by Cui Na
One day, my classmate and I came to the outside of a Catholic cathedral unconsciously. Attracted by this beautiful building, we entered it. What met our eyes were several small buildings in blue bricks. The European-style spires were surmounted by statues, which looked so handsome. Fascinated by its imposing exterior, my classmate took pictures continuously, and said excitedly, “Look at the pictures. It seems that we are abroad.” When we went into its interior, we saw it was more gorgeous: Lines of European-style chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. The front of the church was well decorated with stained-glass windows. On the high ceiling was painted a giant mural painting. Under the painting was a stage, with many flowers and ornaments on it. On both sides of the stage were two small platforms, with a sculpture of the on one platform and a Madonna on the other side; in front of them were plenty of flowers and candles. All these things dazzled me.
Looking around this gorgeous church, I suddenly thought of my aunt who was a Catholic. I remembered she proudly said to me that their church was very beautiful. She consecrated the Mass once a month, which was actually offering money. Because their priests told them that to do this was to store up treasures in heaven, and that the more treasures they stored up, the more blessings they would get. Especially, every May they would go on a pilgrimage to Madonna Mountain. On that day, over one hundred thousand people from all over the surrounding region gathered there. There were more than ten statues on the mountain. When coming in front of each of the statues, they would offer some money. At the end of that day, the money in every offering box could fill up several gunnysacks. They reckoned that acting in this way was worshiping God. After hearing her words, I thought: The various temples have been handsomely furnished to attract people to worship God, but does this prove that God works there? Later, my aunt said, “Because preachers have nothing to preach in the church, many fellow believers have gone back to the world to earn money and fewer and fewer fellow believers attend meetings. In order to attract believers, the bishops and priests founded a drummer team equipped with gorgeous costumes. This team gave performances in every church on festival days. The show was pure spectacle and really attracted many people to watch. Just then, the magnificent church appeared so impressive. …”
At the moment, a passage of God’s word in a book suddenly occurred to me: “‘But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For is Lord even of the sabbath day’ (Mat 12:6-8). What does ‘temple’ refer to here? To put it simply, ‘temple’ refers to a magnificent, tall building, and in the Age of Law, the temple was a place for priests to worship God. When the Lord Jesus said ‘in this place is one greater than the temple,’ who did ‘one’ refer to? Clearly, ‘one’ is the Lord Jesus in the flesh, because only He was greater than the temple. What did those words tell people? They told people to come out of the temple—God had already come out and was no longer working in it, so people should seek God’s footsteps outside of the temple and follow His steps in His new work. The background of the Lord Jesus saying this was that under the law, people had come to see the temple as something greater than God Himself. That is, people worshiped the temple rather than worshiping God, so the Lord Jesus warned them not to worship idols, but to worship God because He is supreme. Thus, He said: ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’ It is evident that in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, most people under the law no longer worshiped Jehovah, but were merely going through the process of sacrificing, and the Lord Jesus determined that this process was idol worship. These idol-worshipers saw the temple as something greater, and higher than God. In their hearts there was only the temple, not God, and if they lost the temple, they lost their dwelling place. Without the temple they had nowhere to worship and could not carry out their sacrifices. … Because they used the temple as a cover, and sacrifices as a guise for cheating people and cheating God, the Lord Jesus said this to warn people. If you apply these words to the present, they are still equally valid and equally pertinent. Although people today have experienced different work of God than people in the Age of Law experienced, the essence of their nature is the same.”
