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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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By way of disclaimer, I'm stating outright that prior to a couple of weeks ago, I did not know who Rachel Held Evans was, though I'd heard of her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Its premise reminded me of the guy who ate exclusively at McDonald's for an entire year.) Neither have I read any of Rachel's writings, nor heard her speak.

I note these things only to emphasize that I have no desire to debate Rachel's theology, or alleged heresy. Doing so is completely out of scope for this week's blog posting.

I became intrigued by Rachel Held Evans when I read the flurry of social media posts regarding her hospitalization and medically induced coma. I was taken aback by the wide swings of the emotional pendulum regarding her condition. The reactions were shocking, ranging in intensity from borderline worship to chilling vitriol, neither of which is appropriate. Today, I want to focus on the acerbic backlash many are unleashing in response to Rachel's hospitalization and subsequent passing.

I understand our charge as Christ-followers to "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 1:3), and I embrace that calling. I also know there is a way to address men and women holding views other than my own that is endearing and conducive to fruitful discussion, just as there is a way to speak to them that is off-putting and rude.

Rotten Speech

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. - Ephesians 4:19, NIV-1978

Over the past week, I have read venomous, hateful writings in the online world, from pastors no less, shepherds of God's flock, and I find myself thinking, Dear God, I am so thankful that I am not under this pastor's care. Such online attacks and rants are, in no way, "helpful for building others up."

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. - 1 Peter 2:12, NASB

Unleashing a barrage of vitriol does not qualify as excellent behavior, and does nothing to persuade the "Gentiles" to the cause of Christ. Far too many wearing the name of Christ appear to be more concerned with rightness than they are with righteousness.

The term "unwholesome" used by Paul in the Ephesians quote above is the word sapros. It is a word of putrefaction, describing things that are rotten, corrupt, foul. Consider the stench of rotting flesh, or fruit that is decaying. It is a revolting smell, and this is precisely what Paul says we "smell" like when we allow such bile to escape our lips, or our computer keyboards.

Sapros words nourish no one. To the contrary, they reek and contaminate. They are a revulsion to all who read or hear them, and we should be as put off by them as we are by the smell of rotting fish.

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
- Proverbs 29:20, ESV

The Mouth-Heart Connection

What is most unsettling is the reality that what comes out of our mouths/keyboards is a direct measure of the condition of our hearts. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34b). The impurity of my mouth is a reflection of the impurity of my heart. The online bitterness of this week can be halted only from the inside out.

A heart filled with Galatians 5:22 spiritual fruit will respond to any circumstance with spiritual fruit, even the confrontation of sin. Never forget, we are to correct one another "with gentleness" (2 Timothy 2:25), to restore one another "in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1).

Jesus said, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36), and also " For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2). If I am kind, gracious, and gentle with others, particularly those with whom I disagree, then people are generally kind, gracious, and gentle with me, even when they disagree with me.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
- Proverbs 10:19, ESV

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Some time ago, I proposed that those of us in the community of Christ need to lose the absurd phrase, "God showed up." This week, I want to look at another "Christianese" phrase that needs to die a quick death - the phrase, "I led [insert name here] to the Lord."

This phrase is almost always presented as a badge of honor, a boast, as though we strategically, or through great effort, accomplished something admirable.

"Added another one to my resume. I won Jackie to Christ." There is something so "look at me, look at me" and self-aggrandizing in that statement.

Before we go any further, let's just set that in perspective against what the apostle Paul told the church at Corinth.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. - 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, ESV

It is important to understand the context of this statement. Just prior to this, Paul was sternly rebuking the believers in Corinth, going so far as to say that he couldn't even address them as "spiritual" men and women because they were so obsessed with human alignments. He called them "infants!"

I follow John Piper!

Oh that's nothing. I follow Ravi Zacharias.

Oh, I've got you both beat. I was led to Christ by J. I. Packer!

Such silliness exalts humanity over deity in direct violation of the very principle Paul is battling in his quote above. The people at Corinth were dividing into factions, or camps, on the basis of whose personality or theology they best aligned with.

Some said, "I follow Paul," while others said, "I follow Apollos." And still others said, (get this!) "I follow Christ." Do not lose sight of the reality that it is possible to declare yourself a follower of Christ in a way that is divisive!

