When Was Jesus Most Angry?

When was Jesus most angry?  

  1. before his morning coffee
  2. when Peter made a “yo mama” joke
  3. at the end of Lost
  4. when he cleansed the temple

Mark 11:15–17

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus actually whipped people!  He flipped tables in a place more sacred than the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel.  And He did not use His library voice, but shouted, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7.  In its context, the verse reads as follows:

Isaiah 56:3, 6-7

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”…

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56 is about the foreigner who is afraid that they will be separated from God’s people.  The prophet reassures foreigners (non Israelites) who love the Lord that they will be brought near.  The main emphasis is not on money or even prayer, but on God’s love for all nations and all peoples.

Jesus was angry because the Israelites had set up shops in the outer courts of the temple that were supposed to be reserved for the Gentiles to worship.  God’s people had considered their own worship and their own profits more important than the world having access to God. God is most upset when we ignore His heart for the nations and push them away because we are too worried about ourselves.

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My One Aim in Life and Death

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify him in his holy Word, that is, the Bible, which he had given by the infallible inspiration of this Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning him and what duty he requires of me. 

I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that he is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust. 

I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God hands; and that all that he has made he directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of his almighty love. 

I believe that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born. 

I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior. 

I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith he has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world his kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord. 

“Life” Over “Choice”

3.12.2007

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments for and against abortion.

It appears that the issue boils down to whether an unborn baby’s right to live or a woman’s right to choose is more important. In my opinion, the Bible seems pretty clear that “life” is more important than “choice.” The implications of this statement are pretty crazy though.

When people say that a woman’s right to choose is important, this means she should be able to choose how her future plays out. An unwanted/unplanned pregnancy has serious social and economic implications. The social stigma of being a young, unwed mother is not a light thing, nor is the idea of supporting and nurturing a human life. Having a child at an early age will likely prevent someone from getting a college degree or pursuing whatever career they dream of because they must provide for their child. Then there’s always the knowledge that the child of an unprepared mother or a child sent through the system of foster homes and adoption will have a very difficult life.

Christians may say that many women are choosing convenience or their love of themselves (which includes their comfort, futures, and lifestyles) over the life of another. To a large extent I believe that is true. But make no mistake, we ask these women to do a very, very difficult thing. In order to care for this life, we essentially ask people to give up their own. And we have no right to ask this of them if we are not willing to sacrifice our own futures and comfort for the lives of others.

Christians often have a very clear stance on the issue of abortion. But the implications of our argument (“life” over “choice”) extend far beyond this one issue. We’re simply inconsistent when we ignore how the value of life ought to shape our daily choices. Even though we may not have had to deal with the issue of abortion personally, we would be foolish to believe we don’t struggle with the dilemma of “life” versus “choice”.

By the way we use our money, time, and energy we proclaim to the world whether we value “life” or “choice.” We value the choice to have financial stability, social status, and comfortable and convenient lives. Due to our exaggerated sense of entitlement, we believe our right to such privileges outweighs the value of one, ten, hundreds of lives in the third world.

To be “pro-life,” we don’t have to change the way we live at all. Maybe we’ll get a new bumper sticker for our car (though some do live out their convictions by adopting or supporting the cause). But to value “life” over “choice,” everything we do comes into question. What we do with the resources God has given us (money, education, talent) becomes a very serious thing because as we waste, others die.

Are we willing to give up our expensive toys, our financial stability, or perhaps even the hours we would otherwise spend on ourselves for the sake of life? Will we be outraged for the unborn and dismiss the millions who have been born and are suffering?

So often “outreach” and “social justice” are simply minor side issues we dabble in now and again to relieve our guilty consciences. Among university students, it has become trendy to be socially and politically aware. Yet our knowledge is rarely used for anything other than yelling at people who don’t know as many depressing statistics as we do. We speak so loud and accomplish so little.

The heart of the issue is this. We love very little. We simply don’t love enough to make a difference.  Now we can’t force ourselves to love, but we can acknowledge our tragic lack and ask God to give us new hearts. We can refuse to be self-satisfied, thinking ourselves noble, compassionate people for the one hour a week we “sacrifice.”

