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James Merritt - Cleaning House

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    James Merritt - Cleaning House
TOPICS: Seeing Red

Good morning to all of you who are watching online, and those who are here with us in our building this morning. As a person matures, hopefully you learn. And it's been a journey for me, to be honest, to be more transparent and to be more open, and honest about your flaws. And I'm in a learning process right now and it's not fun. And I'll be honest, I'm not being funny. I do tend to get overexuberant, rub it in when Georgia wins, and I'll rub it really in when Tennessee and Florida loses. It's a fault that I have. It's a flaw. It will continue, but it is a flaw in a fault. But honestly, everybody's got their flaws. Everybody's got their faults.

And I'm gonna be very transparent. My two biggest faults is impatience and I have a temper. That's just me, that's who I am. I don't know what your flaws are or what your particular peccadilloes are, but those are mine. Some people say it's generational. My father, some of you knew my dad. My dad had a volcanic temper. When he lost it, he lost it. And his mother, my grandmother also had a terrible, terrible temper. And I don't blame it on my generation. I'm not one of those kinds of people. I take responsibility for my own actions, and but at the same time, anger is something at times I have to fight to control and I have to work on it, particularly when I get impatient.

Now my anger, however is not like you saw on the screen. It's not a throw your golf club, kick down a door, punch a hole in the wall. That's not the way my anger comes out. My anger comes out in a raised voice, in dilated eyes, in a lot of gesticulation. And mine is kind of a verbal kind of anger, and both can be equally harmful. And I'm not trying to sugarcoat either one. Anger is anger. And as you well know if you've ever read your Bible, there's a lot that this book has to say about controlling anger. So today we're gonna begin a series on anger, but it's not the kind of series that you would think it would be. Because in fact, I've never done a series on this topic before. But this thought came to me back in the spring, and I thought I would like to explore that.

So we're gonna begin a series today that we're going to call Seeing Red. And you know what that means. If you're someone who's seeing red, you've heard of somebody, man, I was so angry, I was seeing red. You know what that means? It means somebody is really, really angry. When you're seeing red people can see it, they can hear it, they can maybe even feel it. By the way that expression comes from, believe it or not, from the red cape that a Matador uses in bullfighting. And for whatever the reason when that bull sees that red cape he wants to charge. And I will tell you that a lot of times in my life, I have seen red. I promise you if anybody's ever pulled out in front of you, you've seen red. I'm just telling you that right now.

Well, here's the thing. I didn't know this. Scientists now know that is not just a saying, it really is physiological that angry people really do see red where other people don't. This fascinated me. Researchers did a study. And when people with hostile personalities, people that had a real temper problem, a real anger problem when they were showed a picture that was not totally red, and it was not quite totally blue, if you're hostile, if you got picked up anger, you're a lot more likely to see red. As a matter of fact, angry people become redder in the face. You ever see anybody gets so angry? They get red in the face. They're seeing red. They are really, really angry. Their face flushes. We even know now that increased testosterone in some animals is responsible for their red colors.

Now here's what's so unusual about this series. I get angry, you get angry, we all get angry. Some of us have more of a difficulty with anger than us, we know that. And I've preached messages on anger before, and many of you have heard them. But guess who saw red on more than one occasion? Jesus. Jesus got angry. However, he never sinned. Now get those two thoughts in mind. Jesus got angry, we're gonna see this over and over the next few weeks, but Jesus never sinned. Now that's a little bit of a spoiler because here's the other side of the anger issue. Anger sometimes gets a bad rap. As a matter of fact, let me put it to you this way. It is not always wrong to be angry. In fact, sometimes it's wrong not to be angry.

Now that's something you don't hear very often because when you see the times that Jesus got angry, and we see it several times, then you begin to understand, okay, this is when I ought to be angry, this is why I ought to be angry, and this is how I ought to get angry. So here's what we're going to learn from Jesus over the next few weeks. Anger is appropriate when it is expressed at the right time, in the right place for the right reason. Then anger is appropriate. And today we're going to look, and I'm glad we got some kids in here today because today we're going to look at Jesus's angriest moment. In fact, he not only express his anger verbally, he got physical. Matter of fact, your kids may not even know the story. It may be the most shocking picture of Jesus in the New Testament because here's what he did. He got so angry, he got so mad, he lost it so much. He literally cleaned house. He cleansed the temple.