Evangelistic outreach is important, and while it is not within the scope of this blog posting to investigate this, I do believe it is the responsibility of every follower after Christ to contribute to the evangelistic work of the kingdom of God. But I completely reject the idea that our evangelistic work is a cause for boasting.

Furthermore, I reject the idea that any one person completely on their own "leads a person to Christ." Paul planted. Apollos watered. God caused the increase. There are three entities involved in that process.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. - 1 Corinthians 3:10, ESV
We might say, "Damon laid a foundation, while Aaron and Cheryl gathered construction materials. Phyllis served as morale officer. David and Tim trued up the framework while Jackson cut and built girders and rafters." And when all of our human efforts are completed, it is still God who grants the increase.

We throw seed, and we water seed thrown. Sometimes I am watering seed I have thrown, and other times I am watering seed others have thrown. Seeding and watering are tremendous responsibilities and privileges, because they have eternal implications. But in every case, it is God who causes the growth.

Many years ago, I reported to a board of elders who failed to understand the reality that we are seeders and waterers only. They would regularly berate me for what they considered a low conversion rate. I was throwing and watering seed on a daily basis, even on weekends and days off. Though I never did so, I wanted to point out to them that their their irritation with and indictment of me, was in reality an irritation with and indictment of God who gives or does not give the increase.

Keep sowing, and keep watering, and pray the Lord of harvest will send forth reapers (Matthew 9:38), or better yet, BE a reaper, as the fields are white unto harvest (John 4:35), and the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2).

But just don't say, "I led [insert name here] to the Lord."

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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While serving in full-time ministry at Kansas University, a student to whom I was ministering saw me making notes in the pages of my Bible, and reacted with great intensity, as though my doing so was evil played out before his eyes. For the record, I write all over the pages of my Bible. I have decades of notes, underlines, circles, and highlights.

I can understand, and even appreciate one wanting to reverence the message contained in the book, but we need to understand that it is a book, and as such, I grant it the same care I render every other book I own.

I won't drop my Bible in a bathtub. I won't crack its spine, or violently fling it across the room. But neither will I object to stacking my Bible with other books, underneath or atop other books, and I may even lay a DVD or a pair of scissors on it, and have been known to stand my water bottle atop it as it lay on the table or counter-top.

In short, I will not worship my Bible any more than I worship my Webster's Dictionary. I value it more than the dictionary, but that is only because of what it contains, not because of what it is. It is a book - a bound collection of printed pages.

And at the risk of sounding self-contradictory, that's all it is, and yet it is so much more!

The Book

The English word Bible is simply a transliteration (phonetic draw of a word from one language to another) of the word βιβλιον (biblion). It is not a holy, or religious word. It refers to a written document, a certificate, a written notice, a scroll. Our closest translation of biblion would probably be "book," though at the time of the word's inception, books in the sense that we think of them did not exist.

The Bible is not a book of formulas or incantations that, spoken in the right order or with the proper emphasis, can cause specific desired outcomes. It is not a magical object that we can hold out in front of us to displace evil from the path we are walking. No magical energy will transfer from the book to me by me sleeping with it under my pillow, or by grasping it tightly to my chest.

Proclamations of biblio-idolatry are faddish in certain circles today, and I have no wish to add my voice to that choir of shouting combatants. Instead, my intent is to help us grasp the Bible for what it is so we can glean the most benefit from it in our walk with Jesus.

Assuming we agree that the Bible is a bound collection of printed pages, just as is the Linux System Administrator's Guide on the shelf next to me, what is it that makes the Bible special? The beauty is found in the message it contains, and the truth of that message.

The System Administrator's guide contains truth, and it will teach me everything I need to know to set up a Linux operating system on a computer, and that has value. My Bible, however, teaches me everything I need to know for life, for holy living, and I cannot place a value on that!

The Words

Another popular, albeit misguided, belief is that we derive some mystical gain from the quoting of scripture. Support for this practice is drawn, primarily, from Jesus' experience in the desert temptations. Proponents believe that Jesus overcame Satan by quoting scripture at him, and a cursory reading of the temptation account in the gospel could lead one to that conclusion. Satan did throw temptations in front of Jesus, and Jesus did quote scripture to Satan.

The theory is that I can fend off spiritual attacks by quoting scripture "at" the attacks, and by my doing so, the attackers will flee, or die the same way the Wicked Witch of the West shriveled up when Dorothy threw a bucket of water on her. The witch could not endure contact with water, and supposedly, demons cannot endure hearing scripture. This suggests that there is some disempowering, enchanted ring to the sound of the words.

The quoting of scripture is not what made Jesus victorious over Satan. What made him victorious is that Jesus lived the truth of scripture. He embodied scripture's truths. It is the living of scripture that empowers me to overcome, not the quoting of it.

We know that Satan has no aversion either to hearing scripture, or to speaking it. The very passage used to push the idea proves it false. Satan quoted scripture to Jesus as a part of his temptation.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

"He will command his angels concerning you,"

and

"On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone."'
- Matthew 4:5-6, ESV

The Memory

When I went through seminary, we had an instructor who could accurately quote almost the entire Bible from about six or seven different translations. He could do this because he read through the New Testament once a week and the Old Testament once a month. But his scripture memory was not what made him so powerful. The man's impact was fueled by the way his life lined up with what his mind held on to.

Similarly, I once witnessed a man preach a sermon who didn't really preach it. It took a moment before I realized, and thought to myself, He's quoting Colossians.

The opening of his sermon was a memorized recitation of the entire book of Colossians. It was powerful, not because he had memorized it, but because it was so much a part of him that he strolled around the stage and spoke to us as naturally as if we were sitting down to morning tea.

I have witnessed men and women quote scripture in such a way that it shows a deliberate effort. In some cases, they even strike a pose to do it, as if I'm talking now as myself, but in a moment I'm going to strike my 'scripture stance' to quote the passage.

I don't want to come off as saying memorizing scripture is not of value. That's not what I'm saying at all. Where memorization of scripture becomes of tremendous value is when it becomes so much a part of who we are that it flows from us as a natural element of our entirety. It is woven into our conversation with such fluidity that those with whom we are conversing might even miss the fact that we just quoted scripture as easily and naturally as we discussed last Saturday's soccer game.

I once knew a man who prayed in that way. We would be walking together, talking about any given issue, and in the next sentence he would be talking to God, and then to me again, and then to God. The fact that there were three of us on that walk, me, him, and God, was an active reality for this man. Memorized scripture should flow from us as naturally as my friend's prayers.

The Summation of It All

What makes the Bible so special is not that it says "Holy Bible" on the spine, or that I can read or quote relevant passages at specific contexts, or that I have memorized great quantities of scripture. What makes the Bible special is the way all of that combines to impact my life and make me the man that I am.

Yes! The Bible is a holy writing, and as such, it alters me from the inside out. The thing that makes my memorization and quoting of scripture so powerful is not the act in and of itself, but rather that I am living a life that is in agreement with, or consistent with what my mouth is speaking.

Read your Bible. Devour it. Cherish those things you read. But do those things with a view toward allowing the God those words reveal to you to transform your inner man, your inner woman. Otherwise, you may as well be reading the Linux System Administrator's Guide.

The Bible is not God, but its pages can reveal God to you. The Bible is not grace, but it can show you the pathway to grace. The Bible is not salvation, but it can explain to you God's plan for salvation. The Bible is a tool, and it is one of the most valuable tools in your tool chest.

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
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Last week, we looked at anger and righteous indignation, and found that scripture comes at the emotion of anger from a different angle than we might have expected, and certainly different than that of many popular teachers of our era.

Today, we want to look at an incident in the life of Jesus wherein he became angry, and acted on his anger in what we commonly call the temple cleansing. From that incident, and the gospels' descriptions of it, we will try to determine what it is that caused Jesus to become so angry.

If I am to align my passions with the passions of Jesus, then it becomes an important matter for me to understand what it was that so got under his skin, and to draw relevant parallels to my life and my walk with Christ. I wrote extensively about the temple cleansing incident in my unpublished manuscript, The Christ Saturated Life, and am reproducing that chapter here.


Chapter Twenty-Two
My Worship is More Important than Yours

Take a moment and think about what it is that makes you angry. By this, I do not mean things that you find merely irritating or annoying. I am referring to that burning-in-your-gut and welling-up-to-your-red-face angry: anger that spurs you to action, even violent action.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” - Matthew 21:12-13, NASB

The event described above is commonly referred to as the cleansing of the temple. Textual evidence indicates that Jesus did this twice, once early in his ministry and once again toward the beginning of the last week of his life. The early cleansing is recorded in John’s gospel, and it reads a little differently.

