Good morning. It’s good to be here. I had a great time this weekend with your group leaders and with your pastors and staff, and getting ragged on by Josh Patterson. It was just a great, great time. It’s always great to be at The Village and to get to spend time in the Word with your church. This church has an insatiable appetite for the Scripture, and that’s a statement about your pastors. So it’s a privilege to get to be here today.
I want to take a look at a passage the apostle John gives us here in the second chapter of his gospel, where Jesus cleanses the temple. Maybe you’ve read this passage before, and it may be familiar to you, but hopefully we can get some things out of this this morning. John, chapter 2, verse 13. It says, “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.’
So the Jews said to him, ’What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ’Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ’It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
Here we have Jesus, who obviously grew up as a carpenter. He’s probably not just a soft guy. Right? He probably has some girth to him, I would imagine. He’s probably kind of tough and maybe has a build to him. He’s not just soft Jesus, tender Jesus, meek-and-mild Jesus. Indeed he is, but here we see Jesus in what I like to call his “Chuck Norris moment.” This is when he just cleans house, literally cleans house.
Here’s the situation. Worshipers had come to Jerusalem for Passover, and they’re required during Passover to offer a sacrifice, but many of them had traveled a long way, and if you’ve ever tried to travel with an animal, you know that can be quite challenging. Like if you’ve ever tried to travel with a cat or something like that. I’m sure they weren’t bringing cats to sacrifice. I wouldn’t be opposed to that, but I’m sure that’s not what they were doing. If you’re a cat lover, I apologize.
My family drove this summer from New York City all the way down to Dallas and brought our Goldendoodle puppy with us, so I know a little bit what it’s like to travel with an animal, and frankly, it’s a little challenging. So here you would have the opportunity to come and purchase an animal there in Jerusalem. They would also be required to pay a temple tax, but the currency you had to pay the tax with was a special currency. So you would take your currency and exchange it there at the temple for the temple currency, and then offer that payment as a temple tax.
So what you had here were money traders and merchants who were selling animals and exchanging money, and in doing so were actually turning quite a profit. Jesus sees this going on and is obviously bothered by it. Now there was nothing wrong with selling the animals or changing the money. In fact, this was done, but it was typically done away from the temple confines, where it wouldn’t be a distraction at all, and it wasn’t to be done in a way to exploit the worshipers of God and to exploit this holiday. I mean, can you imagine anyone taking a religious holiday and exploiting it for profit? That’s what they do here, and it somewhat bothers Jesus.
They’re exploiting the people with their own greed, and they’re capitalizing on a feast that was meant for the worship of God. Jesus said they’d made the house of God an emporium. They had made it like a shopping mall. So Jesus begins to weave together a whip. I can just see him over there putting together a whip, mumbling to himself, “They’ve made my Father’s house a house of trade.” Now listen. If you see someone making a weapon, mumbling under their breath, something is about to go down. That’s what happens here. Jesus makes this whip, and he begins to drive the animals and drive the merchants out of the temple, turning over tables, causing quite, what you call in Texas, a ruckus.
The temple authorities are bothered by this. Though they should have been bothered more by the distraction that was going on in the temple and the injustice of some of these merchants, they were more bothered by Jesus. So they confront Jesus on this, and they ask him this question. They want to know, “What gives you the right to think that you have the authority to regulate what happens in the house of God? What gives you the authority to tell us what should happen in the temple?” They’re bothered by Jesus’ disruptive zeal, and they’re basically asking him, “Give us a sign to show us what right you have to exercise this kind of disruptive zeal in the house of God.”
Jesus’ response is pretty mysterious. He says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They said, “Forty-six years it took to build this temple, and you’re going to raise it up in three days?” They misunderstood Jesus. He was actually saying, “Eventually, you people are going to kill me. You’re going to be so disrupted by my disruptive zeal that you’re actually going to kill me, and on the third day I’ll rise. By virtue of my death and resurrection,” Jesus is saying, “I have the authority to exercise this kind of zeal, and to command you about what you should be zealous about as well.”