Matter of fact, he did it twice. So we're gonna be looking at two passages of scripture today. We're gonna be looking first at a passage in the gospel of John, John Chapter two, then going to be looking at Matthew Chapter 21. Here's why. In John, he cleansed the temple at the beginning of his ministry, but in Matthew, he did it again at the end of his ministry. So this story is going to answer two questions. Number one, what made Jesus angry? Well, what made him angry? And then number two, who is his anger directed toward? Two great questions. So what made Jesus angry. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, wonderful, sweet, loving Jesus. What made Jesus mad and who was his anger directed toward?

So you're gonna see today the one thing, I mean the one thing that made Jesus see red. It made the veins pop out on his neck. It made his blood pressure go up. It dilated his eyes. Here's what really ticked him off. When people who claim to know God tried to keep people who did not know no God away from God. That ticked him off. When people who claim to know God tried to keep people who did not know God away from God. And here's the other thing that may shock you. Who made Jesus angry? Religious people, church going people, religious leaders. You'll never find one time where Jesus ever got angry at a sinner, never. Never got angry with sinners. He got angry at people who claimed to be saints.

Now as we study this story, so many of you know the story, I want you to stay tuned to the end because the story is more about than, it has more to say than what you think. There's more to the eye than meets the eye in this story. But as we pick up this story, and we talk about what Jesus did in the temple, we learned there are things that we better not do if we don't want to make Jesus or we should do if we don't wanna make Jesus angry. Number one, we should care about the welfare of the temple. We ought to care about the welfare of the temple. Now let's set the scene. We're in John chapter two verse 13. "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money".

Now let me explain to you what's going on. The Passover was the most important event of the year, if you were Jewish, because you had to go to the Passover. Once a year, it didn't matter where you live. If you were Jewish, you had to go to Passover. You had to go to the temple. You had to offer a sacrifice to God, and you had to pay a temple tax. So you had to do all those things. I got to go to Passover. So you had to take vacation, take off work, got to go to Passover, got to do to the temple. Got to offers sacrifice, gotta pay the temple tax. Now on the one hand, you've got these people in the temple, and they're exchanging money and they're selling animals. And they're actually doing a service because it was a lot more convenient for people who had to travel a long way to buy an animal than to bring an animal. Then on the other hand, you had money changers.

Well, they needed that because if you are a traveler or you are Jew, normally you traded in Roman Currency. That was the currency of the day. Like our dollar bill is our currency. They traded in Roman Currency. However, you couldn't pay the temple tax in Roman currency. Why not? Because every coin had Caesar's image on it. And the Jews felt like it was idolatry if you gave God Roman Currency. So you had to exchange the Roman currency for the Jewish shekel. So it was a lot more efficient to simply exchange the money to buy the sacrifice so that you could sacrifice the animal when you got to the temple. It's the same thing we do today. Over 80% of our people now do online giving. And by the way, I would encourage all of you now to do online giving. It's the easiest way, it's the best way to make sure you're faithful, make sure you're doing what you ought to be doing, and giving to God's work. It's exactly the same principle.

However, there's more again than meets the eye. So get the picture. Jesus is in the temple. And he's just watching. He watching all these people come from all over Judea, Samaria, all over practically the world. They're coming to the temple. They just wanna do what they're supposed to do. They wanna meet God. They wanna get forgiveness of their sins. They wanna worship God and he's watching. And he's watching these people exchanging the money, and he's watching these people who are selling the animals. And the disciples are watching too. And they think it's just an ordinary, just another day at the mill at the temple. But nobody knows that Jesus is a ticking time bomb. Nobody knows his blood pressure's going up every single moment. And all of a sudden something happened that the disciples never thought they would see.