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, NASB

The text does not tell us that Jesus was angry, but it is difficult to read these accounts and not see anger. To overturn tables, then premeditatedly fabricate a whip for use in driving men out of the temple courtyard, is an expression of deep, passionate, albeit controlled, anger. So deep was the emotion Jesus felt that it is described as a zeal that consumed him.

Few issues well up inside me with that level of intensity. I feel that inner burn when I see a man abusing his wife. I feel that intense level of anger when I see or hear of adults abusing children, particularly when the abuse is sexual in nature. Overt disrespect shown toward the elderly comes close. Something within Jesus reached a full boil when he entered the temple and saw what was happening there. The money changers, the animals, the merchants, the commotion – all of it combined and fueled the fire within Jesus to the point of decisive action.

How We Got Here

The profession of the money changer is an ancient one, and it involves many of the same functions that international banks perform today, exchanging one currency for another, and charging a fee for this service. By the time of Jesus, the money changers were able to work with standardized currency, exchanging coin for coin, while in earlier times pieces of silver were valued by their weight in payment for services or commodities.

The money changer was viewed as a necessity for temple transactions to be completed successfully. Historian Philip Schaff points out:

The market in the Court of the Gentiles was introduced, we know not when, from avaricious motives, in violation of the spirit of the law and to the serious injury of public worship, though it was no doubt justified or excused, as a convenience to foreign Jews for the purchase of sacrificial beasts, incense, oil, and the sacred shekel or double drachma in which the temple-tax had to be paid.1
Though we do not know when this intrusion became a commonly accepted practice, some have pointed to the High Priest, Caiaphas, as the one who authorized conversion of the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace, an assertion that aligns with Warren Wiersbe’s statement that the priests collected a share of the profits gained by the marketplace vendors. What was an issue of convenience, presented an opportunity, either an opportunity for ministry and service, or an opportunity for profit, depending on one’s motivation and point of view.

The Jews held three major feasts in Jerusalem each year: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. These were the holiest of events for the Jews, and every able-bodied male Jew over the age of 20 was expected to present himself before God in Jerusalem, and he was not to come empty-handed. The celebration included payment of the temple tax, and the sacrifice of animals.

When worshipers made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they carried with them coinage from their home country. This coinage typically bore the image of Roman emperors or some pagan god, and as such was considered idolatrous by the Jews. Despite that objection, the Tyrian half-shekel, bearing the image of Melquarth-Herakles on the obverse and the graven image of an eagle on the reverse, was the only acceptable currency for payment of the annual temple tax, a tax instituted by God during the time of Moses. The Tyrian half-shekel was determined to be about 94% pure silver, and the desire for profit seemingly outweighed any objection to the imagery on the coin.

According to the Mishna, on the 15th of the month of Adar, money changers set up booths in every province to collect the half-shekel tax. Ten days prior to Passover the money changers moved from their provinces to the temple courts to assist Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem from foreign countries. With the mandatory half-shekel tax in place, and worshipers coming to Jerusalem from a multiplicity of nation-states, the money changer was assured a lucrative cash flow.

According to theologian, Alfred Edersheim:

This Temple-tribute had to be paid in exact half-shekels of the Sanctuary, or ordinary Galilean shekels. When it is remembered that, besides strictly Palestinian silver and especially copper coin, Persian, Tyrian, Syrian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman money circulated in the country, it will be understood what work these ‘money-changers’ must have had.2

So lucrative was the business of the money changer, that investors would lend investment funds to the money changers who were making exchanges and loans with interest rates ranging from 20 to 300 percent per annum. With such profitable business in place, corruption was sure to follow, and it did.

But the money changer was not alone in presenting offense in the temple. The local merchants had a healthy market for animals as well. Consider the difficulty of taking an animal sacrifice in tow for a long and arduous journey to Jerusalem. Then further consider that the sacrifice to be offered would be examined by a temple official to verify that it was spotless, pure, and acceptable as a sacrifice. If, for any reason, your offering was deemed unsatisfactory, then you wasted a great deal of effort dragging it all the way to Jerusalem. You must now secure an acceptable sacrifice, and you will likely drag your original animal all the way back home. How much more convenient it is to have an entourage of entrepreneurs in Jerusalem, sitting at the ready with certified, approved, sacrifice-ready animals, awaiting your arrival.

The Source of Jesus’ Anger

We know that Jesus did not object to paying taxes, whether the temple tax or taxes paid to Caesar. Neither does Jesus appear to object to the actual business venture in which those in the temple court were engaged. Jesus is not opposed to making a profit, though he cautions us against trusting the security of one’s soul to material gain. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

It is valid to object to the exploitation of the worshipers who had come to Jerusalem to sacrifice and pay their taxes, and many see such exploitation as the abuse that drove Jesus to engage in the temple cleansing. I believe that is only a part of what irritated Jesus.

The issue at hand was not business or profit making as such but the mockery of the entire sacrificial system of the temple and the exploitation of devout men and women by greedy individuals who were capitalizing on religious sentiment.3

But the exploitation of people was everywhere, not just in the temple courtyards. It is a legitimate objection, and it does come off as a desecration of a holy place, but I believe the issue for Jesus goes even more deeply than that. The greater issue, for Jesus, seems to be less what the entrepreneurs were doing, and more where they were doing it.

The Temple

All biblical accounts of the temple cleansing state that the offending activity was taking place “in the temple.” When speaking of the temple, one could be referring to the physical building that contained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, in which the Ark of the Covenant dwelt. Or, “the temple” could be referring to the series of courtyards that surrounded the physical structure.

The courtyards surrounding the temple covered 19 acres, and were divided into four successive courts. The outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles, and it is universally accepted that this court is where the aberrant commotion was occurring. Everyone was welcome in the Court of the Gentiles. The next courtyard in the succession was the Court of Women. Gentiles were not welcome in this court, and violation of that restriction was punishable by death. The next innermost courtyard was the Court of Israel, or as some call it, the Court of Men. Only Jewish males were allowed into this courtyard. Finally there was the Court of Priests, and as the name suggests, only the priests could enter this courtyard. It is in this courtyard that one reached the actual temple structure.

Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer,” and seems that any level of focused prayer would be difficult in the middle of this Farmers’ Market atmosphere. That reality is sufficient for us to nod in agreement with what Jesus did. But if we look at the greater context of the passage Jesus quoted, we see something that is not readily apparent from the brief quotation above. Read this longer quote from Isaiah, and note the references to the non-Jew, how God will create a special place for them within his house of worship, and how their sacrifices will be acceptable on his altar. Mark’s account confirms this, adding the end of the Isaiah quote, “for all nations.” Here is the quote in context:

For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”

As we visualize the layout of the temple courtyards, and the restrictions placed on entry to each successive court, it becomes clear that the Court of Gentiles was the only space available to non-Jews for worshiping God. I believe the fact that the only worship space available to the Gentiles had been turned into a chaotic marketplace is what was so infuriating to Jesus. The Gentiles were to have a memorial and a name within the temple walls. They were called to God’s holy mountain, to a house of prayer for all nations, but when they got there, all they found was Wall Street-inspired chaos.

The calloused disregard that allowed the Jews to profane the worship courtyard of the Gentiles was astonishing, to be sure, but just as amazing is the fact that they would never have allowed this activity to be conducted in any other temple court. They knew that worship is a holy activity, and they would not allow the sort of disruption to their worship that they were imposing on the worship of the Gentiles. I see no other explanation for that than the hardness of their hearts that said, We are allowing you to come into this courtyard to worship, but your worship is not nearly as important as ours. They even referred to the Court of the Gentiles as the tabernœ, the Temple-Market, effectively thumbing their nose at the idea that God’s house should be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Converting the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace made it easy to view that courtyard as an area as common as any other. When we consider that the temple footprint covered 19 acres, we can conclude rather easily that walking around that structure while carrying a load would be a fatiguing endeavor. It would be much easier to take a shortcut through the temple courtyard. Doing so is not a matter of great concern since, after all, it is just a marketplace. Aside from the blatant exploitation of the worshipers through the coinage exchange and sales of sacrificial animals in the Gentiles’ worship area, the Court of Gentiles had become a main arterial for foot traffic from one part of Jerusalem to another. It is this abuse that Jesus addressed when, as Mark tells us, Jesus “would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.”

