Sun, Oct 28, 2001

HOUSE OF HEALING? MATTHEW 21:12-14

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
HOUSE OF HEALING?
MATTHEW 21:12-14
 

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 21 as we look at the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. And what we will see emerge is what the church is not to be and then what the church is to be. Now before we get into our text this morning, listen to this true story by Lloyd Cory. It goes like this:

The ministry of the church is a ministry of people. When a church lives, it lives because the people within are vital and active. When a church dies, it withers and dies not because the brick and mortar and carpet and pews get old and begin to crack and rip and crumble. A church withers and dies because the people wither and die.

I think a vivid illustration of this comes from a true story of a young minister in Oklahoma who went to this little, though longstanding, church in hopes of really reviving the ministry of it. He had stars in his eyes and great hopes for the future. He thought he could turn it around. And he gave it his best effort and his best shot week after week, to no avail.

Finally, he had one last idea, and it seemed to work. He announced in the local newspaper on Saturday that the church had died, and on Sunday afternoon there would be a funeral service at the church itself, and all who wished could attend. For the first time in his years there the place was packed. In fact, people were standing outside on tiptoes looking through the window to see this most unusual funeral service for a church.

To their shock, because most of them got there twenty or thirty minutes early to get a seat, there was a casket down front. And it was smothered with flowers. He told the people as soon as the eulogy was finished they could pass by and view the remains of the dearly beloved that they were putting to rest that day. They could hardly wait until he finished the eulogy. He slowly opened the casket, pushed the flowers aside, and people walked by, filed by, one by one, to look in and leave sheepishly, feeling guilty as they walked out the door, because inside the casket he had placed a large mirror. As they walked by, the saw the church had died.

- Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote

Now as hard as it is to believe, I have seen a church do this, die. They refused to be revived, and all that was left was an empty building. The church had died! Now here in our study this morning, it is not the people that were destroying the church, the temple, the worship of God, it was the religious leaders, and the people just followed right along, in that dead condition.

Also, keep in mind that the day before Jesus entered the temple to cleanse it, He rode into Jerusalem as the Meshiach Nagid or the Messiah the King, we call the day Palm Sunday. The day that was prophesied several hundred years before and now it has come to pass, to the exact day. Thus, Jesus is only a few days from the cross and that is where we are going to pick up our study this morning, in Matthew chapter 21, beginning in verse 12, and let’s see what the Lord has for us.

MATTHEW 21:12-14

This little commercial enterprise of selling animal sacrifices and temple shekels was owned by Annas, who was the former High Priest and still had a powerful influence. And this business was run by his sons. The problem with this business was they were ripping the people off.

You see, when people came to the temple to worship God, when they were offering an animal sacrifice, it had to be without spot or blemish. Thus, as these religious inspectors took a look at these animals, they would find some kind of fault or defect with the ones the people were bringing. But don’t despair, they happen to have some animals you could buy that were perfect, without spot or blemish, and for just $19.95 you too can own one! They were charging high rates for the people to come and worship God!

Not only that, they would not accept just any currency, it had to be the temple shekel, no Roman coinage or any other coin except the temple shekel. Thus, the exchange rates to get a temple shekel were extremely high. Again, ripping off the people who came to worship God. And all of this took place in the court of the gentiles which covered several acres on the temple mount. Thus, both Jew and gentile were fully aware and probably frustrated by this corrupt commercialism, by using God to make a profit off of!

And Jesus came in and drove these people out, overturning their tables and saying, "It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’" Matthew 21:13. Now as you read this it looks like Jesus lost His temper, lost His cool, He kind of flew off the handle and just lost control. And I’m sure we can all relate to this when we have done things like that, but that is not the case here with Jesus.

This was a righteous anger, not based upon what people were doing to Him, but what they were doing to God! Most of our anger, if not all, is based upon what people, what others have done to us, and that is wrong and that is not what Jesus was responding to, as I have said.

If you remember the first time Jesus cleansed the temple, early on in His ministry, we are told in John 2:17, "Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’" When people try to discredit the Lord, use the Lord for their own gain, does it make you angry? It really should. There should be that righteous indignation towards people ripping others off in the name of God, as we see here with Jesus.

Now the first thing we want to look at here is what the house of God is not suppose to be, which will then lead us to our closing topic, what the house of God is suppose to be. So let’s look at these two points and see if there are things in our own life, in our church, that we may need to change.

