When the favor of the Lord is upon His people, there can be no greater joy than walking in the perfect communion of the Spirit in the fellowship of the body of Christ. But when there is a breach of that favor through the obstinacy of His people, the hand of the Lord is removed from that people.
During the Exodus, Moses found himself faced with an awful dilemma. The people he loved and had served so faithfully had offended the Lord by acting foolishly and building a golden calf before which they bowed down in worship. The Lord Himself was so grieved that He told Moses that the people would still go up to the land of promise but that they would do so without Him. He said, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you on the way” (Exodus 33:3).
Moses was undone! How could such a thing be possible? The only reason they were identified as a people was their unique relationship with the Lord God, a relationship marked by His abiding presence with them.
In the body of Christ, there are times when we act in ways which are unbecoming, ways which undermine the effectiveness of our corporate and individual witness, ways which communicate that we are an obstinate people who are slow to maintain a steadfast devotion to Jesus Christ. When that happens, we cannot expect the continued favor of the Lord upon our ministry.
Moses understood this and went before the Lord with a pleading heart and said, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). In other words, “Lord, if you do not intend to go with us further, what then is the point of our existence? We are together only because you have put your hand upon us and we have an identity as your people, distinguished from all the other people who are on the face of the earth only by your divine presence among us. If you take your favor away, do not send us any further. We will just stop right where we are and cease to continue in our journey because it cannot be done apart from you!”
Why do you think that in the history of the body of Christ, some churches have had great and dynamic periods of growth only to find that they soon fell into periods of severe decline? Only the Lord knows the full answer to that question but we can certainly trace some aspects of the answer to the situation experienced by Moses and the Israelites. When a people attempt to go forward without the assurance that they are proceeding in the certain presence and favor of the Lord, they had better halt immediately and be restored to the Lord.
No church is immune to the problem of obstinacy among its people, nor are we able to ignore the consequences of falling into that trap. Far too many churches have assumed that once the mantle of blessing has been put on, nothing will keep them from enjoying the continued favor and blessing of the Lord. The sobering reality is that any church which allows Jesus Christ to be dishonored, either through doctrinal error, disobedience, dissension among the people or disdain for our calling to serve one another, will cease to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit’s labors among us.
If the Lord declines to accompany us further, we are simply lost! Therefore, we must guard ourselves and the treasure entrusted to us by keeping watch over such things in all humility and with a completely submissive spirit. How shall we do so? We must take steps to avoid…
…Doctrinal Error by remaining true to the Word of God; and we must not allow ourselves to yield to the tendency so prevalent in our day to follow the latest trends and thoughts but instead expound the whole counsel of God.
…Disobedience by committing ourselves to the faithful application of the truth as we discover it in God’s Word so that we do not become a people of highly informed minds with negligent hearts, character and behavior.
…Dissension among the people by basing our relationships and opinions upon the unshakable foundation of Christ and His Word. When we agree upon what we are doing and why, we walk together toward the prize of the high calling which is ours in the Lord.
…Disdain for our calling to serve by rolling up our sleeves, opening our eyes, recognizing the needs, listening to the heart of the Master and getting on with it! With such an approach, there is no room for elevated opinions of ourselves or of our part in the work of the kingdom. We all then defer to one another in love knowing that it is the Lord Christ whom we serve.
When Jesus Christ told His disciples that “apart from Me you can do nothing,” He was speaking to the needs of every church in every age. No programming, no organization, no promotions or strategies–nothing can compensate for the absence of the favor and blessing of the Lord’s presence among His people.
With our hearts open to His, attitudes consistent with His, and lives which are faithful to Him, we can be assured of His abiding presence and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit for generations to come!