“What did you think about the church we visited with today?” I asked Shellie as we drove away from a church we had visited before going to Jerusalem. “It’s hard to tell if God is still there in the midst of that congregation,” she replied. I had sensed the same and was wondering if that was just my experience or hers as well. Unfortunately, in visiting with hundreds of churches across the U.S., talking about our ability to be part of God’s global rescue mission in fulfillment of His big dream, there were several times we had a sense God had left the building. But how can this happen?
The experience with that congregation, and others like them, caused us to begin to wonder, did the western church start to employ church growth strategies because the glory of God began to depart from its midst? We find a similar occurrence in the life of Moses.
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.” (Exodus 34:29-33, ESV)
It is not clear in Exodus why Moses puts this veil on, but in the New Testament, Paul shares why Moses wears it. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:13, “not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.”
Moses wore a veil to mask the reality that the glory of God was diminishing.
In the last several articles we have been talking about how we have forfeited God’s big dream. How we have neglected the opportunity to be a part of His rescue mission by separating ourselves from culture, by replacing our primary calling with our secondary calling, and by exchanging the power and authority of Jesus with church growth strategies.
And there is a cost to forfeiting God’s big dream. We find there has always been a cost. The Israelites faced this potential cost when they decided to worship a golden calf they made (Exodus 32:7-8) instead of worshipping God only, fulfilling His big dream as His holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).
In response, God initially wants to wipe the people of Israel off the face of the earth (Exodus 32:10). But Moses pleads with God. God relents and then makes this statement, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” (Exodus 33:1-2, NLT)
God tells the people of Israel, “look, I made a promise, and I’m going to keep it, so go into the land. I made this promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but…I’m no longer going with you.”
The cost of forfeiting God’s big dream is to lose His very presence, to experience His diminishing glory.
We lose God if we don’t participate in His rescue mission.
Could there be a greater cost? Could we lose anything more valuable than to lose the very presence of God?
We are called to be people of His presence in the world but we can’t be people of His presence without Him.
Look at what Jesus shares in Matthew 28, “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT)
Jesus is with us as we engage in His rescue mission. God is saying, “Forfeit my dream, lose me. Fulfill my dream, and I am with you always.” As we fulfill God’s big dream, He is right there with us.
If we don’t want to forfeit God’s presence, if we want to live extraordinary lives, we must respond like the Israelites at Mount Sinai when they heard God was not going with them. And how did they respond? “When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes.” (Exodus 33:4)
The Israelites went into mourning and gave up the objects they had used to make the golden calf.
If we want to maintain the presence of God in our church, we must first ask forgiveness for forfeiting God’s big dream and then give up the idol of self in our lives.
Pray with me, “God forgive us for not fulfilling your big dream. Forgive us for becoming fearful and separating ourselves from the culture you asked us to engage. Forgive us for putting ourselves at the center of our own lives by replacing our primary calling with our secondary calling. Forgive us for depending on man-made plans by exchanging your Holy Spirit power and divine authority with church growth strategies. We ask forgiveness for not walking in obedience to your plan for our lives and for making our own plans, apart from you. Help us fulfill your big dream. In Jesus name, the strong Son of God we pray, Amen.”
In a previous article about the rescue mission, I explained that we fulfill God’s big dream by going in love together to share the Gospel with words and actions (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 12:29-31; John 17:18, 20-23).
But maybe you are unsure of how to meaningfully engage in the rescue mission of God. Good news is, it is the role of the church to equip you for this purpose. And Connection Point is committed to it. We want to help you live and look like Jesus so that you can step into the good work (Ephesians 2:10) God has prepared for you.
It is our desire to help you become the kind of person who stirs curiosity in others, for you to have what other people want.¹
Next week we’ll see this is what Jesus did with the disciples and what He expects the church to do today.
We’d Love to hear from you!
In what ways has the church helped you live and look like Jesus? Share your comments below.
1 You can also find a video message of this content here.