Certainly it is a great big church in Los Angeles or Atlanta!
with a Guided Meditation
Mat 21:12-15a, 23-27
In 1967, a small plane flying from Jackson, Mississippi crash-landed on a sparsely populated island in the South Pacific. There were two-dozen young adults of both sexes on the plane. There was no contact with these people until 1997, the year they were discovered. Fortunately, all 24 passengers had survived, and now there were many offspring of this group and of the native inhabitants of the island. Places of worship had also sprung up, including the Jewish Temple Emanuel, the Catholic Church of St. Christopher, St. Margaret Episcopal Church, and First Baptist, Second Baptist, Third Baptist, Fourth, Fifth Baptist and Faith Baptist Churches. Where there’s a will, there’s a church.
Prayer: Father, encourage us to join the true assembly, which is the eternal body of Yahshua Messiah, where we may worship you in spirit and truth, unencumbered by doctrines bound to keep us ignorant and people bound to keep us oppressed. In your Set-apart Spirit of freedom we pray. Amein.
Corruption in High Places
Yahshua had been teaching his way from north to south. We have seen him as far north as Tyre and Sidon and now he’s in the south of Israel, entering the Jerusalem temple. He had made a name for himself as a teacher with authority, his extraordinary doctrine was confirmed by miraculous signs. And now, he is thronged by youth who hail him as the “Son of David,” the new king of Israel. They enter into the temple court, a vile and foul-smelling place, where vendors are selling all kinds of animals to worshipers for blood sacrifices. Sacrificing animals is an abomination to God. Even worse, worshipers had to buy their animals with special money that also had to be bought here. It was a religious monopoly. Somebody was making huge profits from the poor.
Yahshua cries out to the masses, "Scripture says ‘my house will be called a house of prayer (Is 56:7); but you have made it a den of thieves" (Mat 21:13). Yahshua follows his insult with bold action: he takes up a whip and flogs the merchants out, turning over the money-stacked tables. He is like a madman (Psalm 69:9). After this “cleansing,” when the uproar died down, Yahshua heals the sick.
But over the course of the night, trouble brews. The temple authorities and the chief priests were in charge of the temple and the people. They were completely corrupt. Their power was only exceeded by the King. They colluded to set the prices for all the animals and services. They bought low and sold high, and changed money for exorbitant fees. And though they were supposed to be examples of authority for common people to emulate, they like the gravestones in the cemetery behind us – beautiful on the outside, but full of corruption on the inside. And now these racketeers were stirred up like hornets because the Yahshua gang had interrupted their syndicate. They could afford the loss of a day’s revenue, but they couldn’t let it go on. It was time to act.
The next day, Yahshua returns to the temple, this time he leaves his whip at home. The temple was full of wide-open spaces. Gobs of folks were coming and going for prayer and business. Yahshua sat in an obscure corner with his listeners around him on carpets, as was the custom in those days. Yahshua is interrupted. After plotting all night, these racketeers make a rare appearance among the commoners by approaching the tiny corner where Yahshua is reclining. “Why didn’t they just arrest him there,” we wonder. Yahshua had committed a serious crime. No, they wanted to probe him – maybe buy him as they had Judas Iscariot. One boss demands, “By what authority did you disrupt our operation yesterday and who gave you that authority?”
You see, the temple was the “house of God” in name only; religious gangsters ran the place and they approved everything that went on there. Yahshua was not ordained by them nor was he a priest; wasn’t enrolled with the denomination; wasn’t a certified; wasn’t even on the payroll. They couldn’t imagine any other motive for Yahshua’ demonstration with the whip except that somebody had put him up to it. But who? Who was paying him? What rival was giving him orders if it wasn’t them?
“By whose authority?” they demanded. Don’t you hate people that answer your question with a question? But that’s what Yahshua did. “You tell me -- who authorized John’s baptism?” he asked them. Yahshua’ mention of John the Baptist terrified these racketeers because John had real power with the people. John called for the overthrow of the entire temple religion, its priesthood, its sacrifices, its luxury. John had commanded these rulers to “REPENT -- or be destroyed.” He wasn’t scared of them at all. For these bosses, the name “John the Baptist” was like a mirror to a vampire. The temple racketeers considered themselves in total authority, but their answer reflects a fear of authority: “We don’t know,” they smirked.
