Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 3:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “When I’m With You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 2:13-17 (ESV).
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
God’s House Defined
In America, if you were to visit most any gathering of the church, in a building called by the name “church,” the people inside would tell you that merely by entering the building, that you have now entered God’s house, and that the sanctuary (or worship center) is the sanctuary of Almighty God. When people see you out in public, they may ask you what church you attend. What they mean is something like this: “Do you go to West Side Baptist or First Presbyterian?” They are making reference to a specific building on a particular street in town, and to a group of people of a particular church denomination who gather together purportedly to worship God, for Christian fellowship, to pray, and to study God’s word.
So, when they read this passage of scripture, and they apply it to their lives today, they most likely will apply it to a physical building, and they might also consider the zeal for God’s house as having to do with taking care of the physical building and property, or concerning serving in some area of ministry within the organization called “church,” such as singing in the choir, leading a small group, and teaching a Bible study class, which might not be studying the Bible at all. As well, they might be referring to serving on a committee, or working in the church nursery, etc. In such a church as this, which I attended practically from birth, no one was allowed to buy or sell in the sanctuary or on a Sunday. This is how they interpreted this passage and applied it to the present temple, the church.
But, is this the house of God? Does he dwell in these buildings? NO, he doesn’t. He now dwells in human hearts. We who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives are his dwelling place. We are the temple of God in whom his Spirit dwells. We are the body of Christ, his temple, both individually and as a united group, his true church. The church is not a place we attend, though we may attend gatherings of the church, and at a specific location. The church is who we are. For instance, when I was a kid I learned a rhyme which had hand motions to go with it. It went something like this: “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors, and there are the people.” They have it backwards, though. The church is not a building with a steeple. It is the people of God who may meet in a building.
The Purpose of the Temple
So, if God’s house is not a building, an organization, a church denomination, or a corporation (not-for-profit) of the federal government of any nation, and it is those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, then how can we have zeal for God’s house today? What would that look like? And, what should be the premise of that zeal? Does it mean, for instance, that we take good care of our physical bodies? Does it have to do with making sure we eat and get plenty of exercise, and that we pamper ourselves with lots of things which make us happy?
To answer that question, I have another question: What was the purpose of the temple in the Old Testament? It was a place in which was God’s holy presence. It was a place of worship of Almighty God. It was a location where sacrifices were made for sins, and offerings to God were brought. It was also a site where people gathered to hear God’s word read and taught, and where fellow believers in God could join together in fellowship, and in prayer. And, it was a place of service to God and to one another.
So, the purpose of God’s house, his dwelling place, is for entering into God’s holy presence in worship of God, the giving of offerings and sacrifices, and for prayer, fellowship, and the reading and the study of God’s word. When the NT church met together, they met for prayer, the study of God’s word, for fellowship, and for the breaking of bread (communion). They also served one another, and used their spiritual gifts and assignments within the body for the building up of the body for edification, encouragement, comfort and instruction.
If our hearts are the temple of God, then these things should be taking place in our hearts and lives individually as well as when we gather together with other believers in the name of Jesus. Thus, zeal for God’s house consuming us should have to do with our personal relationships with Jesus Christ every day of the week, regardless of location. It should also have to do with our worship of him as living sacrifices, living holy lives pleasing to him, set apart from this sinful world because we are becoming like Christ. It should also be concerned with our fellowship with him in prayer and in the study of his word, with our obedience to his word, and our service to and concern for the body of Christ, his church, which is comprised of fellow believers in Jesus Christ, in ministering to their needs.
Zeal for His House
What does it mean to have zeal for his house? Zeal is intensity, enthusiasm, passion, fervor, dedication and “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something” (M-W Dictionary). Yet, how many people who claim to be Christians have such zeal for their personal times of worship of God in his word and in prayer, and for the body of Christ and their spiritual encouragement and depth of relationship with Jesus Christ in spiritual maturity? How many have such zeal for sacrificial living, dying daily to sin and self, and following Jesus Christ in obedience and in surrender to his will for their lives? This is how it is supposed to be, but is this a reality in our lives? Do we long for our times alone with God/Jesus? Do we weep over the dilution of the gospel, and worldliness and sin being placated within the gatherings of the church? And, are we walking in holiness, or are we trying to balance our spiritual lives with our worldly lives, trying to keep our two feet in both worlds?
If zeal for God’s house consumes us, what should that look like, as well? In this context, the word “consume” has to do with being engaged in something fully, captivated by it, enthralled, and fully occupied. So, not only should we have such zeal for our relationships with Jesus Christ and our times of personal worship of him, and for his church (fellow believers), that is exemplified in passion, enthusiasm and intensity, but this enthusiasm for God, his word, for prayer, for worship and service to him should be something which fills our lives 24/7, not just for a couple of hours one day a week or two days a week. And, nothing else in our lives should equal the passion we have for our times with God and for his people, and for our/their spiritual growth and maturity in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If zeal for God’s house does not consume us, in this context, then something is wrong with our relationships with God/Jesus, so we need to pray and ask God to show us what is wrong, and to point us in the right direction, so that zeal for his house does consume us.
When I’m With You / An Original Work / April 22, 2011
When I’m with You, Lord,
hear my cries.
Soon I’ll be with You,
by Your side.
Harken to me;
Lord, hear my plea
When I’m with You
and You’re with me
Precious Savior, Lord,
and my friend,
Life with You
has no final end.
I’ll reign with You
When I’m with You
and You’re with me.
my only desire.
Your word is in me
like a fire.
I’ll sing Your praise
all of my days
When I’m with You
and You’re with me.