Trinity 10 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 4, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 19:41-48

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the bottom line: the buyers and sellers in the temple were profaning the name of the Lord and His temple. They weren’t obeying the law of Moses who commanded that everybody provide a sacrificial animal from their own herds or flocks, even make provisions for the poor. They were doing things the easy way, the convenient way. They were doing things as they’d been doing for years, what their fathers had done. They weren’t hurting anyone. They didn’t set out to profane the name of the Lord or His temple. In fact, given what we all usually think, they probably thought they were doing a good thing: providing a needed service for the greatest of reasons, to get people to come to temple and offer sacrifices. But in the end, they were sinning against God’s word and blaspheming His holy name.

But that’s the temptation, isn’t it. To do whatever we need to do to get people to come to church; or perhaps to come back to church. How many times have pastors and congregations been told that if they just weren’t so strict on certain things people would more easily come to their church and fences would be mended? If they’d just give a little. And many have. We’ve stopped preaching against pre-marital sex for fear of giving offense. We’ve stopped preaching against being absent from the Lord’s gathering for fear of sounding judgmental. We’ve stopped preaching against real and present heresies promulgated by denominations for fear of alienating potential members and friends in the market place. Have our numbers swelled? To the contrary! Because when we give a little in doctrine to make it easier for folks to come to church all we really do is make it a little easier for them to stay away from church.

Many others have given much to get people to come to church. They have ordained women and homosexuals to get people to come to church. They have denied basic truths that even nature teaches. They have opened the altar to anyone, trying to justify it by saying that it’s the Lord’s Supper and not ours to restrict. Never mind that it is the Lord that restricts it with such words as, “Discern the body, those with whom you eat and drink,” (1 Cor. 11:29) or, “Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them,” (Ro. 16:17).  Many pastors and congregation have given in to much; all with the premise that giving in a little on matters of doctrine will invite more people to church. Have their number swelled? To the contrary! But numbers are a false god and the price is too high to stop preaching the truth.

When we sacrifice doctrine on the altar of church growth, or on the altar of congregational peace, or, as most often is the case, on the altar of common sense and what feels right, we throw the baby out with the bath water. Because if we don’t preach the pure word of God then it’s not the church we’re growing, it’s something else. It may look like the church. It may even sound in many ways like the church. It may even feel like the church. But it wouldn’t be the true Church because the true Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as her cornerstone. She is not built on the foundation of what seems good to men with Christ as her cheerleader.

How easy it was for those who sold in the temple to think that they were pleasing God by making it easier for people to come to temple and sacrifice. And they may well have been making it easier for more people to come to temple and sacrifice, but they weren’t actually doing them any good, and they weren’t pleasing God by their numbers. By teaching wrong they were inviting wrong which means that the hearers were believing wrong. And what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to forfeit his soul? Doctrine matters. If it didn’t then the word of God wouldn’t have become flesh. For His the doctrine of God.

And He came and cleansed His temple with whip and cord, driving out the false teachers with their false teachings and causing the hearers to either leave with their false teachers or remain with the true Teacher and Rabbi. And that’s how it goes with us.

When our Lord comes to us, when He visits His people, He does two things: He drives out false teaching and then teaches the right teaching. He does this on the personal level and on the corporate level. That is, He drives out the false teacher inside us, the teacher that tries to silence our conscience which is informed by God’s word. And He drives out the false teachers among us, be they in the pulpits or in the silos or in the coffee shop. He drives them out by His word, which, despite what false teachers will tell you, is clear and strong.

Those who listen to the false teachers will follow the false path, the wide and easy path. Those who listen to the True Shepherd and Bishop of our souls will follow the narrow path. And those who follow Him on the narrow path will, like He was, be persecuted by those on the wide and easy path. Blessed are you when others revile you and insult you for righteousness’ sake, for so were the prophets persecuted before you.

But here’s the point: the Lord teaches. He didn’t just drive out the false teachers and those that followed them. He then sat daily in His temple and taught the people. The Lord is your teacher. He teaches you by His word. What does He teach you? He teaches you the way of salvation. He teaches you the will of the Father. He teaches you to pray. He teaches you to live. He teaches you to love one another and your enemies. He teaches you to bear no grudge and seek no revenge. He teaches you to receive the rich and poor alike; to give your money and your selves to those who need it. He teaches you to rely and trust solely on Him for all provisions of body and soul. He teaches you the way of God. And where does He teach you? In His temple, which is His Body. He teaches you at the font and from the pulpit. He teaches you from individual absolution. And He teaches you from the altar by His Body and Blood. For this is where the Lord visits His people and teaches them.

And He gives you ears to hear. He gives you His Spirit so that you believe His holy word and lead godly lives.

And what does a godly life look like? Ah, beware false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves ready to devour you. For the Lord does not judge on appearances but He sees the hearts of men. It’s not what your outside life looks like, but what your heart looks like. Then when that looks right, your outward life will follow. That’s why so many Christians are such hypocrites. They try to act like their heart is right when really their heart is full of self-love, self-preservation, self-righteousness, and self-sacrificing. Before men they are good and right and pure, but inwardly they are diseased trees producing diseased fruit.

But the heart of the righteous is selfless. That doesn’t mean the righteous are generous – though they are. But being selfless means that the heart of the righteous is never set on the self. It is always set on others. Just as the Lord’s heart was not set on Himself but on others when He wept for Jerusalem and cleansed His temple and taught the people.

Jesus is the Righteous One, who didn’t consider Himself, that He was equal to God, but emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave to redeem slaves. Being Christ-like isn’t wrapped up in being morally good, it consists of listening to God who teaches the way of true righteousness.

Doctrine matters, and doctrine is life because the Word is life. What we believe, teach, and confess has eternal and temporal consequences and rewards. The Lord teaches you how to live; not how to get by in this world, but how to live in the kingdom of heaven. Behold your teacher, O man, who teaches you in His temple by His living body and blood, teaching you to have faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.

+ In Nomine Iesu +