Now think about this. Jesus is saying by virtue of his life, death, and resurrection, he has the right to exercise this kind of zeal, but also he has the right to direct our zeal toward the place he deems appropriate. Jesus has the right to direct your zeal to the place he deems to be appropriate. This is what he’s upset about. He’s upset that people’s affections are being directed into a different way. Jesus is not only telling us how we are to live; he’s telling us what we’re to love. That is quite a bold move on his part.
This is important, because every one of us in this room is zealous for something. Now we don’t use the word zeal a whole lot. It just means a burning passion, this burning passion, this deep love that sets your priorities. It fuels your actions. It determines your decisions. It could be a person, it could be money, it could be the approval of other people, it could be acclaim and respect, it could be possessions or comforts or some sort of pleasure, but it’s something you really do… If you had to be honest with yourself, you think about, you love this thing more than anything else.
What you love most is what you live for, and all of us are zealous for something. There’s one thing that trumps all other zeals. There’s one passion you have that trumps all other passions, and when your passions in life, your interests in life, your desires in life conflict, there’s one desire, one passion, one zeal that has the tie-breaking vote. It dominates your life. It’s the highest authority in your life. In fact, it’s the engine of your life. It’s like the boiler room of your life. It moves you along and directs your life. It gets your time. It gets your attention. It gets your money. It consumes your resources.
That word consume is found here in the text. It’s exactly what zeal does to us. Your zeal will consume you. It will consume your thoughts. It will consume your emotions. It will consume your decisions. It will consume your life. You will lose yourself to the object of your greatest zeal. You will lose yourself to your passion.
So in this account, Jesus demonstrates for us that there’s only one proper place to set that kind of passion on. There’s only one proper place to put that kind of zeal towards. He’s showing us there is only one proper object of our zeal, one thing we should live for above all other things, one thing that should set our priorities, one thing that should fuel our actions, one thing that should drive our decisions. Jesus says, “That’s God.” You’re going, I knew he was going to say that. I think I’ve heard this sermon before. Jesus is telling us there’s one place only for you to set that kind of zeal and passion, and it’s upon God.
There are two aspects of what we mean by being zealous for God. The first is that you would be zealous to know and love and honor God. That you want to know him and you want to love him and you want to trust him and you want to respond to him and you want to glorify him. You want to live your life in such a way that you’re living it in a right response to this God, where he’s the object of your greatest love. He’s the object of your greatest pursuit. A zeal to know, love, and honor God.
Like Jeremiah says, “’Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…’” Here’s what God wants for us: The one thing we would boast in, the one thing we’d say is, “This is what my life is given up for: I want to know God. I want to love God. I want to honor God. I want to live rightly related to God, open to God, responsive to God.”
Zeal for God’s house consumed Jesus. In other words, he was most passionate about the glory of God, that God would be known, that God would be loved, that God would be treasured among his people. That’s what the temple is about. The temple was a place for people to meet God. It was a place for people to encounter God and to worship God and to adore God, to esteem God, to ascribe worth and value to him, to acknowledge his supremacy over everything. This is what the temple was about.
It was to be a place of confession, a place of contrition, a place of brokenness, a place of praise, a place of sacrifice, a place of receiving the affirmation of God’s forgiveness and experiencing God’s mercy. That’s what the temple was about. A place of joy. It was to be a place to come and express the conviction, There is nothing more valuable, nothing more glorious in the entire universe than our great God, and there is nothing more important than me being rightly related to him and rightly responding to him with all of my life. That’s what the temple was about. But instead of experiencing that in this moment, the people are being distracted by all this commerce that’s taking place.
Listen to how D.A. Carson describes this situation. He said, “Instead of solemn dignity and the murmur of prayer, there is a bellowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep. Instead of brokenness and contrition, holy adoration, and prolonged petition, there is noisy commerce.” They’re being distracted from this call to come and respond and interact and engage with God.
