Cleansing the Temple

Scripture: John 2:11-22, Mark 11:15-19
Date: 08/27/2005 
Jesus cleansed the earthly sanctuary twice in His ministry. He eventually left their house desolate. God wants to cleanse and inhabit our lives.
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Cleansing of the temple. I think I’d like to do a series of messages that deal with purity of religion. And a subject particular today, dealing with the cleansing of the sanctuary, tells us something about Jesus’ love for purity of worship and purity of religion. If you turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, maybe I'll start there. I've got so much to say. I hope you'll pray for me. Turn to John 2, and I want to start with verse 11, “This is the beginning of signs that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.” Now I just read that verse to help you know first time Christ cleansed the sanctuary; He does it twice, by the way. At the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His ministry, which tells us this was a very important event. Something that Christ did it to introduce His ministry and at the conclusion of His ministry, He cleansed the temple. He cleansed the sanctuary. Verse 13, “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand,” and again, He does it both times during the Passover. “And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple, those who sold oxen and sheep and doves and the money changers doing their business.” Give you the background. It was required of the Jewish men to go up to Jerusalem during the Passover. You couldn't go until you were 12 years old, but by 12 you were supposed to go.

Remember, the first time Jesus goes He's 12 years of age. You are considered a man then. Today among the Jews your bar mitzvahed when you are 13. In the time of Christ it was 12. Where it changed along the way in history I don't know. But every young man, 12 years and above, was required to go to the temple. You were required to bring an offering and to make an offering. Well, because of the distance some could not bring their goats. The poor offering was a dove, or it might be a goat, or it might be a sheep, or it might be if you were wealthy, an oxen. That was the most expensive. That was the Cadillac of the offerings. And rather than haul these things behind you and feed these living cattle along the way, you’d wait until you got there. When we were in Japan, in the hotel, actually it was in China. In the hotel we were staying in they had in the basement and aquarium. And in the aquarium they have the lobsters and the fish and the snails and they were all alive. And the people in the restaurant would say, you know, “I'll have lobster,” and they’d go down, bonk them on the head, I guess, and cook them up right there. But you know some people, burning it alive, so to speak. But to simplify things for a lot of the pilgrims who came from all over the Roman Empire, some enterprising priests had said, “We will provide sacrifices for you.” Not only did they have sacrifices you could buy, just bring your money and buy it here. I mean, wouldn't that be easier? But a lot of people would bring their offerings, and the priests would examine it and was any blemish you couldn't offer it. And they became very discriminating, and they'd say, “Your offering isn't good enough. We can't accept it.

You've got to buy one of ours.” And of course, since there's convenience in not having to transport, they were sold at an inflated rate. And then, in addition to that, if you wanted to make an offering, you could not make an offering of the Roman earned seat in the temple. You could only give temple currency in the temple. Do you know, when you go to the Vatican they've got their own currency? There's a reason for that. And so it became an incredible opportunity to exploit the people. And it started out, where around the pool of Bethesda that they would have these animals inspected and you could do your currency exchange. But during the Passover so many people came that it finally moved right into the courtyard. It in the courtyard of the temple, that was supposed to be such a holy, sacred place, it had the feel and the sound and the smell of a barn and a bazaar all wrapped up into one. You walked in the courtyard, which was to be a place of reverence and prayer, and you could hear the lowing of the oxen, the cows bellowing, and mooing, and the cooing of the doves, and the bleating of the sheep, and the goats in the clanking of the money, and the arguing of the pilgrims who come to worship with the priests who were charging too much, and the exchange of the money. And there was the dust and the odors of a barn. And it didn't look at all like a place of worship. It looked like the world. And Jesus, He came in, and He saw that. I just wanted you to have a picture of what He saw.

Now this is the temple that was built to honor Him. And these animals that were being offered represented Him. And one of the things that grieved the Lord so much is that the whole plan of salvation was being distorted by the worldliness and the merchandising that was taking place in His name in His house. And it grieved Him deeply. Now back to our story. “And He saw the doves were,” verse 15, John 2, “And when He made a whip of cords.” They had all these cords they used for tying off the animals and He took a number of the chords and tied them in a knot so it made a short whip. “And when He had made a whip of cords He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. And He poured out the changer’s money, and He overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold the doves, Take these things away! Take these things hence! Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” It is not a flea market. It’s not a bazaar. “And His disciples remembered that it was written,” in Psalm 69:9, “zeal for your house, enthusiasm for the holiness of God has consumed me,” or eaten me up. He was filled with a zeal for the holiness of God’s house and that had been prophesied. Now, this is the first time, at the beginning of His ministry, when He cleansed the sanctuary. It doesn’t say He whipped anybody. I’m going to lump the message in one, but I’m going to take you to the two different events. Turn now to Mark 11. You also find the story there. And let’s go to verse; you know what?