The second reference from Jesus is found in Jeremiah chapter seven. As you read through this, try to grasp what is happening in the heart of God as he speaks these words to his people through Jeremiah.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand at the gate of the LORD’S house and there proclaim this message:

‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares the LORD.”
- Jeremiah 7:1-11, NIV-1978

The presence of the Gentiles in the courtyard of the Jewish temple provided an opportunity for the Jews to speak to open-minded Gentiles about the God of Heaven. The fact that a non-believer ventures into a Christian worship center emphatically states, “I am interested in what is happening here. I want to know more.” Wiersbe emphasizes this lost opportunity, saying, “The court of the Gentiles should have been a place for praying, but it was instead a place for preying and paying.”

The Christ saturated man and woman will be keenly aware of the need to protect the atmosphere of reverence and worship for all people, and possibly to view that from the reverse angle, asking, What can I do to enhance the atmosphere or environment of worship for this person?

“We have not even begun to understand how seriously God takes this matter of worship – and how we are to draw nigh unto him.” - David Wilkerson

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Minds - @DamonJGray
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1. Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (pp. 115–116). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. 2. Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol.1 (pp. 367–368). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 3. Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 611). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


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At the suggestion of a friend, I recently plowed through Andy Stanley's controversial book Irresistible. This is one of those books that divides people into camps of "love it" or "hate it." It's sort of the Ford versus Chevy debate where someone absurdly proclaims they would rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy.

I have run across people who love Andy's book, and people who hate it, even some who are downright angry over it. That is fitting, because today's blog post is about anger.

Toward the end of the book, Andy says, "The proper new covenant response to sin is not jealousy. It's not anger. It's not even righteous anger. The proper response to sin is a broken heart." This statement falls amid a larger conversation about judgmentalism and how that is rooted in jealousy masking itself as righteous indignation.

Be Angry

I understand Andy's point, though I am not sold on his conclusion. He comes off as saying there is never a context wherein it is appropriate to express righteous indignation, much less anger. I cannot square that conclusion with scripture. In Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul instructs us to "Be angry and do not sin," clearly indicating that anger by itself is not sinful.

What is amazing about Ephesians 4:26 is that the verb "Be" is imperative mood. The reference is to Psalm 4:4 which says exactly the same thing, and which was translated from Hebrew to Greek in the Septuagint as an imperative.

As bizarre as it seems, this is a command. Do this! Be angry!

Anger is not merely okay, it is commanded and righteous. The apostle James did not say not to become angry, but rather, "be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:20).

God becomes angry. He became angry at Horeb and almost destroyed his people (Deuteronomy 9:8). He became so angry at Aaron that he almost took him out (Deuteronomy 9:20). Multiple times in scripture we read of "the anger of the Lord."

So, it is not anger in and of itself which is the problem. It is what we do with, and in the midst of our anger. Jesus cautions us that anger is the first move toward murder (Matthew 5:21-26).

There are those who seem to revel in anger, pursuing it, seeking it out. Just last evening, a man on social media was pushing my buttons rapidly and strategically. He accused me of misquoting scripture (which I didn't), of believing the devil's lies, of promoting "cheap grace," of closing my eyes to the truth, of denying confession, repentance, and knowledge of God.

In this man's eyes (and accusations), I am promoting the doctrines of Satan. He was diligently trying to get under my skin. He failed.

I could have become angry with this man, and would have been able to "justify" that anger, but we do not want to become angry easily or quickly.

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
- Ecclesiastes 7:9

Be Reconciled

The second part of the statement from Paul is, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26b). Resist the urge to see this as a "sunset deadline." That's not what Paul is saying.

Once you have transcended the initial burn of your anger, go to whomever or whatever has angered you and get it worked out as soon as possible. Don't stew in your anger, carrying it with you throughout the day, feeding and nourishing it. Deal with it, and be done!

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger - Proverbs 15:1, NASB
A nourished anger grows into a hatred, and subsequently gives the devil a foothold on our lives.
...and do not give the devil an opportunity. - Ephesians 4:26
The term "opportunity" is derived from "topos." It is a place, an allotted space. It is as though we parceled out acreage within ourselves specifically for Satan, a place of his own to come hang out. Don't do that. Don't give Satan a foothold or opportunity.

Topos is the same word and concept we see in Romans 12:19, where we are told to "leave room" for the wrath of God, not seeking our own revenge. Rather than give place to the devil, Paul tells us we are "sealed" for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of God.

Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.
~ Aristotle

Next week, we will look at a specific incident that awakened anger in the Lord Jesus. Until then...

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν