So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon.
How would you respond if someone came into your home and took a close look around? What kind of things do you think they would see? What things would you try to hide? What would embarrass you if they saw it?
This must have been how some of the folks felt when Jesus showed up to the temple and did His “inspection.” There were plenty of things that Jesus did see – sacrifices, worship, conversations, buying, selling, and trading. On the surface all these things looked great. What wasn’t good was the things just below the surface, hiding out of plain site.
Jesus entered the temple that day and saw people being taken advantage of. Many had shown up to take care of important business. Like paying the temple tax, offering sacrifices, and worshiping God. But, instead of helping people do that, corruption had taken root. Greed had set in. People were being taken advantage of in their moment of need and charged exuberant prices. The temple wasn’t filled with a sweet aroma to God, instead it was the stench of greed.
In response Jesus threw over the tables and chased the people out. He got rid of the greed and corruption. He cleansed the temple so it could become the place God intended it to be. A place where people could find peace, forgiveness, and hope.
Jesus came to confront this corruption in the temple. But, more importantly He has come to confront sin and corruption in our own lives. Paul tells us that we are God’s temple. If we are God’s temple then Jesus has come and is taking a look around. What are the things in your life He needs to throw out? Are you willing to let Him get rid of the corruption and sin in your hear?
He Is Risen!
Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
The story of Jesus with His disciples at the last super has always intrigued me. I find it fascinating that Jesus treated Judas the same as the rest even though He knew Judas had betrayed Him. He offered everyone a place at the table, offered them all grace, and served all of them the same from Peter who was always overzealous to Judas who wasn’t fully one of them. I think it is a wonderful picture of how God works in our lives today.
God is always with us, all of us, offering us a place at His table. He offers each of us grace and despite the sin in our lives loves us, even to the point of death, even death on a cross. He is truly relentless in His pursuit of us.
Before the disciples ate their meal Jesus did something amazing. He washed their feet. This was a job that was only for a slave to perform. The fact that Jesus was doing it was astonishing. Peter was the only one brave enough to push back – Jesus you can’t wash my feet! But, Jesus knew this was exactly what Peter and all the others needed. They need to be refreshed, the be touched up a bit.
They had spent 3 years with Jesus going from city to city and had no doubt picked up some dirt along the way. So, Jesus set out to remove it. While He was washing away literal dirt, what He was alluding to was the fact that soon He would was away the spiritual dirt as well. Something we all need throughout our lives. Today, sit with Jesus at His table and let Him wash your feet. Let Him refresh you. Let Him cleanse you. It is, after all, what He came to do.
I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.
King Solomon was the wisest King the nation of Israel ever had. But, that wisdom didn’t get him very far. If anything that wisdom led him down a path of destruction. He had searched for meaning and sought gain in every area of life under the sun he possibly could. He gained wealth, fame, and women. But, in the end none of those things ever provided any satisfaction. He gets to a point in this letter where he says we need to find balance in life.
We have a lot of voices to listen to in life and a lot of choices to make. It is easy to get pulled from one extreme to another. Solomon says money can only do so much, even though it is something we need. If we go too far one way or the other we will get lost. We can’t totally do without but having it all isn’t good either. He talks about patience being something we need in order to get through this life. In other words we have to be willing to be in the moment and not try to rush ahead in envy of other seasons or people. He also says, it is good to remember the past, but you can’t live there. If we spend all of our time longing for the “good ol’ days” we will miss the present moment God has us in and the hope we should have with the future.
So, what are we supposed to do? How do we escape this constant pull? Solomon has an easy answer – fear God. Live life with a healthy reverence of who God is. Make Him your focus and trust. It is in that space we will find a healthy balance and find the most joy and peace in life under the sun. So, fear God, that is the first step.
The second step Solomon shares with us in verse 26 where he says we need to please God. He was talking about how he was attracted to seductive women and his only escape was to live in obedience to God. These extremes are attractive. Money is attractive. Power and influence is attractive. The past is attractive. The future is attractive. We want lots of things and they can easily be seductive. We avoid that seduction and find the escape as we live in obedience to God. He leads us out of the extremes and away from the dangers of that seductive woman, but we have to be willing to follow.
Seek balance in life – do so by living in fear of God and in obedience to Him.
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him--but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The verse above is the verse most Christian churches go to for their mission and purpose – the church exists to make disciples – to baptize and teach people to obey God’s Word. That is the charge given to the 11 disciples just before Jesus ascended back to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. It was a pretty surreal moment for these 11 guys.
When I was reading this the other day, I tried to read it with fresh eyes. What really jumped out at me was that some of them doubted! They doubted! They just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, not to mention about 3 years worth of miracles and now they stand before Him with doubts!? At first it blew me away to notice that, but then it gave me a sense of peace and comfort knowing if those 11 men had doubts and were still used by God to launch His Church into the world, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about my doubts.