The worship in this temple was not to be an event. It’s not as if they walked into the temple and just flipped the “God” switch and then turned it off on the way out. It was not like that. It was the expression of the essence of one’s life. This was a momentary expression of the very essence of your life. Not just an event, but an expression of your essence; that your whole life was to be marked by this great passion to know and love and honor God. But what they had done was turned this temple into an emporium, a shopping mall, a place not of praise and surrender to God but a place of personal gain.
Here becomes the great conflict of our lives. Will I live for the glory and honor of God, to know him, love him, and trust him, or will I live merely for personal gain, for the increase of wealth, the increase of comforts, the increase of pleasures, the increase of my own self-focused joys? Will this be what I live for? Their zeal was not for God; their zeal was for profit. Jesus is not saying they had simply forgotten God, but they’d actually turned to another god, the god of commerce, the god of consumerism, the god of materialism, the god of self-focused, personal gain.
Here the zeal was not centered on knowing and experiencing God, but on making a profit, padding their lives, increasing their own personal well-being. That, indeed, is what we find ourselves in…this constant conflict. Will I live for the glory of God? Will I be zealous to know him, love him, and honor him, or am I going to be zealous for my own comfort? Am I going to be one who worships the god of consumerism and materialism?
I recently read there are 16.5 square feet of mall space for every American. That’s bigger than some New York City apartments. I’ve seen them. That much mall space for every American, because more than any other god, our nation bows at the feet of the god of materialism and consumerism, the god of personal gain, personal comfort, personal pleasures. Jesus is seeing this. These people don’t care about the glory of God; they care about their own personal gain.
This kind of becomes a theme with the people of God surrounding the temple. Do you remember the prophet Haggai? Some of you are like, No, I don’t. Haggai doesn’t get a lot of airtime in the church. Maybe you were having your quiet time in Haggai this morning. I don’t know. Haggai was a prophet after the exile, where God is bringing the people back out of exile, bringing them into Babylon. They’d been conquered by the Babylonians, the temple was destroyed, Jerusalem ravaged, and they were sent out to Babylon in 586. Then 70 years later they come back to the land and there they begin to reconstruct the temple.
They come back. They’ve gone through a season of discipline, and they come back now and they want to be faithful to God. They want to honor God, they want to worship God, and they want to be a community committed to God… So let’s rebuild the temple. Then they just stopped. They stopped, and Haggai is raised up to be the prophet to address the people. This is what it says in Haggai 1:3: “Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ’Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?’”
They quit working on the temple, and now they started building their own houses. And they weren’t just building a place for shelter. I mean, this is MTV Cribs. They are paneling their houses with the finest of woods. God says, “Let me get this straight. What’s more important to you is not the glory of your God, not the renown of your God, not the reputation of your God among all the nations, because for you to claim to have a God and have no temple, to let it lie in ruins, you’re dragging the reputation of God through the mud among the nations.”
God says, “You’re okay with my temple in ruins, my name, my renown, while you’re building your own lives of personal comfort and gain?” This becomes the great conflict of our lives. What will we be more zealous for? The glory of our God, to know him, to love him, to see our God, to honor our God, to love our God, to respond to our God, to give God his appropriate place in our lives, or just simply pad our lives with comforts?
The answer to that question is going to depend upon an evaluative decision, because when it comes to the object of your zeal, it’s an evaluative decision. The zeal you have for something is equal to the estimate of greatness and value you put on that something. So for you to have zeal about something, passion about something, is because you’ve put an estimated value upon that something. Your zeal will be an appropriate response to the value you placed upon that something.
That’s why Paul can say, “I’ve suffered the loss of all things, and I count them to be dung compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ, my Lord.” That’s an evaluative decision. That’s an estimate. That’s saying, “I have estimated the value of Jesus Christ to be supremely valuable, far above all things, so I’m willing to lose everything if I can just have him.” It comes down to an evaluative decision. Zeal for God is a response to the estimated greatness of God. Zeal for God is a response to the greatness of God.