I’m going to start with verse 1, and I’m going to tell you what’s happening in this chapter, because I want you to have the background. Passover's coming again. Verses 1 – 10 is when they get a donkey and He rides down the hill of Jerusalem, He weeps over the city of Jerusalem. The people shout Hosanna! It's what they call the triumphal entry. They proclaim Him king, so to speak. And it tells us that after this tremendous event, verse 11, Mark 11, “He comes into Jerusalem, into the temple.” Don't miss this. “When He looked around at all the things, as the hour was already late He went out to Bethany.” He went in and He surveys what's going on, but He doesn't do anything. Because at this point, all of the flea market and stuff after 3 1/2 years of ministry, or actually three years at this point. Because it was six months into His ministry when He cleansed the temple of first-time, the first Passover. Three years later, on His last Passover He cleanses it again. He doesn't do anything. He looks around, and He leaves. Got that? And it says the verse 12, “The next day when He came out of Bethany,” He spent the night in Bethany, at the house of Lazarus and Martha, “he was hungry.” He sees a fig tree from a distance, but all it has is leaves.

He hoped he'd find something on it, but there was no leaves. “So He curses the tree and says, Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it. Now He goes back into Jerusalem. It's the day after the triumphal entry. “Jesus went into the temple,” verse 15, Mark 11:15, “and He began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple. And He overturned the tables of the money changers.” You could hear the clanking of the coins on the floor. “And the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.” Not only was the temple filled again with animals, and the bulls and the goats and the sheep and the doves, but they were selling wares. They were souvenirs. Who knows? T-shirts, I don't know what they were selling. When Karen and I went to China, just this last week, we climbed the Great Wall. And we went where no body else went. We went to the very top of the highest part of the wall above Beijing, a very grueling climb. And then Stephen said, “I want to go all the way around.” Someone told us it took six hours. They told us it took five hours. And Stephen said, “I want to go around.” And so we took this fork in the road. It's kind of scary because there's no one down here.

We're going down the Wall of China, 1500 miles long. We're not exactly sure, but we thought it went back down to Beijing. And so we took the wall. And we ended up coming down into a courtyard of some old temple, and there's nobody there. But there was this long row of souvenirs with Chinese merchants sitting at each of the souvenirs that were hoping for some tourists. And I don't know why there was nobody else there. It was a nice day and all the other tourists were there. We walked down and walked in front of this row of merchants. And I don't know, there must've been 30 little stores. And all of a sudden they saw us, and they're all calling out to us. And they're walking out of their booths, and they're showing us their hats and their souvenirs and their little gizmos and books and things that they wanted us to buy. And we felt so sorry for them because we were the only customers in the middle of the day. I don't know how they were able to sustain themselves. But something like that had found its way into the temple. And this was, I guess some kind of Buddhist courtyard and none of the tour is had found this spot. And this was all going on with all of the calling, and the sales and the money changing again and the dust and the smells. And it had all found its way back in again.

You know what that tells me, before I go any farther? The cleansing of the sanctuary is something that needs to be done often. Because if you don't watch it the devil will make sure that he creeps back in. And all the world has a way of continually. It's like the church is a ship, and you need to have a bilge pump. You don't know how the waters get in, you don't know where the leak is, but it leaks. And the world manages to leak into the church, and you've got to have the pump going on a regular basis. So he's cleansing it again. In the Bible tells us back in Mark 11. He says things a little different then. He won't let them carry their merchandise in and out. “And He said to them, It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,” not just for the Jews. All the Gentiles were allowed in the courtyard. “But you have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and the priest heard it and they sought how they might destroy Him, for they feared him.” Now, I cannot improve on the statements that you find in the book Desire of Ages regarding this event. It inspired me. Matter of fact, because He did it twice, you'll find two chapters that deal with the cleansing of the sanctuary. Where He does it at the beginning and at the end of His ministry. And one is found on page 157-158, Desire of Ages and the second verse is 590-591. I'm going to read all this together. I always hesitate to read in a congregation because I'm not that good at reading out loud. I'm afraid I'm going to lose you, but I can't improve on this. So bear with me. It helps paint a picture of what was going on in the temple when He expelled all the merchants and the animals. “As He beholds the scene, indignation, authority and power are expressed in His countenance.

The attention of the people it is attracted to him. The eyes of those engaged in their unholy traffic are riveted on His face. They cannot withdraw their gaze. They feel that this man reads their inmost thoughts and discovers their hidden motives. Some attempt to conceal their faces as if their evil deeds were written upon their countenance to be scanned by those searching eyes. The confusion is hushed. The sound of the traffic and bargaining has ceased. The silence becomes painful. You have the picture here? He walks in; he's looking around, and something. The courtyard is Passover. There are thousands of people there. But something about the presence of Jesus is so awesome gradually all the conversation hushes, and the attention of everybody is drawn to this man, who looks like all men, but He exudes this divine authority, that pretty soon not only, I believe, do all of the people stop talking. I believe all the animals go silent. Don't the animals hear the voice of God? They know when to go to the Ark. God can make a donkey talk and I think He can make the pigeons stop cooing. And there is this great silence. And all eyes are riveted upon him. It's like there is a great judgment. “A sense of awe overpowers the assembly. It is as if they are arraigned before the tribunal of God to answer for their deeds. Looking upon Christ, they behold divinity flash through the garb of humanity. The majesty of heaven stands as the judge will stand in the last day.

