I have noticed over the years that people come to church for all kinds of reasons. They mostly have to do with themselves. When you’re a new convert it’s perfectly acceptable, to be self-focused. After all, we come to a place where we can accept salvation when we have torn our lives and our psyches apart. I was on the verge of suicide when I got saved. I needed some time to work through all of those issues before I could focus on other people’s needs. But there comes a time when our focus has to change. We have to stop worrying about our own needs and begin to work on that thing to which God has called us all. It’s not all about us; it’s about the purposes of God.
Mark 11:15-17 (NKJV)
11:15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "
A House of Prayer for All Nations
We read this and we think that Jesus is angry because people are making money and cheating people in the temple. There’s much more than that going on here, although that’s a part of it, hence the “den of thieves” reference. But Jesus is careful to make the statement, “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations.”
Where this took place was the Court of Gentiles. This is the place where non-Jews were allowed to come to the temple to worship. It was the place where they could come and pray to God.
Gentiles were not allowed in the Temple itself or in the areas where the sacrifices were done. They had a special place. That was the place that the Jews chose to turn into a market.
They didn’t have a concern about the Gentiles. They thought the temple was all them about their needs. But God was clear that the Temple had a place for all nations to worship. This is why Jesus was angry. There was a place for everyone in the temple; it wasn’t just all about the Jews.
Look at how Jesus reacted in this parallel scripture from the Book of John:
John 2:13-17 (NKJV)
2:13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."
He made a whip and whipped them out – to drive them out. The disciples were watching this and they remember the scripture in Psalms 69:9, “Zeal for your house has eaten me up.”
Jesus wasn’t always the gentle, comforting person we think of, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, “You white-washed tombs”! “You painted sepulchers full of dead man’s bones”! You look good on the outside but you’re corrupt on the inside! He has a zeal for the purposes of God. God’s purpose for the temple wasn’t just so the Jews could worship – It was a house of prayer for all nations. – The Gentiles too!
We come to church thinking, “it’s all about me!” God has given me this place to get comfort. God says this is a place for all nations. Are you even concerned about God’s purpose, or is it all about you? Look at this scripture:
Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV)
16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
Jesus is describing the facts of His crucifixion, but Peter doesn’t want to lose Him. Peter loves Jesus. He loves the comfort of being in His presence, but Jesus confronts that – He called him Satan. “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter, you’re only thinking of yourself. It’s not about you Peter, it’s about the purposes of God!
God’s purpose for Jesus was to die on the cross, to redeem all of mankind. The Cross was for all men, so was the Temple. That's also what the church is for. It’s not just for the comfort and warm feelings of God that we feel. Its purpose is to bring other people to Jesus. Jesus was eaten up with zeal for the purposes of God.
The early church had revival because they looked outward. They had all things in common. They shared with each other. They cared about each other. How come you resist praying for each other? Why do you avoid outreach? Sometimes people are there physically but you’re more of a distraction than a help. You don’t encourage your brothers and sisters to come. Do you even notice that some people aren’t attending regularly anymore? People come and get saved but no one encourages them or prays with them. It’s not all about you!
If Jesus walked into your church during service, what would He do? Would he start tossing tables? Would He make a whip of cords? Would He call somebody Satan?
How Many Will Have to Die?
I want to turn into another direction for a moment. I want to look at Israel in the battle for the Promised Land. God does a miracle and brings them across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Now they have to fight for it, so God gives them a plan to defeat the walls of Jericho. He also tells them that the spoil of the land belongs to Him. It’s a type of tithe; the first fruits. All of the Gold, all the precious things that belonged to the people of Jericho are to be left on the field of battle, they belong to God. Those things are His, but look at what happens:
Joshua 7:1 (NKJV)
7:1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.
Achan saw the wonderful things that God had reserved for Himself and he couldn’t resist taking some of them. He buried them in his tent.
Joshua 7:21 (NKJV)
7:21 "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."
He’s thinking about himself: A beautiful garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of Gold. He couldn’t resist it. The Bible says he coveted it: Lust, selfishness, he was only thinking of himself. He wanted the precious things of God, only for himself. Look what happened as a result.
Joshua 7:4-5 (NKJV)
7:4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Achan was selfish. He wanted those beautiful things for himself. It was all about him and his needs, but look at the outcome: thirty-six people died as a result of his selfishness.
Joshua 7:11-12 (NKJV)
7:11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.
Is God serious about our sin? Oh, you bet He is! Because of Achan’s sin of putting his needs first thirty-six people died. Innocent people died because of his selfishness. Maybe some of them were people that he cared about. Maybe some of them were friends and family. They were fellow soldiers.
Maybe Achan needed those things. Maybe Achan was looking out for his family. Whatever the reason thirty-six people died because he was selfish.
How many will die because of your selfishness? How many co-workers and classmates? How many friends and family members? How many will pass into an eternity in Hell because you can’t be obedient? You do realize that God has a commission on your life; a purpose for your life? God has called you to reach others. “Go and preach the Gospel”, that’s a command. Not doing it is disobedience and that’s a sin. It’s selfishness and that's also sin, and it will cause other people to end up in Hell. Here’s the really hard part. God will hold you accountable for that. Achan and his entire family were stoned and burned to death. Not just Achan, his entire family – perished. It’s a terrible sin to put what you want over the purposes of God!
Go And Sin No More!
Okay, I’ve done the cutting. I’ve opened wounds. I’ve probably made some people angry. I don’t want to do that, but God woke me up with this – Every point, every scripture. I had to get up and write it all down so I wouldn’t forget. I have to be obedient to what God speaks to me. I don’t want to put my desires over God’s purpose. If God is going to wake me up with this I have no choice but to preach and post this.
I’ve learned something in sixteen years of preaching. If I’m going to cut, I need to heal. So, here’s the salve, here’s the medicine, here’s the grace.
Jesus is at the Pool of Siloam – People went there to be healed. There was a man who had come there for many years and he’d never been healed. He was still suffering:
John 5:5-8 (NKJV)
5:5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."
Jesus sees this man and asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” Immediately the man goes into all the reasons he hadn’t been healed. “No one helps me. Someone gets in before me. I can’t do it on my own. I need help and no one will do it. I want to be well but I have reasons.” Who’s he thinking about? He’s having a pity party. Jesus wants to do a miracle for him but he can’t take his eyes off himself and his suffering. Finally, Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk. Jesus had grace in the midst of the man’s sin.
Selfishness is sin. In fact, selfishness is the root of all sin. The love of money is the root of all evil, right? The love of money is selfishness – I have to get my slice. Keep your hands off my stack. It’s what the Jews at the Temple loved! It’s what Achan loved! It’s selfishness.
Jesus had to die because of it. It’s the reason the Pharisees turned Him over to Pilate. They wanted to hang onto their money and power. Selfishness put Him on the cross, but look at His almost last words, “Father forgive them!” Forgive them for their selfishness and envy. Forgive them, for murdering innocent blood. Forgive them; they don’t even know what they’re doing.
At the pool of Siloam, Jesus ran into the man he healed again and He said to him:
John 5:14-15 (NKJV)
5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Go and sin no more! He was made well and his sin removed. We’re all here because we need Jesus’ grace. We’re all here because we want his comfort and blessing. Your comfort is found in your repentance. Your blessing is found in His purpose. He has a purpose for you and your church. The purpose of the church is the salvation of others. Let’s not be like the Jews and Achan; callous and selfish. Repent, be made whole and sin no more!