Are we doing right by the original intent and purpose for the church?  Would Jesus turn over the tables of the church today?  In today’s sermon I would like to focus on the thought – turn over the tables.  I will use scripture from Jeremiah for my key.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 7:9-11 NKJV

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Why do you go to church?  That’s the question that I asked in last Sunday’s sermon.  We know that we go to church to worship the Lord, of course.  As we learned last week, we also go to church to be encouraged and lifted up in our spirit by learning of the Lord and singing hymns and spiritual songs.  Along with being encouraged in our spirit, we also learned that we should stir up and encourage one another in church.  So, to sum it up, we learned that we go to church to not only worship but to fellowship with our fellow brother and sister in Christ.  We go to church out of genuine faith and in true worship – keep this in mind.

For some, however, they do not go to church out of genuine faith and for the true worship of the Lord.  For this group of people, going to church is simply a practice of religion – there is nothing genuine about their faith.  Sadly, the church is filled with many people like this who end up serving in our local churches.  They may sing in your choir or serve on the deacon board.  They may even serve as the pastor of a church.

You may say, what’s wrong with that?  The problem is that their faith is not genuine.  Going to church or even serving in the church is simply part of their religion.  In other words, going to church becomes habit and routine – religion.  This creates a problem in the church for both the true worshipers of the Lord and those that genuinely want to hear and learn about Jesus Christ.

Jesus vs. Organized Religion

This conflict between true worshipers and those practicing religion is not something brand new.  Organized religion was something that Jesus saw even in His day.  There are two occasions recorded in scripture where Jesus went into the temple and had to turn over the tables.  The first occasion is recorded in John’s gospel (John 2:13-22) if you would like to read about it.  The more popular one that many preachers and teachers refer to is the occasion that occurred after Jesus’ triumphant entry.

Now, some will teach that in His final days, Jesus entered Jerusalem on three occasions.  The first time Jesus entered Jerusalem was on Sabbath and when He entered in, He went to the temple and there was nothing to see.  On the first day of the week, Jesus again entered into the temple and it was on this day that Jesus noticed merchants selling doves in the temple.  Why were they selling doves?

The Pharisees, those who were to teach the Jews the way of the Law, essentially forsook the Law.  What do I mean by this?  The Pharisees, during Jesus’ day, were busy finding ways to bend and shape the Mosaic Law to how they felt it should work.  Instead of teaching the Jews the way of the Mosaic Law, they taught that they should sacrifice to God and that the sacrifice would please God. 

Jesus, unlike the Pharisees, came teaching true faith and true worship of the Lord.  This teaching went against the Pharisees religion and it disturbed the Pharisees.  They would follow Jesus around asking Him questions and picking at Jesus and the disciples for His teaching of true worship and faith.  It makes you truly wonder, what were the Pharisees teaching to the people?

What did the Pharisees even know?  Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus asking questions.  Jesus was astonished that Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, did not know nor understand the things that Jesus was teaching him.

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?

John 3:9-10 NKJV

The Pharisees instead of teaching true worship and sound doctrine, according to the Law, were essentially spending their time extorting the people and creating their own organized religion.  These religious leaders were not doing right by the people and this is what upset Jesus.

12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Matthew 21:12 NKJV

This organized practice of religion upset Jesus.  The reason why is because this organized religion had moved away from the Mosaic Law – that’s to the say the sound doctrine of the Lord.  The temple had been turned into a den of thieves, led by the religious leaders of that day.  I begin to wonder about the local churches in our world today – would Jesus enter into our churches and turn over the tables?  Are we doing right by those who are in need.

The temple of Jeremiah’s day

As I searched the scriptures, I came across a passage of scripture that reminded me a lot of today’s church.  To set this scripture up, we now go further back in time to see the temple in a time before Jesus was in the world.  We see the temple as it was during Jeremiah’s day.  Let’s remember this about the nation of Israel in Jeremiah’s day.

The northern kingdom of Israel – made up of 10 tribes – had been conquered by the Assyrians.  The southern kingdom, where the temple was located in Jerusalem, was now under threat.  Jeremiah, sometimes referred to as the “crying prophet”, was here to deliver a message of repentance from the Lord.  You see, the people were still “believers” of going to the temple.  However, they were going to the temple simply out of habit and routine – religion.  Look at what the people were saying when they would go to the temple.

Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’

Jeremiah 7:4 NKJV

They were happy with having the temple, in fact, they marveled at the sight of the temple.  They would shout, “the temple of the Lord are these”.  They felt that the temple belonged to them and that they belonged to the temple.  They found safety

The problem with that thought is that the temple was simply a building; it could do nothing for the people.  I tell you, these people are a lot like us today.  There are many who admire the great edifices that we have built to gather in and worship.  They say, “did you see that church? Have you been in that church?  They have such a beautiful church!”  However, the building does nothing for nobody outside of provide shelter!  The building cannot save anybody!

They thought that the temple could save them, but I want you to see what the Lord says to the people.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.

Jeremiah 7:3 NKJV

The people would go to the temple, filled with mess, and they would leave the temple the very same mess.  The temple, nor the sacrifices were what could clean them of their sinful mess – it’s God that does the cleaning.  The people were too caught up in doing the religion instead of being caught up in true faith and worship.  The Lord asks them to amend their ways!  To amend

Jesus turned over the tables inside of the temple because He was pure in His ways.  However, for us, we must turn over the tables inside of ourselves first – we must amend our ways and our doings!  If we can do these things as believers, we would be able to take the church in the proper direction.  Now, see the ways of the people in Jeremiah’s day.

“For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor

Jeremiah 7:5 NKJV

Jesus taught that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  In Jeremiah’s day, I don’t believe that this was something that was being practiced.  Loving your neighbor was certainly part of the Mosaic Law so it should have been something that they were doing if they were of genuine faith and worship.

if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt

Jeremiah 7:6 NKJV

They were not supposed to oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow – these were people who were in need.  They were certainly not supposed to shed innocent blood or worship other gods.  However, if the Lord is telling the people to amend

We get more confirmation to their ways.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know

Jeremiah 7:9 NKJV

They were stealing from their brothers and murdering their brothers.  They were committing adultery and worshiping other gods; they were doing what they shouldn’t do – all kinds of wickedness.  Now, I want you to see what they would then turn around and do on Sabbath.

10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?

Jeremiah 7:10 NKJV

They would still go to the temple and practice their religion – they were not worshiping the Lord out of genuine faith.  They would literally go to the temple and say that it was OK to do all of the wicked things they were doing because they would still go to the temple and make their sacrifices.  Is this us today?

Do we do a lot of wicked things and believe that all of the wicked things are fine because we go to church every Sunday, go to Bible study every Wednesday, and say our prayers?  This may not be you, but I tell you that the church is filled with many people who believe in the same religion practice as the people of Jeremiah’s day.  I warn against such practice. 

Going to church saves nobody if it’s not done out of genuine faith and worship.  Saying a prayer saves nobody if it’s not done out of genuine faith!  I want you to understand that clearly today.  Religion, in other words, does nothing for nobody.  We must amend the way that we think of the Lord and our Savior.  We must amend the way that we think about church.  You see, it’s all about genuine faith and true worship.  It is by genuine faith that we are saved!

Den of thieves

The temple had become a hideout/safe house for wickedness.  Your body should be a temple for the Lord, not a temple for wickedness.  The church itself, should also not become a hideout or safe house for wickedness.  Sadly, it seems some local churches have become home to such.  How often do you come across somebody who say they are a believer, and their actions make you wonder what they are learning and are being taught?

The church must get back to the Lord.  Again, we must amend our ways – turn over the tables on the inside of us.  We must run religion out of our churches as well.  I want you to see what happened when Jesus ran all of the mess that was going on in the temple out of the temple.

14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

Matthew 21:14 NKJV

Were the blind and the lame not being helped before Jesus ran the sellers out of the temple?  I believe the chances are high that they were not being helped properly.  There are many who are blind and lame spiritually that are not being helped properly by the church today.  Again, we’re too hung up on the wrong things to help them.  There are many who do not know Jesus but wish to learn about Him, but they are unable to get it from many local churches.

We must get back to sound doctrine.  The genuineness of faith needs to be restored in our local churches today.

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