When the Presence of God is Removed
Posted on 04/22/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning and welcome. It's such an honor to be here with a room full of people who are blessed by God. People on whom God's face shines. People who are known by God, and people for whom God has prepared a special path that you should walk, and a glorious future and hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let's all stand to our feet and start this service with prayer.
Lord God, thank you for meeting with us here today. Thank you that you are the main attraction, you are our purpose for living, you are the reason we can sleep without fear of evil. You are the reason we can rise up in the morning and proclaim, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! For my steps are ordered of the Lord, and God is going to do great and mighty things today!"
Lord, we ask you to do great and mighty things in the lives of our brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters, who have asked us to pray to you on their behalf.
We pray for Cheryl. We thank you that you have great things in store for her, blessings so great she cannot imagine and will not be able to contain. You have a joy for her that is unspeakable and full of glory. We ask that you sever any soul ties from her past that would keep her back from walking in freedom, and that you continue to guide her every step. Cause the relationship between her and her husband to become stronger and more wonderful than either of them have ever thought possible.
We pray for your healing power to visit Gwen. Heal her from this cancer. We curse this cancer, in Jesus' name, and command the name of cancer to bow its knee to the name of Jesus. We command this tumor to begin to shrink, and to be completely gone, and may God receive all the glory.
We pray for Wijnand's two brothers who do not know you. We ask that you hover all around them, Holy Spirit, convicting their hearts, bringing witnesses into their paths at every turn, and that you bring them to the place they need to be to turn everything over to Jesus.
Wijnand has been seeking for a baptism in the Holy Spirit. You said that if an earthly father gives good things to his children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
So we ask Lord God, that you send your Holy Spirit in manifest power, that you completely fill and totally immerse Wijnand in your Holy Spirit, bringing new strenth, new power, and a closer encounter and daily walk with you, in the name of Jesus.
We agree with KirstenAnn that you bring comfort to the students, facility, helping professionals, family and friends of Virginia Tech. You are the comforter Holy Spirit. Comfort those who have gone through this horrible tragedy, and may they turn to you and find peace in this dark hour.
We pray for healing for Garron, that you touch his digestive system that you created, and that you completely restore, renew, and heal him, in Jesus' name. Give him peace as he stays his mind upon you, the one who will continue to be faithful to provide his every need.
We pray for Ken, and for his broken heart. You have our times and seasons in your hand, and you see our beginning from our end. We ask that you first of all bring Ken peace. May he use this time of emotional loss to seek after you to fill that emptiness inside. And then, at your perfect timing, bring life out of these ashes, and joy out of this sorrow.
We pray for Caebrianna's pastor Bob, who recently had a massive heart attack. We ask that you bring peace to his family and friends, and that you bring healing and life to Pastor Bob's body. May this time of recovery be a time of refocusing and renewal, and may he emerge with an even clearer focus on the path on which you have placed him.
And Lord, I pray for each one here today, each one listening later, and those reading these words. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon each one in a fresh way. Bring us out of any complacency, give us strength to continue moving forward, and draw us ever closer to Jesus.
And it's in Jesus' name we pray.
Click-touch the pulpit if you'd like a notecard, and let's continue worshiping with song.
COME, NOW IS THE TIME
Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God
One day every tongue will confess You are God
One day every knee will bow
Still, the greates treasure remains for those
Who glady choose You now
I SEE THE LORD
I see the Lord seated on the throne, exalted
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
The whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord
Lord, you are holy! The whole earth is filled with your glory! Keep us in your presence. Lead us with your Word. Speak to us by your Spirit. And may none of us leave here today the way we came. Thank you Jesus! Amen.
You may be seated.
The title of today's message is, "When the Presence of God is Removed."
We read in Isaiah 55:6, "Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near."
Within this verse is the implication that, if we are to seek the Lord while he may be found, there must be a time coming in which it will be too late to seek him, for he will not be there to be found by us.
2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 7 through 10 tell us,
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Of course this is telling us about the rising of the antichrist -- satan incarnate -- the beast with his false prophet.