Not now encircled with the glory that will then attend him, but with the same power to read the soul. His eye sweeps over multitude, taking in every individual. His form seems to rise above them in commanding dignity and divine light illuminates His countenance. He speaks and His clear, ringing voice, the same one that spoke upon Mount Sinai proclaiming the law, that the priests and the rulers are transgressing, is heard echoing through the arches of the temple, ‘Take these things hence! Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ Slowly descending the steps and raising the scourge of chords,” the whip, “gathered up on the entering of the enclosure, He bids the bargaining company depart from the precincts of the temple. With a zeal and a severity He has never before manifested He overthrows the tables of the moneychangers. The coins fall, ringing sharply on the marble pavement. None presumed to question His authority. None dared stop to gather up their ill-gotten gain.” They don’t even stop to get their change. “Jesus does not smite them with the whip of chords, but in His hand that simple scourge seems as terrible as a flaming sword. Officers of the temple, speculating priests, brokers and cattle traders with their sheep and oxen rush from the place with the one thought of escaping from the condemnation of His presence. A panic sweeps over the multitude who feel the overshadowing of His divinity. Cries of terror escape from hundreds of blanched lips.

Even the disciples trembled.” Do you have the scene? It’s an awesome scene. Now, fast forward three years later. Mark and Matthew record a very similar event. “Again the piercing look of Jesus sweeps over the desecrated court of the temple. All eyes are turned towards him.” See, when He did it the first time, the priests are so ashamed and they think, “What was it that made us afraid? We're not going to ever flee from Him again.” And they are determined that this is never going to happen again. “What right does He have to evict us?” They move back in with all other moneymaking business. And again He comes in. And it happens again. “The eyes of Jesus look over the desecrated court. All eyes now turned towards him. Priest and ruler, Pharisee and Gentile look with astonishment and all upon him, who stood before them with the majesty of heaven's King. Divinity again flashes through humanity, investing Christ with a dignity and a glory that He had never before manifested. Those standing nearest Him draw as far away as the crowd would permit.” They all spread out. There's something about him, there's an aura about him. “Except for a few of His disciples the savior stood alone. Every sound was hushed. The deep silence seems unbearable. Christ spoke with the power that swayed people like a mighty tempest. ‘It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’ His voice sounded like a trumpet through the temple. The displeasure of His countenance seems like a consuming fire. With authority, He commanded, ‘Take these things hence!’ And they dared not question His authority. They flee again from His presence.” You have the picture? No you don't. I don't either.

It would've been something to be there. If you could have seen what it was like when Jesus cleansed the temple, you'd never forget it. There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this experience. And I think that if this happens twice in the ministry of our Lord He wants us to think about it. Don't you? Why did He cleanse the temple like that? First of all, the presence of the Lord is like a consuming fire. That was a miniature picture of the judgment. Someday we will all stand before the King of the temple. And in the same way, that it says in the book of Nahum 1:6, “Who can stand before His indignation, and who can abide the fierceness of His anger?” How many of you remember in the Gospel of John 18:6, when they came to arrest Jesus, and they said, “We’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” He said, “Whom do you seek?” “We’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” And Jesus said, “I am he.”

What happened when He said that? They fell back, the Bible says. They went backward and fell to the ground. The Divinity, the presence of the Lord is a consuming fire. What is it that destroys the wicked? Does God come down and hit them with a scourge? Or does it say, “The presence of the Lord is a consuming fire?” And so this gives us in this story a little miniature picture of the divinity of Christ that was cloaked by humanity. And there in the temple, twice, He lifted the veil and His glory shone out so even the disciples were frightened. Isn't that what it said? And you can understand why even the merchants, when their change fell on the ground, they didn't go back after it. It reminded me that verse in the Bible, where it says in Isaiah 2:20, “In that day,” when the Lord comes, “every man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they have made each for themselves to worship to the moles and the bats, to go the clefts of the rocks and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His Majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily.” In the last day when Jesus comes, will people be collecting the coins that fall? You know, when the Twin Towers fell there was such panic in New York City that a lot of people didn't realize that they had dropped their briefcases with their money and ran. What they went back to clean up later they found a lot of money. There's actually a vault, filled with money and safes filled with money.

There's a lot of stock companies, there was money all around, but when people were running for their lives did anybody go back into that dust cloud looking for money? There's a terror where all of a sudden things take perspective. Was Jesus angry? Yeah. Is it wrong to sometimes be angry? Does God ever talk about wrath, anger? The Bible says there's a time to love in a time to hate. There are some things that God hates. He tells us that. “Proud look, lying tongue, feet that are swift to shed innocent blood, he that sows discord among brethren,” to name a few of the things God hates. Why was Jesus angry? Was He angry that day? Yes. I don't think He ever whipped anybody and sometimes you'll see, movies will try to portray this event and they distort it as Hollywood typically does. But He was angry. There was an indignation there. Why? Several reasons.

