My House of Prayer - Luke 19:45-48

On a beautiful sunny day in the late 1870s, a husband and wife were picnicking with their daughter on the Long Island Sound in New York. Their lunch was suddenly disturbed by the cries of a young boy who was drowning in the nearby water. The husband rushed into the water to save the boy, but the weight of the boy and the current pulled them both under the water.  Louisa Stead saw her husband drown that day and was left to raise her young daughter, Lily, on her own[i]

Louisa was a woman of faith and believed in God’s Word.  She struggled with her husband’s death trying to make some sense out of the tragedy.  As time went on, Stead started to feel the call to become a foreign missionary.  God’s Word commands his people to, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  She took God at His Word and left America to serve the people of Africa.  She would spend 15 years as a missionary until she finally succumbed to her lifelong battle with poor health.  In a letter of eulogy written after her passing, fellow missionaries shared a little poem that had been translated into various African dialects and sung during Sunday services.  Stead’s friend shared that on any given Sunday, upwards of 5,000 African Christians could be heard singing her little poem. 

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more

Louisa Stead lived by the words she wrote. 

            I wonder how many people have sung those words over the last century.  I do not think it would be an overestimation to say that “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” has been sung by over 1 million people.  And yet, I also wonder how many people have sung those words without fully understanding what they were singing.  “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His Word.” Do we take God at His Word? Do we trust his promises?

            Now granted it is easy to say that we trust the bible and take God at His Word, but it is much harder to live in light of that reality.  God’s Word has always been important to God’s people.  The longest psalm ever written is Psalm 119, which is an acrostic love poem on the Word of God.  Here is a sampling from Psalm 119,

Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (Psalm 119:127-131)

God’s people should love God’s Word.  And we should not only love God’s Word, but base our corporate life together on God’s Word.  We should simply take God at His Word. 

            We continue to follow Jesus’ journey to the cross as he enters Jerusalem.  He has just made his triumphal entry on a donkey, and then wept over the city’s lack of trust in Him. Jesus continues his entrance into Jerusalem and his first stop is the temple.  I pray that you will see four truths about God’s Word from these four verses this morning.

God’s Word Defines Our Worship

Verse 45-46,
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus entered the court of the Gentiles where animals and other items were sold for sacrifices.  There would be many travelers who needed animals for the sacrifices who would not have been able to bring them from a far distance.  And with people traveling, there also needed to be money changers there to give them the right currency.  The problem is not animals and money changers were there, but how they doing it.  Luke abbreviates this scene drastically compared to John and Mark’s account, but all of the accounts show that Jesus is the Messiah who acts. 

            Jesus saw the temple being misused for worship and thus he began to drive out those who sold.  Luke chooses to avoid specifics, but we know from the other accounts that Jesus was turning over tables and using a whip to drive people out. Luke does not want us to focus on how Jesus drove them out, but that he drove them out.  The action of correcting temple worship would have been viewed as a Messianic action.  Only the Messiah would come and correct worship this way. 

            Notice how Jesus justifies his actions, “It is written.”  The Jews were not allowing God’s Word to define their worship.  So we should ask ourselves, “Are we allowing God’s Word to govern our worship?” This is a question we must always ask.  A few days ago, we celebrated another Reformation Day.  October 31, 1517 Martin Luther wrote 95 Theses against the worship of the Catholic Church in the hopes to reform the church’s worship by Scripture.  The motto of the Protestant Reformation became “Sola Scriptura” meaning Scripture Alone. Like the reformers, we must allow God’s Word to govern how we set up our worship service. 

            So how do we know we are allowing God’s Word to be our foundation? One simple way is notice your questions regarding worship. When something changes in our service, do you ask, “Why are we doing this? We have never done this before!” That question reveals your foundation is probably tradition over Scripture.  Traditions are helpful as long as they help to protect our worship by the Word of God. What does New Testament worship involve? We should sing God’s Word, pray God’s Word, preach God’s Word, respond in faith to God’s Word, give for the spreading of God’s Word, and do this for the glory of God.

            After giving us a principle that should govern our worship, Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be a house of prayer.” The context of Isaiah that surrounds this quote is how God is going to give salvation to foreigners.  To those foreigners, outside of ethnic Israel, who turn to the Lord and love his Name and hold fast to his covenant, God promises to give them a name better than sons and daughters and to bring them to his holy mountain and make them a part of his house for his house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.” In quoting his passage, Jesus is further condemning the nation of Israel because they did not know the time of the visitation by the Messiah (Luke 19:41-44). 

            God’s people were to be a house that welcomes people for all the nations.  It was known to be a place where outsiders where welcomed into the same faith through the promise.  The church is exclusive, and membership should only be extended to those who trust in Christ, but it should be the most inclusive exclusive house on the planet. The church will accept anyone as a part of the house who have put their faith in Christ.  It is that simple.  It does not matter what nation you are coming from, your color, your past sins, or your bank account. All that matters is that you have repented of your sins and are trusting in Christ. 

            The church is the place that protects this promise at all costs, because it is heart of the entire Scripture. God has promised to save to the uttermost all who believes in the Son.  So where are you today?  Do not look at your past and think that because of it no one will accept you, but look to Christ who invites you to become part of his house. Jesus Christ did not come for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.  Jesus demonstrated his love for us that while we were yet sinners, he died for us.  He died and rose again to give us hope and to make us a house of prayer for all people.  You are invited to be part of this the house, accept the invitation by trusting in Christ.