It's very important to notice here that this spirit of antichrist, at the time this passage was written, was already in the world, but there was a restraining power which would continue to hold him back indefinitely, until that restraining power is taken out of the way.
In John chapter 16 verses 7 and 8, Jesus says this to his disciples:
"7b It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."
So we see the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit brings a sense of righteousness. And the Holy Spirit brings the authority to execute righteous judgement upon those who practice iniquity.
And yet there is a time when the restraining power of God will be taken out of the way, and evil will be free to completely take over the whole earth.
And the question is not whether those who are not walking with the Lord will be deceived; rather, the only question is whether YOU will be walking with the Lord when the restraining power of God is removed.
There are many examples through history and Scripture of the effects of the removal of God's restraining power from an area, a nation, or a land.
Take for instance the example of the city of Sodom and Gomorah. Our word "sodomy" comes from the name of this city, and Scripture tells us they did evil in the sight of the Lord.
When the messengers of the Lord came to Lot's house to warn him that the city was about to be destroyed, the men of the city gathered in front of Lot's house and demanded he send out the men so they could have sexual relations with them.
We don't like that lot did this, but he offered to send out his virgin daughters instead. Interestingly enough, the men weren't interested in the females. They wanted the men.
And the description we have of their actions, through these events in Scripture, is that they were sexually corrupt, even practicing homosexuality. We can also conclude from their actions that they were violent and abusive.
One other thing I'd like to point out here, and this is key: they did not appear to feel any conviction or remorse for their actions.
Remember what we read about the Holy Spirit, "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment?"
This is the same Holy Spirit about which King David, after being called onto the carpet for adultery, cried out to God saying, "Do not take your Holy Spirit from me." And while the Holy Spirit was not present in the earth in the manner he is today, the Spirit of God has always been here, as the sustainer of life, the convictor of sins, and the authority of righteous judgement in the earth.
But the Spirit of God did not appear to be either active or welcomed in the city of Sodom and Gomorah, and this lack of conviction and righteous judgement left them in the increasing darkness of sin and depravity.
There is yet another restraining power of God mentioned in this Biblical account -- actually there are two, and these two restraining powers of God, or vessels of God's restraining power, are embodied in the power of intercession, and the power of the presence of the Church -- righteous men and women of God.
We read about this in Genesis chapter eighteen. Two messengers from God came and told Abraham that he and Sarah would bare a child in their old age. And while this was an incredible enough message in itself, they had yet another message to deliver.
Let's follow this story starting in Genesis chapter eighteen, beginning with verse 20.
20 And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”
32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”
33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Abraham knew the city was wicked. And he knew that God's judgement upon that wicked city was just. Yet Abraham interceded for the city, and each time Abraham made a request, God accepted.
We will not know until eternity how many times a city or a region or a people or a nation would have been destroyed because of their wickedness, but the prayers of believers just like you and me held back the judgement of God.
So was the city saved? Did the fire not fall from heaven and destroy the city of Sodom and Gomorrah and everyone in it? Indeed it was destroyed; for you see, in this instance, intercession was not enough to save the city. There was one missing component.
There were not fifty righteous people in the city.
There were not fourty-five righteous people in the city.
There were not fourty righteous people in the city.
There were not thirty righteous people in the city.
There were not twenty righteous people in the city.
And there were not even ten righteous people in the whole city of Sodom and Gomorrah.
And so because of the darkness in which they had chosen to live by rejecting the righteousness and the presence of God, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Can you image with me a city so dark and evil, that you cannot even visit it with your buddies without all of you being raped? Lot tried to protect the men, but it was only the miraculous power of God that rescued both the men and all of Lot's house when the angels struck the wanton men with blindness.
But imagine such a city in today's world. There is no just rule of law. You cannot dial the local police department, because they would side with their boyfriends against you. There is no one to protect you, no admission of guilt or conviction of sin in the faces and minds of those attacking you, and no judgement of that sin after they leave you bleeding, humiliated, and abused in the street.
This is the picture of a city that is void of the restraining power of God. And God burned every last one of them with fire.