I've got four that I've itemized. One, salvation was being sold and that angered the Lord. Can you I would Jesus purchased with His blood with money? How's the Church of our history, try to make merchandise of the Gospel? Yeah. And that grieves the Lord. When Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy he went back to Elisha and he tried to pay for it and Elisha said, “No.” He begged him, he urged him to take thousands of dollars, and he said, “No, I won’t take anything.” Why? Because that forgiveness, that healing of leprosy is a type of salvation, and he said, “It must be made clear it’s a gift.” And that's why a curse fell on Gehazai, because he tried to charge Naaman for that money. I'm assuming you know the story. It's a gift. The Bible says, “Ho, everyone that thirsts, come ye to the waters,” Isaiah 55. “Ye that have no money, come ye. Buy and eat. Jesus is offering it as a gift. And they were making merchandise of the Gospel, and that angers the Lord, when people try to sell the Gospel. By the way, you know what it was the brought about the Protestant Reformation?

Luther became indignant when someone showed up in Wittenberg, selling forgiveness for sin. Tetzel was selling indulgences, and he said, “Enough is enough. The sanctuary of God is being defiled by this merchandising.” And he nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the church there. He was fed up with them capitalizing on the Gospel like this. It's a gift. Another reason for Jesus was angry; God's character was being distorted. Those lambs, and those sheep, they were all, and the goats and the sacrifices, your blood being spilt that was a type of his salvation. There was to be a sanctity about it. And they had turned it into such a business that the whole purpose of it was forgotten. See? A place that was reserved to be a place of prayer, awesome silence, the presence of God was being so eradicated by the cacophony of confusion created by all of this merchandising that was going on. So the sense of solemness, reverence, was gone. That angered the Lord. And that's something we should consider. [??D??] The priest who should have been leaders in exemplifying the law, were breaking the law and stealing from the people. Indeed, the Lord called them thieves. It was worse than Ali Baba and his den of thieves. The sanctuary had become a holdout for the Hole in the Wall Gang, that were exploiting the poor.

Get the picture. And I'll talk about this in a minute. Matthew adds one thing that Mark and John leave out. After everybody flees from the presence of the Lord, the children come in with the lame and the sick. These poor people would come and they'd say, “I'd like to make a sacrifice for forgiveness,” and they didn't have enough money and they were kicked out. They couldn't afford the doves; they couldn't afford the sacrifices, because the prices were so exorbitant. The markup was incredible. So it grieved to the Lord that the poor were being excluded. You know, I've mentioned this to you before, but one of the dilemmas that I have in working with Amazing Facts is we are a completely self-supporting ministry. We depend on the donations of people. The average donation is coming from poor people, people who are living on Social Security. They give more than rich people.

They give a bigger percentage. And I'm encouraged every now and then when we get a large gift from a wealthy donor. To give them a phone call. And thank them. And I do it periodically, but I feel a little conflicted about that because how do I know that their big multi-thousand dollar offering isn’t really less of a sacrifice than some of the poor people who are giving their five dollars out of their Social Security. And it's like, you know, where James said, “You say to the rich man, Here, sit on the nice seat, and the poor man, Sit on the floor, and God is no respecter of persons.” With the Lord, the widow who gives her two cents, Jesus said, “She gives more than all of those who dropped their bags of gold in the offering box,” right? And so sometimes we’re, our perspective is skewed. And so the poor were being kept away because of the whole pricing mechanism they had set in place. Desire of Ages, 590, it says, “Thus the eyes of the people, in the eyes of the people, the sacredness of the sacrificial system to a great measure had been destroyed. The indignation of Jesus was stirred.”

There is a time for a righteous anger, a righteous indignation. You should be angry when you see, the lost, the poor, children, the weak being exploited. It should stir something in you. Any bit of God in you, that loves what is just and holy and good should be offended and an anger, a righteous anger should be aroused when you see the innocent being misled. Or the weak being abused. That's a Christian trait. That doesn't mean you take up arms and go postal. You know what I'm saying? But it does mean that you should, there should be something in us. There is a time to love and there's a time to hate. There's a time for peace in a time for anger. And Jesus tells us what that was. “Sales in the church,” I'm quoting here from, I believe Adam Clarke. I forgot to put the reference in. “Great corruptions in the church, owe their rise to the love of money. The priests had to inspect the animals to make sure they were without blemish. Also, they changed money for the convenience of those who had to pay the half shekel tax.” There was a tax that the church charged for those who came to the tabernacle. And they had to convert it into the money. You know, whenever you convert money, they take something for the conversion. Again, our little trip we just completed, still fresh in our minds. We had to get to Japan.

