with the lives of others and neglect our relationship with God. Our house is being built on sand.

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

— Luke 14:26

God is not asking us to hate these significant relationships. He is asking us to put Him far above any one of them. Our value is not found in any of these relationships.

Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him.

— Psalm 45:10

Another faulty building material is trusting ourselves, our spouse, children, friends, or the government to keep us safe from physical or emotional harm. This misplaced trust may lead to great fear and disappointment as the storms of life blow, and we observe how flimsy these resources are.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

— Psalm 4:8

Trusting in success to fulfill our sense of meaning in life is a poor resource and can lead to devastating depression when a failure occurs. Our house is built on sand if we feel we are nothing because of a lack of worldly success.

. . . for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

— John 12:43

God will affirm us if we worship Him.

We all have a need to be seen and heard. If we believe that if we could have a moment of fame, or even live a life of one, so we could feel good about our existence, we are building our house on sand. It can lead to pride and doing desperate things to obtain it. It is only God's notice that matters, as Hagar well discovered.

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”

— Genesis 16:13

I believe that God understands that we feel natural emotions of disappointment with each of these examples, but when we have allowed them to devastate us, we can be sure we built our lives upon them, and they are only sinking sand.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

— Hebrews 4:15-16

If no one on this earth loved us again, we are still loved.

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Conclusion

I can't help but think of our cornerstone, Jesus, who went to a cross alone and was abandoned by all who claimed to love Him, yet He kept His eyes on the Father's love.

I was reading a book called He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen, and the author suggested the possibility that when Jesus asked, "Father, why have you forsaken me," it wasn't because the Father forsook Him. He was just so clouded by the sin that He bore that He couldn't see it and became like us. Jesus later said to the Father, "into your hands, I commit my Spirit," meaning even though He felt so forsaken, He still chose to trust the Father's love.

But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

— John 2:24-25

Everything we do outside of the experiences of God's love for us can be traced to an impure motive to attain something our soul needs, which translates to sin even if it looks good by worldly standards.

If our value, esteem, and security are in God and God alone, they cannot be stolen. It is a firm foundation. No matter how others treat us, no matter what our circumstances are. God himself submitted Himself to a human death to prove it.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

— Matthew 6:19-21

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

— I Corinthians 4:5-9

Knowing Jesus and the love of the Father, through His cancellation of our sins, is the bedrock of the condition of our souls.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

— Matthew 16:13-19

Jesus wasn't saying He was going to build the church on Peter. He said He was going to build His church upon the foundational belief that Jesus is the Messiah (appointed, anointed, empowered). And the church would then be built by the revelation of individual believers who understood Him to be their savior.

Through God's sacrifice of His one and only Son, sin no longer separates us from His love. People can treat us wrong, and we can still know we are loved. We may make mistakes and still know we are loved. The wind in our lives can howl like a category five hurricane, but our soul is safely held in our knowledge of His love for us. We are free to be loved and share the love with others. We have access to His throne of grace to obtain what we need (Hebrews 4:16). We no longer have to scramble through our lives, looking for ways to milk our needs and desires out of other people. We no longer need to manipulate our circumstances to make ourselves comfortable. We can rest on the solid rock.

Are the materials of our thoughts, feelings, lives, situations, circumstances, and even our attitudes, firmly planted on the bedrock and foundation of God's extraordinary love for us? If no one else on earth affirmed our value, can we know for sure that the creator of the universe values us?

Do we know that we are loved with an eternal love? A love that doesn't depend on anything that happens on this earth and never wears out.

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.

— Jeremiah 31:3

If we do not believe He is our defense, we might avenge a situation ourselves. If we do not think He adores us, we may seek adoration from others. If we do not believe we are significant to Him, we may attempt to be substantial in other ways. If we do not think that He loves us and forgives us, we might try to make right our wrongs in some very wrong ways. If we do not believe He answers prayer, we may never talk to Him.

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

— John 14:8

Every human heart yearns to know "The Father" Jesus came to show us "The Father" and His great love.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

— John 17:20-25

May we let the love of the Father transform our lives, and may our good deeds be born of our knowledge and experience of that love and fulfill the plans and purposes of God.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

— Matthew 6:33

(*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone

© 2010 Tamarajo

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