The Father's House
THE FATHER'S HOUSE
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Matthew 21:12-16
(To view/hear this sermon preached without notes, click here.)
12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"
14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant 16 and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"
And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read,
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise'?"
I remember my friend and mentor, Pastor John Colbaugh, used to say, "You don't go to church, you are the church." He really wanted to emphasize that point, and I agree with him. John has gone home to be with the Lord, but the truth that he trumpeted continues to resound in my heart. We don't go to church, we are the church, we are the ekklesia, the assembly of the Lord. When we come together, even if only two or three of us, God is in the midst. The building we meet in is only a building, it facilitates worship (that's why we call them facilities), but we, the people, are the church.
Furthermore, the church is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (KJV). I quoted that verse in the King James Version, because the KJV has one advantage over other translations, and that is that it distinguishes between the second person singular and second plural pronouns.
In English we use the word "you" to refer to an individual or a group. There is no distinction, but even in English we try to make this distinction by saying, "You guys" in the North, or "Ya'll" in the South. In proper English it is just "you" whether you're referring to an individual or to a group of individuals. In the Old English they distinguish between the plural and singular second person pronouns by using "thee" and "thou" to refer to the individual, and "ye" and "you" to refer to the group.
Why is this important? It is important because if you look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, it is written to the group of believers in Corinth. While it is true that we are individually the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is with us and in us, Paul is talking in Corinthians about the group of believers, about the church. The church, not the building but the people, the church is the temple, the church is the house of God.
Twice in the book of Acts we are told that God does not dwell in the building. Acts 7:48 records the words of Stephen as he preaches to the Jews. In that sermon Stephen says, "However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands." Clearly Stephen is referring the temple. Then again in Acts 17:24, Paul is preaching the Gentiles and Paul says, "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands." Paul is talking here about the pagan temples. The point is that God does not dwell in this building, but God dwells in us, we are the temple, we are to the house of God on earth.
With that basic understanding then, look again at our text. What I'm about to say applies to our individual lives as well as to us, to this church, to this collection of believers who meet here each week at 1825 Highway 138 North East, Conyers, Georgia. We are the place where the Spirit of God resides. He said, "If just two of or three of you come together in my name, I'm there in the midst" (Matt. 18:20, paraphrase). We know God meets with us when we are alone in our prayer closet, and He will never leave us or forsake us, but there is a unique spiritual dynamic that is only realized when we come together in His name as believers. He dwells with us here in a powerful way.
Looking at our text, I want to highlight four things that I believe God is looking for in His house, that in us as a His church.
THE HOUSE OF HOLINESS
The temple, which foreshadows the church, was the place where God met with His people. The glory of the Lord dwelt upon the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant, in the Most Holy place. When Jesus was crucified, however, the veil that hid the Ark was torn from top to bottom. This revealed the fact that God's glory was not confined to the little room with the Ark. Instead, because of Calvary, God is glorified in His people. Remember, in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, Paul goes one to say in verse 20, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Now God seeks to be glorified in us and through us.
Matthew tells us that Jesus came into the temple and found in the court of the Gentiles activities and attitudes that did not glorify the Father. Instead of worship, Jesus found people buying and selling and exchanging money. Why were they there? Well because people often traveled a long way from various points in the Roman Empire to come to Jerusalem for the Jewish holy days, it was more convenient for them to buy sacrificial animals once they arrived, than it was for them to try to travel that distance with sheep, bulls, doves or pigeons to sacrifice. So the Jewish temple officials found they could turn a nice profit by selling the sacrificial animals at the temple. Also, temple taxes were to be paid with Jewish coinage and not Roman coins, so they also set up a place to exchange the money from one type of currency to another. For doing this, the money changers charged a fee to the people.
So this was a lucrative business venture for the temple. There was nothing inherently wrong with providing this convenience for the people, but the problem was that they were doing this in the temple. More specifically, they were doing this in the court of the temple that God had established for the Gentiles to come and worship. An area that God set aside for Gentile worship had effectively become little more than barnyard filled with stalls and booths for the money changers. In doing this they had profaned a place that was supposed to be holy, set apart for worshipping Yahweh, the priests who got a cut of the profits, allowed this to go on.
Walking into the temple on this day, Jesus was moved with a righteous indignation and He decided to clean house. Look at verse 12
12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
The first thing I want us to know about the house of God, is that it is a house of holiness. Jesus was throwing out the profane. He drove the buyers and sellers out of the court of the Gentiles. He threw their tables and chairs, and Jesus was right to do this. This was to be a place of worship, and as such, it was supposed to be a holy place.
Unfortunately, there are those who come to church and go through the motions of worship, but they've forgotten that God is looking for a holy place. Too often we allow the concerns of life, the desires, the wants and wishes of life, to occupy places in our heart, or our spirit, that should be set aside for worship. We major on the minors, we focus on everything but God. John Colbaugh used to quote this little nursery rhyme from the story of Pussy-Cat Mew:
"Pussy-cat, Pussy-cat, where have you been?"
"I've been to London, to visit the Queen."