I'd like for us to take a look at three stages of the lifting of the restraining power of God we can glean from the story of Sodom and Gomorah and from other Scriptures and the examples of other people and nations throughout history.
And the first state of this lifting of the presence of God is a decrease in the distinction between good and evil, a loss of the knowledge and acceptance of righteousness, and a lifting of the presence of righteous judgement.
Those of us who are walking in the Truth of God's Word and are filled with his Holy Spirit can see this very clearly today.
The question is no longer, "How much sin can I get away with?" but the question has become, "What IS sin?"
Our laws protecting righteousness are being challenged and overthrown.
The Ten Commandments, the Bible, and prayer, three vital agents of the restraining power of God, have been removed from our schools and are being pushed further and futher out of the public square.
Yes Church, we are already well into the first stage of the complete removal of the restraining power of God.
The second major stage is where we see the city of Sodom and Gomorrah at the time the angels visited Abraham. Everyone except for Lot had been completely taken over by evil. Everyone did whatever he or she thought was good, and since they had travelled so far along the road away from the restraining power of God, their idea of good was twisted and desperately wicked.
Haven't we already entered the beginnings of this stage as well? Those who speak out against the sins of homosexuality, for example, are accused of hatred and bigotry, while those who advance such a lifestyle as good and beautiful are seen as heros, full of love and good will.
And God help us when we view the court-appointed right to murder our unborn babies as being our "freedom of choice," while we view the protection of those precious, innocent lives as "anti-choice" and "anti-liberty."
And now we've started debating whether homosexual relationships should be blessed by the states as legitimate romantic, or even marital, unions. And as a society, a nation, and even as a world, we are losing our moral compass, and we are beginning to believe these abominable sins are good and right.
Sadly, some of us hearing this right now have already been offended by these statements. And the reason for this is because we have entered the second stage of the removal of the presence of God.
The tragedy that happened recently at Virginia Tech as horrible as it was, is nothing compared to where this earth is heading as the restraining power of God is pushed further and futher away. In fact, the Book of Revelation tells us that one third of mankind will be killed.
But we still have a distance to go on this road. This road won't reach its end until the restraining power of God is gone.
And this is where the messengers of the Lord enter the scene in Sodom. They take lot and his family by the hand and remove them from the city. And as soon as they are gone, those left behind enter the third and final stage of the removal of the saving and restraining presence of the Lord.
They were destroyed with fire and brimstone.
The time is quickly approaching in which the active presence and the restraining power of God will be lifted from the whole earth. And these days will be unimaginably dark and evil. I hope and pray that no one under the sound of my voice is still here on earth when that day comes upon the world. I also realize that if you are still alive then and you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you are not walking with the Lord, you will witness the darkest hour the earth and its inhabitants have ever seen. A time when satan and his demons are free to take over the entire earth, since the Church, the praying saints, the ones standing in the gap, and the ones standing up for truth and righteousness, are all removed from the scene.
If you want to see literal hell on earth, just allow the presence of God to be removed from your life; allow the presence of God to be removed from your family; allow the presence of God to be removed from your schools; allow the presence of God to be removed from the public square; and allow the presence of God to be removed from the world. And you will see a day so dark and evil, that never before nor never again will such a day be allowed to defile the pages of time.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, and pray that you are ready so you can be saved from this hour that is quickly approaching.
You know, this removal of the presence of God does not happen only to the whole earth, or to a nation, or to a people. That's why Scripture tells us to "seek the Lord while he may be found."
You see, the presence of the Lord, before it lifts from nations and cities, it lifts from the home, and from the leaders of that home.
And this lifting of the presence, protection, and restraining power of God begins with YOU. And it begins with ME.
Those of us who have strayed away from the Truth and have rejected the restraining power of God in our lives have all experienced some level of destruction in our lives.
We may have become hardened to our sins until we were no longer bothered by our conscience and until we perhaps didn't even distinguish our actions as wrong.
We may have seen our families and relationships destroyed, our homes broken into pieces, and other parts of our lives completely destroyed.
