Anger. Is that what was filling Jesus when He publicly carried out the "temple cleansing"? Discover how we can be "angry and sin not", and why Christ was up to something far more dramatic than a simple temple cleansing. Watch Jesus seize the opportunity to visually demonstrate for the people that superstitious adherence to religious systems is not pleasing to God.
Habits and Huge Gifts: Two Things That Don't Always Please God
The Main Man, You, and the Main Thing
The Root of All Error and the Truth About Death
The Separation of Church and State
The 'Blessed Idiocy of Grace' and How We Must Respond
A Game God Won't Play
A Tree, A Temple, and A Timeless Truth: The Danger of Leaves Without Fruit
Not Your Typical Spring Cleaning - Jesus in The Temple
The Day the King Came and the Question His Followers Should Ask and be Able to Answer
Busting Out From the Crowd of Darkness: What You Want and What to Do When You Get It
What We All Want and How to Get It
Well, good morning! If you have not yet caught the theme of what we're trying to do today, we're picking up a little bit of where we were last week with the idea that worship in the context of lifting your voice and saying and singing things is totally appropriate and wonderful, but as great as it is in terms of experience, devoid of a life that's consistent with it, it's offensive to God.
For those of you who weren't able to be in here with us at 10 o'clock, we started by reflecting back on the fact that, as we looked at last week, people cried, "Hosanna!" and then just a few short days later, many of those same people were part of the masses who didn't say great things about this Jesus but said, "Hey, crucify him!"
We wanted to challenge ourselves through this morning of worship with this. What we do on Sunday is pretty clear to everybody who is here or folks who see us drive this direction, but most people make a decision about where we really are in our love for and response to Christ by watching the way we live our lives throughout the week.
If you're here as a guest today and you just went through an extended time with us of hearing us declare who we are in relationship to God, you're probably not very impressed. You know what? You probably shouldn't be unless you're greeted differently; unless you're served differently, followed up differently. Unless we offer to rearrange our lives in order to serve you and love you and answer your questions and live in such a way that speaks of our relationship with God, you probably shouldn't be really impressed other than the fact that we like to sing together.
Well, this is really where we are as we're studying the life of Jesus Christ through the gospel of Mark. If you have a Bible, turn there to Mark, chapter 11, with us. If you don't, we're going to put some Scripture up here before you. We're at a time when Christ is coming to the end of his public ministry. We are inside the last week.
Over 25 percent of the gospel accounts talk about this last week. It's when Christ goes from being a man who is proclaiming a lot of messages of grace and love and forgiveness and explaining how he is the means through which we can be rightly related to God, that he is our wonderful, merciful Savior, that he is the precious Redeemer and Friend that all of the Old Testament pointed to, all of the temple sacrifices suggested was coming, and all of the law demanded was necessary.
Jesus is saying, "I'm that one who God said he would send you who would deliver you from the oppression of your sin and also from the oppression then of those who, in their sin, oppress you." What Christ is doing, though, is he's now becoming a little bit more public, and he's not just communicating with his followers and disciples and having occasional confrontations with the leaders of the day.
He is now coming head-on with them and letting them know, "This is the day I'm going to declare to you very publicly who I think I am, and there's no escaping your having to respond to me. The day is near." We talked about last week how Christ was very in control about what day that would be, prophesied in the Old Testament to that very day he would ride in and declare his Kingship.
It was also prophesied in the Old Testament that, when he would come, and you made the way clear for him that you would come to the temple. Now what was he going to do when he got to the temple? We're going to take a look at that this morning. If you have your Bible, you can follow along with me.
We're going to read in Mark, chapter 11, verses 11-19. We're going to see the first part of a section we're going to come back to and look at here in a little bit in a couple of weeks, but today, we're going to focus specifically on what he did in this house of worship. There was only one temple, if you will, one place that good Jews could go to worship God. It was in Jerusalem. Today, when you see pictures of Israel, you see a little gold dome there. That's where it was.
On that place, the temple mount, the entire sacrificial system, the entire means God had given the people of Israel to, by faith, express their dependence upon him, happened in that one little space, and Christ is walking into that one place where they're at the pinnacle of their faith, and this is what he's going to do. Let's follow along. Mark, chapter 11, we'll start in verse 11.
This is just after there was a parade of folks who were laying coats down before him and palm branches down before him to make straight the way of the coming King. After that, it says, "Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late."
Last week, we talked about this procession Christ made. As he entered into Jerusalem, people said, "Hey, blessed are you who comes in the name of the Lord. This is a great day." Many people said, "You're our King. You're the long-awaited Messiah. We've seen what you've done. We've heard what you said." Now others just got caught up in the hysteria of rejoicing in the same way that, a week later, they got caught up in the hysteria of mocking his name. He came, and he walked into the temple mount. He observed what was going on there for a while, and then he left.
"On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again!' And His disciples were listening."