I've told you it shocked everybody to the core because all heaven breaks loose. I mean, Jesus goes full bore. "Chuck Norris", "Black Panther", "Captain America," list of what he does, watch this to get this picture. "So he made a whip out of cords. He drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He scattered the coins of the money changers. He overturned their tables". I want you to imagine he is throwing chairs. He is overturning tables. Money's flying everywhere. He's got a whip. He's literally chasing people out. He's trying to hit them as they go out the door. He is cleaning house. By the way, the word for drove out it's the same words that's used for casting out demons because that's exactly what Jesus saw in these religious hucksters. He saw the demonic. And I'm sure the disciples are going, what in the world happened? What in the world has set you off? Here's what was going on?

Get this picture. These religious leaders who are supposed to be God's people, God's leaders. They had turned God's house into their own personal ATM machine. Because in order to buy animals and offer sacrifice, first of all, you had to have the proper currency, right? You couldn't do it in Roman money. You got to do it Jewish shekels. So you would go to a table and you'd say, hey, change my Roman money for Jewish money. So far so good. However, you were charged 6% just to change the money. And it gets worse. Suppose you had a coin that was worth more than what you needed to buy the animals for. Well, they'd give you change, but then they charged you 6% to give you change. Well, you know what that 12% added up to? That 12% percent added up to about a 1/2 a day's wage for an average labor. And all you want to do is just worship God, offer the sacrifice and do what you're supposed to do. But that's not all. You had to buy the animal for the sacrifice.

You said, well, wait a minute. What if you brought your own animal? Well, there was a problem because every animal had to be without any blot. Every animal had to be without any blemish. So you would bring your own animal. Well, guess what these experts would do? They were expert at finding blots and finding blemishes. So guess what? Nobody's animal ever pass must... Oh, no, he's got a tick bite here. No, there's a little scar right here. So they would find a blot or a blemish so you had to buy one of your own animals. So what was wrong with that? Well, the only problem was they never went on sale. If you've bought an animal, the going price, sheep, goat, 10 times what it would cost anywhere else. If you bought a dove, pair of doves, 50 times what they normally cost. And you think, well, it couldn't get any worse.

Yeah, it really could because the religious leader of the day was the high priest. His name was Annas. Annas was the High Priest. He was over the entire temple complex. He wanted a cut of the profits. So guess what, if he said, man, I wanna get into this money changing business. I wanna get into this animal selling business. Well, he would say, "That's fine. You got to pay me a franchise. You're the High Priest". He would say. "I'm the High Priest. You got to pay me a franchise fee. You're going to set up your booth and your table, that's fine". And oh, by the way, once you pay me a franchise fee, then I get a cut of all of your profits. In other words, the high priests.

Now listen to this, the high priest is running a pyramid scheme. He's running the temple. So I go to Harvey. Harvey is a big businessman. Harvey, you wanna sell animals? That's great. I want my franchise fee. And by the way, every animal you get I get a cut. Jack, you wanna be a money changer. You're a far to get it, you're a crook. So you wanna be be a money changer, right? All right, Jack, you're gonna pay me a franchise fee, Jack, and I'm gonna get a cut of everything that you get. So everybody then begin to realize, now I know why Annas drives a Mercedes Chariot. And I know why he has a Rolex sundial in his backyard. And now I know why he wears Gucci sandals. And I know why he lives with a million dollar mansion. And here's the problem. Everybody knew that the temple was running a racket, but you're Jewish. You're just a guy. What could you do? Because the product was forgiveness. And the only place you could find forgiveness was the temple.

So you had to go to the temple. So you had a choice. You could either stay stuck in your sin, and not be right with God, or you could go to the temple and you could follow the rules. There was no third option. And so you've got Annas, and this pyramid of profit profiteers. They've cornered the market, and they are making a mint on what God meant to be a free gift. We'd say today, gosh, they were committing highway robbery which is exactly why Jesus said this. It is written he said to them, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you're making it a den of robbers". The reason Jesus called her to den a robbers is because the place where thieves head was called a den. And you see, here's the point. It is one thing to turn a house into a den of thieves. It's another thing to turn God's house into a dinner thieves. All of which is to say, we ought to care about the welfare of God's temple. We ought to care about what goes on the inside of God's temple and what comes outside of God's temple.

