Judgment At The House Of God

Bible Book: Matthew  21 : 12-15
Subject: Church; Judgment; Prayer; Praise; Purity; Power

Now, listen. If you're going to be the Christian God has called you to be, and if this church is going to be the church that God has called it to be, and if we're going to make a difference in a nation that is racing toward the judgment of God, there are some things that we must do. In our text for this morning we have four things that we can do to make a difference in a world that is racing toward the judgment of almighty God. And there is an interesting progression in this passage of Scripture.

i. And as we shall see, this text indicates that, first of all, we must be a people of purity. That is indicated in verse 12.

ii. Secondly, we must be a people of prayer, and that emphasis is found in verse 13.

iii. The next thing that we shall see is in verse 14, and that verse has to do with power.

iv. And then there is the fourth thing that we find in verse 15, and that is an emphasis upon praise.

So, we must be a people of purity, of prayer, of power, and of praise. That is exactly what God wants our church to be. That is what He wants me to be. That is what He wants you to be.

I. We Must be a People of Purity

The pattern of purity is found in the person of Jesus Christ. You see, folks, anytime we want a pattern we go to Jesus Christ, and we see that pattern. We know the purity that was in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even Pilate, His enemy, said, "I find no fault in him." Paul, in describing the life of Jesus, said, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." The writer of Hebrews, in speaking of Jesus, said, "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Jesus is, and was, a man of purity.

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying, "He was the Son of God." May I say to you, dear friends that Jesus lived on this earth as a man. "He was in all points tempted like as we are." He knew what it was to be tempted and, by dependence upon the Holy Spirit, having the Spirit of God without measure, He lived a life of purity. I want you to know that the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus Christ and anointed Him and kept Him pure is the same Holy Spirit of God that lives in you and that lives in me. We can be men and women of purity, and Jesus is our pattern. I want you to notice something. In verse 12 it says that Jesus cleansed the temple. Now, I believe that there are two temples that God wants to cleanse today. The first temple He wants to cleanse is yours and mine.

What does I Corinthians 6:19 say? "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?" You see, the first temple that God wants to cleanse is your temple and mine. He wants you and me to be pure.

There is another temple that God wants to cleanse. In Ephesians, chapter 2, we have a beautiful description of the church. Every time I read this passage it challenges me about what the church can be. I am reading from Ephesians 2, beginning in verse 19: "Now therefore ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God; having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" (Now, listen to this description of the church.) "In whom the whole building being fitted together grows into a holy temple in the Lord." What a beautiful picture that is of the church. We are fitted together; we are becoming a holy temple in the Lord. Look in verse 22, "In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." What a picture of the church: "being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

Now, I want to tell you folks, God not only wants to cleanse your temple and my temple and make us pure, but I am telling you He wants a pure church. He wants a holy church. He wants an obedient church. He wants a church that knows what it is to have a testimony in an ungodly and immoral world. He wants to cleanse the temple. You know, I don't believe you're going to be able to pray; I don't believe that you're going to have any power until, first of all, you get pure. Now, I know how it is with most of us. You say, "Pastor, get on over to the power. What I want is the power." Listen, dear friend, you're not going to have the power until your heart is pure before almighty God. You see, you go from purity to prayer, and then comes the power of almighty God. You've got to be pure first. There   are two verses that have taken on new meaning to me in recent days. One verse is Matthew 5:8. It says, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." You know how I used to interpret that? I used to say, "Lord, if I'll just live pure in heart, one of these days I'm going to see you." But I don't believe that is what it means. Do you know what that means to me? It means if I am pure in heart here, by the power of the indwelling Jesus, I am going to see God right here in this life, saving people, delivering people from bondage, making people whole. I believe I'll see God in my family and in my church and in my city if I am pure in heart. The pure in heart will see evidences of God here and now. I know I'm going to see Him in heaven. Hallelujah! Praise God! But I need to see Him now, in my life and in my church.