1. WHAT THE HOUSE OF GOD IS NOT TO BE

This is a sad commentary on the state of the church today. You see, Jesus said that these religious leaders had made it into a "den of thieves." The Greek word that is used for "den"speaks of a resort, and "thieves" speaks of plundering. Thus, Jesus is saying that the temple had become a resort for people to come to so that they may take advantage of others, rip others off, plunder them! Instead if believing that where God guides He will provide, they developed the mentality of you must give to support this and that or the ministry will end, and maybe it should if you have to keep it alive on life support! You don’t force people to give, they give from a cheerful heart, and you don’t force people to give to build up your own resources, your kingdom! The mentality today in many ministry’s is to get all the earthly possessions you can as you tell the people to give $1,000 and God will give you back $10,000! Wrong motivation, it is carnal!

During the time of Jeremiah the Lord instructed this prophet to go to the temple and speak to the people as they were entering in. Why? Because these people were comfortable going to temple, going to church and yet their lives were abominable before the Lord, they were living like the devil. And the Lord told Jeremiah to go and tell these people, "Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’Jeremiah 7:4.

We can apply this to our lives today very easily. You see, I go to the Catholic church, or the Lutheran church, or the Baptist church, or Calvary Chapel, and the implication is that in doing this it will save me, as long as I am a card carrying member I will be okay! Wrong! Just because you go to church, that does not save you and it does not give you a license to live a immoral lifestyle, a wicked life. That is foolish!

Thus, the temple had become a social institution where people gathered to feel good about living in sin. And God gave them a vivid object lesson to see so that they might change their evil ways and return to Him. You see, God’s question to these people, to the people of Jesus’ day, and to us, is "‘Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, "We are delivered to do all these abominations"? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ says the LORD." Jeremiah 7:9-11.

They had deceived themselves and were now heading down a path of destruction. Thus, he said to them, "‘But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works,’ says the LORD, ‘and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.’" Jeremiah 7:12-14.

Shiloh was to be an object lesson to them. You see, when they first entered the land they set up the tabernacle in Shiloh and later as the nation was divided, the Northern Kingdom of Israel ran into idolatry and God judged them for it. And Shiloh no longer was a place of worship, but a barren wasteland that remains in that condition today, it still is an object lesson!

If you want your life to be barren, fruitless, then don’t take care of your temple, your body, use if for all kinds of wickedness, but then don’t blame God for how dry, how empty, how fruitless you are. God wants to bless you, He wants you to return to Him, to serve Him instead of your flesh!

Now it is not only speaking of our own bodies, the temple of God, but also the church in general. Let me give you an example of what I mean. And please understand I am not picking on a particular denomination here, but I grew up in this denomination and thus, I think I can speak from experience. If you have a problem with what I am saying, I would be more than happy to talk with you afterwards.

I was brought up in the Catholic church, and one of the many things that troubled me, even as a young teenager, was their "Las Vegas Nights!" It was a fund-raiser for the church and what took place within the church still troubles me. They had open gambling for anyone who wanted to try their luck, and there were plenty who did. From card games like Poker and Black Jack to Roulette wheels and-so-on, the money was flowing. Plus, they had all kinds of alcohol, and not just beer and wine, but the hard liquor!

Now, if a person was to walk into this church while this was going on, not knowing it was a church, they would come to the conclusion, and rightly so, that this was a gambling establishment. From the gambling to the smell of alcohol and smoke, there was no real difference. Now some would argue, "It is a fund-raiser!" Hey, if you want to use that logic, why don’t you just hire some prostitutes and you will make even more money! Of course they wouldn’t do that nor should they, and they should not be allowing these things in the house of God!

And it is not just the Catholic church, not at all! Look at all those who are professing Christ and yet are using God to make a profit. That is no better folks! You are stealing from people who have come to worship God. You are taking advantage of them. I think I can safely say that our desire here at Calvary Chapel is to build people up in the faith and share the Love of Jesus. We are not in it to make a earthly profit or treasure, but a heavenly one, building up the kingdom of God!

And that leads us to what we are going to be looking at next, what the temple of God is suppose to be. You see, God is going to show us what He desires of our own lives and of the church itself.

2. WHAT THE HOUSE OF GOD IS TO BE

In the midst of this corrupt commercialism, as Jesus turns over their trading tables and drives them out of the temple area, Jesus says that this is to be a place of prayer, and the Greek word that is used for "prayer" speaks of worship, bowing before someone. And standing there, probably as outcasts, no one even caring or ministering to them, we read in Matthew 21:14,"Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them."

Do you see that folks? The temple was to be a place of healing, of comfort, of meeting God, and not a place to rip people off and make a profit off of God. Those that were hurting were right there in the temple, and yet no one was ministering to them, except for Jesus.

