The Victorious Christ
Let me ask you to fasten your thinking just for a moment upon the twenty-first verse of this second chapter of John’s Gospel. “He spake of the temple of his body.”
I think it is immensely significant that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the temple of His body in the temple of the Jews. It was there in the house of God, there in the traditional place of worship, the temple, in which Jesus spoke of the temple of His body.
You remember that the temple had three divisions in it. There was an outer court which was open to the gaze of the public; there was a holy place in which in all the awareness of the presence of God the priests served in holy awe in the sense of God being near; but then deeper and even more wonderful was the holiest of all, the place of the Shekinah glory, departed long since before this time, but once the place where the glory of the Lord filled the house.
And so it is in the very nature of each of us here, every man, every individual, is a trinity in unity, with three parts to us. There is an outer court, our bodies open to the gaze of the public, by whose actions other people judge and condemn and praise or blame, a body which carries out the desires of the mind, the intent of the will and the affection of the heart—the body, the outer court of the human personality.
Deeper than that there is a soul, the place of emotion, the seat of self-consciousness, of intellect, thinking, choice, of affection, a kind of family of priests intended for the service of the King of kings, intended to serve to His praise and glory, intended to carry out His will and plan and desire, to know the blessedness and the joy of submission to the living Christ.
Ah, but deeper than all that there is the holiest of all—the spirit of the man, the place that can become God-filled and God-possessed, that which distinguishes a human being from every other created thing in all the world, that capacity for God, that deep, deep place in the human heart that may become the home of a holy God.
I want to ask you as we think about the Lord Jesus who spoke of the temple of His body, my dear friend, what is your body? Is it a hostel, full of busy traffic, a busy thoroughfare in which there is much crowded activity, crowded actions and thoughts, a body in which there’s a bustling crowd of divided interest? Is it a library filled with bookshelves with increasing knowledge, increasing intellect and understanding? Is that your body? Is it a counting house dedicated to the purpose of making money, the purpose of ambition, business, commerce, industry, mechanics? Is it a play house, simply set apart for pleasure-seeking, flitting here and there, with no other desire whatsoever than to please itself? Is your body a play house, or is it (forgive me) something like a pig sty in which passion, sin, lust, desire are rampant?
Jesus spoke of the temple of His body. What is your body? You know, that conception of the body which He brought was something new. …Do you remember St. Francis of Assisi, who along with many others in his day thought that everything in the body was evil and sinful. He reached an untimely and premature death simply because of vigilant fasting and buffeting of his body. A few hours before he died he rather ruefully looked at his body and said, “Alas, I have ill-treated thee, oh, ass,” and a few hours later that man who with a deep conviction that everything of the body was essentially sinful and evil and nothing could be done about it, passed to an untimely death.
But Jesus spoke about the temple of His body, and somehow He brought into the world a new conception of the possibility of a human body. Hadn’t He taken the form of a man and lived in a human body, didn’t He take it to a cross and didn’t it lie in a tomb, and didn’t it ascend, that same body, into heaven, and doesn’t it reign now at the right hand of the Father, glorious and lovely, a resurrection body?
Ever since then that has become part of the great concept of the Christian faith. You find it in the New Testament over and over again. Remember Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth and saying, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
My friend, is your body a temple? Is it a place in which God lives? Is it a place in which the Lord has made His home? Is it the temple of God?
All people here may not be the temple of God, but all can be, and the tragic thing about human experience is that in so many lives the most sacred part of a human being with our capacity for God is untenanted, unoccupied, and given over to darkness and neglect. But you know in that glorious moment of conversion when Jesus Christ comes into the heart and the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within, that body of yours and mine becomes His temple, God’s home, and immense possibilities present themselves in the life of a man who has admitted into his heart the Saviour. From that moment he is faced with a choice. In this place, the holy place, the soul, the place of affection, of emotion, intellect, of choice, interest, desire, at the moment of that man’s regeneration, he finds himself faced for all the future with a choice. He may choose that his soul shall be dominated still by his body, or he may choose that it may be dominated by the Spirit of God who has come to inhabit his body. A man may be a child of God, he may have admitted the Spirit of God, he may know something of being a temple of God, and yet he still may be dominated by the body. He may never have brought his appetite and interests and affections into subjection to the Spirt, and a Christian may live even as the temple of God and yet he may defile that temple. He may please and serve the flesh instead of being dominated by the Spirit.