If we make a proper estimate, if we truly do a value analysis on this, what we see is there is nothing greater we could set our hearts upon. There’s nothing greater we could say, This is what I want to love, this is what I want to know, this is what I want to give my life fully for. It’s an evaluative decision to say, He is of infinite worth. He is of inestimable greatness.
If we want to flourish as human beings… If I were to interview you and say, “Do you really want to flourish? Do you want to suck the marrow out of life? Do you really want your life to be full and rich?” I doubt many of you would go, “Eh, I just kind of want to get by.” I don’t think many of us would say that. I think we really want to have fullness of life, but if you’re going to experience fullness of life, you have to live in step with ultimate reality.
You cannot construct an alternate reality for yourself and build your life upon that and think it’s going to go well for you. It will crush you in the end. It will fall apart. It will be ripped to shreds. If you build your life on an alternate reality, it will fail. You cannot take the direction that is opposite of the direction the universe is moving and expect that it’s going to go well for you. You have to live your life in step with ultimate reality.
Have you ever seen this picture of a little kitten? Oh, here he goes ragging on cats again. The kitten is looking in a mirror and in the mirror is this giant lion. Have you seen this? Some of you are like, Yeah, I like that. Yeah, you probably have it hanging in your bathroom. A little kitten looking in the mirror, and the caption says, “What matters most is how you see yourself.”
Now that’s not true. All that little kitten has to do is meet a ferocious dog in a back alley to learn, Oh, that isn’t true. Right? It doesn’t matter how that cat perceives itself necessarily. What matters is ultimate reality. It’s not a lion; it’s a kitten who just takes up space and serves no real purpose for humankind. (I’m teasing. I love kittens. They taste like chicken. Are we recording this?)
It doesn’t matter how it perceives itself. If that little kitten perceives itself as a lion and does meet a ferocious dog in a back alley, its alternate reality will be ripped to shreds. It will fall apart. If you try to live your life and found it on and base it on and live in an arena of an alternate reality that you created, your life will not work. When it comes to zeal, it’s the same way. You have to make the right estimate.
Here’s the right estimate: To say, “If I’m going to flourish in life and live in the light of ultimate reality, I must seek to glorify most what’s most glorious. I must love most what’s most lovely, and I must value supremely what’s supremely valuable. If I don’t, I’ve built an alternate reality that’s not in step with ultimate reality, and my life is just not going to work. It’s not going to work.” So the call here is that we would say, I want to respond to the greatness of God, and I want to set my life on the right things.
If we could see the glory of God, the greatness of God, the supremacy of God, then I think what would happen is the unbearable lightness of the things we go after would be revealed to us. We would see just how trivial the things in our lives we give our hearts to really are. This is a great issue in our culture today. We live in what’s called a “superflat” culture. Mark Sayers’ book The Road Trip just came out. It’s a great read, interacting with Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road. Listen to what he says about a superflat culture that doesn’t really have a lot of depth to it and doesn’t have a sense of transcendence to it. Everything is just surface level.
Here’s how he describes a superflat culture: “In a superflat culture where nothing matters, we escape into obsessions and hobbies, interests that bear little ultimate consequence. In a commodified culture, we move and shift around meaning, giving weight to things that do not deserve mountains of time and attention.” We give weight, significance, value, glory to things that do not deserve mountains of our time and attention.
“The twenty-first century will be a century marked by conspicuous consumption but also a flagrant misuse of time. With religion off the agenda, our culture finds new avenues of devotion and distraction. Instead of moving us toward relationship and people, the immanent, superflat culture pushes us toward things.” Now listen. “Millions of hours in the twenty-first century will be spent working through DVD TV series, scanning social network sites, gorging on celebrity gossip, downloading music, flipping through home magazines, and playing computer games.