We had to convert some money into yen to spend in Japan. Well, you don't get an exact ratio. Those who convert the money keep some for themselves for their service, which is reasonable, I suppose. But then when we got to China, they didn't want yen. We had to convert some of our yen. And then we got too much of it converted so on our way back at the airport were finding ourselves trying to spend our Chinese money because every time you convert it you lose money again. I try to figure it out, but I converted my money three or four times. I converted it in Japan. We got stuck at the airport five hours on our way back, so I had to convert our Chinese yen back to our Japanese money. Then, got to America, and as we were waiting for our bags had to go convert it all back to US again. And I turned to $60 into $40 somehow. I don't know how I did that. But they've got this tax, and they were taking advantage of the people. [end side one]

It's to be a gift. As I said before, it was the widow's two mites that Jesus noticed. Because the Lord looks at the sacrifice. He doesn't look at the amount. He looks at the heart. And when people come to worship him, He wants to know, “Are you worshiping me in spirit and in truth?” If it's pretentious, or if people are thinking that they can buy it, that doesn't impress the Lord. He already owns your money. He’s lent it to you, you’re just a steward, and He may ask for it all back. Matter of fact, I'll promise you; you're not taking any of it with you when you check out. You're just being lent that money and we’re to be stewards to invest it. If we are going to church and worshiping God because of what's in it for us, we're going for the wrong reason. And this whole new paradigm of worship that's based on, “What am I going to get out of it?” And trying to design the worship service to deceive the people into thinking this is about what you can get out of it. That is the wrong starting point for worship. Whether you get anything out of it or not you should worship God because he’s God. He made you, he's the Creator, he's the Redeemer, and we ought to come to Him and just thank Him for offering us forgiveness and eternal life. That's what we get out of it. Reverence in the sanctuary.

One of the important messages that we don't want to lose sight of in the experience of Christ cleansing the sanctuary, He said, “This is to be a house of prayer, and you've made it a den of thieves.” Exodus 19:12, “Take heed to yourselves that you don't go near the Mount or touch the border of the Mount. Whoever touches the Mount,” Mount Sinai where God spoke, “shall be put to death. There shall not a hand touch it, not an animal, not a man.” If anything touched Mt. Sinai when God's presence was there it was to be executed. Moses was told, “Take your shoes off your feet. This is holy ground.” You know, I was a little ashamed. I went to, Karen and I climbed this mountain in China. And at the top of the mountain you've got a beautiful view, but there's also a Buddhist temple there. And in the Buddhist temple there’s a bench. And it's open so you could stand on the bench and get really good video footage. So I stood up on the bench. And while and videotaping someone's tapping my leg. I ignored it because people were constantly tugging you and trying to sell you something.

I'm talking in my video camera and saying, “Here I am on top of this mountain.” I'm doing a little amazing fact up there with the video camera and someone tapping my leg. And finally I'm getting so annoyed, I looked down, it's a policeman. And he had kept tapping, the guy was very patient. I mean, an American cop would have knocked me. He was letting me know that at this Buddhist temple, and I'm not supposed to desecrate it by standing on the bench. I saw other people doing it so I did it, but I guess he didn't catch them. And you know, I was a little convicted. I thought it was kind of strange, they say there's no God, but they want us to reverence Buddha. He is a policeman; he's not a pastor. Is there something wrong with that? Well I guess maybe it was because it's a historic shrine. They even show reverence for those places, how much more should we for God show our reverence?

When the first temple was built, get the concept, there was such a sanctity they would not even do any construction in the temple. When I was being built the stones were all cut in measured and polished at the quarry so no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was even heard in the temple while it was being built. Can you imagine a massive construction project of that scope, it takes 13 years to build the temple, I'm sorry, seven years to build the temple, 13 years to build David's house, or Solomon's house. All you can hear is the low grinding of them moving the stones into position and the muffled constructions. There was such a reverence for the house of God. Now does that mean that we're never supposed to talk in the temple or the sanctuary? And while I think it is very important for us to realize that this is a house of God and a place of worship, the sanctuary today is not the same thing as the sanctuary in Bible times. The New Testament example of the sanctuary, we don't sacrifice animals here. The sanctuary, matter-of-fact the New Testament, many of them met in homes, didn't they?

They met in upper rooms. But when they met to worship that place was transformed. It became a holy place. Now as we move to our new church, I think most of us know that probably first stage we're going to build a multipurpose building that may be used for other things during the week. It may be used for dinners after church. But when you have gathered for worship is to be treated in a sacred way. That's why sometimes things may be better done during Sabbath School, where we talk and there's a little more sharing going on. When we enter into the worship service were coming into the presence of God, and there's a different atmosphere. There should be a reference, right? And we’re in the presence of God. There's a number of scriptures that bear this out. Leviticus 26:2, “You shall keep my Sabbath and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord.” Zechariah 2:13, “Be silent, all/before the Lord because He’s raised up out of His holy habitation.” There should be an awe, a silence. Habakkuk 2:20, “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silent before him.” And then of course, you can read in Ecclesiastes 5, when you enter into the temple of God be more ready to hear than offer the sacrifice of fools. God is in heaven; you're on the earth. Let your words be few. There's a lot in the Bible about not saying too much in the presence of God, but to be reverent. And this should be taught to the children, reverence in the sanctuary. A worship service should not be chaotic and confusing. “God is not the author of confusion,” I Corinthians 14:33, 40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Have you seen some church services where it looks like a zoo? And folks are running around. All you've got to do is surf some of the channels on Sunday.