God’s Word Denounces Our Worldliness

            Jesus entered the temple, a physical building, but we must remember that we are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16). Christians, our bodies are individual temples of the Holy Spirit, but our corporate body is also the temple of the Holy Spirit. And because when we are living stones being built into a spiritual house, God cares how we live. After quoting Isaiah, Jesus then quotes another Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah preached a lot of hard, indicting messages to God’s people that often fell on deaf ears.  This quote is taken from Jeremiah 7:11 in the middle of one of the harshest sermons that Jeremiah preached.

            The message that God spoke through Jeremiah is also appropriate for our age. Let us hear the context of Jeremiah’s sermon,

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 7:5-11)

God cares about how we live.  God condemns Israel because they are trusting in deceptive words. They are living in ways that are contrary to God throughout the week and then, come and stand before God as his house in worship, only to leave and go on doing all these abominations. He condemns God’s people for their worldliness. 

            Last summer, I made benches for my back deck.  I went to Home Depot to buy my wood and started to see that purchasing all the wood was going to more inexpensive then I had expected.  I noticed a section right in the middle of store, “cull wood.” Cull wood is damaged wood that is less than perfect, and because it is not perfect it is sold at a discount price.  I bought several pieces of wood that were curved to help build my bench.  I thought that I would be able to use the wood where no one would notice, but I was wrong.  If you walk on my back deck today, it is very clear which bench is made with sub-par material. It still looks like a bench, but because a few pieces were not straight the entire bench was affected.

            Beloved, we are living stones being built into a spiritual house.  Every one of us represents a different piece of the house. We do not want to be like cull wood: still usable, but tarnishing the image of the house.  We want to be straight and holy so that God’s house is built with the best material.  We all have been damaged goods; unfit to be part of God’s house. When we came to Christ we renounced Satan and all his ways and He changed us. Christ has made us useful, holy vessels when we turned to him for forgiveness (2 Tim 2:21). We may always be tempted to go back to live like we once did, but we have been changed. We have an obligation not only to ourselves and the Lord, but to each other.  How we live affects each other.

            Do you know one of the secrets for sustained holiness?  It is the weekly gathering of God’s people.  When we come together in worship, I have to look at people I love in the eye.  I see their joy and their pain.  I see them fighting for holiness. I am reminded of how they are persevering through difficulty.  I see people who are living by faith. Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I used cull wood to make benches for my house, but I would never use cull wood to make a bench for Max Phillips. Why? Because I love him and I want to give him the best.  When we live against God throughout the week in sin, we are saying to everyone here that we do not really care what material we use for your house. Do not be deceived by the deceptive of sin.  Your sin brings faulty material into the building of the house of God at Park Baptist Church. When you are tempted to sin, think about the people here. Let your love for them and for God help push you to holiness.

God’s Word Destroys Our Pride

Worldliness is a fruit of pride.  Pride sets itself up against God.  The Jews did not like the teaching of Jesus and how his teaching condemned their pride so they looked for a reason to destroy him, Verse 47, “And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him.” I find it interesting that in our day, those who are the most aggressive in speaking against God are those who claim that he doesn’t exist.  Their anger and animosity towards God and his people are only a sign of their pride and their love for the world. If we want to destroy our pride, we have to turn to God’s Word and do his will.  In our day, where the church struggles with worldliness, let us hold fast to, 1 John 2:15-17,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Do you see how fleeting the world is? When we listen to God’s Word, we realize how temporary our earthly life is.  The pride of this life is not from the Father, but is from the world and it will pass away. Therefore we do not want our pride to destroy us, but God’s word to destroy our pride; we have to change our delight.

God’s Word Delights Our Perception

            The world that was set against God could not do anything, because people were hanging on the words of Christ.  Verse 48,but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.” The people’s perceptions were being changed as they focused on the Word of God.  They were hanging on every Word. 

            This is my prayer for Park Baptist Church. I pray that we would be the kind of people who would hang on every Word that comes from Christ. I think we make the Christian life too hard sometimes, when it really is pretty simple.  Do we delight in God’s Word?  If we are focusing on God’s Word, we will not be focusing on other things. And as we delight in God’s Word, we will be changed.  As it says in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

            This is what I want for our church. I want us to delight in God’s Word and have God’s Word change our perceptions and thus, change how we live our lives.  So how do we do this? Let me say two things, first, make time in your calendars for our corporate gatherings.  We provide four opportunities every week for you to come and hear God’s Word (Wednesday night, Sunday School, Sunday morning and Sunday evening). There are a lot of things that you can choose to do with your time, but let me challenge you to make our gatherings a priority.  If you are living stones being built into the house of Park Baptist, you presence is vital.  The world makes time for children’s activities, football, recreation, hunting and fishing, but the church makes time for the gathering of God’s people. 

            Second, practice family worship. Make God’s Word a priority in your own home by regularly gathering together around the Word of God.  If you need resources in how to start this practice, come and find me. We do not do it perfectly in our home, but we are trying. When we regular make family worship a priority, the tone and tenure of our home is different.

            Beloved, this may be hard at first, but the regular gatherings as a church and family around the word will change our desires.  And we do not do one of these at the expense of the other. You cannot neglect family worship because you attend corporate worship and you cannot neglect corporate because you do family worship. God wants you to do both. It is worth it to pursue both. I pray that we will learn to follow Louisa Stead’s words in our pursuit of God both in corporate and family worship:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord

Delight and trust in God’s Word and pray for grace to trust Him more.

[i] accessed 10.30.14
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