I don’t know why they were doubting, but I know why I doubt. I often don’t feel prepared enough, good enough, and sometimes I just doubt this entire faith thing. At times my doubt makes me feel uneasy – like I shouldn’t be doubting at all. But, then here, it is, plain as day and mentioned like it isn’t a big deal – the disciples doubted too.
One thing I see though – they didn’t let their doubt stop them. It wasn’t paralyzing. It wasn’t an excuse to not be obedient. Most of them still gave their lives spreading the message of Christ. So, while we may have doubt – we shouldn’t let it stop us. Jesus, in response to their doubt told them – guys I am with you all the way. You may not think you can make disciples – but I will be with you – we got this.
I don’t know what God might be asking of you today – but trust Him, even if you have some doubts – He will be with you every step of the way!
Trusting God despite my doubts!
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself…
Resolve is to settle firmly on a course of action, it is firm determination. What have you resolved to do? Who have you resolved to be? Daniel resolved to not defile himself in a pretty difficult time. But, it was in his resolve that he was able to make it through the chaos and achieve an incredible amount of success and influence.
Daniel made this resolution, this firm course of action, at the beginning of what would end up being 70 years of captivity. You see, the Israelites had fallen into disobedience, again. This time it divided them and destroyed them. The kingdom was divided, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom had been conquered by the Babylonians. Many of the Israelites were carted off to Babylon to live as exiles and slaves in a foreign land. They were basically right back where they started.
During this time Daniel and some of this friends were invited (perhaps forced) into the king’s palace. Here they would be taught, for 3 years, the ways of this culture and kingdom. The king even tried to force them to eat his food. But, Daniel, in his resolve refused the food because it had been offered to idols and never caved in his commitment and obedience to God and God’s law, even though everyone and everything around him was pulling him away. He stood strong.
So, I ask again, what have you resolved to do? Who are you when you find yourself right back where you started (stuck or enslaved in a place you don’t want to be)? Who are you when everyone around you is trying to tell you how to live your life and what to do? Do you give in and do what everyone else is doing? Do you stray form what you know to be right? How is your resolve?
God blessed Daniel’s resolve. Twice in the opening chapter of Daniel we read the words God gave. God gave Daniel favor with his guards and God gave Daniel a ton of wisdom and knowledge. This favor and wisdom is what really equipped Daniel and his friends to be successful and influential in this chaotic time of exile. If we will resolve to not be defiled – to live totally sold out to God, He will give us what we need to be successful and influential. He will give us what we need to be who He wants us to be. So, what will you resolve to do today?
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
A couple of weeks ago I was out in the woods doing some hunting. We were about 2 miles in and it got dark. Luckily we had a road to walk on to get back to the truck – and a flashlight! At one point in our walk in the dark I turned off the flashlight. It was dark! Very hard to see where we were going. When it is dark it is hard to move, especially when you turn off the light. It can be very disorienting and scary. I didn’t leave the light off for long before turning it back on – maybe just a step or two.
Many of us might find ourselves in the dark. We might be having great difficulty moving forward either in life in general or forward through a particular problem or season of life. In those moments who or what do you turn to for light – for direction? How do you know they are leading you in the right direction and what do you do when they are not around – when the light goes out?
What really strikes me about this Psalm is that it says God is surrounded by clouds and thick darkness. God knows what it is like to be in the dark. He is in the midst of our darkness. He is with us on that journey with us. I know we might be tempted to turn to someone or something other than Him for direction. We might even find that we have put our hope for salvation from the darkness in a human made system, a person, or even a substance. But, none of those things or people can offer what God does. They aren’t always in the darkness with you, but God is.
The last time we see God in the darkness He brings forth life (Genesis 1-2). He brings order to chaos. He declares light where there once wasn’t any. We can, and should, ask other people for help and invite others to join us in our darkness so they can help us out, but ultimately our hope should reside in God. Ultimately, He is the only one who can truly transform the darkness into light.
Your road might be pretty dark today, but know that God is right there with you. Trust Him for the light you need so you don’t get lost and can keep moving forward.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
God will soon crush Satan under your feet! What an awesome statement of complete and total victory. I know I can’t wait for the day until Satan and all the evil he has brought about in this world is destroyed and God’s love and grace reign perfectly. We just have to keep holding on right? Waiting for that day and all will be better – Satan will be defeated! So, hold on, victory is coming.
While this verse is exciting we cannot forget everything else Paul said around it. He made this statement at the end of Romans. A letter written to a church that was arguing quite a bit. Paul reminded them of the reality of their position in Christ, having been set free from sin, no longer slaves to it. They are new people with a new purpose in Jesus. He has spent much of the letter reminding them of what Jesus has done and how in response to that they can and should live a life of obedience to Him.
In fact, leading up to this awesome statement Paul praises them for their obedience and challenges them to continue to do what is right and stay away from doing any wrong. One translation of Romans 16:17 puts it quite strongly, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” So, while we wait for Satan to be crushed under our feet we have a responsibility, not to live in evil, but to live in good.