If he chooses to allow his soul to be dominated by the body, he becomes a carnal Christian, living a wilderness life, and passing out into eternity saved, but saved as by fire, a soul that has been saved but a life that has been tragically wasted. If, however, he chooses to allow the Spirit of God to come and dominate and control, and that life of his is in subjection to the indwelling Christ, then everything in the temple begins to say glory. Every relationship and every aspect of that man’s character is touched by the fragrance and loveliness of the Lord Jesus, and he is transformed into the likeness of the Saviour.
What is your body? Is it, I repeat (and I want to ask you the question and I want you to face it and think it out) just simply a counting house, is it a play house, is it merely a cell for passion and sin, or has it become by the grace of God a temple in which God lives? What is your body?
And if indeed it has become a temple and if the Spirit of God has taken up residence within this body of yours, what kind of temple is it? Is it clean? Is it holy, pure, good? Is it like Him? Is the Shekinah glory shining through, or has it departed? What is your body?
I think of that temple, just for a moment, in which Jesus stood as He spoke of the temple of His body, and the story tells us here in John’s Gospel, He came in by way of inspection.
He came into that temple to see what was taking place, to see the traffic that was going on, and in my mind and heart the same wonderful Lord comes into The Moody Church by way of inspection. He comes to examine the body of each one of us, the temple that would be His.
What did He find? In that temple He found those who were changing money. Surely that suggests to us business life. He found commerce and trade and traffic.
He found those who were offering birds of sacrifice, and surely that speaks of our religious life. He found those who were carrying vessels to and fro, and surely that speaks to us of our home life. In that temple there was business life, there was religious life, there was social life, and domestic life, but there was no Christ.
What is your body? In this body of yours and mine there is commerce, there is business—of necessity; there is religious life; there is domestic life, personal life, but tell me, can it be the tragedy of tragedies that in that body there is no Jesus. Have all these things crowded out the living Christ and your body is not a temple? Anything but that.
What did Jesus do about it? What would He seek to do about it in your life if that in some measure, my dear friend, be a description of your body? What did He do?
I want you to notice very quickly and simply three things that He did about this temple. First of all, He entered it. My friend, would you get rid of darkness? Then you must let in light. Would you be delivered from impurity of heart? Would that body of yours be freed from being simply a cell where passion reigns? Would you be delivered from that? Then let in the Saviour. Would you cleanse, as it were, the stable? Then let in the cleansing power of the river of God. “He entered the temple.”
“Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ, the crucified,
Not a place that He could enter
In the life for which He died.”
“He entered the temple.” And that body of yours which has been given over to being a play house or a counting house, being given over simply to a traffic for sin and failure, is a place into which Jesus desires to enter. “He entered the temple.” He came in to inspect it and He stepped across the threshold and He exerted His sovereignty. He stepped into the temple, and that’s what the same wonderful Lord wants to do in your heart and life.
But I want you to notice something else He did. He emptied it. What a tremendous picture this is of the Lord Jesus. How unusual it is, and yet how solemn and tremendous. Notice that He knotted together just a few cords and as He glanced round and saw all that was going on in that temple, the misuse and the abuse, all the things that grieved Him, this place that was intended to be set apart for His glory and for His worship and for His service, as He saw all the traffic and all the sin and all the unreality and all the hypocrisy, He took a scourge and put together a few pieces of cord and He strode in majesty and power across that temple, and He emptied it.
What a picture of the triumphant Lord Jesus as He walked across the floor of that place and bade them all clear out and be gone. They looked amazed, aghast. Who was this who dared to challenge their right to live as they were living? But they had to withdraw. Solemnly, resentfully, silently they sneaked out before the King who was too strong—the victorious Lord Jesus.