There's another verse that has taken on new meaning in recent days, and that is Hebrews 12:14 which says, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." I believe the person who has a holy walk with God and the church will see God. We're going to see Him in our lives, in our families, in our church, in our city. I believe that prayer is absolutely powerless unless you have a pure heart. You must pray from pure hearts.

You know, there are some verses that kind of bother me. The first two verses in Isaiah 59 convict me every time I read them. Listen to what it says: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that he cannot save; nor his ear heavy, that he cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear." Now, we say that we need to see more saved people in our churches. We need to see more saved people in our denomination. Mark it down, dear friend. God's hand is not shortened. He can still save; He can still hear; He can still bring revival. But we have got to get right with God if we're going to see it in our day. What I am saying is this. We're not going to see power until there is prayer, and there is not going to be powerful praying until there is purity.

Let me give you another verse that kind of bothers me. It is Psalm 66:18. It says: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." Now, do you believe that? You say, "Preacher, do you mean if I get down to pray and my heart is not right with God, or if I have an unforgiving spirit, or if I have resentment or bitterness or jealousy in my heart, or impure thoughts; if I know there is sin in my heart and if I'm not right with God, or if I'm not right with some person, are you telling me that if I get down to pray that God is not going to hear me?" That is exactly what I am saying. That is what the Scripture says. I am reminded of the words of Psalm 24: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart." Now, I am like you. I want to see God's power. But you've got to understand the progression. First, there has to be purity, and then prayer, and then power. I want to ask you this morning, "Are you pure in heart?"

Now, I am just like you. I sin! There are times when I stumble. There are times when I fall. There are times when I have attitudes that I ought not to have, but I want to thank God for Hebrews 4:16. That verse says: "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Do you know when I find out I need mercy? All the time. Do you know when I find out I need grace? All the time. If you do sin; if you do fail; if purity is not there, praise God, you can repent and you can come to the throne of grace. There is mercy, and there is cleansing, and there is the blood of Jesus that has never lost its power. There can be purity. I want to ask you something. Do you have a pure heart? Is your heart clean and pure?

About ten years ago they had a revival down at the Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Brother Fred Wolfe was the pastor then. Some of you heard him the Sunday I was gone to the Corn Islands. But this revival broke out and it was not planned. Brother Fred was preaching on a Sunday morning and the power of God fell upon the congregation, and they just had to shut off the invitation time so that they could go to the next service. He said, on that Sunday night, once again the glory of God came upon the church. And he said it was so remarkable, and it was so obviously divinely anointed that they decided to meet on Monday night and Tuesday night. He said the meeting lasted for two weeks. During the course of those two weeks, the pastor prayed with literally hundreds of people. He said that he prayed with people he thought had it all together, but he said the major thing that people were confessing was bitterness and an unforgiving spirit. He said that when people became aware of the fact that their hearts were not pure, and that they were harboring bitterness in their hearts, and they had an unforgiving spirit toward other people, and when they began to confess those sins, God broke through and brought revival to the church.