One of Paul’s biggest messages in Romans is the power available to us through Christ. That we do not have to live in evil, that we are capable of good. I think we often excuse the evil in our lives and convince ourselves we are powerless over it. Which, may be true, right up until we depend on Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus has already crushed the hold evil had on us and the sin we lived in. Sure, the temptation to do evil/wrong might still be there, but now we have a power to no longer live in it.
Here is the challenge I take from the closing of Romans. We have a choice in life, to do good or to do evil. There will come a day when Satan will be crushed under our feet and evil totally destroyed. But, until then, thanks to Jesus, we can choose how to live. We can live crushed by sin and evil while we wait for Satan to be defeated, or we can be wise and go ahead and live in victory over it. Jesus has crushed Him already and we have the opportunity to go ahead and live in that final victory today. What will you choose?
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree.
I was playing a video game with my son the other night – it was a basketball game. It was the first time I played him. I beat him by almost 30. It was such a beautiful thing! But, then he asked for a second chance, another opportunity to play me, and this time he destroyed me. Beginners luck I guess.
We all love getting second chances! I want you to know that we serve a God of second chances. In Romans 11 Paul was talking about how God hasn’t given up on Israel. These have been repeatedly disobedient people and at times against the things of God. But, God has never written them off or gone back on His promises. Instead He has given them tons of mercy.
The amazing thing is, is that mercy has been extended to all the Gentiles. Paul describes this tree with branches that have been grafted in and others that have been cut off. The cut off branches were the disobedient Israelites and the grafted in branches were the believing Gentiles. Of course this made some of the Gentiles pretty prideful and some of the Israelites pretty discouraged.
But, then God steps in and says not so fast. Even though He is the one that cut off the branches He is also the One who is willing to graft them back in. This says a couple things to me. Every branch I have ever cut off a tree has died, making it impossible to graft back in. God may cut us off the tree but then keeps us alive until we decide to come back. Then, He has the power to graft us back in.
The God of second chances! We may have gotten beat the first time – but we can be very victorious the second time if we want. Don’t give up on yourself – God hasn’t given up on you. Turn from your unbelief, your sin, and come back to the Father. He is ready and willing to graft you back into the tree.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Have you ever felt stuck? You have known what to do but just couldn’t seem to get it done? Maybe you’ve felt that way with various projects in the past or maybe even in life in general. There may even be times when you feel like you are stuck in your relationship with God and that you have just been unable to overcome the sin in your life or the other obstacles in your way. So, what are we supposed to do when it seems we just lake the strength to move forward?
Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we have this amazing asset as a result of coming to faith in Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus died on the cross He told His disciples that when He left them He wouldn’t leave them alone, that He would send them a helper. Then, again, at His ascension in Acts 1 He told the disciples to wait for this helper, the Holy Spirit who would come and fill them with amazing power. That happened a few days later, on the day of Pentecost.
Romans 8 reminds us that this new life we have received in Jesus is not meant to be lived alone or in our own strength. We find ourselves getting stuck because we often try to move forward in our own strength and abilities. We are only able to get ourselves so far, before we need a little help. God has provided that for us in His Spirit. Once we come to know Jesus personally we are all filled with Him.
The Spirit of God fills our hearts and gives us the assurance and confidence that maybe we didn’t have before. He even works in and through our weaknesses. Paul’s example in this chapter is that He is praying for us when we don’t know what to pray or how to pray. The point is the Holy Spirit is doing for us things we don’t have the strength to do alone.
Paul describes this power that is available to us as the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Now, that is some pretty amazing power. IT is life giving power! So, if you are feeling stuck or lifeless – take advantage of the strength that lies within you. Lean into the Holy Spirit who is ready and waiting for you to just let Him do what He does best – strengthen you in your weakness, assure you of God’s presence, and free you from a life of sin and death!
I want to do something a little different today and just leave you with Paul’s thoughts on the struggle we often find ourselves in. We will often find it hard, if not impossible, to do what we know we should – the right thing, the good thing. We look for solutions in all kinds of places, but can never really find freedom from that fight. In Romans Paul deals with this head on and to the Jews, they were trying to find victory in keeping the law. What fight are you in? Looking for victory but can’t find it? Ready for a new life? Listen carefully to what Paul is saying…
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we might live new lives by uniting with him in his death, we will be raised to life as he was. Remember that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”
“Stop giving sin a place in your life – it has no power over you! Do not keep living as if you are enslaved to it, instead present your life to God, surrender to Him, and live in His righteousness!” (Paul – Romans 6-7)
I am praying we all live in this reality. The resurrection of Jesus has given us the opportunity to live a new life, a better life. A life we cannot find anywhere else. Are you ready to stop fighting a battle you can’t win and start trusting Jesus – who fought your fight, and won!?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.