You don't even need TV, you can do radio, and you can hear some of the services and see some of the services of what's happening in the name of the Lord. And I think that Jesus would be greaved if He was on earth today and He walked into some of these churches where people are literally, they're gyrating in the aisles, they're running up and down, they're falling down, they're shouting, they're jumping over the pews. All in the name of the Holy Spirit. But doesn't the Bible say that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets? When you’ve got the Holy Spirit it doesn't take control of you so you lose your dignity. The Holy Spirit doesn't make you lose your dignity; it gives it back to you again. It doesn't make you lose control. The whole purpose of the Holy Spirit is it gives you control of the spirit over the flush. And yet, so many of these services, and this is where I first started attending when I became a Christian so I know what I'm talking about. It's accentuating what is carnal.

There ought to be a decency, an order, not confusion and chaos. But that's what's becoming typical in the name of the Lord in many churches. Children in the church. Children in the temple. Let's talk about that. You notice and Matthew 21, after Jesus cleanses the sanctuary, this is Matthew’s version. Verse 14, “The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. And when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, the children crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David, they were sore displeased. And they said to them, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yea, have you not read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” Give you the picture again. Jesus cleansing the sanctuary is not really a picture of His anger. It’s a picture of His love. Think about this. It was His love for those who were being kept out because they couldn’t afford a sacrifice. It was His love for those who were being confused because they couldn’t see God through all of this merchandise.

It was His love that made Him expel and evict all of this confusion and filth. And obviously there was something about the demeanor of Jesus that when the priests ran out the poor and the lame and the children came in. So, the Jesus that scared them away attracted the innocent. And I expect that as He healed some of the sick and the lame, some of them were children. And I read this morning in Desire of Ages He took some of them in His arms and they fell asleep in His embrace. And the others saw the children being healed and they began to sing His praises. And so, the very same Jesus that was a terror to the sinner was a comfort to those who were looking for God. So don’t think that Jesus comes to church to scare you away. He is only fearsome to those who cling to their sin. To those who are worshipping money instead of God, yes, the Lord is going to be a rebuke to them. But the children came in. The lame, the poor, they came in. They rejoiced. They were singing His praises. Now, church and the temple of God is a place for children to be.

I am so happy. You know, every service, you have to admit, just about every week we have a children’s story, don’t we? And one reason we do this is we want the children to know that there is part of the worship service that is especially for you. And it is interesting, sometimes the antics that take place as they come and go from their seats. And I’m so glad that you, especially those of you who are parents or grandparents, you know, how to smile and say, “They'll grow out of that.” We do need to teach the children to be reverent in church. And it doesn't bother me; kids squeal and make little noises. Sometimes they forget, you know, they're learning about, what's the appropriate volume in different places. Sometimes babies cry. If they whimper a couple of times it’s ok, but, you know, if they go on, and they start distracting others then that's why we've got the mother’s room.

Amen? The whole idea is you want them to be brought in. You know, this is another example of something going wrong with the church. A lot of churches now, they have children's church while they have adult church. And the kids are never really learning to worship as adults. They're being isolated. In the Bible, the children were in the temple with the adults. You even read in the book of Ezra, it tells us very clearly that the parents and the mothers and fathers; they were all there in the courtyard listening to the reading of the word. I think children understand more than we give them credit for. I know that with all our kids at varying ages they come home and they make the most profound, astute observations about the sermon. They were listening when you think they weren't paying attention. And they've got a little more energy and I know they fidget a little bit. And it requires time, and it can be trying. Believe me, we know. God gives you kids to sanctify you and the kids. Amen? So they belong there. Jesus was glad they were there. They were singing His praises. He didn't clean the sanctuary from the children. Now I don't think that it's wrong to occasionally have a special service for the children where they're by themselves. I think that might be nice. But I don't think it's healthy for the church or for the children to lead them to believe that they must be isolated from adult worship somehow. I think it's something we do as families together. Amen? So, the children came in. Now back to the book of Mark.