Now, there have been times when I have allowed a little seed of bitterness to creep into my heart. Generally it's not long until I realize what is happening and I try to confess it to God and make it right. In the church that I pastored while I was in the seminary, I had a man in the church that really got upset with me. I believe that a preacher ought to have somebody on his case all of the time. I mean, you know, the Bible says, "beware when all men speak well of you." I mean, if nobody opposes you, then you need to check it out. Let me just go on record as saying this: I don't have any problem with the devil's crowd getting after me; it's the sheep. When they get after me, it kind of bothers me. By the way, somebody told me you never have seen sheep attack a shepherd. Goats will, but a sheep won't. You might want to mark that down. But anyway, this man openly opposed me. This was in the mid- sixties when there was a lot of racial tension. And there was a very sweet young lady in our church who came to me and asked if it would be permissible for her to invite a black friend of the family to her wedding. I said, "Why, sure. It will be fine." I didn't see how in the world that could be a problem. But somehow it got out in the church that I had given permission to this young girl for her to invite her black friend to the wedding. This man in the church got the word out that I was trying to integrate the church. In fact, he stood up in a business meeting and said he didn't like the fifth column tactics of the pastor trying to integrate the church. I never will forget this man. His name was Dallas Wren. He got four or five others to side with him. Although it really never amounted to anything, I got to where I didn't like Dallas Wren. I didn't even want to see his face. I would be sitting up at the pulpit on Sunday morning and I would look out on the congregation and there he sat. Folks, I had some bitterness in my heart. I had an unforgiving spirit toward that man. And I said, "Lord, how in the world am I going to get up in the pulpit and preach about being pure and walking in holiness when I don't even like him?" I tell you, it took me about two months. I'd get in my study and I'd fall on my face, and I'd say, "God, if you don't take that out of me and replace it with love and forgiveness so that I can really love him and not be a hypocrite, I'm going to have to give up the ministry because I can't go on with this in my heart."

Have you ever been there before? I have an idea that most of you have. You've got to walk in forgiveness; you've got to walk in purity. The Bible says that we must "be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." The thing that I want to nail down is that there must be purity before there can be prayer, and before there can be power, and before there can be praise in your life.

II. We Must be a People of Prayer

When a person has a pure heart, then that person can pray. Look in verse 13 of our text. Jesus said, "My house shall be called the house of prayer." I want to tell you, the pattern again is seen in Jesus. If you study the life of Jesus, you will see that there is a beautiful pattern of prayer in the life of Jesus.

Mark 1:35 records an event at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. It says, "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." The first picture that we get of Jesus early in His ministry is the picture of Jesus praying in a solitary place. As we continue to follow Jesus, we go over to the book of Matthew, and in the 14th chapter we see Jesus as He was going out and continuing to be a man of prayer. This is in the middle of His ministry. It says, "when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone." We see Jesus in the beginning of His ministry, and He was at prayer. We see Jesus in the middle of His ministry, and He was at prayer. We move over to the garden of Gethsemane and we see Jesus near the end of His ministry. In Luke 22   it says, "And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples followed him. And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray...And he withdrew from them a stone's cast, and knelt down and prayed." Now, isn't it interesting? Mark says, "I want you to see Jesus as He began His ministry. He is praying." Matthew says, "I want you to see Jesus at the height of His ministry. He is praying." Luke says, "I want you to see Jesus at the end of His ministry in the garden of Gethsemane. He is praying." Now, I want to ask you a question. What is Jesus doing today? What does Hebrews 7 say He is doing? It says, "Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost them who come to God by him, seeing that he ever lives to make intercession for them."

I want to ask you a question. If our Master's whole life was patterned by prayer, what should characterize our lives? And I want to say to you with deep conviction -- you let the people of God get pure, and then, through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, you let them begin to follow the footsteps of Jesus and begin to be a people of prayer -- I mean, when the church prays, almighty God moves in. I want to challenge you to witness, yes; teach, yes; visit, yes; minister, yes, but under God be a person of prayer. That's where the power comes from.

You know, I praise God for the good tools that Baptists have for ministry. I mean, we've got the Sunday School, the Bible-teaching arm of the church. I thank God for it. We've got the mission arms of the church. Praise God for that. We've got the outreach arm of the church. We've got the music arm. We've got all kinds of arms. And we've got strategies. We've got organizations. But what we have needed in our church is an organized and planned prayer strategy. You go back in history and show me one time that there has ever been a movement of God apart from the desperate, prevailing, intercessory prayer of God's people. You can't show it to me.

Beginning the first of July we're going to begin a three-month emphasis on prayer. We're going to have seasons of prayer. We're going to have a conference on prayer. We're going to call the church to prayer. If there is anything the devil does not want you to do, he does not want you to become involved in prayer. The devil will say, "Anything but prayer; anything but prayer." But I believe that when Jesus said "pray," He meant it. You see, I want to see God's power in the church. I want to see God's power in your life. But I want you to go back and remember, there has got to be purity. Then out of purity, there must be prayer. What about your prayer life?

