Judgment in the House of God
Have you experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit? You know, it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God does not want you bound to guilt and shame over anything. His judgment and correction come to remove the things from our lives that are getting in the way of experiencing His fullness.
Jesus turns over tables so that purity, peace, and presence can come back into the house of God.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God;1 Peter 4:17a
If we respond to His goodness and choose now to turn over the tables of our own hearts, we will discover purity of heart and desire coming into our lives. We will find peace that leads us through difficult situations. And we will find the presence of God where we least expect it, even in the mundane.
Are you ready to turn over some tables? Don’t take my word for it. As we proceed, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what needs work. Like David in Psalm 139:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)
His conviction will lead to freedom, not lingering guilt and shame. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).
And the goal of that freedom is that you are able to love Him completely, without any reservation, and to receive love from Him freely. We have been invited into relationship with God, not forced into slavery to Him.
So before we get started on the foundation of our house, let’s look at some of the current issues hindering the freedom of our worship today.
The Need for Intimacy
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.Revelation 2:2-4
These words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus sound so familiar to me. They describe a lot about the church experience that I’ve had, and maybe they do for you as well. I’ve spent most of my time in churches that have labored to remain true to the scriptures and have also clung tightly to the authority of scripture. These churches tend to have high standards for preachers, teachers, and leaders, and highly value the contribution those people make to the body. They seek to patiently serve Christ as best they can and do not grow weary in doing well.
Their issue, however, is often lack of first love. Not that they never had it, but that they left it.
Can you think of an example of first love in your life? First love is a wonderful experience. First love is emotional, it’s surreal. First love is wild and free. First love causes us to be a little undignified at times. First love moves us to respond with pursuit. I wonder where we lost our pursuit of Jesus?
Again, Jesus says you “left” your first love. This is a deliberate step, and I would submit that it is because something else got in the way, got us distracted, and the pursuit of first love fell down the priority list. This is the Martha mentality taking over where the Mary mentality is the one necessary thing (Luke 10:42).
First love is the pursuit of intimacy. We must return to intimacy with Jesus, to the first love we had with Him.
Now intimacy scares us because intimacy is messy, it’s personal, and you can’t control it. It’s relational. You have to experience it. You have to respond to it.
You can’t script intimacy and relationship.
But in much of the Church, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve traded the relationship for a script because it’s predictable. We’ve relegated God to a formula (that we often call an “order of worship”) and focused on what actions we can control. I’m not saying that God can’t move in our planned order of worship at all, nor that we shouldn’t plan it with care and intention, but we are so overdoing that aspect of it that we leave no room for the Holy Spirit to do what He does – in His way, in His time.
We don’t know how to follow and respond because we are leading God and leaving Him no room in the conversation. Just see what happens when a congregation sits in silence for more than 15 seconds. We get very antsy and think something is amiss. So where is our focus? We must let go of our desperate need for control over every moment and our fear of losing it.
We need to learn what it looks like to let God have control. And perhaps that starts with simply sitting in silence and allowing Him to interject in the conversation.
What Jesus Values
Honestly, I think we are in love with something other than Jesus. And I’ll raise my hand first. I’ve spent far too much time in love with something other than Jesus. We must repent and return to the Father’s heart for His Church, to Jesus’ heart for His bride.
Let’s consider the prayer meeting for a moment since Jesus addressed this directly two different times. It seems we’ve relegated the prayer meeting to those very few people who will gather and faithfully pray in a back room somewhere, but nobody really knows about it. And very few seem to care about it.
Of course, I’m generalizing here, but when Jesus says that “my house shall be called a house of prayer” and we have hundreds and hundreds of people coming to the church, but less than ten people praying, something is grossly out of step.
When Jesus cleansed the temple, he quoted from Isaiah 56. Here’s the passage:
“Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— Even them 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 nations.”Isaiah 56:6-7
Look at the things the Lord values. Servanthood, loving His name, rest, covenant, holiness, joy, acceptable sacrifice, prayer. Unfortunately in my experience over 25+ years of worship leadership, these aren’t usually the things at the top of the list when it comes to discussing and planning worship. We’re spending more time talking about things people like and dislike than things Jesus likes and dislikes!
But the LORD is looking for pure places of prayer.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?Psalm 24:3-4
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He is looking for a people who will join themselves to Him, love Him, and serve Him only. We have servants, but only a few. We have praying people, but only a few.
Return to Pursuit and Power
Worshipers, let’s consecrate ourselves again to this life of pursuit. Pursuit of holiness, pursuit of His presence, pursuit of the power of the Spirit.
This is the outworking of intimacy with Jesus and truly unified prayer (Acts 1:8). Him and His power and authority being carried out in the earth and established by you and me. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are joining with Jesus in declaring “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
We have largely become a powerless Church and we don’t even recognize it. We must wake up and ask “where is the power?” Where is the evangelism, the salvation stories? Where are the gifts of the Spirit? Where is the deliverance? Where is the healing? Where is the demonstration of the Spirit? Where are the testimonies? We should be asking these questions and pursuing Jesus until we have the answers!
Finally, hear my heart: I want to be hard on the Church, but not unloving toward her. I want to overturn some tables for sure, beginning with my own. I want to call out the nonsense and shake us back into the reality of our need for purity of devotion to prayer and worship.
We are spending too much time on things that don’t really matter and thinking that we are getting something done because the bills are paid. Sure that’s a good thing, but it’s not the one thing.
Guys, Martha missed Jesus. Are we really willing to do the same?
I am convinced and convicted that Jesus Himself must again become the main attraction in our churches, the central focus of everything we do. Not knowledge about Jesus or programs for Jesus, but Jesus actually walking in the room and sitting down with us.
Jesus resting with us as He did at Bethany so that we, like Mary, can sit at His feet, pour our oil out, wipe His feet with our hair, and hear His precious and life-giving voice speak incredible things to our hearts that we’ve never even imagined were possible.
Friends, if we get Jesus, we get everything. Nothing is more valuable than knowing Him.
Lord, stir in us a desire to pursue you like never before, to return to our first love, and to seek to walk in the power of a unified and praying church as they did in the upper room. Send Your presence and power again!
Hey! If you’re new, welcome! I’d love for you to join me here on the blog by subscribing below for short personal newsletters and more. This post is part of a series we are diving into on “building a house of worship.” If you missed the past few weeks, you may want to go back and catch up: