Devotional - What Needs To Be Cleansed From Our Templetoday?

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. – Matthew 21:12-14 (NLT)

    The clearing of the temple by Jesus. This event occurs in every Gospel account. It shows Jesus at His most displeased. In one account He makes a whip out of some cords to drive out what He felt did not belong. This account can speak to both our individual walks as well as the state of our churches today. The church is of course the modern day temple, where the people of God come to worship and our body is also the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can conclude that based on the accounts of this story that God is infinitely concerned about the state of our temples today. He is asking us – what needs to be cleansed from our temples today?

    In looking at all four accounts we can see three major themes Jesus was upset about. The first being the distortion of religion into a commercial enterprise. God never intended religion to be a commercial pursuit. It was never supposed to be about money. That is one end result of the secularization of the church. God is very clear what He considers pure religion:

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1: 27 (NLT)

    How many churches are all about widows and orphans these days? Most churches today contribute less than 5% of the budget towards missions and offer very little in the way of true benevolence. Too many churches are not only “corrupted” by the world but they are outright infiltrated by the world. We are supposed to be separate from the world but modern theories of church growth place an emphasis on “meeting people in their culture.” This despite the fact that their culture is killing them. When Paul visited Ephesus and other Hellenic cities, he found cultures that worshipped multiple pagan gods and indulged in all sorts of sinful practices. Do you think he was worried about meeting them in their culture? No! He was trying to bring them to the cross to save them from their culture.

    What was Jesus seeing in the temple? He was seeing tables filled with animals for sale to offer sacrifice. Tables with money changers who were there to convert outside currencies into Jewish monies. In John’s account we see Jesus address this directly:

    Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” – John 2: 16 (NLT)

    How many churches can we walk into today and feel like we are in a marketplace just by standing in the lobby? Bake sales and sermons on CD. I know the argument – it’s all for Jesus! Well, I am sure whatever argument we can muster is the same argument they would have had the day Jesus cleared the temple. Think about it. They people selling animals were doing so as a convenience to the people. The proceeds went to the temple! Just like today. The proceeds of the bake sale go to support the missions’ trip, or the children’s choir, or the new building project. We use a Machiavellian justification that the ends somehow justify the means. The temple of God is meant to be more than that.

    Likewise in our own walks as well. The issues just described come down to greed and compromise. Jesus made it very clear that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and money. On the issue of compromise we must be vigilant against the things of this world.

    Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. – Ephesians 5:10-11 (NLT)

    All one needs to do is pay attention to Facebook to see that Christians do not always do a great job at carefully determining what pleases the Lord. Hateful postings. Lewd jokes. Refusing to take a stand for God and the Gospel. We allow one little compromise here and another there. The devil is just as happy with small victories because they leave the door open. Sin begets more sin. Greed and compromise, whether done in the name of Jesus or not, needs to be cleansed from our personal temple and from our churches.

    The second major theme that upset Jesus that day was the taking advantage of the people of God. The Lord just needed to look around. The temple carried its own tax, worth approximately two full days wages for the average person. As if that wasn’t bad enough, charging people to sacrifice and worship the Lord, they would charge an exorbitant 15% commission to exchange the money into Jewish money. Then if you brought a bull or sheep for sacrifice the “quality control” people would examine to make sure there were no blemishes, which they invariably would find. The worshipper would then be forced to buy one of the pre-approved animals at exorbitant prices. Knowing they had a captive audience and a sellers market, they would price gouge people on everything, with the priests skimming profits off the top. Fleecing the people of God would continue throughout the ages. From the Catholic Church selling indulgences to the televangelists selling prayer cloths. All of it is evil in the eyes of God. All of it needs to be cleansed.

    The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights. – Proverbs 11: 1 (NLT)

    God hates dishonesty in trade. This is why in the key verses and two other Gospel accounts He refers to the temple people as having turned the temple into a “den of thieves.” We see this in the modern church today as well. The congregants hammered by leadership about tithing to the point of the absurd. I have spoke with people who were told by their pastor that the reason they were not conceiving a child was because they were not tithing correctly. Multiple collections taken for nearly every reason imaginable. The worst are what we remember from television. Prayer cloths, holy water, sand from the Holy Land. Charlatans convincing the unaware to enter into “covenant” with them by sending in their money every month. The shameless acts of shameless people pretending to be acting on behalf of God. But it happens on the local level too with bullying about giving. God doesn’t love a bullied giver but a cheerful giver. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much money they sold their property for that they were now giving to the church, here was Peter’s response:

    The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” – Acts 5: 4 (NLT)

    Your tithing is between you and God. If you choose to be dishonest about it, you will only be dishonest with God. Churches need to be cleansed of this over-infatuation with tithing and money. I am not suggesting that we are not concerned about the light bill but if you are having trouble generating extra money for that new ministry, maybe it is not from God. If God provides the vision – He provides the means.

