God's Dream House
Crash! An explosion of sound instantly startled men from dull routine. Merchants jumped to their feet in alarm; chaos and confusion suddenly reigned. Shouts and cries of angry men reverberated against the stone walls, and the air was filled with the sound of running feet, crashing furniture, and clattering metal as it rang out across the stone floor. Sheep and oxen added to the mayhem, dodging through carts, crates of pigeons, and small children as they frantically searched for escape from the rising bedlam.
The seasoned merchants looked on in shock. Nothing like this had ever happened! The Bible says that as Jesus went through the temple that day, He pushed over tables, dumped out money boxes, and turned chairs upside down. He abruptly halted those who had been carrying containers through the temple, and making a whip of cords, drove merchant and animal alike out of the temple area. We can only imagine the resulting confusion and disorder. Both wealthy and poor must have looked on in a mixture of fear, anger, and awe.
As the angry moneychangers watched their precious coins scattering out across the floor, their mental circuits must have overloaded with questions. �What kind of a man is this, who fearlessly disrupts the common temple activities? Is He insane? And those temple guards, where are they?�
But as those men hiked up their robes and sprinted for the exit that day, there was one more question that must have followed them. It is a question that must have lingered in the mind of merchant and peasant alike. Perhaps it is a question that many of us have pondered as well. The question is this:
�What had abruptly transformed this nonviolent, gentle, peace-loving Jesus into an aggressive individual with fire in His eyes who suddenly began using physical force to achieve an end?�
Jesus had lived in Israel over thirty years. He had observed many injustices. He had seen hypocrisy in leadership. He had witnessed the oppression of the Roman government. He had quietly observed as day by day the powerful abused the poor, but we find no record that He had ever used force to bring about change.
When confronted with blatant sin, such as the woman taken in adultery, He had responded calmly with forgiveness and grace. When frustrated with self-centered disciples arguing over who was the greatest, He had responded with gentle rebuke. Even when Herod had killed His cousin John, a particularly painful injustice, Jesus had just retreated into the wilderness to rest. At times Jesus had addressed sin with rebuke, but never had He reacted with force. Never that is, until today. Today something was different.
What was different? Why overlook Herod�s senseless murder of one of the Godliest men who had ever lived, and then respond aggressively to what had become common activity in the temple? What did Jesus see that day that triggered this forceful response?
Shouldn�t it have been obvious? This was the temple of God! The Almighty God! A God so immense the vast heavens He had spoken into existence could not contain Him. And this temple--it was not just a place to come and meditate. It was a place where this God had said He would dwell! Imagine that! That a God of this magnitude had bothered to concern Himself with blundering, disobedient humans was amazing. But that a God like this would �squeeze� down into a stone box because He actually wanted to dwell with these insignificant humans, should have dropped the jaw of every thinking man! It should have caused everyone to regard that temple with extreme awe and reverence.
Why couldn�t they see it? Did men really think that this God of absolute holiness wouldn�t mind coexisting with just a little irreverence? Did they really imagine that a little commerce; a little disrespect for His temple would go unnoticed? Did they think that an Almighty God of absolute purity wouldn�t mind dwelling with a little impurity? That He would overlook a small amount of impertinence toward His dwelling place? What folly and absolute absurdity! How could they have been so blind?
Today that temple is gone. No longer does God dwell in a temple built by men. In our day God is proclaiming a message that is even more amazing. It is news that must have astounded those first Jewish believers. It is a message that should still astonish us today. Listen to these words that Paul wrote to the new believers in Corinth;
��Ye are the temple of God, and � the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.�
1 Corinthians 3:16
Let those words penetrate your heart. Read them again if you need to. Let your heart be stunned by their impact! These words should send both a tremor of fear, and a thrill of excitement down the spine of every believer. The Almighty God, the God of absolute holiness and purity, desires to dwell inside you and make your body His temple. If the men of Israel should have been amazed that God would live in a building of stone, how much more should we be astonished?
But be more than just astonished! Jesus� forceful actions in the temple that day spoke of His passion for purity within His dwelling place. This message should also create a passionate thirst for personal holiness within our lives--a strong desire that nothing unclean ever be allowed to enter our temple.
How much thought do you give to personal holiness? How great is your desire for a pure temple? By giving us choice, God has placed the purity of His dwelling in our hands. He has designed your temple with gates, and given you the opportunity to control what passes through. How diligent are you in guarding those gates? Consider briefly two of these gates:
The Eye Gate
Your eyes are bringing a steady stream of material into your temple. How vigilant are you in filtering that material? Perhaps there are times that you pick up a newspaper or magazine and notice an article with a title revealing its content may not be completely wholesome. Is your desire for personal holiness stronger than your curiosity? In your pursuit for holiness, can you really afford to permit passage to every article, advice column, and celebrity update?