So number one, Jesus is teaching a lesson. We ought to care about the welfare of the temple, but he goes deeper. He said, we ought to care about the worship in the temple. We ought to care about the worship in the temple. Now the first time Jesus cleansed the temple, this is what he preached. Listen to what he said. "To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! Stop turning my father's house into a market! His disciples remembered that it is written, Zeal for your house will consume me". The only thing that will be going on in this place when we come in here, the only thing is worship. That's why we don't talk politics. I said this last week, this is not a place of politics. This is a place of worship. This is not a place where we major on what divides us. We major on what unites us. And anything that degrades God's worship or detracts from God's worship or defaults God's worship should be castigated and eliminated.

When you study the word of God, here's what you'll find. There's only one thing that ought to fill this building every time we come in, and that's the glory of God. The only thing. The glory of God. Neither God, nor his house, nor his name, nor his message is ever to be turned into a money making machine. So I want to take a moment just to say this. Just a little rock. The dog that barks is the one that gets hit. It is time to call out those religious leaders who are governed by greed and not by God. They're more concerned about their goal than they're God's glory. Max Lucado put it this way. "They strip-mine faith to get a dollar, and rake the pew to get a payment. They strip-mine faith to get a dollar and rake the pew to get a..."

And by the way, they're using the spot. They're more interested in their profit than they are in the profit. They're more concerned with what you have than what you need. They care more about your donation than they do your salvation. And you've heard their sales pitch before, right? And they say something like this, "Hey, if you'll give a donation to my ministry, God will give even more back to you". We've heard it right? Matter of fact, they'll say like this, "Hey, if you give me a $100, God will give you a $1000". Well, the next time you hear that sales pitch, I want you to do me a favor. Y'all do this. If you ever watch in one of these people and they give you this pitch, call the number on the screen, call them. And here's what you tell them. Tell you what I want to do. I'll make a deal. You send me the $100 and let God give you the $1000.

I want you to hear me clearly, listen to me. If someone claims to be a man of God or a woman of God or a prophet of God or a preacher of God's word, anybody, if they offer you anything, anything more than Jesus, something plus Jesus, anything beside Jesus change the channel, change the channel. I'm offering you one thing every time you come in here. I'm offering you Jesus. That's all I'm ever going to offer you 'cause that's all you really need. You don't really need anything or anyone else is Jesus. And see there's by the way, there's more than one way to make the church a den of robbers and a den of thieves.

Let me give you this tall. When a religious leader gets up like I do and refuses to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about sin, about judgment, about what is right, about what is wrong, they are robbing both the people who need to hear God's word and they are robbing God who gave his word to be heard. So when all you ever hear is happiness, but not holiness. All you ever hear is heaven, but not hell. All you ever hear is joy, but not judgment. All you ever hear is forgiveness, but not faithfulness. You're being robbed of the truth that you need to hear, and God has been robbed of the truth he has given. And Jesus sees red when preachers hide the truth, and people are not allowed to hear the truth because that goes to the very heart of worship.

What did Jesus say? He said, if you got to worship me, you worship me in spirit and in... truth. Worship me in truth. So overturn tables, coins flying all over the place, religious faith being driven out of the temple by a whip. That's exactly what we should have expected from Jesus. We should have been disappointed had he not done this? And this is an area. There's an dea... I wanna just, again, make sure we're clear off today. This idea that you know what we're Christians so we ought to get along with everybody. We all to never become angry at anything. I wanna be honest. Sometimes anger is not only not condemned, anger is commanded and anger is commended. And we ought to be angry whenever worship in the temple has gone out the door. We ought to care about the welfare of the temple. We ought to care about the worship in the temple. But then there's one last thing, we should care about the witness of the temple. We ought to care about the witness of the temple.