I wanted you to notice something. The whole fig tree incident, I want to go back to that. You remember Jesus, the triumphal entry. He goes and He looks around, but He doesn't do anything. That tells me that God often tolerates things He does not approve of. You listening? Just because Jesus doesn't always deal and a dramatic way with things that might be inappropriate, doesn't mean that He approves of it. There's a lot that goes on. It says He looks around and He left and He didn’t do anything the first time. Someday He will deal with some things that are happening in the church that displeased him. So just because God doesn't show up in a specific church with a whip in hand and straightening everybody out, doesn't mean everything we're doing is appropriate. He went in that first time, there in Mark 11, after that triumphal entry, He looked around, He beheld everything (God beholds everything) and then He left. The next morning on His way back to the temple He goes to a fig tree full of fruit, but He doesn't get any. It has the leaves, but no fruit. And figs, as you know, the same time the leaves appear the figs appear. And a fig tree with leaves is promising fruit. So it's got pretentious, it's promising fruit, but it didn't have any fruit. So He curses the fig tree.

Then He goes into the temple, He drives out all of the bedlam again, He cleanses the sanctuary and on His way out of the temple they pass the fig tree. Now it's dead, it's shriveled from the roots because it's a fruitless fig. Do you think there’s a connection there? Let me share with you what I believe that is. That fig tree represents the nation of Israel, more specifically, Jerusalem and the temple. God is looking for fruit. Do you remember the parable Jesus shares in Luke 13 about a man who plants a fig tree in his vineyard? And you read in Isaiah 5, it says, “The vineyard is the land of Israel.” That fig tree would be Judah, “And Jerusalem are His pleasant plant.” And three years He comes looking for fruit on his tree and the owner of the vineyard says, “Cut it down,” to the gardener. “It has no fruit.” He says, “Give it another year. I'll fertilize it, irrigate it and then if it bears fruit, well.” Jesus, after three and a half years of ministry, He said, “All right now, where's the fruit?” He comes back to the temple, the temple has the same old, filth had found its way again.

He cleanses it one more time. But before the week is over His death decree has been sealed. Nothing could offend the religious more than when He touched their pride and their pocketbook. And He basically sealed His death warrant by doing that, the second time. And when He cursed the fig tree it was a symbol that that temple and its purpose was fulfilled. You notice the last time Jesus leaves the temple, He says in Matthew 23:38, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate,” your. When Jesus first goes in, He says, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. You have made it a house of merchandise, a den of thieves. My, my Father's house.” When He leaves the last time, He says, “Your house.” “If you won't let me cleanse it then it's not my house.” Jesus is not going to live in a temple He can't cleanse. Am I right? What is the fruits that the Lord wants in His temple? Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith. Is it sacrifices that He really wanted in the temple? Malachi [it’s actually Micah] 6:7-8, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands lambs or 10,000 rivers oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for the transgression, for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown thee O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of thee? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” The fruits of the Spirit is what God wants. The sacrifices were all a symbol of that. What He wants a sanctuary that He dwells in. Now, what is the temple? We are the temple of God. If they did not provide those fruits of the Spirit He said that He would withdraw from that temple. And He did. Matter of fact, in John 2:19, speaking of the physical temple, He told them, “Destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I'll make one without hands.” Actually I'm quoting from Mark 14. Now here in John 2:19 it says, “Destroy this temple and in three days. I will raise it up.” What was He talking about? What was the temple? His body. He died, three days later He rose. And what is the church called? The body of Christ. So the temple is really two things today. You are the temple collectively. The Church of God is the temple.

Does He still need to cleanse the church? Are there some defiling, merchandising things that are in the temple? What are those things? When we're making money of the Gospel, when we're selling the Gospel, when were trying to attract people to Christ with monetary gain and promises of wealth, that's making merchandise of the Gospel. The animals in the sanctuary. Animals, I mean God made animals. That's nice. But you're not supposed to have a zoo in the courtyard. Right? I mean, how many of you would agree that there could be problems if we started bringing in doves and sheep and goats? Would that be inappropriate in here? I mean, there are side effects that go along with that. You know why? Because they are animals. They don't have the same dignity that you and I have, and the same control. Those animals in the temple represents the carnal side. You have an animal side to your nature and you have a spiritual side. The flesh in the spirit. The church is not to be controlled by animals. It is to be controlled by the Spirit of God. And furthermore, it was just the noise and the bedlam.

It's to be a place of reverence, a place peace. And God's church is to be a place where people hear the Lord speak; they can commune with God. So the church is the temple, but more specifically, you are the temple. I Corinthians 3:16-17, “What, know ye not that you are the temple of God, that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man to files, the temple of God,” what did Jesus do when they defiled the earthly temple? He cleansed it out. If they would not cleanse it, He said, “Your house is left to you desolate.” Isn't that right? “If any man to files the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” You are holy. If you have accepted Christ and He dwells in you. Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus dwells in us. Our temple should be holy, and He wants to cleanse them. Amen?