Consider how you are handling Satan�s attack in the area of immorality. A Godly desire for inner purity will cause us to filter what the eyes bring in. It may require avoiding certain roads due to suggestive billboards, or canceling subscriptions to publications that once seemed acceptable. Satan has effectively turned the morals of our society upside down by his relentless attack on our eyes. If we are to maintain a suitable dwelling for our God, our diligence must be just as relentless.
The Ear Gate
Consider for a moment what you enjoy listening to. We find it easy to label someone as a gossiper. But a gossiper needs a listener. Is it possible that I might be a gossip facilitator? Someone who enjoys listening to an account that really shouldn�t be told? Many times the ones being talked about are struggling brothers, sisters, or even hurting congregations.
Our Lord hurts with those who are hurting. He feels the pain of those who are wounded. Can we expect Him to contentedly dwell in a temple that is being flooded with constant mocking and scorning of the struggling? Sometimes in our attempt to piously analyze another�s deficiency, we forget that the church is not made up of those who have deficiencies or struggles and those who don�t. The church is simply a group of imperfect and deficient people who have all found the answer to their deficiency in the Lord Jesus.
The Outer Temple
The Bible says that the disciples came to Jesus one day and wanted to show Him the beauty of the temple. But the disciples were admiring the goodly stones, the gifts, and the glittering gold. Their eyes were enamored with the things that made the outside of the temple beautiful. We still struggle with this, don�t we?
Outer beauty. Outer holiness. Somehow it is easier to be content with my level of holiness, if I believe you think I am holy. To assume that the inside is pure if the outside looks good. What foolishness! On the very day that Jesus was turning the inside of the temple upside down; the outside looked magnificent with every stone in place! Sometimes our pious speech and outward humility is not an accurate indicator of our inner temple. We succumb to the temptation of training the outer, rather than allowing the Lord to transform the inner.
The Inner Temple
The outer does reveal something about the inner temple, but move on in closer to where God actually wants to dwell. Into the area only you can examine. Consider your thoughts. Perhaps there is a brother or sister who has been difficult to work with. Stop a moment and picture that person. Is God comfortable dwelling amidst your thoughts toward them? Or possibly you are struggling with someone in authority over you. Are you trying to store a little bitterness there beside the One who ordained the authority? How much jealousy, bitterness, or unforgiveness will He dwell with? How much baggage of this kind will He countenance in long term storage?
God is very clear that He will not reside just anywhere. Paul continued on with this warning to the Corinthians;
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy�.
1 Corinthians 3:17
Serious words. God has always been serious about where He dwells. In the past He has wanted a temple that was holy, pure and totally dedicated to His service; He still wants that today.
Lack of Power?
Stop for a moment and consider again the proposal that God has made. He has offered to live right down inside you. Not next door, but right inside you! Amazing! Tremendous potential! How could we ever lack power? No wonder Paul said that he could do all things. But if all this is true, why do we still struggle? Why do we at times feel overwhelmed by the enemy?
In Russia, after World War II, the state operated radios spewed out a constant stream of good news to the citizens. Each day the radio announced that there were great things happening. The wonderful Communist farming techniques had resulted in another bumper crop of potatoes, a huge surplus of wheat, more and more people were returning to work, etc. etc.
But many of the people listening to the radio were standing in food lines. They were unemployed and everyone they knew was out of work as well. In short, the only good news to be had was the propaganda on the radio. The disparity became so great, the poverty-stricken citizens grimly joked, that the only place they could find milk to fill their pails was on the radio.
Sometimes as believers we feel the same way. We go to church and hear about the great power that is readily available. It is so simple, we are told. God wants to live inside us and He will supply every need that we have.
This sounds wonderful; but sometimes it seems very distant from our personal experience. We feel a little like the Russians. We hear the inspiring messages, listen to the lofty idealism, and then file back out of church to an inner life that is very different from what we just heard described. What is the problem? Why do we seem to lack power? Perhaps our choices have created a setting that our God is not comfortable in. If we are expecting God to make our body His temple, then some thought should be given to what the inside of our temple looks like.
God�s Dream House
Sometimes we hear people describe the house they would build if their resources were unlimited, if every option was available and nothing too costly. We refer to this as a person�s Dream House. But have you ever considered what God has in mind when He visualizes His Dream House? What would He want His house to be like?
Perhaps we don�t have to guess. In the Old Testament when the tabernacle, and later the temple, were completed something amazing occurred. Moses and Solomon both presented a pure dwelling place to the Lord. It was a building for His use, furnished just as He had requested. Both times the Bible says the glory of the Lord immediately filled God�s dwelling place so full that men couldn�t even get in the door! It was as if God had just been waiting for an empty temple to fill! We can picture Moses and the priests trying to get in the door, but there simply wasn�t room. It was already full of God!
Perhaps this is a picture of God�s Dream House. A temple, your body, that has been cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus. That is sanctified and cleansed daily by His power, and whose gates are guarded by His Spirit. A body that is so dedicated, so consecrated, and ultimately, so packed with God�s presence, that there isn�t space for anything else inside. Not even you!