Like back then, we see today those who are spiritually blind and need the healing touch of Jesus to open their eyes. It is as Paul said in II Corinthians 4:3-4, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."

There are those who come across our path, those who come into this church that don’t know the Lord, and we are to pray that God would open their eyes and we are to point them to Jesus that they might see and their spiritual eyes would be opened. Paul goes on to say starting in verse 5 of II Corinthians chapter 4, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants 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." II Corinthians 4:5-7.

But it is not only the spiritually blind but it is the physically lame, those who are having trouble walking in their Christian life and they too need to be touched by Jesus. And once again we are to comfort them, correct them when needed in love, and help them to walk in the Lord. We need to admonish them as Paul admonished us in Ephesians 4:1, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called."

God wants to heal them and many times He will use us to do that, to reach out to them and embrace them as Jesus would. Please listen carefully to what Paul says in II Corinthians 1:3-7, and I am going to read this out of The Living Bible, which paraphrases these verses, and it is powerful.

Paul said, "What a wonderful God we have-- he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more he will shower us with his comfort and encouragement. We are in deep trouble for bringing you God's comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God has comforted us-- and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure." TLB.

Please understand that comfort is not necessarily sympathy. God does not encourage us to go down a path that leads to a pity party. What He does do is strengthen us through those times. In fact, the Greek word that is used for "comfort" is the same Greek word that is used of the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14-16. And this word speaks of coming alongside to help. Thus, God comes alongside to help us through difficult times. He uses His Word to help us through difficult times. And, believe it or not, He uses people, He uses you and me to help people as they are going through difficult times, to help us as we are going through difficult times.

You see, the difficult times we go through and how God ministers to us through them, how the Word of God ministers to us through them, how others minister to us through them, we can use to minister to others who are going through a similar situation. For instance, I know two beautiful Christian women, they love the Lord, and their husbands left them each for another woman. I can’t understand that, one of these guys I knew very well, and I am amazed and shocked to hear that, but it is true.

Now the reason I am sharing this with you is because these two women are now ministering to each other, helping each other through this very difficult time. God is using these experiences to comfort each other, to encourage each other through these times. It is very difficult as both have children. And please understand that this is not some pity party that they are involved in, but they are ministering to each other in the love of God. As God teaches both of them lessons, they can share them with each other to help them through these times. You see, we are not comforted by God to be comfortable, but to be comforters! May we be like Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement or son of consolation, or son of comfort! His life matched what his name spoke of, and may we be sons and daughters of comfort, of encouragement, of consolation!

That is what we are to be about and that is what the church is to be about! May we not lose sight of that. May we truly leave blessings behind as we go and not something else! May our lives and this church be a place of worship, of comfort to people where their spiritual eyes may be opened. And for those who are physically lame and are having trouble walking, may they come to be touched by Jesus so they may walk again!

I want to leave you this morning with this story of The Lifesaving Station. Many of you have heard this before, but it is powerful and I think we do need to be reminded again of these things, what we are all about. Listen carefully to this story, it goes like this:

THE LIFESAVING STATION

On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow.

Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Therefore emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, handmade equipment was discarded, and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments.

By its completion, the lifesaving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives began to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives and feeding the hungry and strengthening the fearful and calming the disturbed rarely occurred now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do the work. The original goal of the sation wasn’t altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still served in the "Room of Sweet Memories" with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty. Some were terribly sick and lonely. Others were black and they were "different" from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built "outside" and "away from" the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up "before" coming inside the club.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities altogether and place all involvements with shipwreck victims somewhere else. "It’s too unpleasant," they said. "It’s a hindrance to our social life. It’s opening the doors to folks who are not ‘our kind.’"

Well, as you would expect, some still insisted on saving lives, that this was their primary objective. Their only reason for existence was ministering to "anyone" needing help regardless of their club’s beauty or size or decorations. Well, they were voted down and they were told if they still wanted to be involved in saving lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! And so they did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into just another club. And yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit the coast today, you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, you understand, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they perish at sea, and so few seem to care...so very few.

- Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life

I don’t want this church to become a social institution where we are more concerned about the external looks of this building instead of people who are drowning in a sea of sin! May we continue to be a lifesaving station and not a social club not interested in getting our hands dirty, mixing it up with others of different color, different race, different looks, risking our lives, our emotions to help others. May we truly be a place of worship ministering to those in need as the Lord ministers to us! May this church be a house of prayer, may our lives be houses of prayer, as we reach out to touch the lives of others, those hurting, those drowning in sin, and bring the healing touch of Jesus to them!

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