Trash Pit of History
Yahshua replies, “You guys aren’t as powerful as you think. If you can’t answer me, I can’t answer you.” Yahshua “disses” these fancy fellows in the hearing of all of whom they demanded respect. They were humiliated. Yahshua was not even going flirt with these devils much less jump in bed with them. But Yahshua knew that they were all doomed -- within forty years the entire temple system, its chief priests, its rulers, its politics, its rituals, its stones, its animals, its money, its taxes, its gates, its gold, its silver, its smells, its filth – all would be cast down into the trash pit of religious history where it belonged.
A New Temple
Lets go back a few years. Yahshua once stood at a well in Samaria and asked a woman of bad reputation for a drink of water. Do you remember? Recognizing him as a prophet, this old gal was flustered. How do you talk to a prophet? I know! You ask a controversial religious question, like, “where did Cain get his wife?” People ask me questions like that all the time. Here is the controversial question for Yahshua,
John 4:20. “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain; you Jews say that the temple is the place. Which is right?”
If Yahshua were not a prophet, he would have answered, “The Jerusalem temple!” However, his answer is truly prophetic:
John 4:21. Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 23. But the hour is already here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.
Though the great temple might stand in Jerusalem with multitudes worshiping and sacrificing and making money in it, there is a better temple in which worshipers could honor the Father in the way he desired to be honored, not with the stench of burning animals, the constant flow of blood and excrement, and the vain repetitions of the temple prayer book.
John the Baptist worshipped the Father, yet he never set foot in the temple. John worshiped in spirit and truth way out in the desert! And though Yahshua taught in the temple, he certainly didn’t worship there. He never brought an animal for sacrifice and never put a cent in the temple treasury. Yahshua never supported organized religion because Yahshua knew the truth. And he declared the truth to the woman at the well.
Where Is It?
So where is the temple of spirit and truth? Is it in Israel someplace? Is it some great big church in Los Angeles or Atlanta? Is it the Bethel Temple up the road? Is it right here in the church sanctuary? In another account of the story, the temple racketeers ask Yahshua a different question:
John 2:18. "What sign can you show us that you should act like this?" 19. Yahshua answered, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up." … 21. But he was speaking of the Temple that was his body.
Yahshua refers to his body as the temple! In fact, he is speaking of his flesh, destroyed on the cross, and raised up incorruptible: this is the new temple in which true believers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. But the temple of Yahshua’ body is much more than just Yahshua raised from the dead. Now his body is a universal living temple, a living organism, composed of thousands and thousands of living cells the Bible calls “living stones.” There will never be a butcher shop in this temple, nor will there be a scoundrel to steal a worshiper’s money or time. For in the Body of Yahshua there is healing, deliverance, and, most importantly, the opportunity to worship the Father in the Set-apart Spirit rather than with mere rituals and sacrifices. Best of all, to be with him is to acquire a higher purpose in life – a high goal – a reason to exist – a Set-apart space in which you are always welcome, respected and loved.
You Are the Temple
The true temple is the living body of Yahshua, but you are also a temple. Remember the preaching of the Apostle Paul when he speaks of taking care of the body:
1 Cor 6:18. Keep away from sexual immorality. All other sins that people may commit are done outside the body; but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19. Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Set-apart Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God? 20. You are not your own property; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God.
Let me reiterate this concept: Your body is a temple of religion, a place of worship, a Set-apart land. Believers, point to yourselves and say, “I am a temple!” If your body is a temple of the Set-apart Spirit, then Yahweh owns you – you don’t have rights over your own flesh, even if you’re a Democrat. For you are the caretaker of purchased property; bought by the life and blood Yahshua of Nazareth, the Son of God; bought away from the racketeering devils of world religion, bought away from the rat race of worldly systems, chosen, one out of many, and imbued with the very same Set-apart Spirit that possessed Yahshua.
To be the responsible caretaker of the temple of the Set-apart Spirit is the greatest privilege to which one can aspire. It’s also a serious responsibility. The sacrifices you must make in your temple include offering your whole life on it’s altar, every hope and aspiration, every goal and every dream, every relationship – they all become the possessions of the Set-apart Spirit. And in return for this commitment, for your decision to become a living stone in the great organic temple of the Spirit, our Creator / Father will take all your dreams and aspirations and build up, build up, build up in the promise that one day you will be able to look down upon yourself from the very pinnacle of yourself, to gaze over a vast city from the very apex of its temple -- which is you. How beautiful and luxurious you will be when the time comes in which we can see things in truth rather than through the silly illusion of five senses.
