Report From The Tower
Everywhere I have been, I have encountered a thing that pervades all churches and church members everywhere. Go to a petrified church or a putrefied church: it does not seem to matter. There is a common refrain: God will never leave us nor forsake us! Whether you go to the bush of Africa or the skyscraper of America, it is the same. God's people have imagined a God who simply does not exist. Never has God promised to protect all people who call upon His name, in every place, from every single harm or danger. Furthermore, never has God promised to protect "Christians" who call upon His name but who have merely a form of Godliness and no real witness or evidence of any changed life. Let us take a look once again at this notion of God as a provider of refuge and protection. Is it real? If so, when will He provide a fortress for His people to run in to and thus, be safe?
This is part 3 of the series "God's Presence As A Provider Of Refuge". Part 1 may be found at Prophecy: God's Presence As A Provider Of Refuge-Part 1 Previously, in part 1, I discussed how God has taught me about His presence. He has showed me how to recognize it and what to do if He departs from a place. I discuss some of the biblical examples of God's refuge and protection that I will not repeat here. You should read part 1 as a necessary prerequisite for reading part 2.
Part 2 may be found at Prophecy: God's Presence As A Provider Of Refuge-Part 2 Previously, in part 2, I discussed how defilement can deprive you of refuge and I touched on how everyone seems to think that they have refuge in the presence of God, yet they do not even know what God's presence is.
The catalyst for part 3 of this series occurred when I was listening to a new praise and worship album by a young husband and wife team. The wife, on one song, was singing a "song of the Lord" about the presence of God. When she concluded, she made this statement: "we thank you that you are here...you're always here, but you love being invited". And so, with these words, this young worship leader has given voice to a great error that plagues the church of this present generation and it is fed by a very prevalent tendency for those of our generation to greatly exaggerate our present spiritual condition and to vastly overestimate the quality of our relationship with God. God is most certainly NOT ALWAYS HERE in our churches when we sing songs, yet I find that most people today believe that "God will never leave us, nor forsake us", as paraphrased from Hebrews 13:5b. Most assume that this scripture gives an ironclad promise that no matter how wicked we are; no matter how idolatrous and covetous our greedy practices are; no matter how immoral and scandalous our behavior, God will be with us and will never forsake us. Nothing could be further from the truth! And so, the lie has been passed from one to the next that God is always with us, even though we cannot feel Him. Perhaps we ought to examine every word of Hebrews 13:5.
"Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
The key phrase upon which I will focus is "he hath said". We must do some bible study to find out just where God said that He would never leave us. The answer is...Deuteronomy 31:6. That means that the promise we find in Hebrews 13:5b is no new promise. This is the same promise; with the same conditions, that was made to the Israelites during the time of Moses and Joshua.
"Deu 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
This promise was given to the people of Israel through Moses as God was preparing to take Moses away and appoint Joshua in his place. And so, the Lord did so and we find that God repeats the promise to Joshua a few times in Joshua chapter 1.
"Jos 1:5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
"Jos 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
I am not going to belabor the subject, but Israel and Joshua quickly found out during the attempted conquest of Ai that God's promise never to leave nor to forsake was CONDITIONAL. Israel had taken the accursed thing into their possession...one man had sinned, and all of Israel was defeated in battle! God says this to Joshua when Joshua is on his face in Chapter 7, trying to figure out just what went wrong. The same thought that we find in verse twelve below is also found in 1 Corinthians 5:13. This requirement for separation from wickedness is a New Testament requirement in just the same way that it was for Israel.
"Jos 7:10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Jos 7:11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Jos 7:12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed:neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. "
The bold insert above is my own, so you can see that God clearly said that, no, I will not be with you if you depart from me into sin, darkness and into accursed things. Israel and Joshua found out that God's presence was not with them when 36 of their soldiers perished in the ill fated assault on Ai. God did not warn them that He had departed from them. They were caught up in great trouble and found out that they had not been found worthy of receiving His protection. Scripture is replete with similar situations, where God's people went out but found out, that for some reason, God was not with them. They failed in battle and then had to humble themselves to discover just why God had allowed them to go down to defeat.
Samson found himself vulnerable to attack by the Philistines and the loss of his strength when he failed to separate himself from immorality and uncleanness. For him, just as for Joshua, it was quite a surprise when he girded himself to exert his great strength and found it to be gone. This does not have to be the case for us. God has said that He is looking for worshipers and those who worship, with lifted hands, will learn, as I did, some elementary truths about God's presence. God will let you know when He is in a place and God will let you know when He leaves a place, if you are willing to learn. Many have spent time in congregations where the lifting of hands is a forbidden thing. These seldom learn anything about God's presence. Others who have grown up in full gospel congregations have probably felt God's presence sometimes, but then, sometimes they did not feel it. Perhaps they failed to seriously and diligently inquire of God as to why they did not feel or notice His presence at all times. Certainly, most believers are negligent regarding worship at home. This is where I learned the most about God's presence. Yet, most whom I have served and worshiped with have been ignorant about his presence and often, they wrongfully believe that He is always there even when we cannot feel or discern His presence. This is simply not the case.