Wait a minute. You're asking yourself, "Why would Jesus curse a tree where it says it's not the season for figs and go there expecting it to have fruit that it, apparently according to that little statement, shouldn't have?" That's what we're going to cover the next time. This story about the fig tree brackets and, in a very clear way and purposeful way, explains what we're about to look at right now. Verse 15 says:
"Then they [all of these folks who were walking with Jesus] came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
And He began to teach and say to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it a robbers' den.' The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching."
Now we typically call last week the triumphal entry, and it was anything but triumphant. It was more like a tragic end to the offer of this King the nation rejected, and this is typically called the temple cleansing. I hope to change your mind about that this week. Jesus' goal was not to cleanse the temple.
What he was doing was not being in there to reform something he had already decreed was about to be destroyed. It's as nuts as buying a lot with a teardown on it, and before you tear it down, you're going to redo, repaint, refinish, resod a house and then tear it down so you can build the house you want. Christ is not there to clean the temple, but he is there to do something to make a statement which astonished the people. We'll see if I can't unfold that for you and if we can't find some application from that for our lives.
You know, when you're a prophet of God, which at this time most folks had agreed Christ was at least that, you're often asked to do some pretty wild things. What I'm going to make a case for today is that, what Jesus is doing here is not so much saying, "Hey, if we're going to have a temple, we have to have a temple that works and operates correctly."
Clearly, there were some things that were going on there that were wrong, but most likely, what Jesus was doing was not trying to get something in order which he was there to bring judgment on at that point. What he was doing was what prophets had typically done. God is the great teacher, and great teachers almost always use visual aids, which will tell you a little bit about my teaching style since there are no visual aids to go with what I'm saying today.
Now we talked about doing something today. In fact, we had it kind of rolled out and planned that Paul, during our announcements, was going to come up here and make a comment about how many people ask about the videos we produce here and because so many people are asking us and taking up so much of his time he was just going to try and take care of it today.
We had a bunch of tapes that were going to be set up here during the time you were going to greet and meet each other, and I was going to get frustrated and kind of clean it up and throw it out and say, "That's not what we're going to do, Stehlik. Come on back here." We were going to have a little scene before you. We decided not to do that for a number of different reasons, but we were going to use that visual aid to let you at least feel the awkwardness these people did.
The reasons we didn't decide to do it is (a) I was not willing to volunteer myself in the Messiah role and (b) because, you know, if I did it, you guys might go, "Well, you know, Todd's the pastor here, and if he sees something that's not right, I probably wouldn't handle it that way, but yeah, I guess it's his house, right?"
Jesus is going to make a claim that this is his house, the temple. It would be as if somebody showed up here today right now and just said, "Hey, what are you guys doing right now singing and what are you doing listening to him? Listen to me." This is a guy you had never seen before in the church where you don't typically associate that person in a leadership role here.
It'd be like he kind of took control of our time and all we were about, not just this one little service but everything we're about, and challenged us in our purposes, in our strategies, in our values and basically tried to turn everything on its head. Now that would be much, much more of a similar picture to what Christ did.
He came into a place where folks didn't think he had much right but, as a prophet, said, "I'm here to reveal something to you. This system you've been relying on is broken and perverted. This system was never intended to save you, and it will never save people who rely on the system superstitiously, especially when those people are using these things God said you should use as an expression of your faith as a means to exploit people, to elevate yourselves to put yourselves in a position of honor and greatness."
In a couple of weeks, when we unfold this parable of the fig tree, I'm going to talk about another time in church history, not Jewish history, but where the church had gotten to the exact same place, and somebody did, in effect, exactly what Jesus did and walked right into the church of the day and said, "There are some serious problems going on here, and I protest."
He nailed 95 different things he had issue with and became the leader of the protestors, which we know today as the Protestants, and stood in the face of the universal church of the day, which was the church based in Rome, and said, "You are doing, in effect, what the religious leaders of the day did to exploit people in the name of Christ, in the name of God, and just as Jesus was upset then, followers of Christ ought to be upset now."
This young man stood against Rome and the church it represented and said, "You're not God's church, and the little superstitious acts you participate in are not delivering people." Do you think that caused a stir? Yeah, it did. It's one of the major events of the last 2,000 years. It's called the Reformation.
Well, here's a reformation that's fixing to come. You know, I thought about setting this up a little bit by also showing the scene from the movie, Braveheart, because in effect what Jesus is doing is he's saying, "Look, now is the day we're going to let you know where you stand, and you're going to do some things to me in God's sovereign plan.
You're going to crucify me, thinking you have victory in defeating me, when in fact it will not be victory. It will be judgment for you, and in fact, it will be a means of deliverance for all people because I am the ultimate sacrifice, not the system you've been relying on superstitiously." In effect what Christ is doing a little bit here is picking a fight. He's laying down the gauntlet.
