January 31, 2011: John 2:13-22 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Eugene Peng, Gracepoint Berkeley

When things fall apart and get degraded—relationships, churches, families—why does it happen?  What does the process entail?

Application:  How does today’s text apply to you?

One can imagine that it started with the thinking that we have eternity to take care of the eternal matters, and therefore, the immediate concerns seem more important and urgent than they really are.  With that in the backdrop, we slowly reduce relationship with God to mere rituals, the minimal requirements necessary to appease God.  As far as the merchants are concerned, they are simply making it easier for people to come to “worship” God.  Besides, the merchants needed to make a living.  Because all these mundane activities happen around the temple, these mundane activities can almost appear spiritual and right.  These concerns are all too understandable and I can sympathize with them.

While we no longer have a temple in our midst, I see the same tendency in my own heart.  A few weeks ago, Pastor Ed challenged us about how we approach the Word of God in his first retreat message, and personally I made the commitment to really set aside time for God’s Word and come to Him with the expectation to actually hear Him speaking to me.  Since then, there have been too many other things to think about, tasks to take care of and ministry to do, and slowly they began to encroach on my time with God.  I want to spend time with God but I also feel pressured by the immediacy of these concerns, and at times I know I am simply trying to get this out of the way so I can move onto other things.  When my heart is not there, it becomes a hollow religious ritual that I perform on daily basis.   Even as I do my devotion today, I sense the pressure and my worries are things that I need to surrender to God.  Devotional time is only a part of my daily schedule.  Where is my heart when I pray to Him?  Where is my heart when I meet people and talk to them?  Where is my heart when I come to prayer meeting or Sunday Worship Service?  Unless my heart is there to worship Him, experience Him and glorify Him, anything that I do in His name is a meaningless religious ritual.  I need to repent of my heart condition so that when I say I am doing something onto God, I am actually doing something onto God.

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Submitted by Sue Yi, Gracepoint Berkeley

Think about the values represented by a marketplace.  Why was this so offensive to Jesus?

The values represented in the marketplace is of greed for money,  cheating people to benefit themselves and a mentality that they need to look out for themselves in order to gain. It is a place where people profit at the others expense, exploiting the poor and advancing the ones with power.  It is full of competition, greed and deceit. People use others in order to gain something for themselves.

This is offensive to Jesus because there is no regard for God or for people.  The temple was to be a place of worship of God, a place where people could go to pray to God to worship him, but instead it had become a place where people went in order to gain something for themselves. Money caused people to devalue other people and instead of love and compassion, there was competition and greed. There was only self advancement. Seeing this picture, Jesus was so enraged that the place where people were to come to for prayer, for worship, to experience love, hope and forgiveness was replaced with greed, self advancement, competition, materialism. Jesus cannot take lightly want he sees because God’s holiness is being trampled upon, compromised and degraded. He is enraged at what the place of worship has become and he expresses it through overturning of tables.

What are some ways in which such marketplace values can be present in today’s Christian gatherings?

The marketplace values of the world can be present in today’s gatherings when people come to church to find friends, they come to church to network, to advance their business, they come because of good children’s program, they come to consume and to be satisfied for whatever needs that they have but not necessary to find God.  They don’t want to seek God.  Their gathering is more about what they can get out of it and what is in it for them verses worshipping God on a personal level.  There is no growing knowledge of who they are, of who God is.. it becomes a familiar routine where they come to church to keep up an image rather than breaking down barriers and being honest before God.

As God’s holiness cannot be compromised,  I need to first and foremost make sure that my worship of God is not something that is routine, but that my heart seeks to hear from God and to honor God. I need to be one whose personal worship is growing with heart and zeal. And as a leader i need to make sure that our gatherings and that our church is a place where people can come to seek God. I need to be vigilant from market-like atmosphere that can so easily encroach. As our church grows, I need to protect the honor of God and be concerned that our church is not a place full of discrepancy between people’s profession and actual life. It needs to be a place where each person is honest in life and speech, where there is genuine presence of God that can be felt by all who come.

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Submitted by James Chao, Gracepoint San Diego

Think about the values represented by a marketplace.  Why was this so offensive to Jesus?

The marketplace is characterized by everyone acting purely out of self-interest to get as much as they want and that is the main principle at work. In everything that happens, people are motivated to benefit themselves and other people are merely vehicles in them getting what they want. Beyond that, there are always those who are trying to take advantage of you, and you’d always need to be on guard and not be so naive as to take things at face value because things are not always what they seem. Even the “good” relationships that form here are just ones of mutual benefit, and the value of the relationship lasts only as long is that relationship can benefit the parties involved. This is so different than God’s values and what he wants to see in the temple. Rather than being the place where sinners can come to find cleansing for sins or where people can put aside world things to focus on and worship God, there was all this commercial activities where people are calculating with selfish motives and taking advantage of one another for selfish gain. And perhaps among those who really came with an earnest desire to seek God, some were getting distracted and their worldly desires were stirred up through these things. There were all of these things right there in that people had to put up with in order to find God. Most importantly of all, God’s own name and character was damaged by this, as people gained a twisted understanding of religious and spiritual life entails and maybe even got jaded toward worship and toward God. No wonder Jesus was so offended by what was happening there, as his very temple no longer drew people to God but put up more barriers to keep people from God. This is a reminder of how important it is for me to keep in mind the mission of the church to be that place where people can meet God, and to guard against worldly values from creeping in and corrupting the body of Christ. This starts with me guarding myself and being vigilant against my own worldly desires for comfort, for significance through what I can do or achieve, for respect from others. In order for the church to stay clear about its mission, I need to stay clear about my mission as a Christian who has been called by God to bring the Gospel to this dark world.

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Submitted by Becky Fong, Gracepoint Berkeley

Think about the people listed in vs. 14.  What were they doing and why?

The people were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as exchanging money, in the temple courts.  They were doing this for business, to make a profit, because people who journeyed to the temple from far off would need to purchase animals for offerings and exchange their local currency to pay Temple taxes.  But these sellers brought their business for profit into the actual temple courts, which was supposed to be the area where Gentiles could come and worship and pray to God.  This reveals their disregard for actual worship of God and of the marginalized people, the Gentiles, who could not enter closer into the temple to worship and pray to God.

Think about the values represented by a marketplace.  Why was this so offensive to Jesus?

A marketplace represents values of superficial qualities and attributes, of worth based upon appearance or competence, performance.  This is so offensive to Jesus, because the temple was to be His Father’s house, a place of worship where the weak, broken, disregarded by the world, could come to Him, but they degraded it into a place of personal profit with much noise and distraction, treating the holy business of relating with Him into a literal business.  It is also offensive because this is completely contrary to God’s view and treatment of us, which confers value and love to us simply because He claims us as His precious children and not for any merit of our own.

What are some ways in which such marketplace values can be present in today’s Christian gatherings?

Such marketplace values can be present in today’s Christian gatherings in very obvious superficial ways such as favoring/treating people based upon physical appearance, possessions, degrees, etc., being impressed by them, as well as subtler ways such as competence, intellect, personality, or usefulness.  These marketplace values can become such a distraction, both in evaluating others based upon these criteria as well as seeking to gain something through these superficial criteria, from people really seeking and relating with God, in just occupying our minds and hearts, making it harder to be genuine and raw and honest, and causing us to strive and be insecure and envious and miss out on the grace of God and close genuine relationships in the spiritual community He designed for us.

In the face of dead and twisted temple religion, Jesus says: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” What message does Jesus convey here about the true temple, i.e., the Church he will establish with his resurrection?

Jesus conveys the message that the true temple, how people can come to God, is not based upon man’s offerings or a place.  It is through His own death for our sins, and the Church He will establish with His resurrection, His own initiative, and His grace, not merited at all by our tired and hopeless efforts such as their dead and twisted temple religion.  His message must have been scandalous to those who actually understood it, that their previous system of trying to earn their way to being right with God through their rituals and offerings was not the way to God in fact, and that He would provide the way to be reconciled to God out of complete grace.

Picture the scene Jesus witnessed as he entered the Temple courts, and the picture Jesus might have expected.  When things fall apart and get degraded—relationships, churches, families—why does it happen?  What does the process entail?

Jesus might have expected the Temple courts to have been working as they were designed, with people coming to worship and connect with God from afar, including the Gentiles.  His expectation was probably in line with God’s design for the Temple, to be a place where people could come closer to God.  Thus this scene of buying and selling, exchanging money, in the midst of a place that was meant to be a place of prayer and connection with God for all, including the lowly and broken and disregarded, would have been so offensive and upsetting to Jesus.

Things begin to fall apart and degrade when people start to focus on their own individual interests.  I think most of the time it starts with reacting to fears, by withdrawing or focusing on the self to the neglect of or in conflict with others or even things we have become convicted of, thus breaking down relationships, churches, families.  Here, disregarding the holiness and proper awe and worship of God, as well as their relationship to the Gentiles as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ or at least fellow sinners in need of connection with God, the sellers and money changers moved into the only area the Gentiles could come connect with God.  It probably started out just as they needed to make a living, others were profiting more and growing and perhaps they would lose even the little business they had, they had families to feed and care for, etc., and they allowed their fears to drive them to ambition and breaking down/minimizing/ignoring/denying their relationship with others and even proper relating with God as Sovereign Lord and also as trustworthy and faithful.  This happens in relationships too as fears set in and we feel like we need to invest our time, energy, heart, money, more into other things like studies, clubs, our resumes, jobs, families, etc., causing our hearts and relationships to cool and degrade subtly, little by little.  This can happen even in families too, in different ways, but one way is as we respond to fears and ambitions, not only directly it can affect the actual time and energy we spend investing in our familial relationships, it can affect our families in the values and way we relate to each other.  For example, I have seen how a father’s genuine desire to protect and provide for his family has grown to great ambition and value so much of money and status and title that it has degraded and broken his relationships with his children as he evaluates them based upon these external criteria.  For a believer, the process of breakdown entails responding to fear by focusing on yourself and forgetting/disregarding truths you have known, such as God’s faithfulness and the reality of our lack of control in our lives and how God has saved us into a community of faith and commands us to show the dying world what He is like through our love for one another, which is not usually a big dramatic conscious decision, but happens in little steps here and there, to prioritize ourselves over others, to not make the effort to build up our brothers and sisters intentionally in little ways, etc.

Application:  How does today’s text apply to you?

It is scary and such a warning how this process of things falling apart and get degraded is so subtle, and begins with actually just fear and what might sound really reasonable, what we hear often in the world and have quietly internalized without knowing it, that you have to look out for yourself, etc.  I have received so much from God in being saved into this body of Christ with a rich history and culture and strength of leaders and brothers and sisters in a web of relationships, examples of sacrifice and what it means to concretely obey God’s calling and live out the gospel, and it is such a precious entrustment that can be so easily and subtly degraded and broken down by me, that I need to be wary, alert to how responding to my own fears can begin this decaying process.  Fears can seem so innocent, and I can think I am somewhat helpless to them or at least that I have less control over them, but they are this destructive when I respond to them, maybe not in a big sweeping things but in the subtler little decisions I make here and there, to take for granted the relationships and community I have received.  I need to be clear-minded about fears, that I need to face them, pray about them, respond to them by recalling and seeking out God’s Word in application, instead of just responding to them by letting them guide my thoughts, perceptions, and decisions.

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