for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” -Jesus*
Last night my family and I watched, “A Christmas Carol” made in 2009 by Disney. It is one of my favorite stories for Christmas. I had never noticed these lines before but maybe you have. It is the scene with the Spirit of Christmas Present and Scrooge looking down upon a bakery….
“Is there a particular flavor in what you sprinkle from your torch? You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all?”, said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I”, cried the Spirit.
“You seek to close these places on the Seventh day?”, said Scrooge. “And it comes to the same thing.”
“I seek!”, exclaimed the Spirit.
“Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family.”, said Scrooge.
“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they have never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings to themselves, not us.”
A few weeks ago, a close friend came to me and said the Lord wanted her to ask me, “What is prayer?”. This is when I knew He wanted me to wait on an answer from Him. There have been so many books written on prayer and even the disciples asked this question of Jesus. He was answering to Jews under the law. So, you may think this is an easy and pat answer; but it is not.
Both of these things led me to this mornings conversation with God (Who lives in me all the time as a believer). Here is the scripture He gave me:
“And He said to them, “It is written, ‘ MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER ‘; but you are making it a ROBBERS ‘ DEN.””
Matthew 21:13 NASB
You can find this same wording in Mark 11:17 and Luke 19:46. Jesus is quoting out of Isaiah 56:7. To set the scene, Jesus has just ridden into Jerusalem for the last time on a donkey being hailed by the people as Hosannah in the Highest. He goes into the temple and drives out the money changers and the sellers of doves. The old way of doing things was going to change. Jesus was ruining a lot of things for the religious elite such as their tenuous relationship with Rome, their income from the temple tax, and the dependency the people had on them. Sadly, there are so many similarities between then and now.
There truly is a religious spirit that is created by man’s need to control other men, fear and greed. Let’s just look at Dickens novel written in 1843. There was a man, Sir Agnew, that was a part of the LDOS, Lord’s Day Observance Society, and seven times for five years brought before Parliament legislations to enact even stricter laws regarding what can’t be done on the Seventh day (The Lord’s Day). The LDOS was in great fear that if they did not control people, the wraith of God would rain down upon their country. Sir Agnew and his group truly believed they were speaking for God in this circumstance and they feared if they didn’t control what went on then God would punish them and everyone within their country. This fear led them to hurt the very people who Jesus died for… Today this would be called the doom sayers. Yet, I see similarities that are eerily reminiscent of this same thinking. See the LDOS wasn’t any different from the Pharisees and Sadducees of old. This need for control of believers and unbelievers that runs rampant within the church body is hurting the very same people Jesus came to save….the world.
Let me try to put into words what the Lord was showing me. We, as humanity, create this religious spirit and pay homage to it when we believe we can perform to create our own righteousness. Yet, what happens is when we rely on ourselves and believe we are the ones that are able to have self-control, love, humility and the other fruits of the Spirit is when we become puffed up in our own ability. Maybe it is the thought of a “higher level” than other Christians or maybe it is the thought “I am just trying to help them behave right which is my responsibility as a leader”. Both those thoughts are incorrect and lead to thoughts that you are better than others or you end up trying to control people. This has led to so many things being done in the Name of God that is not associated with Him at all…as the Spirit of Christmas Present said. See when the Lord gave me the scripture from Matthew He wasn’t talking about then, He was talking about now-our current day. This broke my heart as I do know the Lord wants the church to come full circle and be what it was in the beginning of His New Covenant. Yet my question remains, How Lord? I think He may have given me part of my answer…
- Jesus is the one that is high and lifted up not church leadership and He draws all men unto Him not people but Him. People recognized Him as he came into Jerusalem that day and the religious leadership was not happy as they felt usurped. They were meant to be usurped. Yet, today we find it has flipped back to humans usurping the place of Jesus in people’s lives in many of our church buildings today. Matthew 21:9-11
- Jesus cleansed the temple. He took what had become of the old touched by humanity and cleaned it out. This is exactly what will need to happen to our churches today. What I mean by this is that we need to wash ourselves from holding on to the law and putting people in place of Jesus or His Spirit. Jesus (not your pastor) fulfilled the law and He proclaimed, “It is Finished!”. John 19:30 The law has always fallen short never able to do what Jesus has done. Romans 8:1-3. The church needs to see just as Dickens pointed out: much of what they are doing with the law leads to the “same thing” as the world (it just ends up hurting so many people especially when greed is in the picture whether that is greed of money, control of people, or thinking you are somehow above other people). Humanity trying to do (perform) what God has already done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Leadership needs to stop standing in the Holy Spirits position by trying to tell people what to do or not to do and instead teach the way of Jesus-who you are in Him and Whose you are. They need to stop creating the idea, by living by the law?Old Covenant, that God is a vending machine and that by checking off the list of going to church, tithing, and behaving properly will then cause the vending machine to push out everything a person needs. This was the big one God truly desires cleaned up or pointed out. He is not a vending machine that gives out sweets and treats if you behave or do certain things. He is God, Who has a plan and His plan will be fulfilled.
