The Evangelical Herald Cleansing
The Evangelical Herald
CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE
One of the most predominant concepts in the Holy Scriptures is the principal of cleansing. We first see it surface in the cleansing laws given to Moses on Mt. Sanai by Yahweh. The law given to Moses was explicit in its cleansing directives. Animals were classified as clean or unclean. Sacrificial offerings had to be unblemished. In God's dealings with Israel, much teaching was done to keep the nation clean from physical harm and from the contamination of pagan influence. In its essence, cleansing implies that in our world there is contamination that is present for our ill and actions must be taken to keep these contaminants from destroying us.
Yet the most astonishing account in the Bible about cleansing is when Jesus cleanses the temple. It is the only time in Jesus' entire ministry that we can perhaps see the emotion of anger displayed. We can read the account in Matthew chapter twenty one verses twelve and thirteen, "And Jesus went out into the temple of God, and cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer: but ye have made it a house of thieves.'" No doubt, many there were surprised at the interruption of temple worship; but for Jesus it was most urgent to stop the dishonoring of his Father's house.
Today's Christian Environment
In a effort to advance the cause of Christ, the last decades has seen the proclaiming of the Christian message with all the tools that any other commodity would use to successfully sell a product. We are told that the Christian "industry" is worth billions of dollars. The "marketing" of the Christian message is what is financially sustaining a vast system of information age Christian industries:
The Christian publishing business in itself is worth billions. The Christian message supports high priced publishing house owners, editors, authors and supporting personnel. Authors write on subjects from "how to be rich" to "how the world will end". Christian fictional literature is at an all time high as readers seek to be entertained by Christian romance and adventure stories.
The Christian world is caught up in a frenzy as it seeks to be inspired and entertained by talented singers, musicians and actors. Thousands of Christians invest in their favorite videos, tapes and CD's. Record companies actively market their Christian artists and spend millions each year on advertising. Christian movies are up and coming. One of the results of this system of inspiration is the making of celebrities that are vying for the top spots in popularity polls. (see Come, Let Us Worship Song)
In the last few decades, we have seen the advent of Bible instruction and admonition for sale. Bible seminars have sprung all over the country. Christians by the thousands pay to be instructed by talented speakers on subjects from "discover your spiritual gifts" to "how to make your church grow". Of course, the better known the speakers are, the more money the attendees have to pay.
Promoters have tapped into the hunger and thirst of Christian young people for music in their lives. In answer to this thirst, we now have been bombarded with all types of Christian rock concerts - from Sunday night services to giant stadium events.
Our age has seen the rise of Christian counselors -- professionals trained in the world's science of psychology, but claiming to be given the gift of the Spirit to help people in any aspect of human behavior. The help received does not come free - thousands of counselors are reaping the material benefits of this world's goods worthy of a professional.
Christian education has not been left out in this moneymaking system. The cost of educating a child in a Christian environment is right up there with secular schools if not higher. Just look at any Christian magazine and we can see the competition involved to attract young people and thus keep the school financially solvent.
Even in the very physical locations of our churches we can see the buying and selling nature of Christian ministries. In most large churches (some small ones too) on any given Sunday, we can find the sale of such things as tickets to music concerts, banquets, sporting events, seminars, and picnics. We can find books, videos, tapes and tee shirts for sale. In some churches, get rich schemes are promoted from the pulpits. Thousand of dollars are exchanged in that most holy of worship hours - Sunday mornings between 9:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M.
The trend of our present system is to reward our pastors and ministers monetarily according to their talent - the better the preacher, the more money we will pay him. Successful preachers unashamedly have the best that this world has to offer materially - big salaries, big cars, big houses, and big titles. In this environment, it is natural that young ministerial graduates are caught up in the rat race liken to any temporal profession to show the evidence of their success by tangible results.
We can clearly see that the church has taken the world's approach to market and supply a hunger and demand of the Christian message. Behind this vast marketing system, one can imagine the kind of competitive world that exists in the success or failure of personal investments. When the world's systems are adopted, surely the driving forces of the systems must be present - greed, pride, and power.
The Need for Cleansing
One would have to wonder what would be Jesus' reaction if he would walk into today's Christian world (temple). Faced with this kind of Christian world, all honest hearted, born again Christians can see the need for Jesus to do some cleansing. The reasons for cleansing are the same as they were two thousand years ago. The holy place, which His father has chosen to meet with his people, has become a den of thieves. Thieves because the word that ought to been given freely to reconcile mankind to their creator is used to advance the creature's personal temporal means and objectives. The holy name given to men to be saved is used to glorify and enrich the creature. The temple of God is not a sanctified place of worship, but rather it has all the trappings of a commercial endeavor.
The extent of cleansing required is not only of the industry itself, but rather the cleansing of the whole Christian temple. Since the temple of God is made up of individual Christians, it is the hearts of His disciples that need to be cleansed from the motivations and principles that have allowed and promoted the worldly methods of marketing his kingdom. (see 2Cor. 6:16)
Throughout the human experience, cleansing has meant the removal of harmful material from the life of the individual. Whether it is the removal of harmful bacteria or the removal of pagan spiritual practices that corrupt the pure worship of the true God, cleansing is the process used to maintain life. As we see Jesus cleansing the temple, we see his fervor to keep the spirit of life flowing from his Father to man in a pure place of meeting - uncontaminated by principles of His adversary.