Things will take precedence over people. Meaningless activities will overtake our lives. There is nothing wrong with interests and hobbies in their right place, but the twenty-first-century culture will gorge on such activities. The real issues of human existence that have sat front and center of human consciousness have in the superflat, immanent world been shoved aside. They are too heavy to be carried on the road. Instead we buzz across the surface of life, never venturing below the surface.”
If you think about the things our culture is zealous for… Millions of hours in the twenty-first century spent watching TV, reading home magazines, hobbies, and interests…all those things okay; just put in the wrong place, consuming too much of our hearts. If we could just see the greatness of God, then we begin to see the triviality of all those other things. When we see their triviality, when we make a proper estimate on those things, then we put them in their right place. If we make a proper estimate on God, we put him in his right place. We don’t put him in his place; we see him in his place and respond to him.
Let me say one more thing about this zeal for God. Zeal for God is awakened when we see his zeal for us. That’s also what the temple is about. The temple is really God’s statement that he wants to be with us. Have you ever thought about that? The temple was God’s way of saying, “I love you, and I would like to be with you.” If you trace the theme of temple throughout the Bible, it starts in the garden where the garden serves as God’s temple where he meets with his people. He walks with them and fellowships with them in the cool of the day.
Then Adam and Eve sin. They rebel against God. They’re removed from God’s presence. But he promises that he’s going to restore all that was lost. He ends up choosing a man named Abraham, and from Abraham builds a nation, a nation among whom he can make his presence known. They find themselves in slavery, and God sends a deliverer, Moses, to rescue them, to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go out of here and worship our God, meet with our God.”
Eventually through a battle with Pharaoh, God miraculously delivers them from Egypt. They go into this journey to the Promised Land, and there God instructs them to build this tabernacle, and there in the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, he would meet with his people. He would manifest his presence among them. He would make himself known among his people.
Then they settled in a nation, and they built a permanent structure, the temple. There as they dedicated the temple, the glory of God fell and filled the temple, and this would be the place where God would manifest his presence among his people, where he would meet with his people. We see this on and on, this idea of temple. It’s this place where God meets with man. It’s a place where God comes together with his people. It’s a place where God accepts his people because of a bloody sacrifice offered in their place there at the temple.
Now Jesus teaches us in John 2 that the temple, that temple the people would come to and worship in, is being superseded by a greater temple…himself. That he is now the temple of God, that Jesus is God’s ultimate expression of his desire to be with you. Jesus is God’s ultimate expression of his desire to be with us. He is the place on earth where the presence of God is made manifest and dwells in its fullness. Colossians 1 tells us that in him all the fullness of Deity dwelt in bodily form. John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled, dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory.”
When Jesus was walking upon the earth, he was the very presence of God among us. He was the temple, and he is the place where we can meet with God and be accepted by God because of the bloody sacrifice he makes for us. This is what Jesus does. He comes and dies in our place that we might be reconciled to God. He is the temple, and he is the bloody sacrifice that’s made so we might be made right with God. Because of the work of Jesus, and through the work of Jesus, God has removed every obstacle standing in the way of you and me knowing him, enjoying him, being in right relationship with him, living our lives open in response to him, having him as our Father, knowing and loving our God.
This is what Jesus is passionate about. Jesus was so passionate about you knowing, loving, enjoying, and being reconciled to God. He was consumed by this passion. He was so passionate about that, he was so zealous for you to know God, that it was the death of him. The zeal consumed him. The passion for you to know and love God was the very death of Jesus Christ, and nothing you could give your zeal to has ever given that much for you. Nothing you could ever set your heart’s love on has ever given that much for you. When you see the grace of God, when you see his zeal for you, his passion, your heart is warmed towards him.