"Pussy-cat, Pussy-cat, what did you there?"
"I frightened a little mouse under her chair!"
He went to see the Queen, but his focus was on the mouse under her chair. Too often we come together as the church, but our hearts and minds are filled with everything but God. To be holy means to be set apart for God's purposes and the house of God is a house of holiness.
THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
This leads us to the second point, and that is that the house of God is to be called a house of prayer. I think it is instructive that Jesus cleansed it first, and then said, the house of God should be called a house of prayer. He said in verse 13, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" They had profaned the temple and that lack of reverence, that lack of holiness was impeding prayer.
When we fail to live holy lives it will negatively affect on our prayer life. It will hinder prayers and leave us vulnerable and open to the attack of the enemy. Only about thirty-eight years after Jesus cleansed the temple, Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans who destroyed the temple, literally took it apart stone by stone, and on the temple mount in Jerusalem today, there is no temple, but instead there is a Muslim Mosque sitting on the very site where the temple had been built and rebuilt over a period of thousands of years.
Listen, people don't leave the Lord over night. True believers don't just turn their backs on God on whim and walk away. Instead, what usually happens is that we allow ungodly and unholy things into our lives. These thing take up space in our heart, our mind, our affections, and slowly but surely the cares of the world take the place of prayer in our lives and we no longer glorify God. Ichabod is written over the door posts of our life, because the glory has departed, the anointing is gone, and the joy is gone.
Jesus said, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer.'" He didn't say, I would be called a house of plush carpeting, or top-notch audio-video technology. He said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer."
THE HOUSE OF HEALING
Look at verse 14, "Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." The third thing I want us to notice about the house of God is that it is a house of healing. It is a house of holiness, a house of prayer, and a house of healing. The church isn't a trophy case for perfect people, it is a spiritual hospital, a place where the wounded, the bruised, and the battered can come and find that there is a healer in the house, the Great Physician, whose specialty is things thought impossible, is in the midst of His people, and His healing power has not diminished, it does not fail.
God is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a marriage counselor, a financial counselor, and a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He will heal the body, heal the marriage, heal the finances, and heal the lonely heart. His house is a house of healing. When we come together as the people of God we become a healing gathering. He said in Matthew 18:19, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven."
There's something powerful when we come together in faith. James said, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15, NKJV). When we come together as the people of God, the temple of God, and when we have cleansed our hearts and our hands, and we pray lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting, then we can lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover because this is a house of healing. We can cast out demons, we can tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy because this is a house of healing and the Healer is in the house.
THE HOUSE OF PERFECTED PRAISE
The fourth and final thing I want to propose is that the house of God is a house of perfected praise. It is a house of holiness, a house of prayer, a house of healing, and a house of perfected praise. Look at verses 15 and 16:
15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant 16 and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"
And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read,
'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise'?"
You know, when I visit someone's home, I always find something to complement them on. I might say, "This is really a nice home." Or I might complement the cook for the meal I've eaten. In some cases I've had to look really hard to find something that would merit my praise, but even if it's just the deer head on the wall, I'll find something. But of all the houses where someone should be praised, and where praise is deserved and not manufactured, it ought to be the house of God.
You'll notice that small children are brutally honest. A kid will say something that an adult would never think of saying. Kid's are like that. They're honest and real. So when these children were praising Jesus, the Pharisees were embarrassed and they wanted Jesus to shut those kids up. But Jesus said in essence, "Haven't you read that the praise of children is pure praise? It's real, it's genuine, and it's honest."
Sometimes we come to church and go through the motions. We act like everything is alright. We sing the songs, we mouth the praise. We say our little prayer, do a little dance, and go home. But I believe that God is looking for perfected praise, that is, honest to goodness, heartfelt, praise. Not something religious and forced. Not something slid out of the side of our mouths. Not some choreographed, entertaining, prepackaged and predigested kind of praise, but a praise that starts down in our soul and pours from our lips like a river. I believe God is looking for a people who get a fresh vision of Who He is, every time we come together as His house, a people who see Him high and lifted up, and who are still awestruck in His presence, overwhelmed by His grace, and thrilled by His mercy. God wants His house to be a house of holiness, a house of prayer, a house of healing, and a house of perfected praise.
What kind of house are we? Does God find that here? Even more to point, we each need to look in the mirror and ask, "Does God find it in me?" I believe these four points flow sequentially.
Holiness precedes effective prayer, prayer precedes healing, and healing elicits praise. So if it starts with holiness, perhaps we, the church, the house of God need to do a little house cleaning this morning and throw out some things like anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, or sinful habits. Maybe the first step in us being the a house that glorifies the Father is that we confess our sins, lay aside the weight that doeth so easily beset us, so that we can lift up holy hands without wrath or doubting and see a healing wave released in this house.
If you're here today and you need to lay aside the weight and sin that so easily besets you, hinders your prayer life and robs you of victories, then I invite you to come today and pray that the Father will sanctify you by His truth, and His Word is truth. Look into the mirror of His Word and decide to make a change. It's time that our lives become holy, be a place of prayer, a place of healing, and a place of perfected praise.