April 05, 2017

A Return

Have you ever been really into a show that you loved?  The drama or comedy really pulled you in.  You loved the characters, maybe even related to some of them!  Then, slowly, the show changed.  The people writing changed direction or focus, or maybe the producers just hired new writers altogether.  Or the characters changed and you no longer felt connected.

Imagine that was your real life.  One day you wake up and realize that you no longer feel like you are connected to the most important characters in your life.  The people making decisions or writing the script no longer seem to be concerned with you and your life.  Worse yet, the entire purpose for your life doesn't seem to make sense anymore.

Well, that's about the sum of the picture we see when we look at Jesus entering the temple in John chapter 2.  Most people focus on the cleansing from the perspective that he was extremely upset about the commercialism going on.  But, if you pay attention, that's not the cleansing that Jesus is concerned about throughout this ordeal.

The cleansing of the Temple was extremely offensive to the leaders of Jesus' day, but not because it was taking money out of their pockets for a day (they came back)!  They were upset and offended, because Jesus was suggesting to them, that they had flipped the script and were assuming an authority that wasn't theirs.  The Temple had become about men and their pursuits, not about God and His pursuit of Glory and dwelling with men.

I see three things in the text that I believe John really intended for His original audience, and that are extremely practical for us still today. If you would like to hear the sermon from this week, you can click here.

First, Jesus was challenging the authority of the religious leaders.  He didn't say, "this temple" or "our temple".  He said, "My Fathers house."  This was his ground.  He was speaking on the authority of His Father.  He had an intimate relationship with God and spoke what He heard the Father speak and did what He saw the Father do (John 8:28; 12:49 among others).  The Religious leaders were not honoring what they had been given to steward.  People were not aided or represented or interceded for in order to meet with God.  They were hindered and made to feel ostracized because of the systems and rules in place.  They had confused the stewardship God gave them with His own authority.
We still do that today sometimes don't we?  We forget that pastors are not the authority, our favorite personalities are not the authority, and even our own conscious is not the authority.  God is.  His Word is.  We even hinder ourselves and others in experiencing grace because we confuse the reality.  We need to discern that sometimes and get back to listening to the right Words.

Second, Jesus called out the difference between a lifestyle of worship and a life that is filled with worship stuff.  I can relate to this as I think many others can.  I have worship posters and scriptures quotations hung on the walls.  I listen to Christian radio pretty consistently, and watch christian films.  I wear clothes with christian ideas and scripture broadcast on my body for others to see.  But then, I get into a disagreement with another person (even a Christian) and my response is not the Biblical response exhorted in the New Testament.  Or my kids are just too noisy when I am trying to study, and instead of abiding in the Spirit empowered patience available to me, I blow up and hurt several little hearts that were simply having fun.  Any of that familiar?  A lifestyle filled with worship stuff is not the same thing as a lifestyle of worship.  Jesus saw it in gross perversion at the Temple.

Finally, I see Jesus challenging the idea that being in God's Presence was a temporal reality (tied to a place and time).  People acted one way at the temple, while the rest of their lives were full of the selfish perversion that led them to being poor stewards of leading people to intimate encounters with their Maker.

We do the same thing today don't we?  If we are honest, we have two different lives many times.  Our weekday work life, social life, physical pursuit life, hobby life, and then our Sunday morning, Sunday Evening, Wednesday Night, "be with Jesus" life.  Jesus said, quite literally and figuratively, "The day is coming when the Temple will no longer be the place where people meet with Me.  I am going to be a non-temporal dwelling place that they can always come to wherever, and whenever they are.

Jesus' first clash with he authorities wasn't commercialism in the Temple, it was over the barriers and chains that men had put in the way of people like you and me coming to have intimate, renewing encounters with Him.  Jesus loves you!  He wants you to be with Him.  He proves it on every page of the Gospels.  But He wants it on His terms and under His authority - because that is the only way that we will receive the relationship and blessing we are so desperate for.  Don't sell out.  Don't flip the script.  If you need to clear any of those issues up with Jesus, you can do it right now and start over again - no matter what you bring to the table.

I hope that is encouraging.  God bless you this week!


With you for His glory,