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4 lessons on Jesus' righteous anger

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If you’ve watched the Jesus Revolution film, you might remember my faded champagne Corsair, which I bought for $225. That price was about $225 above what I ought to have paid. It was a bit of a beater.

It definitely didn’t have that “new car smell.”

There’s nothing like that smell, right? Olfactory researchers — that’s a fancy word for “smell experts” — say the aroma of a new car is a combination of scents from new components, adhesives, sealants and finishes in a car. These combine to create what we think of as a “new car smell” and they degrade over time.

The smell won’t last, but when most people buy a car, they definitely commit to maintain the vehicle. They vow to change the oil, rotate the tires and wash it every week. They promise themselves they’ll never eat in it or let it get trashed.         

Then reality sets in. You get a few dents on the outside and, well, a few stains on the inside. That “new car smell” gets replaced by a “month-old burrito smell.”

Sometimes life can feel this way. We come to Christ and everything feels shiny and new. We breathe it in and feel joy. But then we let messes build up. We get lazy about the maintenance. We ignore a few weird knocks from the engine, and then we find ourselves broken down somewhere on the side of the road wondering what happened.

That’s why you want a professional to perform car repairs. And if you neglect the inside of your car for too long, a quick vacuum job probably won’t return that new car smell. You need to hire a professional detailer. Inside and out, you turn to experts to get you back on the road.

We shouldn’t try to clean up our own lives either. Try as we may, we can’t get to the real problems. We need God’s help. We need to bring in the experts.

Cleansing the temple

The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple gives us one of the most unforgettable scenes in the New Testament. It starts when Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover celebration:

“In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16, NLT).

Without question, this was a radical thing for Jesus to do. Prior to this, He had just performed His first miracle, turning water into wine. That simple, power miracle brought joy to people, and it probably left the partygoers thinking, “Hey! We like this Jesus guy!” He was cool!

I would have been thinking about inviting Him to the next party.

Tearing down and building back

Passover was definitely a party atmosphere. There would have been a sense of joy and festivity in the air. But then Jesus saw the merchants and money changers and couldn’t ignore them. He made a whip out of some ropes, which definitely isn’t “being cool.” Instead of bringing joy and laughter, He brought righteous anger. He literally turned the tables.

It wasn’t unlike what happens at conversion. God answers our prayers and does what we ask. He forgives us. He comes through for us. But sometimes He has to come in with aggression, messing everything up, overturning tables, and pointing out our sins.

Sometimes He doesn’t even explain Himself! He doesn’t always give reasons, but He always has a reason. He tears down in order to build back right. As Jesus Himself explained in John 15:2, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

Pruning a branch is a violent act and so is turning over a table.

Four lessons

We learn four important lessons from this story:

1. Some things make God angry. The moneychangers were perverting the Temple, and clearly, it made Jesus angry. That surprises some people who picture Jesus as the gauzy guy in the Sunday School illustrations who was always cuddling a baby lamb. But the Jesus who cleansed the Temple wasn’t the “meek-and-mild” Jesus. He was angry!

I don’t know about you, but I want to know what makes God angry.

Notice that Jesus didn’t just fly off the handle, though. He didn’t throw a temper tantrum. He took the time to make a whip! This was strategic, and it grabbed the disciples’ attention — enough that they remembered the Scripture “Passion for God’s house will consume me” (Psalm 69:9).

2.God cares about His house. Jesus stormed in like He owned the place … and He did! We serve a God of mercy but also a God of majesty. Jesus welcomed prostitutes, thieves, and tax collectors, but He loved them enough to change them. He accepts us as we are, but He won’t leave us that way — and Jesus wasn’t about to let the merchants keep people from God.

3. God gets angry when people are kept from coming to Him. Here’s what was happening: Worshippers had to bring in an animal for sacrifice without blemish. The priests would inspect the animals and, conveniently, always find blemishes. They then forced people to buy an acceptably pure animal using money. But they wouldn’t take Roman coins. They only accepted Temple coins, and they were charging high fees to exchange the Roman money for “Temple money.” It was a racket.

The money changers were putting themselves in between the people and God. This happens today in the church, of course. You might see someone with piercings, tattoos, or different clothing. Maybe they aren’t the “right kind of people” for a certain church. But God has no patience for obstacles that get in the way of worship. The Church is a place for spiritual growth, but it’s also a place for sinners to find God.

4. God may want to cleanse YOUR temple, too. God doesn’t live in massive cathedrals or temples but in the hearts of those who have accepted His gift of salvation. Jesus said He will come and make a home within those who love Him. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17 that Christ dwells in our hearts. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul describes our bodies as the “Temple of the Holy Spirit.” And Revelation 21:3 says the dwelling place of God is “among His people.”

Jesus may want to clean up your heart because that’s where He dwells. Could there be something in your life that might be making Him angry? Is there something that’s getting in the way of your worship, or putting an unnecessary barrier between you and God? Is there something you’ve been neglecting? Does something in your spirit not pass the smell test?

It’s possible you have unconfessed sins, prideful thoughts, and corners of your life that you’ve kept “off limits” to the Holy Spirit. Maybe you’re trapped in an addiction.

Back to the car analogy, your life might be in need of a tune-up and wholesale detailing by the Expert. You’ve tried to fix things yourself, but you still can’t get it running smoothly.

There’s good news: No mechanic would require you to fix your car before bringing it in for repairs, and no auto detailer would ask you to tidy things up before they start cleaning. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t say, “Clean up your life and come to me.”

He says, “Come to Me and I’ll clean up your life.”

Make no mistake: It’ll be a deep cleaning. It will result in a radical change. But when He’s done, you will be clean. Your soul’s engine will be tuned up and ready to run. Your life will never be the same.

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.

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