What Christians Often Miss About Zeal

On what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the crowd shouting, “Hosanna” because they thought Jesus was going to set things right. In this, they were disappointed. Jesus knew that His time for reigning in Jerusalem hadn’t come yet, and Christ’s passionate journey meant He would not cut any corners!

Before Jesus left Jerusalem that Sunday evening, Mark noted that “He looked around at everything.” He didn’t respond right away to what He saw. This is very important to note because we shouldn’t think that His response on Monday was something spontaneous. No, it was planned out in specific detail.  

On Monday morning, Jesus prepared to make the 2-mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem. The Gospels note quite frequently the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer, including beginning His day in conversation with His Father (see Mark 1:35). On this morning, He must have talked with His Father about everything He had seen in Jerusalem the day before. 

 En route to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a fig tree that gives every appearance of life and vitality. It looks like it’s ready to serve people, but upon closer inspection, Jesus discovers that there is no fruit on it. He curses the tree for its deceptive outward appearance. This is definite foreshadowing for what’s about to happen! 

Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive out merchants, and moneychangers, and dove sellers. He roars at them, “God says this is to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; and Luke 19:45-48). 

The phrases house of prayer and den of robbers are direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, respectively (Isaiah 56:3-7; Jeremiah 7:1-11), but what do they mean? 

The temple had specific courts available—

  1. The Court of the Gentiles was open to all people, foreigners included.
  2. The Women’s Court was open to all Jews and, their “uncontaminated” wives.
  3. The Court of Israel was limited to male Jews who were clean and purified.
  4. The fourth court was the Holy Place limited to priests robed in their priestly vestments. 

This buying and selling was undoubtedly happening in the Court of the Gentiles. As the Passover was approaching, people from all over the world were here—some purchasing animals to use as sacrifices, and some exchanging their foreign money for Israelite money for the temple tax. 

There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little worship. This is what angered Jesus. The activity in the temple was like the fig tree He cursed—it looked like it was fruitful, but that was merely outward deception. 

Were the merchants exploiting people? Perhaps. But they were certainly occupying the only space where non-Jews could worship. They were certainly becoming a distraction to any true worship activities. They were clearly becoming the main attraction. 

There are two important lessons in this outburst that Jesus gives to all His disciples:

  1. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of religious showmanship should increase. 
  2. As our Christlikeness increases, our intolerance of unrighteousness should increase—both a greater hate for sin and a greater love for sinners! 

“Let the zeal of the house of the Lord ever eat you up. For example: do you see a brother running [toward sin]? Stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house has now eaten you up. Do you see others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom you can, hold whom you can, frighten whom you can; win in gentleness whom you can: do not in any way sit still and do nothing.” —Augustine 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means He hates anything that keeps us from His Father. 

If you know God’s love, be zealous about those things that keep others from coming in to know God’s love for themselves. Not angry at people, but angry at practices and “religious shows” that hinder people from knowing God’s love like you know God’s love. 

Thursdays With Oswald—His!

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

His!

     “They were Yours; You gave them to Me” (John 17:6). It is this aspect of a disciple’s life that is frequently forgotten. We are apt to think of ourselves as our own, of the work as our work. A great point in spiritual nobility has been reached when we can really say, “I am not my own.” … The Son of God is the Highest of all, yet the characteristic of His life was obedience. We have to learn that God is not meant for us, it is we who are meant for God. … “Do you not know…you are not your own” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. 

     His! Does that apply to us? Have we realize that our body is not our own, but His—“the temple of the Holy Ghost”! Have we realized that our hearts and affections are not our own, but His? If so, we shall be careful over inordinate affection. Have we realized that all the ambitions of life are His? We are out for one thing only, for Jesus Christ’s enterprises. …  

     “Since you have kept My command to endure patiently” [Revelation 3:10]. This is not the patience of pessimism, nor of exhaustion, but the patience of joyfulness because God reigns. It may be illustrated by likening the saint to a bow and arrow in the hand of God. God is aiming at His mark, He stretches and strains until the saint says—“I cannot stand anymore,” but God does not heed. He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly, and the arrow reaches His mark. … 

     It takes the endurance which comes from a vision of God to go on without seeing results. We are not here for successful service, but to be faithful. Had Jesus any results? Before we go into work for Him we must learn that the disciple is not above his master. We cannot be discouraged if we belong to Him, for it was said of Him—“He shall not fail nor be discouraged” [Isaiah 42:4]. Discouragement is “disenchanted egotism.” “Things are not happening the way I expected they would, therefore I am going to give it all up.” To talk like that is a sure sign that we are not possessed by love for Him, but only by love for ourselves. Discouragement always comes when we insist on having our own way. 

From So Send I You

Can Jesus say of you that you are His? Are you trying to make your own way, or are you simply following Jesus? Are you letting God stretch you until He is ready to release you, or are you becoming exhausted and discouraged in the waiting? Is your love for Jesus absolute, or does it come with conditions?

What God Is Building

Relativity by M.C. EscherI love the drawings of M.C. Escher. But some of his sketches are clearly optical illusions we all know couldn’t work in the real world. We don’t have to be architects or engineers or builders to know that for a building to be functional it has to have (1) a solid foundation, (2) it must be built with quality materials, and (3) it must be constructed by someone who knows what he/she is doing.

The Apostle Paul tells us that (1) Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the sure foundation, (2) you and I—God’s saints—are the quality building materials that are being used, and (3) the Holy Spirit knows exactly what He is doing as He joins us together.

A cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction, the reference point for all other stone, which determines the position of the entire structure. Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone of His Church (Ephesians 2:20b). Orientated to that cornerstone we have the foundation of the apostles and prophets (2:20a).

This foundation is the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19-2:3 and 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). We dare not try to replace, nullify, update, or change His Word. Not would this cause the foundation to crumble, but there are dire consequences for the one who tries to do so (Revelation 22:18-19).

Our foundationOn this foundation, God is constructing three things, each one growing in its level of intimacy with Him and with the surrounding saints:

  • God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)—this Greek word means a family home.
  • the whole building (Ephesians 2:21a)—this is a specific part of the family home used for prayer and fellowship.
  • a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21b)—this is the same word used for the Holy Place and Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.

God’s Presence dwells in us individually, but collectively we make a more powerful statement (1 Corinthians 3:16). There is a far greater testimony to the world when individuals willingly and actively allow themselves to be built together; when Christians give up their personal agendas to say, “I want to be a part of something bigger than me—I want to be a part of we.”

We must study God’s Word to make sure we are building on the same foundation. We must allow our lives to be quality building materials. We must allow the Holy Spirit to build us together through prayer and fellowship! This becomes the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus Himself prayed for us (John 17:20-23).

This was the last message (for this time) in our series on the Book of Ephesians. I hope to be able to continue this study next year.

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