Whose House Is It?
By Dave Butts
Kim and I were excited about going to Oak’s house. She is a Korean Christian who was known to be a great cook…and we were invited to supper. We pulled up in front of her house and rang the doorbell. She greeted us warmly and as we stepped into her house, she politely asked us to remove our shoes. There was a rack of sandals by the door for us to wear while we were guests in her home. It was no problem for us to be respectful to her customs by removing our shoes and wearing the provided sandals. After all, it was her house.
We’ve all experienced what it means to enter someone’s home and conform to their requests or styles while there. Good manners require that we not try to impose our thoughts of what a household should be while we are there as guests. That’s even true when we are the children and visit or live at our parents’ home. It’s their house….they make the rules.
This is true for God’s house as well. The Father has a house and there are certain standards and lifestyles that must be accepted to live there. Jesus certainly believed this. One day He went into one manifestation of His Father’s house on earth, the Temple in Jerusalem. There He saw men cheating others in the name of God and perverting the proper use of the Temple. A righteous anger arose within Him and He physically drove the crooked moneychangers out of God’s house. If you wonder whether or not that is an important story, consider this: the cleansing of the Temple is recorded in all four of the Gospel accounts.
God obviously wanted His people to understand that there is a proper protocol and attitude when coming into His house. He explained that clearly in the book of Isaiah:
"For My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7). With no lack of clarity, the Father declared that His house will be known as a house of prayer. It is specifically a place where all peoples are welcome to come before Him in prayer.
That helps us to understand the anger that was in Jesus when He saw the plan of God for His house so misused by the people of God. Instead of a house of prayer, He saw a den of thieves. His Father’s will for His house was being ignored. The owner of the house is entitled to make the rules.
This is no less true today for the people of God, as we learn what it means to live in the Father’s house. It is important for us to understand that though there has been prepared for us an eternal home with the Father (John 14:2), there yet remains for us a house with the Father on planet earth. God still has a dwelling place with men here in the midst of human history.
The people of God, Christ’s Church, have become the house of the Father in a very real way. Both corporately and individually, Christians have now become a dwelling place for God. Scripture is very clear on this issue. Jesus said to us, "If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:23). What an amazing promise! God Himself coming to dwell within. This fact should forever change both our lifestyles and our perception of ourselves.
Paul writes of this truth, "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you!" (1Corinthians 3:16). "For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people’" (2 Corinthians 6:16). Peter continues this thought, but uses a different analogy. "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
God’s Word has made this clear…the Church of Jesus Christ has become the dwelling place of God on this planet. That means we operate under the rules of the owner of the house. The Father has told us unequivocally that His house is to be a house of prayer for all nations. Is that true in practical ways in your congregation? In all too many churches, prayer is considered important, but is not emphasized as vital. We use prayer to open and close services and meetings, but we rarely come together corporately explicitly for the purpose of prayer. For many congregations, prayer is a liturgical device that is helpful, but hardly the lifeline that we see in Scripture.
One of my friends often says, "If we’re not a house of prayer, then we must be a den of thieves." Have we stolen prayer from our churches? Does prayer permeate the life of your congregation? How much of your Sunday morning worship service is devoted to talking to God? Does your church have a prayer meeting during the week? If so, what percentage of your congregation comes together to pray?
Remember, it’s God’s house we’re talking about. He makes the rules. He sets up the way things are to be done. If we are to walk in His blessing and in His power, prayer must become central to what we do as a church. The prayer meeting must be a place where God’s people come regularly to encounter Him in all His glory. Those who lead prayer meetings can no longer show up unprepared and simply take prayer requests.
It is time for the house of God to become a house of prayer in every way. God has declared that this is His will, and our job is to line up our lives and churches in accordance with His plans and purposes for us.
"When God’s house on earth is a house of prayer, then God’s house in heaven is busy and all potent in its plans and movements, then His earthly armies are clothed with the triumphs and spoils of victory and His enemies defeated on every hand" (E.M. Bounds).