I don’t intend to guilt or discourage people. Good works fueled by anything other than love are not only hypocritical but ineffective. And being depressed at our humanness is entirely unnecessary because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. He chose us because we are weak so that we would rely upon Him and identify with the downtrodden all over the world. We rejoice in our weakness because everything depends on the One who cares deeply about social justice and is strong enough to bring forth the kingdom.

But in order to be used, we have to acknowledge the true state of this world, our hearts, and the church. My hope is that you and I will wake up to what’s outside of our bubble. The world is dying and we cling to “choice.” May we finally admit that we are selfish to the core, so we can call upon our amazing God to change the world and change us so that we might be used for the flourishing of human life.

The need, as always, is great and our lack, as always, is great. Our God, as always, is greater.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

2 Samuel 5:1-5

[1] Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. [2] In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” [3] So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. [4] David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. [5] At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

As a sophomore in college, I was already eager to graduate.  This was partially because I was eager to work and make money and partially because I thought I would then be done with school forever (God is funny in His providence).  In my naiveté, I imagined graduation would be the time when I finally “made it” and I could reap the benefits of my labor.  It was all very self-centered.

In our passage this morning, David is finally experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to him.  David is to be king and prince over Israel.  The time of running for his life and living in caves is (presumably) over!  Now David can enjoy a life of power, prestige, and wealth.  But is that all?

See, David is not only called to be prince but he is also called to be shepherd.  Jesus tells us in John 10:11 that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  David’s blessings are not meant to benefit him alone, but they are given for the sake of the sheep.  David ascends to the throne, he enjoys a lengthy and prosperous reign, and he is favored by God, not for the sake of his own legacy but that he might be a greater blessing to the people of Israel.

Not only does success equip David for his shepherding ministry, but also hardship.  The many years of wandering and waiting gave David a compassionate heart.  He was a man who knew what a shepherd was meant to be – one who would give rest, lead, and comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

So often we see success and hardship only in regards to how it benefits us.  The noblest way we interpret our circumstances is how they are maturing us or drawing us nearer to God.  Of course, we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but it rarely occurs to us that God may be shaping and reshaping us that we might be more effective at loving and caring for others.

Free From the Need to Judge

2 Samuel 1:23-25 (ESV)

[23] “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
[24] “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
[25] “How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

When a murderous dictator dies, what might be said in his obituary?  What words might be used by an actual victim of his violence, whose very life was threatened multiple times?  Odds are, we wouldn’t hear words like “beloved” or “lovely.”  Yet this is how David describes Saul as he laments his death.

For years, David lived on the run, fearing for his life even though he had been chosen by the Lord as Israel’s next king.  David had shown only faithfulness and mercy to Saul, yet time and time again, Saul sought his life.  But rather than rejoice in his newfound safety or his impending coronation, David mourns his enemy and calls the daughters of Israel to weep over Saul.  

David not only mourns his enemy, he exalts him.  We are far more likely to remember the faults or the wounds caused by people around us than their good qualities.  Yet David can describe Saul as swift, strong and mighty.  He remembers Saul as the king who brought riches to Israel.

When I’m hurt by another person, it’s not that I wish any kind of violence against him, but if I’m honest, I would be disappointed if he completely got away with what he’s done.  Many thoughts would run through my mind.  “How would he learn his lesson?”  “Wouldn’t it be an injustice if there were no consequences for sin?”  “What if he sins against more people?”

David has no such thoughts for he is that rare man who is not driven by vengeance, self-righteousness, or even his own well-being.  After many years of following the Lord and finding Him trustworthy, David is free to be moved by love.  He is free from the need to be judge and he can even mourn the suffering of his enemy.

The example of David challenges us to pursue mercy for those who don’t deserve it, just as the Son of God pursued mercy for us at the cost of His life.  May God give us grace to forgive freely and to bless those who have hurt us. 

A Challenge to Grow in Love

[1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1–3

In verse 1, Paul exhorts us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ.  Verse 2 explains what he means.  To walk in a worthy manner is to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with others in love.

We can only do these things in relation to other people.  More specifically, we can only do these things in relation to other imperfect people.  Christian maturity is in many ways relational maturity – maturity in forgiveness, maturity in patience, maturity in selfless love

.

Imperfect people regularly challenge us to grow in love and, if we are honest, we know we are often challenging those around us to grow in love as well.  One of the most remarkable things we will ever see or experience this side of glory is a sinner extending the grace of God to another sinner.  The Church is a place where there are many opportunities to give and to receive this grace.