I was going to show you that scene where they ask Mel Gibson, William Wallace, "What are you fixing to do? Go out and negotiate?" He said, "No. I'm going to go pick a fight," when he rode out there. Do you remember that? Well, I didn't remember it very well, and I watched that scene again this week, and I can't show it to you here, as he was rather colorful in the way he picked a fight.
Well, Christ was colorful too, and not necessarily with words but with what he did. Let me just take you back. Do you want to be a prophet of God? Do you want to be somebody God uses to declare his truth? Be careful. Do you want to be a faithful servant of God who is available to him to be used in any way he asks you to be used? Let me tell you, typically, people who say "yes" to that question, get crucified by the time they're 33. They don't do really well really long. People don't take too kindly to them.
In fact, we'll find out in a couple of weeks here, the reason Luther was successful is because a number of men, Mr. Tyndale and Mr. Hus, had gone before him and were burned at the stake. Their bones were dug up when they were buried, and they were thrown in the River Thames, and men died, so when Luther finally got there, (one friend describes it almost as layers of armies that came on the beaches of Normandy) the first wave, the first platoons, were mowed down.
The second one came. It was mowed down. Finally, a beachhead was established. Luther was established in his protests because of men who died before him. Finally, there was a beachhead of truth that was established on the apostasy which was the church of that day, and it grew until we took back over, if you will, a safe place for truth to reign and not oppression.
Let me show you what some prophets of God were asked to do, and I think I'll give you a little bit of insight into what's actually happening here. I just went through and picked a few spots where some different men who were prophets were asked to do some things. God is a great teacher, so he uses visual aids. The visual aid he used in Mark 11 was God saying, "These tables you rely on as necessary for redemption are unnecessary." This is from Isaiah in chapter 20.
"At that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, 'Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips and take your shoes off your feet.'" Now this is Isaiah's job. "Here's what I want you to do. Go take the sackcloth off I've told you to wear and go take your shoes off." "And he did so, going naked and barefoot." Isaiah, chapter 20, verse 3: "And the Lord said, 'Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years…'"
Did you hear this? God told Isaiah to walk around naked for three years. This is what he did as a visual aid in getting the message across. "Isaiah, walk around naked and barefoot for three years, and when people see you naked and barefoot and they go, 'What in the world are you doing?' say, 'Well, this is what's going to happen to Cush and Egypt in their rebellion against God and their reliance upon allies to be delivered and thinking they could be protected because of their great world power.'"
He said, "So the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered…" Right there in your Bible. When Isaiah went to get a salad at Corner Bakery, and people said, "Isaiah, no shorts, no service." He said, "Let me just tell you something. Do you think this is bad for me? There's an entire nation of folks who is going to have their butts carried off naked."
Now would that get some people's attention? It'd probably make the news. How about this? Ezekiel is a man who God had raised up while the nation of Israel had been sent off to a time of discipline, and many people were saying, "Hey, surely God is going to put us back quickly to Israel because we're God's people, and God doesn't mess with his people."
God said, "Here's what I want you to do, Ezekiel." Ezekiel, chapter 4. Just listen to this. "Now you son of man [Ezekiel] , get yourself a brick, place it before you and inscribe a city on it, Jerusalem. Then lay siege against it…" He told him to go to the town square, get a brick, write Jerusalem on it, and basically to play army.
"I want you to build a little ramp up against this brick. While folks are walking by to the well, going to get bread, I want you lying there in the middle of the street. I want you to put an iron plate between you and the city, which is representative of the fact that siege is going to be laid upon this city, and they're going to cry out for deliverance, but there's an iron plate blocking their prayers. No deliverance will come." He says, "I want you to stay there on your left side for 390 days."
How many of y'all think that made hard copy? Some nut was in the middle of the city had a brick with Dallas written on it, and he was just talking about the bad things that were going to happen to it, put an iron plate up to show there was no way they could get word to God, and he lay there, exposed naked, for 390 days. Then he says, "After 390 days, I want you to roll over on your right side for 40 days as a symbol of what I'm going to do to Judah."
There are many other examples, prophets who wore horns and walked into a room and said, "Just like I'm going to gore this, God's going to gore them." Other people would come with a yoke on and walking in. Prophets were great teachers, and they used visual aids. Sometimes there were false prophets who used visual aids, but these guys came, and they made a statement about what was happening.
I want to tell you, I think that's what Christ was doing right here. This is not so much the cleansing of the temple as it is Christ as a prophet condemning the temple and stepping into the very epicenter of religious systems and saying, "These systems are useless and broken." You might say, "He'd grab a guitar and smash it." We talked about doing that as well this morning.
One of the dangers and one of the things we talked about and one of the things we're very careful of, one of the reasons we don't want to do too many things too crazy or have somebody you don't know walk in here and do something is because, frankly, it's hard to know when a drama is taking place and when somebody's snapped. What we have going on right here is something even crazier than what Jesus asked his disciples to do the week before.
"Go into the city. There will be a colt, a foal of a donkey. Grab it and bring it to me."
"Well, what do we say if they say, 'What are you doing?'"
"Tell them the Lord has need of it because I'm going to use a visual aid to ride, me and a donkey. It's going to fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies of Zechariah to declare who I am as a visual reminder of what God said would come to the people." Now Jesus is going to do something even crazier, and guess what people ask Jesus? "Why are you doing what you're doing?" His response: "Because the Lord has need of it, because the Lord commands it."
Let me just make a quick comment here about this because some people have struggled with what Christ did to the fig tree and what Christ does in the temple, and typically, they have a picture of Jesus just snapping. He's 33. The disciples are boneheads. He's just a few days away from incredible suffering. He's just ticked off, and he loses his cool. Now I'm going to tell you why I know that didn't happen. The Scripture tells us Christ was without sin, but is it wrong to be angry?
Let me just walk you through a little theology of anger this morning. If you have your Scriptures, turn to Ephesians, chapter 4. In the New Testament, there are three different words that are used for anger. Look in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 25. There's some application Paul is about unfold.
He says, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." Then in verse 26, he tells us to be orge. "Be angry, and yet do not sin…" In fact, the idea there, in the grammar is it's an imperative, which means it's a command, "Be angry…" It's a perfect present, which means, all the time, continually be angry, yet don't sin.
Now follow this out with me. "…do not let the sun go down on your…" Then it says the word for parorgismos. It's a different word than you just saw a little bit ago. What is not going on here… Paul is not saying, "Look, you can be ticked off as long as you're still not ticked off when the sun goes down because that then is sin," so it doesn't mean you can be angry during daylight hours.
What he's going to say right here is… The word for anger that's used right there in verse 26 is an anger that's an abiding, settled, constant state. It's anger as a state of mind. It's the word that talks about the wrath of God. God is always angry at sin. In fact, you cannot love good and not hate evil. You must do both, or you can't do either. You should stay in a constant state. Because you love what is right and good, because you love light, you must necessarily hate darkness. If you are indifferent toward sin, toward evil, toward injustice, you don't love justice.
What the Scriptures are saying here is, "Look, you ought to have a heart like God's that is in an abiding state of wrath, a settled and committed state of mind that is against evil and injustice, but make sure you don't become embittered, exasperated, or irritated by anger to the point where your anger spikes." What it does is it adds a word para which means to come alongside. Don't be so filled with anger that you get beside yourself.
Have you ever seen anybody like this? Let me ask you a question. Road rage…is that orge? Is that an abiding anger or is that when somebody just snaps and becomes embittered and irritated to the point where they're going to just get beside themselves and be filled with rage and then act in a way that, frankly, is unstable?
God says, "You know what? You might have a constant abiding state of hatred for busyness; for clutter; (now I know what some of y'all are thinking) for stupidity, meaning people who drive in the left lane, but don't get so frustrated and put out that, that anger spikes and gets you to a place where you begin to act in a way that is inconsistent and you put yourself in a position of the deliverer of vengeance."
One of the things our nation's leadership did that frankly frustrated most of America after September 11 is that they had orge. The had the right kind of anger. They said, "We have always hated terrorism, and we will always hate terrorism, and what you're about to see is not just some feel-good swat of this roach that has crept in among us, but you're going to see a purposeful and steadfast series of actions against this terrorism, and we will not relent."
One of the things our president has continually done is kept the people constantly reminded of the horrors of terrorism, not one event that makes us spike and want to go in and, you know, turn the entire nation of Afghanistan into glass, which is what we all heard the pundits on the radio and the rednecks say: "Let's just go melt them, every single one of them." That's not the way God wants a nation to respond.
That's not the way God wants us to respond, and it's not what Jesus did. One of the reasons we know that is he went in there the night before. He looked around. He went away, and he came back the next day and did what he did, not as some quick, overt, flippant reaction to being frustrated but as a purposeful declaration of judgment by a prophet of God.
It says, "Be angry…" Every single one of us… One of our biggest problems is that the American church, people who are truly followers of Christ, is not in a constant state of offense against sin. In fact, most of us welcome it into our homes. Most of us install people in office who take positions on certain topics that are contrary to the Scriptures with very little thought or problem, and I think God has a problem with that.
He reminds us here in Ephesians. "You continually be angry and annoyed at sin. Don't suppress it. Don't act like you can't get like a stoic who never gets frustrated. Stoicism is never heralded by the Bible. Just make sure, though, that you're never pushed to a behavior by your flesh, by your irritation, by your frustration, or by the energy created in a moment. You do what you do because you're filled with the Spirit, not because you're filled with rage."
That's one of the reasons I believe we're not to spare the rod from a child. We're to be purposeful when we discipline our child, to not just in a moment when they frustrate us just lean over and smack them, but take a moment, go get the instrument of judgment, bring it back and say what our parents have said that we didn't believe, which is, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you."
In love say, "You know why we're about to do this? It's not because Dad just in a moment of frustration reached over and smacked you upside the head. It's because that behavior will hurt you and haunt you in life, and I hate the idea of you developing habitual patterns of rebellion, selfishness, and sin, so you're going to experience a temporal consequence to learn not to get in a committed state in that way, and I'm going to remind you in love right now that what you're doing is wrong."
Now how many of us discipline or kids in a very different way? Yelling, and then… Smack! That kid cowers away like a dog who's just been kicked. There's no love there. That was for me, not for them. You know, when I disciplined my dog, my golden retriever, for years, there were a number of times that what I did to my dog to discipline him was not for that dog to learn that he shouldn't do what he did. It was for me. It was a venting. I was spiked in my anger.
To my great shame, there have been times I've flicked my kid in the head, and I've had to ask his forgiveness, not because what he did was right but because what I did was wrong. Be angry and sin not. Don't let yourself ever become embittered or irritated or bothered by anger to where you're going to do something that is a mockery to who you say you follow. Christ did not lose his temper here. He didn't walk in and just lose control. That's not what happened, and you've seen way too many movies that have portrayed it like that.
What you have is a God who walked in and just said, "You know what? I'm going to make a statement here. It's a prophetic statement. This thing you're relying on is broken. I'm going to set right these superstitions you have where you think you can do this and buy indemnity from me and never have consequence. This was never to be the means through which ultimately you were made right in my eyes. These were to picture an ultimate sacrifice which was to come, and I'm declaring to you that I am him, the Lamb of God who's come to take away the sins of the world."
He will say in just a few short chapters, "I'm going to tear this temple down, and in three days, I'm going to rebuild it," in reference to his body. "You don't need this temple. It's going to be judged and wiped out. In AD 70, that happened. What you need is a different sacrifice, and what you need is to respond rightly to that sacrifice, just like you should've responded rightly to the years of the sacrifice of bulls and goats."
Follow this with me because Jesus makes two places from the Old Testament come to life. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Isaiah, and let's take a peek here at one of the places Jesus quotes from. In Isaiah, chapter 56, this is what it says. Now in Isaiah, after he's done being naked for some time, he gets his clothes back on and does some other things.
What he does right here is he's beginning to prophecy about the fact that their Messiah would come, and he would suffer, that he himself would bear their sins, and "Through him," Isaiah says, "all the nations of the earth are going to be blessed." I'm going to just give you again a big-picture view of the Bible. In Genesis, chapter 12, which is the beginning of the unfolding of the rest of your Bible, God comes to this man Abraham, who is an idolatrous Babylonian.
He just says, "Abraham, listen to me. I'm going to speak into your world and inform you and reveal truth to you in a way your world and culture and conscience will never lead you because of sin. I'm going to do something to you, Abraham, which in fact will affect every nation everywhere, and your descendants will become tremendous. Through your descendant, one singular one, all the nations of the earth will be blessed."
Isaiah is saying that the Messiah is the one who came from Abraham where God is going to accomplish what he promised, where not just Jews but everybody would be offered a relationship with God, so in Isaiah 53, he starts to unfold how that's going to happen. This Messiah is going to come, not to make the political state of Israel powerful again but to remove all humankind from the oppression of sin. In Isaiah 56, he's going to talk about some of what happens here.
"Thus says the Lord, 'Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come…'" In other words, because I'm coming on the scene, you have to get yourself right. "…and My righteousness to be revealed." Make sure you're aligned with it. Verse 2: "How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it…" Who doesn't just give lip service to it but who really embraces it. "…who keeps from profaning the sabbath…"
This was a sign of faith, specifically that you wouldn't work yourself to death in this agrarian culture, that you wouldn't always be out there trying to provide for yourself but that you would trust that God would care for you, as he said he would, so one day out of the week, you would just rest in the Lord. You would do that as a sign of faith. You were never righteous because of what you did on the Sabbath, but you declared your righteousness you had by faith and the God who told you to rest in him.
"…and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord[a non-Jew]say, 'The Lord will surely separate me from His people…'" **In other words, there's going to be a day when I'm going to be grafted into the promises of Abraham."…nor let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.'"**
In other words, don't be concerned because you can't have biological children for whatever reason that your life is going to be of no account. It was the thought of that day that children were what made you live on. Part of your eternality came in your descendants, so if you couldn't have kids, there was the idea that you were going to cease to exist. God says, "No, if you know me, you will live forever." Look what he says in verse 5.
"And hold fast My covenant, to them [those who follow him] I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters…" Something that will cause you to endure, more than just having children. "…I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners…" Who have been told by many people they can't have a relationship with God since God didn't come to them.
"…who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant…" As an expression of faith. "…even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
Does that sound familiar? We just read it in Mark, chapter 11, what Jesus is doing is he's very frustrated that one of the things that has happened is that the Gentiles were excluded from the opportunity to worship God because Israel had made this a nationalistic faith, and they were not a kingdom of priests raising up the truth of God to call all nations to Jehovah.
