Cleaning House

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17, NAS)

Jesus was at home in the temple, teaching, healing, worshiping. A Son, in His Father’s house, going about His Father’s business.

But on this day? It was time for a little housecleaning.

The outer court of the temple was more like a bustling marketplace than a peaceful sanctuary. Tables had been set up for the convenience of visitors who needed to exchange money or purchase a sacrificial animal before proceeding to the inner courts of the temple. Upon entering the courtyard, one’s senses would have been assaulted with the sights, sounds, and smells of this carnival-like atmosphere. Regular temple worshipers had probably become somewhat desensitized, accepting the scene as normal.

Not Jesus. He had had enough of this bizarre bazaar. Fashioning a whip, he drove the sellers and money changers out in a rare display of angry passion.

Zeal for His Father’s house, we’re later told by His disciples, had simply overcome Him.

That temple is long gone, reduced to Roman rubble in 70 A.D. But now there is a new temple. One erected in every heart where Jesus dwells.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, NAS)

And just like the days of old, “money changers” come and set up their tables in the temple courtyards of our hearts. Some have occupied space there for years. The Bible calls them “strongholds.”

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV) 

A stronghold can take many forms. It could be a persistent sin, struggle, or addiction. It’s something that “sets itself up” in our lives to keep us from intimacy with God. It is anything that consistently robs us of what is rightfully ours.

Strongholds were never meant to be tolerated. Yet we grow accustomed to their presence and accepting of their chaos. We even start to “own” them, personalizing them…my anxiety, my insecurity, my anger. Strongholds are thieves masquerading as friends.

I allowed a long-standing stronghold of Fear to set up camp in my heart. It was a familiar presence, one I had learned to put up with and had begun to call my own. But according to 2 Corinthians 10:4, strongholds are meant to be demolished. Destroyed.

Thankfully, Jesus is on the scene. And He is still passionate about His Father’s house. He possesses the power to clear the temple courts with a whip and a word.

That word is our weapon.

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV)

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword… (Hebrews 4:12a, NLT)

His word is the gleaming sword that pierces, the swinging hammer that crushes, and the raging fire that can consume all of our strongholds.

Regarding “my” stronghold of fear, He placed this particular weapon from His word in my trembling hand:

Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18, NIV)

His word IS alive. And amazing. I doubt it’s coincidence that the Greek word for “drives out” in 1 John 4:18 is the same root used in John 2:15, when Jesus “drove out” the money changers.

I decided that Fear had littered my temple ground long enough. Perfect Love swept in and swept it away.

Does this mean I’ll never battle with fears again? No. But when I do, I’ll take them captive, rather than the other way around. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.)

What strongholds have staked a claim in your life? Are you tired of paying their exorbitant fees? Do you long for peace in the sacred spaces of your heart?

Jesus is here. He is ready to clean house, overturn some tables, and drive the money changers out.

Just say the word. Then take Him at His word.

He is zealous for you, lovely temple of His Holy Spirit.

“My house shall be called a house of prayer…” Jesus (From Matthew 21:13) 

Share on Facebook

Weeds

As we eagerly pulled up to the new house on our Closing Day near the end of August, we didn’t expect to be greeted.  But there they were, lining the driveway and waving at us.  Only they weren’t members of the Neighborhood Welcoming Committee.

They were weeds.

They seemed to have sprung up overnight, or at least sometime during the six weeks that had passed between our offer and the closing.  I didn’t recall a weed problem when we viewed the house.  But we sure had one now.  And there they were, taunting us, obscuring our view and robbing our joy.

Today we officially declared  “War On Weeds.”

As I spent the bulk of my Saturday stooped over, attacking these unwanted guests in our gravel driveway, I had plenty of time to contemplate the topic of Weeds. I also pondered how weeds can be spiritually symbolic of Sin.  (For this is what one does in order to avoid dwelling on how much one’s backside hurts while pulling said weeds.)  What follows are my thoughts…

1)  Weeds are part of life in a fallen world.

Weeds entered the world as a consequence of man’s sin, and they’ve been a tenacious opponent ever since:  “…the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” (Genesis 3:17b-18, NLT)  (We even have some nasty looking actual thistles on our property!)

Weeds interfere with growth and choke out life.  Ignoring or denying them will only make the problem worse.  So it is with the “sin which so easily entangles us” (from Hebrews 12:1, NAS)  We must acknowledge sin’s existence and impact on our lives:   “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NAS)

2)  All weeds are not created equal.

During my extensive field research, I discovered that there are two distinct types of weeds:  1) The kind that come up easily from the ground with a firm tug, and 2) The kind that prefer to engage you in a vigorous game of tug-of-war.  Here is a picture of Chris with the latter variety.  (He dubbed this one “The Mother Ship.”)

(Note all of the weeds in the background!)

Now sin is sin.  But some sins are easier to confess and forsake.  Others (persistent areas of defeat, spiritual “strongholds,” addictions) are more stubborn.  I struggle with one such area.  (I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say that a recent examination of my closet revealed no less than five different sizes of jeans, all of which fit me at various times in the last two and a half years.  Yep.)

3)  Weeds must be pulled up by the roots.

The only way I can explain the sudden appearance of the weeds along our driveway is that the previous owner must have kept them mowed down while the house was on the market.  They were close to the ground and hidden from all but the most astute potential home buyers.  (Apparently we were not of this variety.)  While “weed-whacking” appears to alleviate the problem, it does not solve it.  The roots remain.

We can confess and suppress sin in our lives, but if we fail to deal with the root of our sin issues, they will eventually reappear.  Hebrews 12:15 describes a “root of bitterness” that can keep springing up, causing trouble.  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of pulling up familiar “weeds” over and over.  (I mean, how many times am I going to lose the same 10 or 20 lbs?)  I am asking God to show me the “root” of my struggles, so I can truly be free.  I highly recommend Lysa Terkeurst’s book Made to Crave, which has been helping me with this.

4)  Weeds can be prevented.

In my husband’s quest to conquer the weeds he came across an environmentally (and water supply) friendly recipe on the Internet, consisting of vinegar, salt and dish-washing liquid.  Apparently weeds dislike this particular combination.  Even though the view from our house is now mostly weed-free, we must be pro-active if we want to keep the weeds at bay.

If God had a recipe for living a life free from sin’s entanglement, I wonder if it might include some of the following ingredients:  the Word (Psalm 119:9), the encouragement of other believers (Hebrews 3:13), and prayer (Matthew 26:41).  Being pro-active in our faith means creating an environment that is sin-resistant and conducive to the kind of growth we desire.

5)  One day weeds will be eradicated.

As long as we live on this sin-cursed soil, our war with the weeds–both in the physical and the spiritual realm–will continue.  But we can experience victory.  Jesus overcame the power of sin on the cross.  One day He will remove the presence of sin altogether!

Farewell, weeds!

And on that final Closing Day, there will be a Welcoming Committee.  The house He’s preparing for us will be in perfect, move-in condition.  And I have a hunch the view will be amazing!

 

Share on Facebook