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It’s a Great Day for a Clean House

Matthew 21:10–17; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–48

I recall some years ago taking my son with me as I made a house call to someone who had recently visited the church. During the drive, a discussion about God’s forgiveness came up. My son was 11 or 12 years old at the time and trying to understand as best he could how to grasp the concept and describe it. I was trying to explain it the best I could. As we were riding along talking and enjoying the time (or at least I was, and hoped my son was as well J) he gave this illustration in his own words: “It sounds to me like God’s forgiveness is kinda like Him taking a vacuum cleaner to our hearts and cleaning everything out.” To me, my son’s illustration made more sense than how I was trying to explain it, and I remember it to this day. It made me realize then and it reminds me now that I try to make things too complicated at times.

My son’s illustration helps me when I think of what I’m calling Day Two, the Monday after Palm Sunday and prior to Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During Sunday through Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus spent each night in the town of Bethany, just 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the opposite slope of the Mount of Olives. He probably stayed in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. One of the events that occurred on Monday, as described in the Bible, is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple the second time. The first cleansing Jesus made is mentioned in John 2:13–17. In Matthew 21:12–13 we read, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had been replaced with merchandise and the sale of goods.

Another event that happened that day, shortly before Jesus arrived at the Temple, was His cursing of the fig tree (Matthew 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14). From a distance, the fig tree looked promising and gave the appearance of producing fruit, but, upon closer examination, in reality it did not have any fruit. The two events were related in the sense that the Temple was for true worship, and true worship produces genuine and substantive fruit. Neither was happening, and Jesus “called them on it.” He cursed the fig tree and it became barren. He cleansed the Temple of the merchants because of their interference with and interruption of the true worship of God.

As we think about having our hearts prepared for Easter, today is a good day to ask God to search our hearts and cleanse us of any unrighteousness – to help us not have just the appearance of serving Him but have hearts that are pure and sincere toward Him. After all, the apostle Paul describes our bodies as the temple of God in I Corinthians 6:19–20. We were bought with a price, and we are to glorify God in our bodies. We can’t glorify God with “dirty” hearts.

A good prayer to pray today comes right from Psalm 139:23–24. Don’t rush into this prayer. Honestly think about it first. When you think about the words and sincerely desire God to answer your prayer, you will be dramatically changed for His glory. Will you join me in sincerely praying this prayer today? Ask God for personal forgiveness and cleansing that you may be prepared to worship Him in sincerity without interference or interruption. And from that worship you will produce genuine and substantive fruit that may abound to your account.

“Dear God, I pray as David prayed in Psalm 139 and ask You to ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Thank You for cleansing me and making me a clean vessel to serve You purely today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

– by Pastor Greg Joyner

How Does Church Help Me?

A  lot of people say, “I want to be a Christian but I don’t need a church.” That’s like saying, “I want to play football in the NFL but not be on any team…. I want to be a soldier but not have a platoon…. I want to play a French horn but not be in an orchestra…. I want to be a sailor without a ship–a bee without a hive.” A Christian without a church family is an orphan. God told the Christians at Ephesus that they belonged together with other Christians in His church (see Ephesians 2:19). A church is not simply a place that you go to every week, but a family you belong to. God designed a church for His glory and our benefit.

How Does Church Help Me:

Five Benefits of a Bible-believing Local Church

1. It Helps Me Focus on God – Worship

Some days it is so easy to be distracted by “life” that we can go through the whole day and not even think about God. Sometimes we can forget about God because we might be too busy, too happy, too stressed, or too whatever. God gave us the 4th commandment: “Every seventh day, refocus on God!” Every time you refocus on God and express your love to God, you are worshiping. Jesus called loving God the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37–38). God loves you and He made you to love Him back.

2. It Helps Me Face Life’s Problems – Fellowship

Life is tough! It can be one problem after another! As a result, we all sometimes get discouraged, tired, fatigued, and drained. God never meant for you to go through life all by yourself. He wants you to have a church family for support. The Christian life is not a solo act. We draw strength from one another. Someone once said “A shared joy is a double joy; a shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” We all need fellowship.