They said, "This is our God, and if you want to love him, you'd better do what we tell you to do, and if you don't want to be wiped out by us, because our God's more powerful than yours, then you'll behave, and we have an inner sanctum that only our best and brightest can go into one day a year. We have another sanctum where only our priests can go, and then we have a place we only you can go if you're a Jewish male, and then we have a place that only you can go if you're a Jewish female. Then the rest of you can hang out here in the outer courtyard."
Jesus said, "That offends me, and you've missed my entire point in talking about the Holy of Holies. That was to talk about the holiness of God, not that you're better than somebody else because of your physical gender or because of your national heritage." Jesus says, "Hey, this thing was never about you Jews. It was always about me. This was always to be a place for all people and not a place for those who looked like you and came from where you came from."
Can I tell you one of the problems we have in declaring the love of God at this church? Just look around you. It looks like God is a white, upper middle-class God who loves white, upper middle-class people. Now I just want to say this. There are many different cultures around the world. There are many different cultures in Dallas.
We're not going to ever apologize to the fact that the way we worship and express God normally in our culture is going to attract other people who normally would express their love and worship for God in the same way. In other words, we don't have to try and be somebody we're not so people who are not really like us can come or would come, but if we ever purpose to make somebody not feel welcome or loved because they don't look like us or worship like us, then we have a real problem.
If we ever think, because we worship in a contemporary way casually, losing some of the dead formality many of us have experienced in other churches, that because other people are in formal areas of worship that aren't dead to them they don't love God like we love God and, in fact, don't ever worship with them and celebrate who God is with them, we have a real problem here, a real problem.
If we ever do some things that prohibit an individual from worshiping here because they're more celebratory than we are and look at them and go, "Hey man, we don't do that here. That's just not our culture. We're not that emotional," we need to give real pause to that. If we don't embrace certain forms of music so the next generation of white North Dallas Americans can come because we don't like that music, we have a real problem here.
If we see a need in this community to reach people no one else is reaching, and they are of different ethnicity or a different culture, we'd better think long and hard about what we're going to do to change some of the way we worship to embrace them here. I want to tell you, there's a whole sea, a bunch of folks out there who look a lot like us who need to know about Jesus Christ, and this can be a ministry tool that's helpful to them, but this is not about being an upper middle-class Caucasian.
This is about being somebody who, by faith, has trusted in Jesus Christ as the means through which they can be rightly relate to God, and there are all kinds of ways to dress, all kinds of ways to worship, and all kinds of ways to learn about that God. This is how we do it here now. It is not more holy.
It is not better than how someone else does it in South Dallas this day or how somebody does it in some orthodox denominational church today. The question is always, "What are you about, and are you welcoming those who I want to bring into a relationship with me? Is it about you or is it about my name?" We ask ourselves that question a lot.
Now let me just give you one more thing. In Jeremiah, chapter 7, this is where the idea of a den of robbers comes. Look at what Jesus is doing right here in Mark first. Again, he's making a very crass move to get their attention as a prophet. He is taking this system of worship, and he's turning it over, not to reform it.
He is doing this to say, "It's time to replace it. I'm not going to reform what is about to be completely reworked. I'm just letting you know that you guys think this is the most sacred thing in all of Judaism. Well, let me just tell you something. The most sacred thing in all of Judaism is not the rituals. It's the God, and you have completely missed him."
Now a number of centuries before, God sent another prophet. His name was Jeremiah, and God told this Jeremiah to go stand in the same place Jesus was standing in Mark and to beg them to reform because, if they didn't reform, there was going to be a day when he would come and he would replace them.
Verse 1 of chapter 7: "The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 'Stand in the gate of the Lord's house and proclaim there this word and say, "Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord.'"" He came in and he said on a Sunday morning, if you will, to us, in our vernacular…
It would be as if a stranger, or maybe one we had heard was powerful and spoke with the Spirit, came into our midst today and just said, "Todd, I'm going to take the pulpit right now, and I'm going to tell you something. Y'all listen. This church… It just doesn't matter what you do on Sunday mornings. It doesn't matter how you sing. It doesn't matter how long you teach. It doesn't matter what you do in your Community Groups, if you don't get your hearts right with me.
You think this is the most sacred thing in all of religion. It's not. The most sacred thing in all of religion is not sacrifice. It's not worship. It's not attendance. It's not your giving. It's not your serving and building houses. It's a heart that is broken before me, and I'm going to tell you, I'm going to wipe out churches all across this country if their hearts don't get right with me."
It would be like walking into our National Cathedral on Easter morning and saying, "Hey, America, let me just tell you something. Do you think you're sovereignly protected because you have God on your coinage? That's nuts! Do you think you're sovereignly protected because you as a nation have a Thanksgiving holiday? That's nuts! I'm telling you, there's going to be a day I'm going to get your attention if you don't reform. I will replace you as a beacon of declaring who I am."
In many ways, though not prophesied, God has put us in that place, largely because of the foundation of Christ we built on as a nation we have run strongly away from. God has always had his eyes going to and fro throughout the land, looking for those whose hearts are completely his that he might strongly support them. I want to make the observation that, like no country in the history of the world, have we been strongly supported.
You could hardly make a case that Israel of old was supported like our country has been these last 200 years, but you're going to find out that God is not committed to Israel forever in the sense that that people who live in that land will never experience consequence. God is committed to his people, and his people don't just take his name and run into ritualistic acts and do things for a moment. The Jews thought again and again that, if they just did the prescribed sacrifice at the prescribed time in the prescribed patterns with the prescribed purity, they were untouchable.
Jeremiah told them they were way out of line about 600 years before Christ, and Christ came in right then and just said, "It's time." Verse 4: "Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.'" Do you know what he's saying right there in verse 4? "Quit telling me you're 'the people of God, the people of God. In God we trust, in God we trust, in God we trust.'" He goes, "It makes me nuts."
"For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever."
What he's saying is, "Don't ignore the temple sacrifices, but if you do these things separate and apart from a regenerate heart, these things are worthless. It's superstition." That's what he's saying to you and me. It's still, in most of our worlds, pretty culturally expected, especially in the Bible Belt, to find your way to some place of worship on a Sunday, and you know what Jesus would say to this? "Oh, it just drives me nuts that people think they go to church to buy off God or they go into some little deal and slide a thing and say, 'Hey, I want to confess what I did.'"
You know, growing up, I wanted to be Catholic, not really, but I kind of did because my Catholic friends were just hellions. I mean, they drank. They slept around. They had a ball, and all they had to do was just slide a few beads here and say a few, "Hail this!" and "If you do this and don't miss a mass…," and they were clean, man. They were forgiven. It didn't matter what they did.
As long as they showed up at the right place at the right time and did the right thing, they were clean. I'd go, "Man, I wish I could just buy my way out like that. You know, I'll say a lot of hails to get a lot of her." I'll tell you what? I think it really offends God that we can go through some superstitious behavior and still live the way we want to live without ever making him Lord. That's what he's talking about here to the Jews. That's what they were doing. Look what he says. Verse 9:
"Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'—if necessary that you may do all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,' declares the Lord."
Now there's the quote. Let me tell you what's happening. There is no question that there were people who were cheating other people in the temple courtyard, but don't miss the bigger point. Too many people have minimized this to say that what was going on is that Roman coinage and Greek coinage, which was the commerce coinage of the day, had a picture of the Caesars and the world leaders on it, so therefore, it was idolatrous and you couldn't use it to buy the sacrifices…the doves, the bulls, and the sheep…in order to make the sacrifices in the temple.
That was clearly wrong. People were exploiting them. Can you imagine this? If we met you at the door today, and we said, "How much do you plan on giving to this church today?" "What are you doing asking me that?" "Well, we're asking you that."
Back then, there was a very clear tax you had to pay in order to worship. That's what really a tithe was. It was a tax. If we met you at the door today and let's just say you said, "Well, 10 percent, isn't that the tithe? Isn't that the tax?" I need to let you people know that it's not the tax. In the New Testament, there is no guideline given except you be a hilarious giver, knowing that God gives you all things.
You give as much as you can out of a joyful heart, not thinking you're buying off God as some business owner to the mob, but you do it because you celebrate what God has given you and you worship him with it, and you give as much as you are able with joy. There's the law, but if you came to me and you said, "Well, Todd, I'm going to give my 10 percent." I'm going to go, "Great! What'd you make this last week?" "Well, I made, you know, $1,000 this last week."
"Great! Well, give me a Franklin, but here's the deal, in order to get $100 that you can give at Watermark, you have to give me two Franklins because that Franklin is not acceptable here. It's idolatrous. It has a picture of Ben on it, so we don't accept that as an offering to God, but you can buy $100 over here, and it costs you two Bens."
That's just crazy, isn't it? That's what was going on in that day. You had to get rid of the Roman coin and the Greek coin to get the Jewish coin so you could go in and pay God his money. Now that is, in fact, robbery and exploitation, but that's not what God is saying when he says, "a den of robbers."
I'm from the Midwest, and you have all these great places you can go and find Jesse James Hideout, all these caves in Meramec Caverns that Jesse James went. What Jesse James would do is he would go out, and he would just be this wild, exploiting, marauding bandit, but then he would go away and hide in these caverns, and he would celebrate and laugh and smoke and drink and have a party and think, "We're safe here. This is a den of robbers. No one will catch us here. No judgment will come here. We're safe."
What God was saying is, "You guys think you're hiding here in this little temple. I know who you are. You're a bunch of bandits, but because you come here in this cave called a temple and worship me, you think you're safe. Well, I know where your cave is, and I'm coming." When he turned over those tables that day, what he was saying is, "This cave is not going to stand because the sign that the sacrifices were to point to is here."