    Likewise in our walk this is important as well. The issue Jesus is dealing with here is inherent dishonesty. The truth is not a malleable property that we can twist to fit our own agendas. Nothing brings this into focus quite like Election season in America. I understand the world lying to promote their candidates but Christians do exactly the same thing if not worse. The world sells the notion that nothing is black or white. That everything can fall into a shade of grey. The reason for that is so they can feel better about their sin. God doesn’t want us to feel better about our sin – He expects us to repent of it. There are no shades of grey. The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. I had a great teacher once for a class on Genesis. The first day he asked an opinion question and I answered. His response was to demand what Scripture I was basing my opinion on. It forced me to realize that even my opinions must be firmly rooted in the Word of God! Why? Because deep in our own wicked hearts we can shield ourselves from our own dishonesty but God is not a man that He would lie. Dishonesty needs to be cleansed out from our walks and from our churches.

    Lastly, Jesus was appalled at the complete disregard for the gentiles. Realize that the market itself was set up in the Court of the Gentiles. This was the area set aside for the non-Jewish to come and pray and worship God. Mark’s Gospel deals with this:

    He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” – mark 11: 17 (NLT)

    A house of prayer for all nations – not just the Jewish people. Can you picture the scene here? Herds of cattle, throngs of sheep, doves. Like a New York City street fair there are vendors everywhere – selling animals, making change, making noise. Then the noise of the animals and the smell of the animals. Doesn’t sound too conducive to prayer or worship. The disdain showed to the gentiles here angered God greatly.

    In the modern church we can see this manifest itself too as far too often events are about entertaining the saints instead of ministering to the lost. Even outreaches planned with the best of intentions can devolve into being more about the saved than the unsaved. One of the common complaints in larger churches is the cliquish nature of the congregation. Just try taking the pew of someone who has been in that church for many years! A famous illustration tells of a pastor who dressed up as a homeless person, disheveled, dirty, and odorous. He laid down on the steps of his church only to watch as his congregants steered clear of him to enter. He then entered the sanctuary and sat down in a pew only to watch as horrified congregants moved to find seats away from him. Many others complained to the ushers in an attempt to have the person removed. The pastor then shambled his way to the pulpit to give a sermon on the fundamentals of Christianity. Jesus taught on this:

    If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:46-48 (NLT)

    Do you get the message here from Christ? We are supposed to be different than everyone else! When Jesus healed the lepers – He touched them first. He did not have to in order to heal them but He was making a point that we are to touch what the world refuses to!

    Even in our own lives it is equally important that we remember what is at stake. I understand it gets lost sometimes in the day to day grind of life but it should never be lost on us as believer in Jesus Christ. That family member we love so much is going to hell unless they can see Christ in us every day. Not the condemnation of religion but the love of Christ! That co-worker, close friend, and next door neighbor – same thing! My two brothers who I love dearly. That person who might be sitting next to you this coming Sunday. Beloved sometimes we get so caught up with playing church that we forget to be the church. I am not saying that Christmas plays and ice cream socials for the kids are not important – I am just saying that we need to be careful that we do not fill up the Court of the Gentiles with so much noise surrounding the business of church that we lose sight of why the church exists to begin with. It is not to sway political elections. It is not to put on grand shows of pseudo-piety. It is to be an emergency room for the lost and dying people of this world. They are on the outside looking in at the salvation we enjoy. They need to be the top priority and they need to see Jesus. If they are seeing anything else in our walk or in our church then we need to cleanse it out now.

    The key verses conclude with what happened after Jesus cleansed the temple. The blind and the lame came to Him and He healed them. That is why the church exists. That is why God saved us. We were once blind in this world and ignorant to the things of God but God reached down and saved us. We were once lame, crawling through this world but God planted us upon the solid rock that is Jesus Christ. Now it is our turn to give all that God has given unto us. What Needs to Be Cleansed From Our Temple Today?

    Reverend Anthony Wade – September 12, 2012

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