3. It Helps Me Fortify My Faith – Maturity

“Fortify” means “to strengthen, to develop, to reinforce.” We have breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamins. Toaster pastries are fortified with Vitamin A (so we can say they’re health food). A church family fortifies you and helps you clarify your values. It helps you set your priorities. It helps you figure out, what you really believe. A church family helps you develop character, conviction, and integrity. God says a church family is designed to help you grow and mature your faith.

4. It Helps Me Find my Ministry – Service

You weren’t put on earth just to take up space. God expects you to give something back. He expects you to make a contribution with your life. He gave you certain abilities, talents, and gifts that He expects you to use to help other people. Any time you use your talents or what you know to help somebody else, that’s called ministry. A “non-ministering” Christian is a contradiction. You were made for ministry. One day every Christian is going to stand before God and He is going to say, “What was your ministry? What did you do on earth to make a contribution to someone else?” A church family helps you discover and develop your ministry (see Ephesians 2:10).

5. It Helps Me Fulfill My Life Mission – Purpose

God has a grand purpose for your life. You were put on the earth for a reason God chose even before you were born. He chose exactly the parents to whom you would be born and where. All of these things you had no control over because He was making you for a mission. God created you for a purpose, and He says “I want you to fulfill it.” The moment you trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God activates your life mission. Part of your life mission is called the Great Commission – telling other people the good news about Jesus Christ.  Someone told you, and so you are to pass it on to others. God wants every Christian to be a messenger of God’s love to others.

I really do need a church… and my church needs me. Find a Bible-believing church family and say, “This is going to be my home.” No church is perfect, but nothing is more important than the church of Jesus Christ! If you do not have a church family that is fulfilling these five purposes, come be our guest.

 

Article by Pastor Scott Wendal
Senior Pastor, Valley Forge Baptist

Why Should I Go to Church?

A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard over 3,000 sermons. But, for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and so are the pastors.” This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

As a child, I attended a formal church that left me counting ceiling tiles and lights in the sanctuary. By the time I was in my early teens, my family had drifted from weekly attendance and I found myself wondering Why should I go to church? It wasn’t until I experienced the new birth (what Jesus called a “spiritual birth” in John 3:3-5) that I discovered that I don’t have to go to church – I get to go to church. When I made a commitment to become a Christian – a real Christian – my desires changed. I wanted to meet with those who gathered every week to worship the Lord of heaven and earth. It was as if the “hour of worship” went by so fast that I could not believe the service was over already. I wanted to learn God’s truth and apply it to my life. The apostle Peter said that a growing Christian hungers for the Word of God in the same way a newborn hungers for milk (I Peter 2:2).

What changed? I did! I was changed by the Lord. I had new desires, new commitments, and new goals. Now I can say with King David the Psalmist, who wrote, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1).

Who are these people who gather every week to worship a God who proclaims peace and love, freedom and justice, repentance and salvation? Local church congregations are not and never will be perfect, because they are made up of imperfect human beings. I like the bumper sticker that says “Christians Aren’t Perfect – Just Forgiven.” You may have had a disappointing experience with a particular church in your past, but that can never be a valid excuse to give up finding a biblically healthy church family. Being a Christian has nothing to do with finding a place that simply “makes me happy.” From the earliest days, Christianity has been about a church family that comes together to learn, worship, and grow while serving each other and modeling Christ to a watching world. Our goal is to live our lives in such a way that we “make Jesus look good to an unbelieving world.” When I go to church, I find encouragement and help to do just that.

Do you have a church you can call “Home”? If not, come and experience what some of your neighbors have experienced at the corner of Black Rock Road and Rt. 113: people who love God and others. If the greatest desire of the human heart is to love and be loved, then you will only find that desire met in a church where Jesus Christ is worshiped!

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. – Psalm 122:1

Article by Pastor Scott Wendal