Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 2) – How We Let Things of Church Become More Important Than Jesus Christ

Posted: February 25, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 2)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

Yesterday, we spent time talking about the link between what was going on with money and stuff that prevents us from worshipping God appropriately. We let our pursuit of things prevent us from using our resources to worship God with our finances. We let ministry opportunities slip away because we let our life get cluttered by things of this world. Today, we will continue that conversation. Today, to illustrate what I want to talk about, I think about government programs. We often see over time that government programs that are set up with the best of intentions turn out to be something different than what was originally intended. For example, think of farming subsidies where the government’s intent was to save family farms from going under because family farms were once the backbone of our economy. What the subsidies ended up doing was to raise the price of the subsidized farm goods to the consumer. What it did was allow farmers who were not the most talented farmers to continue in their existence as farmers. What it did was to prevent innovation in farming because there was no need for it. Inefficient farmers were allowed to stay in business through the propping up of prices instead of allowing competition to weed out the farmers who did not seek to perform. Thus, it crowded out new entry to the market as well. Another example was the allowed monopoly of the telephone industry up until 1982. The intent of the legal monopoly was to prevent there being millions of phone companies building their own infrastructures when the phone companies were just beginning. It would have been a mess I guess if that had happened. However, the unintended consequences were lack of innovation. We would probably still not have cellular phones today if the phone companies had not been deregulated in 1982. Just think of the pace of innovation prior to 1982 in telephone technology and the pace afterwards. The world of communications that we enjoy today can be traced back to the deregulation of the phone companies in 1982. Prior to then there was no need for innovation because there was no competition. Good intentions with unintended consequences. I could go on and on about these types of government decisions and programs but you get the point. This illustration reminds me of what we see in today’s passage, Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

 

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

 

“‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

The money changers and the temple merchandise was good idea in the beginning but it became something more than what was intended. The services provided became more important than the purpose for which they were established. The commerce of the temple became more important than the worship of God. Unintended consequences of man trying to solve a problem. The idea was great to provide convenience and support to pilgrims to Jerusalem. They lambs and doves were there as an idea that seemed great so people would not have lug their sacrificial animals long distances to Jerusalem and the temple. Good idea gone wrong. The money changers were to be a convenience too. Exchanging the graven imaged coins of Caesar for the half-shekels of the temple seemed a good idea for convenience and as a service to the pilgrims. Another good idea gone wrong. Like a US government program.

 

That is the idea I think that we will pursue today. Sometimes we have the best intentions as Christ followers to be good followers of Christ but we let things get in the way. Our intention with establishing church programs can often be great and were pure in the beginning but ultimately end up getting in our way of true relationship with and the honest worship of God. Sometimes, we let the church program we serve in become our god and if there was a suggestion to change or eliminate our program we get angry and leave the church. In church, we often get hung up on the things and not the object of our worship. We make programs, people, and things more important than worshiping God. Have you ever been in a Sunday school class where friendships were more important than learning about God? Not that friendships in church are bad. They are good but when they become more important than why we are at church to begin with then it can be wrong. In church, there was once the idea that we were to wear our finest clothes as worship to God. Then, it became about what you wore to church rather than praising God. In church, there was once the idea of making old bar tunes into the background music for worship songs. Sounds kind of radical does it not. These songs are now the traditional hymns of the Christian faith and to hear some people talk about it you would think that these hymns are so sacred that that Jesus must have sung them Himself. What many accept as now sacred songs were John and Charles Wesley trying innovative ways to get common folk to know Jesus through converting old bar tunes of the 18th century into worship songs. In church, there is the new wave of modern churches now that must have modern songs, and drums, and guitars, and names of churches that convey some kind of idea. Gone are the day of a church being named after a town or a person or a street. In church today, we must have the awesome light and sound to the point that sometimes the catchy names and sounds and lights become more important than the meat of what church is to be about. Have you seen the explosion of new church strategy seminars? We have become obsessed with making our churches grow. More people in church in and of itself is not a bad thing. But growth for any other sake than exposing people to Jesus Christ is not good. Sometimes as church leaders we want people to identify and feel wanted and belong at our churches so we work hard to create that cache of being a member at our church. Sometimes the unintended consequences of that is a church’s people talk more about the church they belong to than they talk about Jesus Christ. With some people, for example, you wander if they are member of church first and a worshipper of Christ second. The same can be true of preachers. How many people out there quote Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren before they quote Jesus Christ. Not that these men are not great men of God in their own ways but sometimes we make celebrities out of preachers and make them more important that the worship of Jesus Christ. Good intentions in the beginning but becoming something else entirely.

 

Are we that way in our own lives when it comes to worshiping God. We let Beth Moore become more important than the Bible. We let David Platt’s latest book replace reading the Bible. David and Beth would probably scold us for letting that happen but we do it sometimes. We make the trappings of Christianity more important than its central core. We crowd out our central need and that is Jesus for things about Jesus. We make the latest book by the great new Christian author who gets it more important than Bible study. We may the kind of music my church plays more important than how true my church is to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We make the coolness of the churches that we go to more important than reaching the world with the news of Jesus Christ. Crowding out the important things with things that are not important. Letting things of this world become more important than the eternal. Letting things that are temporary have greater importance than eternal destiny.

 

Please don’t get me wrong. Many of the things that I talked about today are bad in and of themselves. It is only when these things become more important that the purpose for which they were created do they become wrong. When we let the trappings of Christianity become more important than Jesus then we have strayed. Whenever we let things get in the way of our worship of Jesus Christ then we have strayed and can lead others astray in so doing. Help us always to keep our focus on the Jesus. Help us not to create unintended consequences by letting programs, people, and the church itself become more important than worshiping Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. That was what the Temple was supposed to be for but man crowded it out with things that he thought were more important.

 

How are you and I doing with that? Are their things in your life that you have made more important than worshiping Jesus Christ? Let us pray about that as we walk through our day today. Amen and Amen.

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