"In the temple He (Jesus) found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And He told those who sold the pigeons, 'Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'" (John 2:13-17).
Well, I'm still here! It has been a while since I last wrote. I was able to take my wife on a brief vacation last week, which required working ahead the week before and catching up now. It would have been a great trip, except she got sick the second day and is just now beginning to feel better. Being away from home and from the daily demands of ministry allows time to give thanks, to rejoice in God's gifts and to consider the importance of every day. We need to use our days wisely and time spent with those we love must have a high priority.
Having returned, I reflect on what I have seen and experienced, and seek to apply it in some way to how we live life in this country. Vacations are a privilege, not a necessity. This weekend was "mid-winter break" for many schools and the long weekend provided an opportunity for many to "get away." In another five or six weeks "spring break" will be here and many parents will feel the pressure to "do something special" with their families. It seems that we are a people who go from one "break" to another. We need something to look forward to in order to "endure" the drudgery of everyday life. This attitude shows itself in a thousand different ways as people invest their time, energy and resources in planning the next "thing." This certainly doesn't describe everyone, but it is a pattern that has become deeply entrenched into the hopes and dreams of many. Those who aren't yet able to "escape" everyday life clearly WANT to do so, while those who have been doing it for some time look for something NEW to satisfy the cravings of the flesh for MORE!
If it sounds like I am against taking vacations or breaks, as God allows and provides, I'm not. It's about balance; it's about priorities and goals. And ultimately, it's about Christ and His Church. In the passage I quoted above Jesus enters the temple only to find it being desecrated by those making exorbitant profits at the expense of those who came to the temple to worship and to offer sacrifices. They were cheating the people and using the need of those who came as an excuse to take advantage of the situation. In short, their minds and hearts were not on worship, not on God, but on money and earthly things.
Jesus was angry! I know some people can't imagine Jesus getting angry, but read those verses and tell me Jesus wasn't angry. He didn't have a "fit" of anger; He wasn't out-of-control, He didn't lose His temper, but He WAS angry that these men were not honoring God's house and therefore not honoring God! Furthermore, Jesus was angry at their hypocrisy, because they were there at the temple pretending to care about the needs of the people when they were only concerned about lining their pockets.
So, I'm wondering, why aren't more people angry today? Once in a while I tune into Christian television to see if I can find something encouraging from God's Word. God's Word is the "food" that satisfies the soul of those who desire to draw near to our Father in heaven. Through His Word His Spirit makes God known and directs and channels our thoughts where they need to be: on Him and His glory. But what I usually find on so-called "Christian" TV are people who are desperately trying to get people to "sow a seed," or "buy a miracle" or believe something that they are saying so they will buy their latest book or send a donation to their ministry. There are some exceptions, but they are few and very far between ... and it makes me angry!
Those words, "Zeal for your house will consume me," should not apply only to Jesus. They should be true of everyone who claims Christ as Savior and Lord. As the living temple of God today, the true Church is made up of every person who accepts the Bible as the very Word of God and the ONLY authority for faith and life, and who thus confesses that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him - believing that He died for their sins, rose again, ascended into heaven and is returning to judge the living and the dead. This body, this "temple," is holy to the Lord and is to receive our full commitment and involvement. The true Church is not an organization, but rather, an organism - a living body in which Christ lives by His Spirit ... in each part, each person who is "one" with Christ, and so with the Father, by faith.
And when this "temple," this "HOUSE," is abused in any way, whether by hypocrisy or false teaching or even by apathy and "lukewarmness," those who are zealous for God's house should be angry! There is a difference between worldly anger and godly anger: The first is focused on self, while the second is focused on God. Worldly anger arises because someone offended or hurt you or me in some way. There is plenty of this kind of anger. But godly anger is concerned about the honor of God, of Christ and of His body, the Church.
Peter writes, "As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4-5). Later in the same chapter, verse 9, he writes, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." This is who we ARE as those who believe in Christ! It's not who we're trying to be or hoping to be, but who God MADE us to be. But there are false teachers and impostors in the house ... and it should make us angry!
"Zeal for God's house" must translate to zeal for Christ's Church ... the whole body ... that great multitude from every people, tribe, nation and tongue. It must mean that we stand as one upon the truth of God revealed in His Word that points to Jesus Christ. It must mean that we love people enough to call them to find their hope in Jesus Christ. Ministering to their physical, emotional, psychological needs is but a stepping stone to lead them to Christ, who is the Healer of their hearts, minds and souls. Pastors and teachers and others can and sometimes do say things that are encouraging and uplifting, but if it does not point to Christ, it is of man and it falls short of honoring the one true God who sent His Son to be our Savior and His Spirit to be our Teacher. "Zeal for God's house" must mean a zeal for the truth that is the foundation of Christ's kingdom. Jesus said that whoever hears His Word and does it builds his house upon the ROCK!
I fear for a "church" today that is not willing or able to discern truth from falsehood and lies. Cute sayings are a poor substitute for doctrine from God's Word. The prophets spoke, "Thus saith the Lord," and the true Church is built upon the unchanging Word of God. More people need to get angry when God's truth is not proclaimed, whether in your local congregation or on the many internet sites now claiming to "speak for God," or on TV or radio. Such false teaching must be exposed, not applauded; it must be driven out, not embraced; it must be rejected, not accepted.
The cost for doing so will be high. People will look at you like they looked at Jesus - like some radical who needs to be checked or controlled. The Jews demanded that Jesus show them by what authority He did what He did and said what He said. He said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Of course, He was talking about Himself. HE was the true temple; and by the indwelling of His Spirit, believers are living stones being built into a spiritual house for God. Our authority and responsibility to speak comes from the Head of the Church, from Jesus Himself. We need to be zealous about the Church, the body of Christ, and to build her up and defend and protect her. That requires exposing and guarding people from false teachers.
But first, you need to get angry ... maybe even at yourself. Do I love the world more than I love Jesus? Have I made the body of Christ a priority, investing myself in doing my part to make her strong, or do I expend all my energy and resources on myself and other things? John writes, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (I John 2:15-17).
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15-16). Get angry! Then get to work doing YOUR part to build up the body, beginning with yourself. Get into God's Word - ready, study and memorize, listening for His Spirit and praying for wisdom. The result will be a strong and vibrant "stone" that helps to make God's house beautiful!!