Why this ignorance? For one, God's people have been willfully negligent about studying the Old Testament. Someone found a proof text in Hebrews 13:5 and paid no attention to those telltale words: "He hath said". These are ignored and then, it is passed from believer to believer, from congregation to congregation, that God has given some promise to never leave nor forsake His people without any conditions whatsoever. This has been done and God's people have imagined something that is not and never has been the case. The New Testament is very clear: there are one set of expectations for believers who walk in the light. There are another set of warnings for BELIEVERS who walk in darkness. There are one set of promises for believers who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. There are another set of warnings for so called believers who love this world and the things of this world. They are lovers of this world more than they are lovers of God. We are not talking about the unbelieving, avowedly unsaved wicked here. We are talking about professing believers in Jesus Christ who willfully decide to walk in darkness. They generally make such choices because they are idolators and, in many cases, they have never even repented, nor have they converted. Their lives have not been changed. They are not a new creation in Christ Jesus, yet they walk among you as imposters. These will have no refuge, no fortress in God and no protection. These are not sons and daughters of the living God: they have not the Spirit of God. The day of the Lord will fall upon them as a thief in the night. They will be caught by it as an animal is caught in a snare, and they will not escape.
I have seen this ignorant arrogance at work many times. Once, I was, for forty nights, involved in a night by night prayer struggle for the healing of an elder of our church. One night during that time, eight were gathered together, praying. One old widow launched out in prayer for the elder and when she finished, a man forty years younger than her sharply upbraided her, and incorrectly I might add, regarding something she had prayed. I spoke up and warned that young man that he had ought to apologize to the widow for his manner of address and he only hardened himself and his position further. I felt the presence of God depart from our little prayer assembly right at that moment and I informed the group of it. I said, "God has departed from us and I will be leaving now too." The young man then said, "That is a lie...God will never leave us nor forsake us." I simply gathered my things and left the building.
God's people have to realize that yes, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside of us when we become a believer who is born again by the spirit of God. We have received a measure of the spirit. The one hundred twenty who were gathered in the upper room had already believed in Jesus Christ. They were then further filled with a greater measure of the spirit at that time when tongues of fire came from heaven by the order of Jesus Christ. As it is written, "Rom_12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." To us, the Spirit is given by measure, but to Jesus, "Joh_3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." Then later, we find that these same believers, who had the measure of the Spirit and who had received the baptism of the Spirit were once again filled with the Spirit: "Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. " So, it is normal and customary for believers who are filled with the Holy Ghost and filled again and again. We have need of regular infilling and refilling.
Israel was familiar with God's presence before any of this infilling, for "Joh 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Joh 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" Therefore, every Old Testament reference to the presence of God has no direct reference to do with infilling for refilling, yet it may be the vehicle by which we are infilled and refilled. This presence of God is of the type that comes upon us, or hovers over us, or surrounds us in a cloud or overwhelms us. It is written about in "Psa 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." This same type of presence of God is still available to us today and it is with this, the presence of God that inhabits our praises, that God lets His people know whether or not He is with them or not with them. It is this discernible, external presence of God that He pours out. When He does so, we feel it and we know that He is near. He is also present on the inside and should we fall into sin, we may grieve him, as it is written "Eph 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. " It is this same indwelling, Holy Spirit, whom we may quench or ignore, as it is written, "1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit. 1Th 5:20 Despise not prophesyings. 1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
So, we can experience and do experience both the inhabiting presence of God and the indwelling presence of God. Just as the indwelling presence is given out by God in varying measure, so the same also seems to be the case with the inhabiting presence, which was so strong in the days of Solomon, during the dedication of the temple, that no one could stand to minister. Some have called the greater measures of this inhabiting presence by the name of the Shekinah Glory. Sometimes, those of us who have experienced both may find it difficult to know just which of the two has been responsible for a given manifestation, not that it matters all that much: it is the same Holy Ghost performing all of them. One thing has been made clear by God to me over the years: you are going to need the greatest measure possible of God's presence to provide refuge and protection. People become connoisseurs of wine: we have need of becoming connoisseurs of His presence. You may have a measure of His presence as you sing worship songs in your Senior pastor controlled churches, but it is not enough: you need more, a greater measure of His presence and you will not have it while you continue to dwell in your present defilement and adhere to your defiled systems and ways of doing church.
This is all very important, even critical, for us to understand...even more important that we properly live it out. It matters what we do before the Lord, whether individually or corporately. Some actions of individual leaders can defile a whole congregation. Sin separates individuals and congregations from God. Do not be deceived. Sin has consequences. God will not be mocked. Protection, refuge and the having of God as a fortress to run in to during a time of trouble is something that almost everyone wants. It will cost us. Clicking your heels together three times will not carry you to Kansas. Neither will the endless repetition of the phrase "God will never leave us nor forsake us" provide refuge in a time of trouble. Let us put an end to this fooling of ourselves and stamp out this self deception.
Come into the light, walk with Me in the daytime, repent of your sins, cast down your idols, separate yourselves from defilement and you will have refuge in Me, says the Lord.
Stephen L. Bening
God's people are worshiping Him in dirty places, with dirty lives. The words they have been hearing have been unreliable: hitting and missing like a slant six engine running on three cylinders. The unreliability of their hearing has them stuck, right where they are, afraid to move. Intuitively, they may sense that something is very wrong with their churches. They have eyes in their heads. They know the sick are not being healed and demons are not being cast out, yet they do not know for sure just what they might do that would be better, or even how to start in a direction that might lead to a better day. Take a look at this article, I will address this subject and make some recommendations for things you should do even before you decide to leave the church system. What Shall We Do About Church?
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