Now keep in mind, there are two purposes of the temple, right? Any temple, there are two purposes. There's the worship that goes on inside the temple, and there's the witness that goes on outside the temple. Now Jesus has just as played his martial arts skill, okay? He's gone Mr. Miyagi on these people, right? And he's already showing, man, I'm not putting up with this junk any more. It's all on display. Everything's died down. Everything's kind of calmed down. People starting to put the tables back, and put the chairs back and pick up the money. And everything's kind of going back to normal. But then Matthew has this detail and he's so sweet. Listen to this. "The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priest 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. 'Do you hear what these children are saying? They ask him?'"

Now Matthew, when he describes what happened, what John described in his gospel, Matthew goes deeper and he goes further than John. He said, man, what Jesus did was wonderful. When they saw the wonderful things Matthew said, Jesus said, man, "Did you see that... Did you see how far that Roman coin when he threw"? It was awesome. I can't believe, Jesus, you ought to get a gold medal for throwing chairs. I've never seen him throw a chair as far as you do. And I've never seen anybody overturned as many tables in as quick a time as you did. I mean, it was wonderful. And by the way, the blind, the lame and the sick, they came rushing to Jesus, even little children.

Now listen, children's saw this. Children saw the tables. Children saw the whip. Children saw the coins and children said, "Jesus, you're awesome. This is cool". And they begin to praise him. Here's what's interesting. Even though all four gospels recorded the cleansing of the temple, Matthew is the only gospel to record the healing of the blind and the lame and the children that came. Man, I just thought that, I'll sit in my study. I'm going, okay. Mark didn't mention this, Luke didn't miss this, John mention, Matthew, why did you mention this? And it hit me. Of the four gospel writers one was a real outsider, Matthew.

And I remember what Matthew used to be. Yeah, he's a tax collector. Women, he was a prostitute. Guys, he was a pimp to the Jewish people. You didn't get lower than a tax collector. Matthew knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in. Matthew knew what it was like not to be welcome. He was a tax collector. He was seen as the lowest of the low, as the most lost of the lost. And yet when it came to Jesus, you know what Jesus did, Jesus cleaned his house and Jesus saved him. See, back in that day, many Jewish authorities would the lame and the blind and the deaf and the sick and the handicap from offering a sacrifice. They wouldn't let them, they wouldn't take the money. They wouldn't take their animals.

You know why? 'Cause I said, "You're not worthy. Evidently you've done something so bad, so mean, so wrong to God that's why you're blamed, that's why you're crippled, that's why you're sick. That's why you're deaf. That's why you got this. That's why you got that". You're not worthy to be in the temple. But the amazing thing is the very ones who should be coming to God and the very ones that God is after couldn't get in. It's an incredible picture. The ones who wanted to make God a business, wanted to stand in the way of those who wanted to do business with God. Did you hear that? Those who wanted to turn God into a business or standing in the way of those who wanted to do business with God, and this made Jesus incredibly angry. But remember I've told you there's more to the story. You see all of this business was being done we're told in the temple courts, what was the temple courts?

Well, that was the court of the Gentiles. If we'd been alive back in the day, that's the only place of the temple we could've gone. Gentiles were not allowed on the Jewish part of the temple. If you're a Gentile, you only got to go to the court of the Gentiles. But here's the problem, they were the outsiders. Well, guess where they were selling the animals and guess where they were making change in the court of the Gentiles. So you couldn't even get into the part of the church you were supposed to get into because they were doing business. In other words, Jesus, wasn't just angry at profiteering. Listen to this. He wasn't just angry at the profiteer, you know what really ticked him off, racism, discrimination. Oh, we can take this, you're just a bunch of dirty Gentiles. It didn't matter what the color of your skin or your ethnicity. We would never do this to Jews, but we'll do it to you. And it ticked him off because the only place where Gentiles were allowed to come and worship and pray was now off limits.

So let me just get this plane that we're going to get to the real heart of the story. The ultimate purpose of those who are on the inside of God's house is to do everything they can to make sure that those who are on the outside of God's house are welcome inside God's house, so they can become a part of the family that meets in God's house. That's why we're here. That's what you give your ties and offers to, to a place like this. That says we wanna do everything. Those were some of the inside of the house. Wanna do everything we can to bring those on the outside, on the inside so that they can become a part of the family that meets in this house and it angered Jesus that God's temple was not being used for missionary business, it was being used for mercenary business. It wasn't used for missions. It was used for money.