- After Jesus cleansed the temple He healed the lame and sick. These were the very people not “clean” enough to come into the temple. Simple enough. Matthew 21:13
- He then taught in the temple and was still challenged by the chief priests and elders; yet the people came to hear Him. There will always be this religious spirit because humanity desires to do it on their own. And there are many in the church who will always operate this way, sadly so. Yet, it remains the Truth did come in and the people have a choice to listen to the way of Truth or listen to the way of humanity. Matthew 21:23
Now that we have some background, back to the scripture the Lord had given me, what the temple is really used for and how the meaning of prayer works into all of this. As I studied the word prayer in both Hebrew and Greek I found some very interesting things:
Genesis 20:7 is the first time “prayer” or the Hebrew word “palah” is used in scripture. Please remember God had been talking to lots of people prior to this scripture: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Methuselah, Noah and Abraham. This word comes up when Abimelech is told by God in a dream to go and get prayer from Abraham, the prophet, for taking Abraham’s wife. The word here means to intercede for. Intercede or intervene on someone’s behalf. In Isaiah “prayer” is the Hebrew word “tephillah” which means prayer heard within the temple or holy place. The Greek word “proseuché” is used in Matthew 21:13. This word means a) prayer to God, b) a place for prayer. The word’s literal meaning is from “pros” (4314) “towards/exchange” and “euxe” (2171) “a wish, prayer”. According to biblehub.com the literal meaning is: interacting with the Lord exchanging your wishes to His wishes. This brings a whole new meaning to: Not my will, but Yours be done. Here is a deeper understanding of this scripture:
“….It stands written in My familial dwelling place I will call/summon an exchange to My wishes. You on the other hand have manufactured/caused a hideout for unscrupulous marauders to violate the vulnerable.” Matthew 21:7
The temple of stone used to be the familial dwelling place where God would exchange your wishes for His. His wishes are always better than our own. Jesus, that day, cleared the temple of marauders which included the religious leaders of the time. Now Jesus comes in to live within each of us through the Holy Spirit. We are the temple now. You are either walking in religious or the Spirit. It is one or the other…it can’t be both at the same time. This temple our body is now where prayer takes place as the Spirit speaks to us and exchanges our will for the Lord’s will. This is prayer. See this kind of prayer is in complete opposition to the vending machine theory, “if I then God will”. Whether it is intercession for others or where the Spirit changes our will to His…that is prayer. And please remember talking to God is simply talking to Him. There were so many people, prior to the law, that God spoke with. So please do not doubt that He will speak to you. As a Believer, now that He lives so close to you, He is always speaking to you. That is simply relationship.
Let me end with this, I had been talking with another friend of mine over the phone and as we were talking I was questioning the Lord regarding this very topic and I shared with her a vision I had remembered and what the Lord said to me:
“Darlene, you are no longer drinking milk you are eating meat now.” This is when I was reminded of a vision I had of a young adult while she played the piano and how she was intertwined with God”s Spirit….how they were one and it was so beautiful. The Lord then said, “This is how we walk Darlene. We walk as one. We are one. We move as one. I live in you and you in Me. This is how we commune, pray and live. You and Me intertwined. The faint earthly representation of what we will have forever.”
Sometimes I forget this fact. Yet, He reminds me…He who lives in me is greater than he who is in the world. All you have to do is look within, He is there always.
*Luke 9:55-56 NASB