My dear friend, I want to say this to you solemnly and earnestly. If you would ask Him to enter your life, you must be prepared for Him to empty it. If you would ask Him across the threshold to be your God that your body might no longer be what it has been, but it might become a temple of the Holy Spirit and the Lord might dwell within you, then listen, you can’t stand at the door and try to come to terms with Jesus. That’s what many people try to do—to meet Him on the threshold, so to speak, and say, “Now Lord, come into this room, but not that one.”
Far too many people have a notice outside many doors in the house of their heart that says, “Please do not disturb.” Things that have been going on there for years mustn’t be challenged, mustn’t be emptied, mustn’t be cleared out. You can’t bargain with Christ like that. We want to know what He is going to forbid and what He is going to empty. You may try to bribe Him with a desire that He be inactive concerning some things in your life. You can’t do it. If Jesus Christ is going to enter your life He is going to demand the freedom to have His right of way.
He took the scourge, He took the whip. Oh, the Lord Jesus doesn’t want to do it that way. He’ll empty the temple gently if you’ll let Him do it. He’ll come in grace and love and tenderness, and He will deal with you in kindness and mercy. He will take away only that which you’ll be glad to be rid of if you could see it as God sees it, but if He can’t get His way gently, then He will have His way, and He will take the scourge, the cords. Perhaps it will be a disappointment, perhaps it will be a broken friendship, an illness, some loneliness, but somehow or other Jesus Christ, a sovereign Lord, if He is going to get into your life demands the absolute sovereignty of it all. He does not stand at the door and bargain with you. He does not discuss with you which part of your lives may be marked “Reserved, don’t disturb.” He does not question or bargain. He is going to step across the threshold, enter it and then empty it completely.
I wonder if you and I have understood the principle of that. Perhaps so many people here have been almost afraid to come to Christ because their lives have been so unclean and they have tried to empty them themselves, tried to get better, tried to make themselves more fit for God. Ah, no, but the Lord Jesus who stands in this place to examine the body and who wants that it should be His temple, His home, the place where He lives by His Spirit, He wants to come into it, crowded as it is. All He asks is that you might let Him in, and then be honestly prepared for Him to deal with everything that He has to deal with. He entered it, He emptied it. Christ wants to get hold of your life and just empty it of that which grieves His Spirit.
Notice one more thing here. He not only entered it, and emptied it, but He was going to employ it, for out from this temple He taught other people that challenged Him from every hand. His answer here was to speak of His death and of His resurrection. The zeal of His Father’s house had eaten up His house in just three short years. Then He had cleansed the temple and He took that body of His to the throne. He employed that temple.
The Lord Jesus wants to get into your heart, into your life, wants to empty it completely of sin and self, habits and failures, He wants to take possession and become Lord and sovereign of your heart, and then to employ that temple in His service.
Oh, what an amazing thing a human personality is. How wonderful that this body of ours which has been given over to all sorts of things may become a place where Jesus lives and a thing which He employs for His glory.
But you can’t come into His service and can’t get into His work and can’t be effective in testimony for Him until you have honestly faced being empty that Jesus Christ may fill.
All that Christ wants is that you might present your life to Him. It doesn’t matter how long or how strongly sin may have been entrenched. Only just open the door of your life and ask the Saviour to empty it, to cleanse it and employ it for His glory. Only trust Him, only abandon yourself completely to Him, only live to work out what God works in, and how amazing it is that amidst all our failure and all our corruption, and all the shame of the temple which is His, He will live there and break through there until the whole temple is filled with His presence and with His glory and with His power. Oh, that is one thing that Christ is concerned about more than anything, my dear folk. It is to make this temple of our bodies worthy of the one who occupies the throne.
What is your body? Jesus spoke of the temple of His body. Would you desire with all your heart that your body might be His temple, that He would enter, that He would empty and cleanse it, and then that He would use it? Would you ask Him to do that? Oh, that God might take charge and control and cleanse and employ!