Love is the Willingness to Change

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

In America at least, it is highly unlikely that any of us will be called to physically lay down our lives.  But all Christians are all still called to die to ourselves.

One of my mentors would say, “Love is the willingness to change.” Myers-Briggs personality tests, love languages, and descriptions of who we are today do not determine who Jesus intends for us to be. Parts of our character, personalities, and preferences are not suited for love or holiness. If we are to become like Jesus, these things are temporary and they will be transformed. The only question is whether we will surrender these things now for love or wait until Jesus returns.

Limited Need, Limited Relationship

Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless
C. John Miller

There are many professing Christians who have never fully grasped how lost in sin they really were, and how low God had to stoop to save them.  The propriety and morality of their outward lives has made it hard for them to believe that their need to be redeemed was as desperate as anyone else’s.  Up to a point, they are convinced of their need for salvation, but the fact that their outward lives have been unmarked by scandal or blasphemy has caused them to feel as if they don’t need it quite as much as some other people they see.

This complacent attitude toward the gospel, unarticulated though it may be, has…effects on the believer.  The first is a distance between himself and God that, somehow, he is never able to overcome.  He doesn’t understand why; he believes the right things, he prays, he is active in church and is willing to serve.  But the problem came about when he first placed himself partially out of the reach of the gospel and of grace.  A person who has limited his need for God’s grace has inevitably limited his relationship with God.  God’s unconditional, unlimited love for him is something he has missed.  It is beyond the realm of his self-centered experience.  He doesn’t, at bottom, really understand what happened – for him – at the cross.  He feels a need for many things, but does not hunger for the grace of atonement.  And it is very likely that the gap he senses in his relationship with God is causing him either to try to earn God’s favor with good works, or to rationalize away the richness of other Christian lives as maudlin, pietistic, or imbalanced.

Free to Love

[41] “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” [43] Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly…he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:41-43, 47

The message of Christianity is that we absolutely cannot earn our way with God.  Jesus does not give us advice as to how to earn heaven because He knows we cannot do it.  We have no hope of proving ourselves righteous to Him.

When we believe that we have earned our blessing, we feel free to look down on others who have not or cannot muster up the goodness that we have been able to.  However, if we believe that every blessing is an unearned gift, we have a basis by which we can love.

Without God, we can love people who have earned it, whether by their achievement or by their suffering, but we cannot love those who are completely undeserving.  Only if we have received a love that is of grace, can we be free to extend this kind of love to others.

Evil is a Human Problem

[3] Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
[4] Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Isaiah 58:3-4

The prophet Isaiah confronts God’s people with their sin.  They oppress and do violence, even on a day of fasting.  In the 11th and 12th century, the Christian Church was responsible for terrible things like the Inquisition and the Crusades.  God does not ignore evil among His own people.  He is not shy in calling them to account for their sin.  Since He is good, loving, and just, He must confront and oppose all sin.

But to see only Christian sin is rather superficial.  Christians have done terrible things.  People of other religions have done terrible things too.  In the recent past, militant Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan led to aggressive wars and atrocities.  Muslim terrorists are currently causing indescribable suffering.

We may be tempted to say, well then this is a problem of religion.  Religion leads to injustice and hatred because it causes people to think in terms of black and white, good and evil.  But this would ignore a great deal of recent history.

Atheist nations have fared no better.  Under Stalin, communist Russia executed or killed between six and ten million people in prison camps.  While the Khemer Rouge was in power in Cambodia for only about 10 years in the 1970s, they managed to execute nearly a million people out of a total population of seven million.  Today the greatest abuser of human rights is North Korea.

Evil is not a Christian problem.  It is not a religion problem.  It is a human problem.  Something is deeply wrong with humanity.  The Bible calls this problem sin.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way…

Isaiah 53:6a

Mankind has decided to reject God and live how it sees fit.  This turning away from the one who is perfectly good and just has resulted in the fact that this world can be a terrible place.  Thankfully though, this is not the end of the story.

The complete verse of Isaiah 53:6 says:

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

To address the awful, universal, human problem of sin, God sends His only Son, Jesus, to bear the punishment for sin on our behalf and set us free.