Zealot! Religious extremist! I’m sure if Jesus were in America these days he would make it on a government shortlist of “extremists” to watch closely and wiretap. We’re instructed to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour serving the Lord” – Romans 12:11 Unfortunately I’ve met quite a few zealous disciples of Jesus who have actually done great harm to the church and to the testimony of Christ among the lost. Now I’m not here to discredit or criticize zealous endeavours for God. Some deserve credit and encouragement, some need constructive criticism, and others we ought to reprove and distance ourselves from. Regardless…having zeal is a command of God not an option. We’re also instructed to balance zeal with knowledge (Rom 10:2), because without knowledge Satan will quickly hijack good intentions.
So what should we be zealous for? Well, that depends. What part of the Body of Christ are you? What are your spiritual gifts? How has the Spirit of God stirred and moved you? If you can confidently answer these questions, you’re well on your way do knowing what to sink your teeth into for the Kingdom of God. Still, in scripture there is clearly one thing that all disciples ought to be zealous for. There is little point in being driven or adamant about anything else in your faith unless you are radically devoted to guarding this one thing : the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Its hard to picture our meek and mild Jesus storming the temple in Jerusalem brandishing a whip and driving out the pedlars that had set up shop there. The chaotic scene would have been something to behold indeed! Imagine scores of doves taking flight, tables being overturned, cattle and sheep stampeding, coins rolling everywhere(maybe a few opportunists scrambling for a few fallen coins in the chaos).
Oh My! Such violence, such chaos! No! Not my Jesus?!
Yes, your Jesus!
A stampede of people, beasts and birds…well maybe not birds..but you get the idea. One man in a holy, jealous anger reclaims and cleanses the temple from being twisted into a money making religious market.
Did Jesus lose it? Did he over-react? When all the dust and feathers settled did he plop himself down on the temple steps, put his head in his hands and mutter…”Whoa…I think I really over did it this time. I don’t know what came over me!” Of course he didn’t. He knew exactly what he was doing! This was not lapse in judgement, he did this purposefully on two separate occasions during his ministry. He was consistently adamant about the fact that the temple should not be adulterated or twisted for worldly purposes. “My house shall be called a house of prayer!” he cried.
So what’s my point?
I’ll answer that question with a question: How zealous are you for the temple of God?
No, I don’t mean your church or its facilities. I mean you! “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have received from God, your are not your own you are bought at a price therefore honour God with your body” – 1 Cor 6:19
Are you as zealous for the Temple of the Holy Spirit as Jesus was for the Temple in Jerusalem?
All through the Bible unfaithfulness to our relationship with Jesus is equated to adultery.(Read Hosea) The church of God(all true disciples) are described as the Bride of Christ and Christ is the Groom.
What groom would not zealously and violently defend the purity of his bride against those would-be violators?
And what virtuous bride would not also zealously keep herself for her groom even to the point of shedding her own blood.
In clearing the temple, Jesus was setting a serious and radical precedent for his Bride. The temple was the place where God met man. We are the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit. Should we not also vehemently guard the holiness of this temple? Should we adulterate it with what is common?
It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t smash any idols, or drive out shrine prostitutes. There weren’t any that we know of. Jesus was doing violence to the “grey zone!” Is selling cattle and doves wrong? No. Is changing money for visiting worshipers wrong? Of course not. Isn’t it good to encourage the people to worship? Yes it is.
So why the “crazy” reaction? Because even normal “innocent” things can encroach and “adulterate” what is to be holy and set apart! There is a place for these things, but not in the Temple of God.
Some of these can have darker elements, but for the sake of argument lets say you keep you nose clean from the really filthy stuff. Still, could it be that all these things have so occupied your attention and heart that the temple of the Holy Spirit has effectively become a market place of the world? Absolutely! These things are not wrong in and of themselves. Yet, you would be lying to yourself if you said some of these things have not crept and begun corrupt to “your temple.” These things slip in quickly and subtly. They fill up space that was dedicated and holy unto Jesus.
“All things are permissible“, Paul said, “but not all are beneficial–1 Cor 10:23.” In other words, just because it’s “not bad” doesn’t mean you should touch it or that it is beneficial for your faith(or other’s). You know your weaknesses better than others do. You know those “market venders” that have sneaked into your the temple. You know those “good” things that you’ve justified in your life; those past-times that keep you up late so that you’re too exhausted to get up and spend time with Jesus in the morning?
How zealous are you for closeness with God? How much do you desire to be empowered and taught of the Holy Spirit? How hungry are you for Christ?
John Wesley was invited to the home of a well-to-do man in England. After the evening meal, his host invited him to sit back and spend the rest the evening with him conversing. Wesley, politely declined as it was 9pm and he had an appointment the next morning at 4AM. “4AM!” the man replied, “Do you have these appointments often?” “Yes, every morning” Wesley replied. “With whom?” his host asked. “With God, and I can not miss it.” replied Wesley as he thanked his host and bid him good night.
All the great men and women of God throughout history have been marked by this very trait. They were zeaolous for the temple of the Holy Spirit. They made sure that nothing, nothing at all, whether clean or unclean, occupied what was only consecrated to Christ. They vehemently guarded themselves and deprived themselves of even seemingly innocent things so they would have the time, and space to commune with the lover of their soul. It was called holiness. They set themselves apart, not because they looked down on others or because they thought it gained them browny points with God. They simply wanted Jesus and didn’t put up with anything that got in the way.
If its the TV throw it out or smash it! Gouge it out! Do the same with the computer if need be. People won’t understand you. They might call you legalistic or self righteous- a crazy zealot. But they don’t know what you know. They can’t see what is cluttering your temple like you can. They don’t know that Facebook is occupying centre stage in your mind every evening. And what about the money? The retirement plans? The sports? All the “good things?” Everyone of them should be on the chopping block if they are consistently entangling you. It takes a parched and thirsty tongue for the springs of living water. When a man is dying of thirst, he’ll gladly rid himself of everything for a drink of fresh cold water. He will throw it all aside as if it were nothing. If you’re not there, ask God to “put a little salt on your toungue” and remind you of your thirst for Him. Just be prepared, cause things might get tough.
People often seem to think that its “a sacrifice” to cut these things out of their lives. The truth is you sacrifice much more by clinging to the delicacies of this world than to Jesus himself! In Him their is fullness of joy and peace beyond understanding! You can’t buy the riches of God’s grace and these exceedingly great and precious promises that are found in Him with all the gold in this world!
“Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy” said Leonard Ravenhill. I whole-heartedly agree. The closer you are drawn to Jesus, the less you will care for such things. The delicacies of this world will never hold a candle to the surpassing greatness of meeting Jesus in the secret place. Never. Never.
What things have you violently driven out of your temple? Tell me your story.