At that time, the Jewish chief priests, scribes and Pharisees all occupied the temples and the synagogues. They had status and power. It seemed that the magnificence of the temple represented their grandeur. They, dressing in rich robes, performed various rituals in the temple, offered sacrifices to Jehovah God to make atonement for the people, and focused on keeping the Sabbath and all the feasts. In people’s eyes, they were men who served God in the temple. Naturally, the temple became a place to worship God. At the end of the Age of Law, the sins of the Jewish religious world grew each day. The Jewish leaders only concentrated on leading people to conduct all sorts of religious rituals, instead of concentrating on obeying God’s commandments and seeking to know God. It caused people to merely have the position of the temple and their leaders, rather than the position of God in their hearts. As a result, the entire religious world lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and the temple became a den of robbers. In addition, when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, people still followed the religious leaders and worshiped the “temple” in their hearts within the temple, but didn’t seek or investigate God’s new work. In that condition, the Lord Jesus said, “in this place is one greater than the temple.” His purpose was to teach us: In our belief in God, we should honor as great, magnify God, pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit, recognize the voice of God, and follow Him, not man. We shouldn’t be deceived by those who have positions and gifts outwardly but don’t truly believe in or worship Him in essence, for such kind of people have no place for God in their heart. Rather, they occupy high status and domineer over others under the guise of believing in and serving God. In fact, God simply does not work among these hypocrites. When the Lord Jesus came to do His work, He didn’t preach to the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees in the temple who resisted Him. On the contrary, He came out of the temple and went everywhere with His disciples to testify to the of the kingdom of heaven. As for the Jewish chief priests, scribes and Pharisees in the temple, not only did they not seek , but doggedly stayed within the temple and rigidly stuck to the Bible. No matter how great the authority and power of the Lord Jesus’ words and work was, they still refused to seek and investigate. For fear that people all followed the Lord Jesus and in order to safeguard their position and job, they publicly opposed the Lord Jesus, God incarnate. On the grounds that the Lord Jesus was not the coming Messiah and that He broke the laws to heal the sick on Sabbath, they condemned and arrested Him, and in the end nailed Him to the cross. They not only offended God’s disposition but also received His punishment and curse. As a result, the nation of Israel was destroyed. This is the bitter consequence and disaster brought by their holding on “The temple is greater than God.” Yet, those who magnified God and had Him in their hearts laid stress on seeking the voice and the working trend of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, from the work and word of the Lord Jesus, they recognized His voice, and confirmed that the Lord Jesus is the appearance of Christ. Hence, they followed Him, received His commendation and blessings, and gained His great salvation.
We have to reflect on these historical facts. If we have only temple but no God in our hearts, and treat temple as something above God, then what will be our end? In these magnificent churches, how many people are true believers in the Lord? If they only keep their external practices and religious rituals, will God like them to do this? Is this what it means to worship God? Still, many people think that they can buy the blessings of the kingdom of heaven as long as they read the scriptures repeatedly, offer more money, do much work, spend and sacrifice a lot, and so on. But few think: What kind of people can enter into the kingdom of heaven? How should we deal with the condition of committing and confessing sins every day? Without breaking away from the bondage of our sinful nature, can we enter into the kingdom of heaven? At that time, the Pharisees “served God” punctually and regularly, kept external rules and ceremonies very well, and had godly behavior outwardly. Yet, they were punished by God because of resisting God. This shows that they didn’t have a knowledge of God at all, much less understand His will. The pastors, elders, bishops and priests in today’s religious world know the Bible well, but they don’t lead believers to obey God’s words and commandments. Instead, they only attach importance to how lively the activity is, how noble their churches are and how attractive the decoration of the churches is. Although they stand in the position of serving God, they don’t lead believers to pursue knowledge of God, but explain letters and doctrines and theological theories to deceive and entrap believers, so as to let them stay within the church. Unconsciously, the Bible, churches and even the leaders’ lofty figures are in their hearts. What’s more, they don’t place importance on the Lord Jesus’ words and requirements at all, let alone practice them. Is there any difference between them and the Jewish Pharisees at that time? If we have no discernment, still follow them and remain in the desolate religion, how can we gain the approval of the Lord? Just like what the Lord Jesus said, “This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). As believers in God, if we do not have a place for God in our hearts, or magnify God or honor Christ as great, then we cannot be approved by God, no matter how much biblical knowledge we know and how “devoutly” we worship Him in the church.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Revelation prophesies, “These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Revelation 14:4). “Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Our belief in God is not believing in the magnificent and tall temple, or rigidly keeping the words and rules of the Bible and religious rituals, or least of all, following the pastors and elders to stay within the church where there is no work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we should keep pace with the work of the Holy Spirit when it progresses forward. And moreover, we should seek where there is the Holy Spirit’s work and where there are God’s new utterances. Such are the ones who follow the footsteps of the Lamb. Because only Christ can express the truth and God’s voice, thus only when we live by the truth expressed by Christ can we be the ones who truly worship God, exalt Him and honor Him above all else. Only when we come out of the temple to seek the truth and utterances of Christ of the last days, can we keep up with the pace of God’s work, obtain the truth and life from Him, attain His salvation, and gain His approval and blessings.