Let me close by just simply telling you this. What I need to be reminded of this week is that, in our vernacular today, going to worship is appropriate. Giving to the Lord the first of all our produce and giving as generously as we can is appropriate. Singing praises to his name and pursuing community is so appropriate, but if we do that so we can behave how we want in our hearts in rebellion against God, we are nothing more than a den of robbers, and God knows where we are.
He's not impressed that we sing praises to him in the crowd. In fact, he might say the entire crowd of people gathered in some churches somewhere, some places today are a bunch of robbers in a den, and he says, "It's a joke." I have to tell you, I know so many of you guys are so far from that, just like there were many faithful Jews in Jerusalem on this day who were there.
By faith, they were expressing their love for God and acknowledging their sin which demanded some covering, some innocent blood must be shed as an expression of faith that God would ultimately deliver them from the judgment they deserved. They were there worshiping him, and I want to tell you, if you're here as a seeker or an explorer or whatever word we're going to throw at you today, trying to figure out who God is, you need to know something. He's holy.
In this room by the grace of God are many people who are not superstitious but who really love Jesus Christ, who are not perfect, and therefore, they will look you in the eye and say, "Will you forgive me that I took the name of Christ and I was angry in a sinful way just a moment ago. I spoke a harsh word because it just felt so right, and I wasn't annoyed with sin and, in righteousness, filled with the Spirit to speak judgment. I just spoke anger and falsehood and lies, and it grieved my God, and it must grieve you. Will you forgive me?"
If our marriages are not different, if we're not dying to ourselves, it doesn't matter what covenants we're signing to say we're members. Do you know what I really should've done to get your attention today? We should've offered Communion, and right before we broke the bread and distributed the cup, I should've flipped the whole sorry thing over,
I should've said, "You come to this table thinking that, if you eat and drink of this table, you're immune from judgment. You couldn't be more wrong. The Table is a picture of what you say you believe in, but you don't believe in this. Your life has nothing to do with following hard after me, so quit being deceived by words."
Now that would offend some people to walk into St. Peter's today and flip over that mass, wouldn't it? See Mark 11 and see how serious God is about what he's always been after, which is a broken heart and contrite Spirit he has yet to deny. If you're here today, and you're wondering what Jesus Christ wants, and you've been put off by organized religion, so was Jesus Christ.
What Jesus Christ wanted was people who knew they were sinners and, in humility, came to him and said, "God, I have faith in your provision for me and nothing else, and in response to that by the fulfillment and power of your renewed work in my life, I will love the orphan and the widow. I will reprioritize my life to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, not so you will love me but as an expression of my transformed heart."
Here's what God wants you to do today. Invite him in and say, "Walk through my life, and you show me what things need to be turned over. You show me where I'm trusting in ritualistic acts I think impress you and expose my rebellion and make my life right with yours." Let's pray.
Father, you know, I am so grateful, and this is going to be just a strange prayer. I don't even care if it's fluent, Lord. What I want to just say is, first of all, thank you for the literal hundreds of brothers and sisters in this room who, though they are not perfect, are here today because they love you, and it is so obvious the way they greet me and greet my kids and park me and serve me and get up early and set up. They just do it with joy.
There are so many people, Father, who worship you through giving here with joy and who spur me on to love and good deeds by their example. I pray, Lord, by your grace that I continue, at times, to be one of them. We are humbled that you have done such a powerful work in our lives that we authentically worship you.
Lord, I am so desperate for my friends who are here every week, and they just can't get to the place where they really repent. They wouldn't miss a Sunday, or they wouldn't denounce your name or say church isn't important or that Jesus Christ is not somebody you need to be right with. They'd never say that, but oh, there has never been brokenness in their hearts. There has never been humility. There has never been a crying out, "Father, forgive me!" There has never been a weeping over the way they have abandoned the wife of their youth, if not physically then emotionally.
There's no longer a horror when they delve into immoral thought or immoral behavior or pornography or heterosexual lust or homosexual lust. It just doesn't even bother us. We think we're entitled to a little peek on the computer because we go to church, and we're basically good people, and we give, and you know. God, would you just come into all of our hearts. You know, you have a place to come into mine that I don't even know you. Just get in here today. Walk through and flip over some stuff. Get our attention, so we can walk with you in integrity.
We thank you, Lord, that there's going to be a day you're going to make it all right, but we'll miss that day when you come in righteousness if we don't right now acknowledge our tremendous need for you to be our sacrifice and not just in word, not just pointing to the Communion cup and bread that is your body broken for us but understanding it and moving forward with it and humbling ourselves and studying your Word and aligning our lives to it. Would you speak to each of us right now wherever we are where we need to do business with you?
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. <strong></strong> This volume covers Mark 10:35 through Mark 12:44.