Culture or God?
When you look at our world, what do you see? What I see in our world right now is the opposite of what God has called us to be. In the past year it seems that every time I turn on the tv, the news is covering a hate crime, people are fueled with anger and acting out. We are a hurting nation and as the cliché saying goes, “hurting people hurt people”, this is true, but we need to live and breathe the word of God because He has given us clear commands that we should obey. Leviticus 19:18 says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Instead of leaning on the grace of God, we humans like to take things into our own hands. With this in mind, there will be times that we need to take a stand and Jesus perfectly exemplifies this in John 2. Let’s start with the story; it was the Jewish Passover and Jesus went to Jerusalem to visit the temple. Take note that the temple is a holy place, a place of importance for the Jewish religious system and where ceremonial sacrifices were offered. To say the least, the temple was built and meant to be God honoring. As Jesus entered the temple courts, He saw people selling animals in exchange for money. This sight burdened Jesus to the extent that He overturned the tables, money flying everywhere and the Pharisees taking offense. Jesus didn’t do this to be a troublemaker but to point out the wrongdoing. He took a stand in a situation that was ungodly. We cannot control how people will receive us, but we can control what we say and do, and are those words and actions God honoring?
Let’s take a look on how this story is still relevant today.
We are in the midst of a “Jesus in the temple” moment (John 2:13-16). A moment where we either stand up for what is biblical truth and in alignment with God or conform. We need to stand up for the Word of God, the truth sets us free, not abiding by what is mainstream in culture. Jesus offended people by standing up for the one true King, for making it known what is worth going against the grain for. The Pharisees were offended the moment Jesus stood up and flipped the table. As Jesus entered the temple, He saw people buying and selling cattle, sheep, doves and who knows what else. The temple is known to be God’s House, a house of prayer, it burdened Jesus’ heart when He saw a place meant for worship and prayer being used to make a profit. This is why He became so passionate, He called it as He saw it, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17) There are times to submit to authority but there will be times where we need to stand and submit to the ultimate authority and Jesus did exactly this that day in the temple courts. Jesus not only made a grand gesture but followed with a teaching in hopes to provide correction, to voice God’s original intent and what man had altered to fit what benefitted them.
Jesus bluntly states the reminder that clearly the Pharisees needed to hear, the temple was not built for self-gain. He stood on truth with conviction, regardless of what culture says and how the Pharisees would respond. The Pharisees were proud men who lost sight for God’s original intent of the Law and instead of being separated from sin, they became separated from people- who they condemned if they thought/acted differently. Just as the temple, the world and humanity God created was ultimately to be in a relationship full of love, peace, and harmony but our human desires misguide us.
Matthew 4:4 “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”. Food gives our bodies energy but that is just the surface level because it is written that more than food, water and shelter (the three things that we are told that are crucial for our survival) are needed for us to live. Our soul needs to be fed as well and that comes by intentional time spent with God, through prayer, conversations with him and reading his Word. God is our rock, our foundation- if we feed ourselves with him, we will be satisfied and equipped to stand up for the Word when the enemy and the world comes to attack. Knowing God’s intentions comes from spending time with him and in reading your bible, you are given heavenly wisdom but also given your weapon. Ephesians 6:17 “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” Jesus used His weapon in the temple, His wisdom brought conviction and truth.
Speak and do the works we have been called to do, we are the hands and feet, the ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” When Jesus flipped the table and spoke, He spoke from His heart; to the people it was normal to turn a house of prayer, a temple, into a place for profit- exactly this is happening right now in modern culture.
Don’t take this as an opportunity to go around flipping tables for the sake of being loud, take the opportunity to confront truth with grace, His truth. Stand firm in not your understanding but God’s, as we are called to be the salt, the light, to go against the grain, remember that God will never leave us behind. He gives us His strength and His wisdom to speak.
Conforming places you in a box, transformation allows God to work in and through you in ways you could never envision yourself. Can you imagine if Jesus had simply walked by the pharisees in the temple? Jesus did what many of us refuse to do, let’s be honest, many people are uncomfortable with confrontation but not Jesus because He knew being uncomfortable was worth it if it meant going against culture and social norm to bring truth to light.
Jesus chose to transform the situation rather than conform to what people viewed as normal, okay and just, but chose to shine a light on what real truth is.
Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice that is pleasing to God? First, know what the word of God says! Going deep into the word and saturating ourselves with God’s wisdom we are able to strengthen our discernment and through application of the Word, transform the way our minds operate. Instead of operating out of a “human” mindset, once we choose Christ, the Holy Spirit will guide us to a “heavenly” mindset- where we are not looking to satisfy ourselves but to satisfy God. Next, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice is to walk and reflect the actions of Christ, for every act be an act of worship; obeying God’s command when He calls you to walk out, speak up. We present our bodies to God as a sacrifice, a personal example, in prayer I have declared to God, “Lord, you have all of me, you have my tongue, my hands, feet, my actions, use what you need to do to build your kingdom here”. I’m sacrificing my human desires so I can be aligned with the Almighty.
Who are you willing to offend? Culture or God?