Becoming Spiritual Decathletes: Part 2

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Pastor Mark Mikels – July 6,
2008

“EVENT #1 – TEMPLE CLEANSING!”

“Becoming Spiritual Decathletes”

(“Connecting With Christ” Series – Part 41)

Mark 11:11-19

Intro … This morning we take a few more steps on our journey through
the final chapters of the Gospel According to Mark – chapters 11-16.

Last week under the heading “Let The Games Begin” we saw Jesus
triumphantly announce his Kingship as he entered into the city of
Jerusalem on what has become known as Palm Sunday.

The entire city was stirred and made ready for the events of the week
to follow. I compared the entire event to the “Opening Ceremonies” of
the Olympic Games. It was an awesome moment. The week could not have
started on a more promising note.

This week we begin our investigation of those events themselves.

In this concluding “series within a series”, we will be “Connecting
with Christ” as we see him undertake ten incredibly challenging tests –
a literal “spiritual decathlon” – a spiritual decathlon that he would
have every one of his followers enter!

And right there, in what I just said, is the unique feature of this
particular look at the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry … a
feature that I have never seen nor attempted to draw out before.

In this look at the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we will not
only be noting what he did for us but we will also be considering that,
even as he was doing those things, he was laying out a pattern of
behavior for us to follow.

Thus the title of this final series of messages: “Becoming Spiritual
Decathletes” – becoming world-class followers of Jesus Himself,
learning to live our lives in the very “world-class way” he lived his –
particularly the way he lived his last eight days!

Today we see Jesus engaging in Spiritual Decathlon Event #1 –

Temple Cleansing.

Here’s the play by play as Mark describes it … Mark 11:11-19

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at
everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with
the Twelve.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in
the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any
fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was
not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat
fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving
out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables
of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would
not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as
he taught them, he said,

“Is it not written:”

`My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ ?

But you have made it `a den of robbers.’ ”

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began
looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole
crowd was amazed at his teaching.

When evening came, they went out of the city.

There is no single thing on earth more important to God than His Temple
and there is therefore nothing more important than keeping His temple
fit for His Use. There should be no higher priority for any of His
People.

God’s Temple is where Connection and Communion with God can be
experienced. God’s Temple is where proper worship to God can be
rendered. It’s essential to the plans and purposes of God on this earth
that His Temple be kept fit for His Use.

In Jesus’ day the temple was one of the most impressive structures on
the face of the earth; it could contain thousands of seekers and within
it’s holy places, atonement could be made for the sins of all.

But as we see from the passage of the day … things were not right at
the temple … practices had been allowed that either eliminated
altogether or at least severely hampered some of the temple’s most
important purposes.

Today’s Key Point is simply this …

“If something’s wrong at the temple, then something needs to be done.

Things just can’t be allowed to remain the way they are.”

A Corollary Point would be this …

“In a fallen world, things go wrong at the temple frequently for

human beings regularly mess up the plans and purposes of God.”

And so we see Jesus … taking decisive action to make things right
that had become wrong.

In a moment we are going to look a bit more closely at exactly what he
did and why he did it but in keeping with the thrust of this series
that he was (through his actions) laying down a pattern for us to
follow,

I would first identify for us …

Today’s Key Challenge …

“Becoming a World-Class TEMPLE CLEANSER”

(1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – 1 Corinthians 3:16)

That’s right … you and I as followers of Jesus Christ are
participants in this same challenging spiritual event … Christ would
have us become world-class temple cleansers in our own right.

Now lest we get confused by the fact that the temple in Jerusalem
doesn’t any longer exist or lest we allow ourselves to believe that we
should join some cultic expression of the Christian Faith that still
builds and carries out ministry in actual physical temples, let me
point out what the New Testament teaches about “temples in today’s
world”.

I Corinthians 6:19-20 …

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is
in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were

bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

I Corinthians 3:16 …

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s
Spirit

lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him;

for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

The Body of the individual believer is a Temple of the Holy Spirit –
completely under the responsibility of the individual believer.

The Church Body (universally and locally) is also considered to be such

a Temple – completely under the responsibility of its recognized
leaders.

These are the two main places on earth today where Connection and
Communion with God can be experienced. These Temples are where proper
worship to God can be rendered. It’s essential to the plans and
purposes of God on this earth that His Temples be kept fit for His Use.

And keeping them fit for such use is an ongoing task … a task at
which God would have each of us excel. So how do we do it? What does it
take to become a “world-class temple cleanser?”