If this is all so (and we believe it is), why wouldn’t every soul aspire to become temples of the Set-apart Spirit? And why would anyone who is a temple of the Set-apart Spirit want to abuse one’s self in immoral, unrighteous, indulgent or self-centered living? Why would you want to continue in sin? You do so only at the expense of great guilt and loss of self. Take care of your temple. Irresponsibility in this regard will ruin your future and cause your final state to be infinitely worse than that.
When Paul says, “you are the temple of the Set-apart Ghost,” he is not speaking to everyone. In fact, he is only speaking to the very few. Although every living person is a temple for one thing or another, Paul is talking only to those few who are initiated into the mysteries of the Spirit. Paul is speaking to the few who have chosen to become temples of Yahweh. He is speaking only to those who have repented of their own life and taken on the Messiah-life. He is speaking only to those who have been baptized in water for the remission of inborn sin. He is speaking only to those who have been baptized in the Set-apart Spirit and empowered for service – to those who love Yahweh and are called according to his purpose.
There can be no dissent in the Temple of the Set-apart Spirit. There can be no racketeering. There can be no petty dictators, controlling preachers, swindling merchants, unSet-apart sacrifices or rich bosses in the organic temple. Our banner is love and our mission is service. Membership is limited to the elect. But membership benefits are at an all-time high, and life in the beautiful temple is forever. Yahshua wants you in by his authority. He wants to bless you with eternal life and purpose. He wants to make you a dwelling place for all that is Set-apart. He wants to build you high into the sky. He wants to take all your brokenness and make you whole again. Oh, won’t you get right with him now? Here is your opportunity to invite the Set-apart Spirit in and start the process to becoming a temple unto him.
Exercise (based loosely on Kraft, I Give You Authority, 259-260)
I would like to guide you in a meditative prayer. See yourself now as a temple building. You might choose this church to be you. You might choose your home. You might choose a great cathedral. But whatever you choose, see that building as you. Look out your front door. See Yahshua standing outside. He is knocking at the door of your temple. Now swing wide your doors and let him in. Stretch forth a hand from your temple and take his hand in yours. Walk him in now, and down the aisle of your temple. Show him its beauty, if it’s beautiful. Show him its ugliness, if it’s ugly. Lead him to the altar of your temple. Kneel with him there. He puts his hand upon your shoulder. You hear yourself praying this prayer:
My Father and my Creator Yahweh, have mercy upon my soul. By my very nature, I am a rebel against your authority and government. I want to be reconciled to you. I want to turn from my own way unto your way. I no longer wish to be a temple of myself, but a temple of your Set-apart Spirit.
Yahshua, I believe you came once to die to save my temple from destruction. I believe that you overcame death and are ruling the hearts and temples of believers everywhere. I believe you have come into my temple to cleanse it and make it Set-apart, so that your Set-apart Spirit may live in me. Come into my temple, Set-apart Spirit, and wash me clean. I open every door to you. I open every room to you. I take captive every thought of my mind and present them to you. Take my temple; take each room; take every thought and intention and mold them into a shrine of your compassion for me.
From now on I will seek to know you and follow after you wherever you may go, that when my earthly temple breaks down, I may live in your temple for eternity. Amen.
Now you and Yahshua rise from your knees at the altar of your temple and you present to him a key. This key opens every room in your temple. Say to Yahshua, “Take the key, Master. Open and cleanse every room of my temple.” Now see Yahshua receiving the key. Now he is going from room to room in your temple. The religion room. The recreation room. The fellowship hall. The room of dreams. The room of relationships. See him now opening a cluttered and filthy closet. Don’t be afraid to show him the closet – he will cleanse it, not you. After he has opened every room, invite him to take the pulpit in your temple. See him rise into the pulpit. Now you take a seat in your temple in the front row. Look up at him. You see him in the pulpit of your temple and your love him. And you see that he loves you, too. Finally you say, “Take all authority in my temple. Teach me, Master. Fill my temple full of your love and doctrine.” Now just sit silently for a few moments and watch what Yahshua does.