You know, there's a lot more I could read about this. I've run out of time, but I want to read you something else here from Desire of Ages, 161. “The courts of the temple at Jerusalem, filled with the tumult of unholy traffic represent all too truly the temple of the heart. Defiled by the presence of sensual passion and unholy thoughts. In cleansing the temple from the world’s buyers and sellers Jesus announced His mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of sin, from earthly desires, selfish lusts, evil habits that corrupt the soul.” Jesus cleansing the sanctuary is good news because it means He will cleanse our temple. And you know what? If your hearts, if you are cleansed by the Lord and your life becomes a dwelling place of God's Spirit then we collectively become a temple and God in habits our church. Isn't that what you want, friends? Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I’ll send my messenger, and He shall prepare the way before me. And the Lord, who you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. He will come says the Lord of Hosts.” If you ask him, He will come to your temple, into your heart. “But who can endure the day of His coming?” Are you ready to invite Him to cleanse your temple? You know what that means? “Who can endure the day of His coming?

You who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire, and laundress’ soap.” The detergent is His blood. “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they might offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness.” The cleansing of the sanctuary was so important to Jesus He did it at the beginning and end of His ministry. It represents not only how He wants us to treat the church and a place of worship, but even more than that, it represents He wants to clean His people and the false teachings, from the merchandise and the carnal behavior and He wants to cleanse you. He wants your heart to be His dwelling place. It was very expensive for Jesus to cleanse the sanctuary. The day He did that they consulted together how to destroy him. It cost Him His life. It reminded me from the story, a story from history. You know, in the gladiators from Rome there was so much blood and butchery with the gladiators and the animals all fighting. The word flesh in Latin is carnet. When you speak Spanish, you know that. And there was so much bloodshed that it became the carnage. A carnival meant a place of bloodshed. So whenever you go to the state fair think about that. There was a monk who came to Rome, who was a Christian monk.

His name was Telemaccus [?]. And I think it was about 350, 400 AD and he was invited by someone to go to the Coliseum and see the presentation there. And he didn't know what he was getting into. And he went and he saw all the bloodshed and the carnage and he was so outraged by what was happening there. And at this point Rome was claiming to be a Christian country. It was after the conversion of Constantine this happens. That he couldn't bear it any more and he actually jumped down into the arena, walked out in the midst of all the carnage and butchery and he shouted to all of the people as they watched in disbelief, “This thing is not right! This thing must stop!” And the emperor who was there at the games gave the signal that he should be thrust through and they killed Telemaccus [?] the monk. But you know, historians say that from that point on, people were so convicted by example and by his courage, even though he died, they realized it wasn't right and the games and the gladiatorial combats all began to stop right at that point. He basically lay down his life to bring an end to it.

Jesus laid down His life to cleanse the sanctuary. Are you going to let Him do it? He won't force himself. You can't do it without His help. No man can do it. Only Jesus can come in with His authority and evict the devil from our lives. You and I can't do it. But we can invite Him in and he'll do that. Now there's been a change in the program. I wanted to sing the chorus that is not in the hymnal, but some of you know it. I think many of you know it. It says, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary.” And I thought that's a very simple chorus, and that should be our prayer. Is that your desire? That Jesus would cleanse our hearts? Let's stand. We may need to sing this through two or three times if you don't know it. Our song leader said they are acquainted with it. And then I'd like to make an appeal and have prayer with you before we close. So let's sing this together.


Obviously this is important to Jesus. Anything that would evoke this kind of response from our Lord, you never see Jesus act like this, means this is important to Jesus. It tells us something about what He wants and what He doesn't want. He wants our church, our hearts to be His dwelling place. But you know without regular attention the bilge water of the world seeps into our ship, doesn't it? And I think it's time to ask the Lord to come in and to cleanse our hearts again. Are you in a place where you’d say, “Lord, I want to be a dwelling place, pure and holy. Evict, expel, purge anything that is inappropriate in my life.” And I want to pray God will do that with our church, too. That we will not allow our church to become a place of merchandise, a den of thieves, a place filled with the carnal smells and sounds, but a place of worship, where God is pleased to dwell. Is that your desire? Where His praises can be heard. Some of you may have some special needs that you'd like to bring to the Lord, where you want Him to cleanse were sanctuary. As we sing this chorus one more time before we pray, you can bring those to the front and we’ll have special prayer for you. Let's sing it one more time.


Lord, we know that soon you will come again into your sanctuary. And it will happen suddenly. That you will cleanse the sons of Jacob, even as a refiner cleanses and purges silver and gold. Lord, we would like to invite you into our hearts. We've done it before, but without regular attention it seems like the animals find their way back in. That the things and the merchandise and the sounds and smells of the world begin to crowd out that which is holy. Forgive us, Lord. We pray that you'll come into our hearts and lives. That our lives, our hearts, our minds will be your dwelling place, a place of prayer and a place of worship, where the songs of children singing can be heard. We ask Lord, you forgive us for our indifference. Bring revival. Bring reformation. And we are asking you to do for us both in our lives and in our church, what we can't do for ourselves. Cleanse the sanctuary, Lord. Prepare us for your return. Help this place to be a place where when people come into our church, when people come into our homes, that they see Jesus, they hear Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for this message. I pray that we can put it into practice and it will be abiding in its effect. We ask these things in Christ's name, amen.

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