III. We Must be a People of Power

Jesus cleansed the temple. He called them to prayer. Look at verse 14: "then the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them." Folks, it is very obvious that there was power. I want to ask you a question. Don't you believe that God wants His church to operate in power? I believe He does. I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God. The Bible says, "the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." Acts 4:31 says, "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." And then in verse 33 it says, "And with great power the apostles witnessed." I want to ask you a question. Are you hungry for more of God's power? I believe that there is not a person here today who would not like to see the power of God in our church. You know, that's what people all over this world are looking for. Many people are hungry for reality. They're looking for God's power. I'll tell you, our God is a God of power. We don't want to have the heathen go by our church and say, "Where is your God?" They need to see Him in power in our midst. But I'll tell you this. We can talk about power all day, but we've got to go back to the source. First of all, there  must be purity, then prayer, then power. I long to see Jesus doing His ministry in our churches. He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." The gospel must be preached in power to the poor. The brokenhearted must be healed. The captives must be delivered. Blind eyes must be opened. We cannot continue to go on without an outpouring of the power of God. We've got to have it. If we don't have it, we're just going to go on like we are and we're not going to see our city and our world changed.

Somebody said, "Brother Gerald, what do you think God can do today?" I'll say this, "He can do a whole lot more than He's doing." You think about that. If He can't do more than He's doing, we're in trouble. Folks, I don't want to limit God in any way. I'll say this. I know what the greatest miracle is. I hear people saying, "If you're going to have the Holy Spirit in your church, you've got to have manifestations." I'll say, "All right, I'll tell you what the greatest manifestation of God's power is that I've ever seen. I'll just share it with you. Do you know what the greatest manifestation of the power of God is? It's when God reaches down in an unholy world, and He calls out an unholy man, and He saves him and makes him holy. Then He takes that unholy man that He has made holy and puts him back into an unholy world, and keeps him holy in that world." Now, you think about that. It's something for God to take a man and make him holy, but it is something else for God to keep that man holy. You see, I still believe that the greatest manifestation of God's power is when people become a new creation in Jesus Christ. He may do a lot of things to their body, but praise God, something has got to happen in their spirit if they're going to be changed. Let's not be satisfied until we see a greater manifestation of the power of God in our lives and in our church. Now, here's the last thing. We go from purity to prayer and from prayer to the demonstration and the manifestation of God's power.

IV. We Must be a People of Praise

Look in verse 15 (read). Listen, folks, they were praising God in church. As you might well know, it upset some of them. Look in verse 16. The chief priests and the scribes said, "Do you hear what these children are saying? Aren't you upset, Jesus, that they are praising you?" Notice what Jesus said in the last part of verse 17 (read).

I want to tell you something, folks. Something that I long to see is God's people so pure; I long to see God's people so prayerful, and so powerful, that God will move in such a way that God's people will begin to praise Him. Do you know why some people don't praise Him? Because they don't know Him like they ought to know Him. They can't praise Him for what He does because they don't know Him for who He is. But you let a people begin to know who He is, and begin to see what He does, and you can't keep people from praising God. I hear so much moaning and groaning and murmuring and griping and complaining. But I want you to know; I am delighted when someone wants to praise God. Folks, I want you to know that I'm excited when I see somebody so in love with Jesus, and so moved by God's Spirit, that they want to praise God, and that they want to thank God. In our text we see that the children were in the temple praising God. I want to tell you that it is beautiful to praise Him for what He does, but it is even more beautiful to praise Him for who He is. He is the great "I AM." Nothing lifts me like praise that comes from a pure heart. You see, after purity there is prayer. After prayer there is power. After power there is praise. The Bible says in Hebrews, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God ... the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." Amen