12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13
Jesus didn’t trash the place as some would describe. It’s why most refer to it as the cleansing of the Temple not the destruction or vandalization. Jesus simply put His house in order. Why? Because human brokenness and corruption had turned it into something it was never intended to be.
Worshippers who deeply loved God and who at great personal cost had traveled to Jerusalem were being taken advantage of by white collar thieves.
These abuses of the poor and the racketeering done by the leadership turned Jesus’ sadness into Holy indignation. Can you imagine coming home to find a bunch of people partying and messing with your stuff? You would be angry too. So quoting scripture from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah “God says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations and you have turned it into a robbers den.’”
What Jesus did was to reclaim the space for those who truly wanted to worship God. Jesus forcefully and symbolically removed the barriers humans erected that kept people from worshipping God. This is ultimately why Jesus came to earth. Our sin separates us from God and only Jesus can remove it. Jesus can reclaim the parts of your life where brokenness and sin have tried to move Him out.
Jesus had every right as God to do what he did. God once dwelt on earth in the tabernacle, at that time, He dwelt on earth in the temple as well as in the person of Jesus. Upon the sending of His Holy Spirit, He made any man made structure obsolete. Through his Spirit He now takes up residence on earth in the hearts of his followers.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you may already know this: 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us; “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.”
Even if you didn’t know it then I would guess you have sensed it. The temple of God is no longer made of stone, we are all living, breathing temples of the Holy God. So this begs the question, if you truly are the temple of God, and Jesus was to walk into his temple:
What barriers are in your life that are crowding out true worship of God?
How have you let, things, and stuff clutter up your life making true worship almost impossible?
Think about your life. “What needs to go?”
If Jesus was going to clear you as his temple, what would he have to remove to make space for worshiping him?
If you gave Jesus full access to your heart what would He clean out to make room for worshipping Him?
“By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)
Faith is great. It is the only place to start. Without faith, you have no starting place. All good things that we do in the name of Christ are hinged on faith. Many of us stop at a profession of faith in our lives without ever moving to obedience. We say we love Jesus, which is easy to do, but doing the will of God requires a level of commitment that few people ever reach.
Many of us actually create our own version of God’s will. We even do it based on what the Bible says. We act obedient and moral, and on the outside, we look like the real thing, but on the inside we can still be angry, bitter and even unloving. God has a tremendous call on our lives to make a difference and we try to buy Him off with good behavior. God could be saying tell your neighbors about Jesus and we say how about I just put a fish on my car and don’t cuss.
Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and that should drive us to courageous and loving actions rooted in deep gratitude — nothing less. Did Jesus really suffer the agony of the cross for us to simply give him “good behavior?” The cross frees us for far more rebellious acts against this dark world than mere moralism.
The story of Jonah is a great example of compassion. The compassion God had for the Ninevites is remarkable. This was not a prophet of God going to the people of God and lovingly calling them to repentance. This was God reaching out to a group of people who did not believe in Him. Even though Jonah did everything in his power to avoid going, God orchestrated events to place him exactly where he needed him to be and he delivered the message.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 3:4
I’m sure Jonah had made incredible assumptions about the Ninevites. They are horrible people. Of course God hates them. There is no way they will listen. Jonah wanted them to be punished.
But regardless of what was happening in his spirit, God’s message was very clear. And the people of Nineveh believed God. Jonah 3:5
The Spirit of the Lord transcended the words of Jonah’s mouth and spirit and became acceptable to the ears and hearts of the listeners. The message that Jonah delivered was about destruction. The message that they received was about undeserved grace. The King called for personal and community repentance.
Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Jonah 3:8-9
There is a good reason that we worry too much about how people will receive our message. It’s because we think it is our message. Our message may be weak, unloving and judgmental. Fortunately, this was never about Jonah and his message. It was about God’s desire to show compassion to a group of people.
If God is calling you to reach out to someone and your assumption is that they are too far gone or that they don’t want to hear your message, you need to know two things. Where you are called to go, God’s Holy Spirit is already there. Where He asks you to go, He already has a plan for you to share His message.
Looking at Old Testament heroes really challenges me. It shows me that as followers of Jesus, you and I should be attempting greater things on behalf of the God of the Universe. And while nearly all of our biblical figures made mistakes, they made them within the context of attempting the miraculous. I have tied to make this point over and over in the previous weeks. The Bible consistently shows us ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things by God’s power.
When we are brave and we act on behalf of God out of obedience, we have every reason to expect that God will provide a victory. Psalm 46:1 reads God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. I think our lives would look a whole lot more courageous and obedient if we actually believed that God is our strength.
I was watching a message the other day on youtube by Pastor Carl Lentz and while he challenged me in many ways, much of his message broke down to this. “It doesn’t matter what you say about yourself, or what you do in life, who you are is who Jesus is to you.” -Carl Lentz Who is Jesus to you?
You can’t escape that question. 1. If Jesus is just some guy that lived and taught some great things about how to treat the poor a couple thousand years ago, then that Jesus will have little affect on my day to day life. 2. If Jesus was God, and came to earth, and died on a cross for my sins, was raised to life, and is coming back to judge everyone and to separate those who believe in him from those who reject him, then that Jesus will have a profound impact on my daily living. Who is Jesus? Actually, your life answers that question every single day. We just fail to observe the data and draw logical conclusions. I don’t think we actually want to know.
Most of us say we believe in the second Jesus and live like we believe in the first one. We say we care for the poor, but do little to understand or lessen their plight. We say we want justice, but what we really want is what we think we are owed. I pray I never receive justice which is why I am banking on grace. I deserve justice, justice demands that I pay for my sins myself, I don’t want that. I want grace. If you believe in Jesus, live like you do. If Jesus is just some radical teacher then you are free to live under whatever bondage you choose to place yourself under.
When it comes to who Jesus really is to us, it often revealed in our willingness to obey Him. Who Jesus actually is to us will most often be revealed in how we respond when He call us to do something difficult.
When God called Jonah, his actions revealed that he had little faith that God would keep him safe. It is interesting as I look at this story. God had a message of the Ninevites and he wanted Jonah to deliver it. When Jonah heard God speak, there was no mention of Jonah’s well being. I would guess that Jonah would have been more obedient had God said, “And by the way, you are going to live through this.” But no such promise was made. The fact that Jonah might die was a real possibility. As I said on Sunday, Jonah’s response to run from God was not an obedient one, but it was a rational one.
I think we are more willing to obey Jesus when we get a guarantee of safe passage. But God doesn’t often tell us how it is going to turn out, he just tell us how and when to obey.
In what ways can you be more obedient when God puts a challenge in front of you?
Do you find yourself looking for guarantees of success when you are deciding whether or not to follow God’s call on your life?
In the message on Sunday we learned that Elijah had pretty much given up and asked God to take his life. He was done! I know that many of us have been there as various points in life. But fortunately, God reaches out to us.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 1 Kings 19:5-6 NIV
At the lowest point of Elijah’s life, God goes to him and cares for him, not in a general way, but in a very specific way. God doesn’t address Elijah’s doubts, failures and fears, he lovingly meets his needs by simply showing him that he is still there.
This is a beautiful picture of God’s unchanging nature. The Almighty God of the Universe, maker of heaven and earth, consistently and lovingly offers himself to us in our greatest times of need. Unlike humans, He does not harbor bitterness when we offend Him, He still loves us and comes to us. 1 John 4:9-10 shows how He also did this through Jesus.
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 NIV
I wish the story ended with Elijah getting some food, taking a nap and getting back to the work of God. But God went to him again and said get up and eat. After this he went on a 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb found a cave and went back to feeling sorry for himself. God then said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Upon hearing the voice of God, strangely he didn’t get up and get to work, he started with a sob story. God, I have done so much for you, but I’m so alone, no one likes you either God, there is no one left but me and everybody wants to kill me. So God said to him;
“Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
Now on a different mountain, God reveals himself and his glory in a whole different way. God was not in the wind, He was not in the earthquake, and He was not in the fire. While the point on Mt. Carmel was to show himself in spectacular ways, He is now choosing to show himself in a low whisper.
Do you ever find yourself desiring to find God in the miraculous ways to the point that you may often miss him in the little things?
Elijah did at least one thing right here even if he was acting out of cowardice? He removed himself from the chaos.
Are you intentional about removing yourself from the aspects of life that may drown out the voice of God speaking to your heart?
What kind of practical things can you do to begin to quiet your life so that you can hear the voice of God?