And see Jesus was not just cleaning house, he was clearing the house so that those outside the house could get inside the house. Now I hope you stayed with me until this point, because this is the climax of the message. 'Cause I haven't even really gotten to what the story is all about. And let me tell you why you're going to be glad to hear this. I've been guilty myself. I've read this story for years and I never really paid attention to one important part that says, oh, that's what the story is really all about. Because if I were you, if I were not a preacher, if I were just a nominal Christian or an unbeliever, if I were sitting here today, I would be saying, well, that's a great story and I appreciate that, but what does that got to do with me? Because after all we don't worship in the temple.

This is not a temple. We don't worship in a temple. And, oh, by the way the Jews don't worship in a temple anymore because there's no temple. So why is the story in the Bible? What does the story really mean? Are you ready for the light? And if you're ready for life-changing truth. All right, raise your hand what mean tonight. All right, good, okay, listen. If you listen to this next statement I'm gonna show you a go. That's what the story's all about. This is what the story really means. You ready? What's this. God's temple isn't a building. God's temple is a body. God's temple is the building. This is not about a building. God's temple is a body. News flash, God still has a tipple, he might know where it is. I'm looking at it. You're looking at it. If you are a follower of Jesus, you're God's temple. If you're a follower of Jesus, you're God's temple. I'm a follower of Jesus, I am God's temple.

So here's what happens when you give your life to Jesus, Jesus comes to live in you. You become his house, you become his temple. And one former faithful member an attend of the temple here's what he said. Listen to what he said. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the holy spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own". You are the temple of God. I don't know, some of you think, wait a minute now, wait a minute. So I'm assuming that the guys, like we got some young staff members. I've seen Micah back there. He's in seminary. These guys get seminary they think they know more than I do and I'm gonna show them they don't. He said, oh doc, you you're just reading into the text.

You're just taking something Paul said, and you're reading it back into the text. No, I'm not because I want you to listen to something I never paid attention too much at all. Listen to what Jesus said. "The Jews then responded to him, what side can you show us to prove your authority to do all this? Jesus answered them, destroy this temple," don't go to the next verse I tell you. "Destroy this temple, I'll raise it to get in three days". Now where did he say that? He's standing in the temple. Destroy this temple, I'll raise it up three days. All right, now you can change it. "They replied, it has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you're gonna raise it in three days? But the temple he's spoken off was his," say that word out loud. Body. He said, this is a merit paraphrase. You nincompoops. I'm not talking about the building. I'm talking about the body.

So let's bring this home. I said, we ought to care about the welfare of the temple, right? I said, we ought to care about the worship in the temple, right? I said, we ought to care about the witness of the temple, right? Yeah, yep, that's right. So now let's get real personal. Now let's get real practical. Now let's get real relevant. You ready? Does your house need cleaning today? Is your house a place of worship 24/7 inside? Let let that linker. You don't come to this church on Sunday morning to worship only now. You ought to be bringing your worship from outside that you've been doing all week long.

Is your house a place of witness 24/7 on the outside? So here's the truth. We were all born with a dirty house, all of us. We were all born with selfishness and self-centeredness, concerned about our welfare and not God's welfare. And you will never get your house in order. I will never get my house in order until Jesus cleans your house, until Jesus cleans my house. And listen, the only one who can clean God's house is the only one who can clean your heart. Let me tell you what he will do. He did it for me when I was a nine year old boy.

Jesus came into my temple and it wasn't even a temple. It wouldn't fit to be a temple. You know what Jesus did to that nine year old boy? He overturned tables and he drove out money changers and coins went flying everywhere because he said, "This is to be a house of prayer". And when you give your life to Jesus, I promise you, yes, he'll overturn tables, he'll throw out money. He'll drive out anything in you that will keep you from God. But when it's all over, when it's all over and you come to know God, and you come to praise God and you come to thank God, and you come to love God, because you know your house is clean. There is nothing like it. Would you pray with me right now?
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