This is why your devotional life is critical. We do not read the Bible to avoid the guilt of reading the Bible. We read the Scripture because we want to encounter our God. We want to see him in his greatness, and we want to experience and taste his grace as he reveals it to us by his Spirit off the pages of the Word and works gospel enjoyment into our hearts. Your devotional life is key if you’re going to estimate the greatness of God and fully enjoy the grace of God. When that begins to happen, God starts to arrest your zeal. He starts to take your zeal and place it where it needs to be placed.
So it is a zeal for us to know and love and interact with and respond to our God and glorify and honor our God, but here’s the second element of zeal for God: It’s that you would have zeal for others to come and know and love God, that you would want others to taste and see that the Lord is good. This is what you would be passionate about and zealous for.
This temple episode here is actually happening in a portion of the temple called the “court of the Gentiles.” The court of the Gentiles was the only place in the temple where those who were not Jews could actually enter into the temple and worship God. So for these people to conduct their commerce there was to actually hinder those Gentiles from coming in and experiencing God in the temple.
In the other gospel accounts, Jesus speaks against these merchants and traders like this: “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer for all the nations.” Do you see what’s going on here? Jesus is passionate about the nations. He’s passionate about all people coming to know and experience God. In fact, this has always been God’s design for the temple. God’s design for the temple has not just been a place for his people to meet. It has not just been a place for worship; it was intended to be a place of witness.
When Solomon builds this temple and consecrates it, listen to the prayer he prays in 1 Kings, chapter 8. Solomon is lifting up his voice in prayer to God and he says, “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”
Solomon says, “God, as we consecrate this temple, we pray that you would do such powerful work among your people, that for the sake of your great name, your mighty hand, your outstretched arm would be upon us, and you would work wonders in our midst so that the surrounding nations would know there is a God and he dwells among the people of Israel, and we want to know that God. We want to experience that God. And that all the ends of the earth would fear him.” This has always been God’s heart for his people, and it’s still God’s design for his people.
If you trace the theme of temple in the Scriptures from the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus, and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit upon his people, we see that the church, the people of God have now become the temple of God. We are the place, the people among whom God manifests his presence. We are the people among whom God is making himself known.
Listen to what it says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 16. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple [you being in the plural] and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Ephesians 2: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
We the church, the people of God, are now the place where God desires to manifest his presence, where his outstretched arm, his mighty hand would be upon the people of God, that we would see the Spirit of God at work so powerfully in our midst that others outside of the people of God would take notice. They would say, “There is a God in our city, and he dwells among the people of The Village Church. Look at what’s happening in there.”
When you look at the Scriptures and speak of the fruit of the Spirit, the qualitative distinctiveness of your relationships with one another, the love that exists between you, the joy that exists in this community, the peace that exists in this community, when you look at the love of God being manifested through forgiveness and reconciliation of marriages, when you look at the wonderful works God is performing right here in your midst, people all around are saying, “There’s a God in our city, and he’s at work among those people.” The supernatural power of God working among the people of God so that those who are far from God would come to know God. This has always been God’s desire for his people, and this is what Jesus is zealous for.
The people of God are the greatest apologetic for the gospel of God. I talked about this this weekend at the Group Leader Conference, but do you know how there are some restaurants you go to because there’s that one thing on the menu you can’t get anywhere else? You sit down, and you’re not going to get a Big Mac anywhere else. You can only get it one place. Right? I know that’s a poor example. You’re the cultural elites. You don’t go there, right? There are some restaurants… I come here because I get this every time. There’s nowhere else I can get this.
There ought to be people who say this about the people of God. “When I go there, when I’m among those people, when I’m at a table with those people, when I’m in a party with those people, when I’m in the presence of those people, I experience something among them I can’t experience anywhere else. There is such forgiveness, there is such mercy, there is such joy, there is such generosity, there is such reconciliation, there is such covenant commitment in marriages… I don’t see it anywhere else. If there is a God, he’s among them.”