Well, let’s now look a bit more closely at the way Jesus handled this
most challenging spiritual task.

Notice from our passage of the day, the critical process involved in
world-class temple cleansing …

1. World-Class Temple Cleansing COMMENCES With Careful EXAMINATION

“He looked around at everything.” (vs. 11)

He noticed how things were being done there in the temple courts.

There wasn’t anything that escaped his eye … He saw it all; He took
it all in.

He saw how the Outer Court of the temple grounds – the Court of the
Gentiles – had been taken over by the sellers of animals for the temple
sacrifices. He saw the long rows of money tables where temple approved
bankers were exchanging the coin of the secular realm for coins that
were approved for sacred use – the temple shekel.

He heard the bellowing of the cattle and the cooing of the doves and
the haggling of the buyers and the sellers and the expressed disgust of
many who felt that they had been scammed by a monopolistic enterprise.

He also noticed hordes of people who were using the temple grounds as

a convenient short-cut between the City Proper on the west and the
Mount of Olives on the east. Travelers with backpacks loaded seeking to
save a few steps pushed their way through the would-be “worshippers”.

There was a lot to take in … the place was chaotic.

Sometimes our own lives can become like that … so much stuff going
on.

So many things to debate and decisions to make that there’s no longer
any uncluttered place to sit down and know that God is still God.

Paul said to the young believers in Corinth that …

“A man ought to examine himself …” – I Corinthians 11:28

Examine himself before he engages in spiritual activity – specifically
before he “eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” lest he do so in an
unworthy or unproductive manner or even harmful manner.

Examine himself … what is the condition of my heart? What are these
things that are filling my life and consuming my time? What kinds of
thoughts are filling my mind and what kinds of feelings have settled
into my heart? What is my attitude toward Christ and the body of
believers that I am part of? How highly do I value them?

Examination is critical … knowing the true condition of things is
absolutely crucial.

2. World-Class Temple Cleansing CONTINUES With A Period of
CONTEMPLATION

“Compare how things ARE with how things SHOULD be.”

“The more I think about it the more distressed I become.”

This I believe is what Jesus spent the night doing. He was distressed
by what he had seen and the longer he thought about it the more
distressed he became.

I have no doubt that he spent a good part (if not all) of the night in
prayer – laying out before His Father the great contrast between how
things presently were and how things should be.

Tears were shed that night I do believe – how could a man in such a
state sit down and enjoy one of Martha’s home-cooked meals? I doubt
that he did.

I would believe that that’s why he was so hungry early the next
morning.

He was heading into a major confrontation with an empty stomach. He was
counting on something being on that fig tree!

But there wasn’t any physical sustenance to be found on that tree any
more than there was spiritual sustenance to be found at the temple.

And as a foreshadowing of the end of the temple ministry itself, Jesus
announced that no one would ever eat (be benefited) by that tree (that
temple) again. Within a day the tree was gone and in less than 40 years
so was Herod’s impressive temple.

But the temple’s days were not over yet, God’s Presence was still there
for a few more days and in light of that fact it needed to be made fit
for its Master’s Final Use.

And so we see that following a time of careful examination and
prayerful contemplation …

3. World-Class Temple Cleansing CULMINATES In Actions Of PURIFICATION

“He began driving out those who were buying and selling there …” (vs.
15)

“Getting things back to the way they should be”

What a moment that must have been … John reports in his Gospel that
Jesus actually make a whip out of several cords that he found and
literally drove the animals and their managers out of the entire area.

He didn’t come to negotiate … how about just selling between the
hours of 1 and 3? Purification requires total elimination of the impure
thing.

It doesn’t surprise me that Jesus continued every day that week to
teach in the temple courts – He knew that purification once
accomplished must be maintained.

Do you think that any of them dare to sneak back in while he was still
there?

Purification is even more important for us today than it was for Jesus
in his day …

He was purifying a temple that would soon be gone.

We are called upon to keep pure a temple that God would find useful
until we draw our last breath!

In that regard, hear these words from the Apostle Paul …

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and
spirit.”

(2 Corinthians 7:1)

What a task – what an Olympian Challenge …

Purifying ourselves from all physical, ethical, emotional and spiritual
contaminants!

It’s a task worthy of a true spiritual decathlete!

And it’s a task worth the effort because (as our final thot says) …

Final Thot …

World-class Temple Cleansers always have a

PLACE where they can safely MEET and COMMUNE with God.

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