Cleansing the Temple of the Adversary's Principles
The principles of our adversary must not be employed in spreading the gospel or in edifying the church. Self-exultation, pride, greed, materialism, and creature worship are principles that are abominations to our God. For the Christian that recognizes that he or she is the temple of God, the condition of the temple is a reflection of his /her Heavenly Father's character. The honor of our Father's name is involved. We must clean the temple with the intensity that Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. We must not allow the corruption of His body in the name of profit and worldly ambitions.
When Jesus commissioned his followers to go out to preach the gospel, baptizing them and discipling them in His name, I am sure that He did not have the marketing of Christianity in today's fashion in mind. We read "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat." A person who believes he/she has a spiritual gift or talent that they have received from above will be moved by love to share it. It will be with great joy to be humbly and sacrificially used of the Lord in serving mankind and glorifying God. (see Matt. 10:8-10)
The power of the gifts of the Spirit to restore mankind must be used without charge to those we minister. Love demands that whatever tools we use to make our brother whole will be at our sacrifice. For all those who are privileged to be in full time Christian service, love demands that they minister sacrificially. High paying salaries in the name of Christian service is not the reward that Christ had in mind when he said, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20).
Rather than promoting our self-image and glorifying ourselves, Jesus taught that we should deny ourselves - those that will be used by Him will sacrifice all so that He may be magnified. In teaching His disciples regarding service to God, Jesus clearly warned us to be careful of our motives - if we do them to be seen of men, we are hypocrites and we have our reward. It is the responsibility of Christian thought leaders to reject the world's influence on our children's concept of Christian service that makes celebrities in the name of spiritual talents. (see Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18)
Marketing versus Witnessing in Spirit
Many may object to this indictment - rationalizing that in today's world it is the responsibility of the Christian to keep up with all the tools that are available to proclaim the gospel. How then shall the gospel, edification and inspiration be proclaimed in this modern world of technology? Shall we discard all modern tools that facilitate communication? Arguments could be made that the secular world has much to teach us on the methods of better serving and helping mankind. Undoubtedly, it will be brought out that God has given his children a spirit of creativity and freedom. There is truth to these arguments; however, we must point out that the cleansing called for is not of ways and means to proclaim the gospel, but of the principals that dishonor His name.
Whereas the technical advances for dissimulation of information is a powerful tool to communicate the teachings of the Messiah, we must not depend on them to do the work that he has empowered us to do. The secular world's methods of marketing their ideas and products are foolishness with God. We must be obedient to His Word if we are to harness the most powerful force in the universe - "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (Zec 4:6). Obedient to personally get involved in the kingdom works. Obedient to follow His instructions of how to proclaim His Word. A fervent love for the eternal wellbeing of all that come in contact with us is the motivating force that will move us to minister and guide individuals unto repentance and renewal. No amount of money, human power or fame can accomplish this - it is only through the power of "a still small voice" (1Ki 19:12).
The church of God must take its rightful place as "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1Tim 3:15). Inspiration, renewal, faithbuilding, and support are centered in the local group of believers that truly love one another. Believers will be hungry to attend fellowship meetings and take on responsibilities that satisfy the soul. The impersonal ministries of the mega-churches have contributed to the hunger that the Christian marketing industries have thrived on. Armed with the Bible first century model of the "ekklesia", there will be no empire builders that seek this world's benefits and esteem.
Those that are called out from the world to build His kingdom must be willing to accept the reproach of this world. The world's criteria of giving value and esteem must be foreign to the servant of God. All that would honor us and make us "kings" because of our service to Christ must be told, "get thee behind me, Satan; …for thou savoresth not the things that be of God" (Matt 16:23). It is in the principals of humility and sacrifice that the kingdom of God will march forward to triumph.
The Bible's teaching on the importance of maintaining a pure place where a holy God can meet with His creatures can not be over emphasized. As New Testament believers, we know that the typical Jewish temple was fulfilled in Jesus' ministry as He applied the anti-typical rites of the High Priest and became the sacrificial lamb. This He did for the cleansing of the individual building blocks, which all born-again believers are. Paul asked, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" ( I Cor. 3:16). Jesus is the cornerstone of this temple and each believer is a stone used for the Master's use.
However; it is the great truth that this temple has not yet been completed; when the last of these stones is put in its place, the anti-typical temple will be finished. It is here that He will meet with His people for all eternity. In Exodus 25:8 we read, "I want the people to built me a sacred residence where I can live among them". The shadow was the Jewish temple, the anti-typical fulfillment will be an eternal dwelling place where we will be with our Lord (cf. Heb. 8:2,5).
This temple, or the church, will be a glorious temple without spot or wrinkle. It will have been cleansed of all contaminated influences of His great adversary. Although we do not purport in knowing all the mysteries of prophecy, we will call attention to the time prophecy recorded in the book of Daniel chapter 8, verses 11 and 12, "…unto two thousand and sixty days and the temple shall be cleansed". When exactly this will take place or how, we do not venture to say; but we do know that it will take place.
The temple of God will be cleansed! The contamination with the world's systems and principles will be eliminated. The time will come when each stone that has been washed by the shed blood of Jesus must recognize that they have been brought out of Egypt, out of the world's system of things, to be a holy, separated people. If the temple is to be finished, and it will, all honest hearted, spirit begotten believers can only say, "Let the temple be cleansed and let it begin with me".