But no matter where you are on the path that leads to destruction, no matter how far away you've run from the presence of the Lord or how far you've held out your hand to keep it at a comfortable distance, there is still hope for you. There is still hope today.
We already know this time of darkness is coming upon the earth. But we can hold back the darkness, we can shine the light of truth, we can hold high the beacon of righteousness, and we can proclaim repentance and the Good News of forgiveness from sin and reconcilation with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Church, I'm here to tell you today that we are a major hinderance to the work of the enemy. By the power of the Holy Spirit moving around, in, and through us, we weild the restraining power of God, holding back the rise of complete darkness and evil as we proclaim the Truth of the Gospel to all who will hear.
We've been asked many times, "why should you bother to have church and ministry in the virtual world?" Well, I hope this message has answered that question. The believers in Second Life who are proclaiming the Gospel and are holding up God's standards of righteousness and Truth are holding back much of the darkness and evil that would love to have free reign through this medium.
And if this restraining power of God were to be removed, we would see in here what we will see at the end of the reign of the antichrist, the next and final stage of the removal of the presence of God.
And that final stage, or more appropriately that end result, is total and absolute destruction.
Complete darkness and absolute destruction are coming upon the whole earth. The question is whether it will have dominion over you.
It's time to get serious about seeking after God while he can still be found. It's time to get serious about getting the junk out of our lives and removing every single obstical which would stand in our way, holding us back from running after righteousness, holiness, and the power and presence of God.
It's time to get serious about holding up a standard of righteousness, instead of bowing to the pressure to compromise our standards, and to instead boldly call sin "sin," exposing it for the destroyer it is of those who do its bidding.
Have you tried to wiggle free from the power of God that restrains sin? Have you looked for loopholes, for ways to excuse your sin? Have you ignored the voice of your conscience until it no longer bothers you? Have you wished those barriers to so-called sexual freedom would be removed? You'll get your wish some day, on the day that evil and darkness fill the whole earth. And God have mercy on your soul if you have not let the Truth set you free.
I believe most if not all of you here at least have the desire to seek God while he may be found, and most of you have been seeking him already. Most of you are part of the restraining power of God in the earth today.
If this doesn't describe you, then I invite you to turn your life in a new direction today. Don't wait until darkness completely consumes your heart and mind. Come to Jesus while he can be found by you.
Talk to him right now. Ask him, "Forgive me for my sins Jesus, and wash me clean. Come into my heart, and make me a brand new creation! Make me a child of God, and fill me with your Holy Spirit so I will have the power to walk with you. Amen."
Or perhaps this does describe you, you who have the desire to seek after God and you who are already seeking more of his presence in your lives.
Will you decide today that you're going to take things to a new level? Wherever we are now, we all have an open road in front of us, and we will never have arrived until we kneel before his throne and cry out, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come!"
Will you hold high the standard of righteousness, and cry out for our society to return to the Lord God, to fall before him with broken spirits, and to turn from their sins to follow the Living God?
Will you speak out against injustice, defend the cause of the fatherless and widow, defend the rights of the innocent unborn, and declare that this world does not belong to man, but the earth is the Lord's and all it contains?
Wherever you are today, I believe the Holy Spirit is drawing you to come closer, to seek more whole-heartedly, to press in harder, to throw more of yourself into the pursuit of God's presence, his righteousness, his holiness, and his Holy Spirit which convicts us, leads us in the paths of righteousness, and establishes the authority for righteous judgement to return to our lands.
This altar is open, and you're invited to seek God where you are, or step out of your seat and come kneel or stand around the altar. The ministry team can also come forward at this time, and if you want to give your life to Jesus, or if you need prayer or ministry for any reason, instant message someone on the ministry team.
The presence of God will be removed from this earth, and sin and darkness will completely destroy everyone. But today the way of escape, the way of victory over sin and death can be sought by you, and He can be found.
Come to this altar now, and set your face like flint to follow after God with every fiber of your being. And let us rejoice in the presence of the Lord in these frightening yet wonderous times in which God has chosen for us to live.