The Disease Religion Can't Cure: Sunday 8th March

We often think (and hope) that if we do something good or right it will rub off on us. But this Sunday we'll see that the prophet Haggai says that you can't catch holiness like that. You can't make yourself acceptable to God by doing religious things. Worse still unholiness is contagious. Which leaves us in a hole...

You can download sermon summary notes in English here and in French here.

Or you can read them below:

The Disease Religion Can't Cure

Haggai 2:10-23

Sometimes we read stuff in the Bible that seems alien to us, and we are tempted to think it has nothing to say to us. Today’s passage may seem like that. In fact, this is just as much God’s word to us today as it was 2,500 years ago.

The Disease Religion Can’t Cure

Haggai starts his last message by talking about religious contamination. Through his first question he shows us that you cannot catch holiness. Just because we do something good or right (like building the temple) does not make us right. They do not make us acceptable in God’s sight.

But Haggai’s second question shows that unholiness is contagious! And that unholiness separates us from God, and no amount of religion can bridge that divide, because it does not deal with the root problem.

The Heart of the Problem

To get the people to confront their real problem, God makes them look at their economic situation. He does that because there is no such thing as the sacred-secular divide and we cannot compartmentalise our lives. When you push God to the margins, all of life begins to unravel.

The heart of their problem was their hearts: an unwillingness to have God central to everything. God sent economic hardship to have them turn back to him: the only place where life really thrives.

So it’s not just that the temple needed to be renewed, or that we need a dose of religion every week, it’s that our hearts must be renewed. But if we are incapable of doing this ourselves, we need some power from outside ourselves to change us.

The One with the Transforming Touch

The book ends with Haggai speaking directly to Zerubbabel. God will shake the earth and bring freedom to his people as he did at the Exodus. How? That is where Zerubbabel comes in. Zerubbabel was to be God’s chosen man, his ‘signet ring.’ But Zerubbabel did not become a major figure in history. So was he a failure? No. When God calls him his ‘signet ring’, it is God renewing his promise to the house of David. And ultimately, Zerubbabel wasn’t it: he was just the next in line until the Messiah came.

Zerubbabel was one of Jesus’ ancestors, the one who would truly set up his unshakeable kingdom. And Jesus is God’s true signet ring, the one who truly bears his image. He is the one who touched the unclean and made them clean, the one with the transforming touch. He was the one who became a curse so that we might be blessed, who became sin, so we might become God’s righteousness.

And when we allow what he has done for us to transform our hearts we will want him at the centre of our lives. We will give ourselves for what really counts in life, the extension of God’s unshakeable kingdom, because Jesus gave himself for us.