This is what Paul said in the Corinthian letters when he’s talking about the Spirit of God being so active among the people of God that some outsider would walk in and say, “Truly God is in your midst,” and he would fall on his face and he would worship God. It’s the supernatural power of God working among the people of God so that those who are far from God would come to know God. It has always been God’s desire that we live such lives of compelling devotion, marked by the supernatural power of God, manifest through the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, that people are provoked to consider the God who’s present among you. It has always been God’s desire.
Let me ask you this: Are you zealous for others to come to know God, and is there anything in your life compelling enough to provoke people in that direction? You can’t manufacture that. There is a difference between manufacturing the Christian life and manifesting the life of Christ. Those are two totally different things. The Spirit of God wants to do such a powerful work among you that the very life of Christ, his fruit and his power, is made manifest among you as a people.
Are you zealous for your neighbors? Do you know your neighbors’ names? Are you zealous for your neighbors to come to know God? Is that zeal fueling your actions? Is it determining your priorities? Is it directing your decisions? Does it affect your money? Do you have a desire to see the nations, your neighbors and the nations, come to know this great God, and is there anything compelling about your life and your community that would provoke others to want to know this God who’s present in your midst?
Let me say this last thing about zeal. Zeal will consume you. It says here, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Zeal for anything does that. If there is anything in your life…whether it’s a person, whether it’s a job, whether it’s money or personal comforts, whatever…your zeal will consume you. It will consume your thoughts, consume your emotions, consume your money, and consume your decisions. It will control you, and it will eventually be the death of you, a downward spiral away from the person you were created to be, a downward spiral into slavery to the object of your zeal. Whether you’re a slave to your money, or a slave to your toys, or whether you’re a slave to comfort, whether you’re a slave to convenience, or whatever, zeal will be the death of you.
I want to say this. Zeal for God will consume you, and it will also be the death of you. Zeal for God will be the death of you. You will die to yourself, you will die to the worship of self, you will die to the pursuit of selfish interest, you will die to your own reputation, and you will die to selfish indifference. It will be a death to you. Zeal for God will kill you, but it’s the only death that involves a resurrection. Did you notice that in the passage?
Zeal for the Father consumed Jesus and was the death of him, but it’s the only death that involves a resurrection. As we die, we find that we’re truly starting to live. As we die, we’re becoming more and more of what we’re made to be: lovers of God and lovers of other people. This is the great commandment, that you would love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s God’s dream for us.
One day we’re going to realize that was indeed worth it. We’re going to realize there was no greater way we could have lived, because if you keep following the theme of temple in the Scriptures, and you trace it all the way to the very last chapter of the book, it brings you to Revelation 21:22. Listen to what this says in the last book of the Bible. “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” When it all comes down to it, we’re going to finally fully dwell with our God, and he will dwell with us, and he himself will be the temple. We’ll see him, and when we see him we’ll know it was worth it.
Let me just close by giving you this challenge: When you think about what’s ahead of you…seeing him…live the way you’re going to one day wish you had lived. Live the life you’re going to one day wish you had lived: zealous for God, responding to his greatness, responding to his grace, and then zealous to see others come and know him, as you the people of God experience the power of God at work in you so that those outside of you might come to know your God. Let me pray for you to that end.
Father, thank you that you sent your Son from your side to be a sacrifice for us that we might be reconciled to you and become your people. Thank you that you’ve poured your Holy Spirit out upon your people, and thank you that your Holy Spirit is at work to bring about distinctiveness in our lives, the fruit of your Holy Spirit, to empower us with his gifts that we might be a provocative people who pull others into, who draw others, into a knowledge of you.
God, would you bless the people of The Village Church? Would you let your grace be upon them? Would you continue to raise them up as a people of witness, as a people of worship? Would you make them a people who have great impact, not only in their cities, but also in the nations? God, would you bless them, cause your face to shine upon them, give them your peace? God, for those who are sitting here and they’ve been building their life on an alternate reality, would you reveal to them there’s nothing greater they could live for than our triune God? Call them to yourself. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.