Remembering Where You Once Were
Robert Wurtz II
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen (Revelation 2:5a)
I hope you will indulge me for a few moments as I simply obey this passage. Please excuse the many “I” statements in this entry. Nevertheless, when one reflects and remembers from whence they have fallen, it can be no other. When I call to remembrance the former days after I was first illuminated (Hebrews 10:32), I remember the great desire I had to simply spend time with the Lord. No doubt this desire was natural to a New Born child of God. There was a hunger and thirst for God; a hunger to pray, read, and study the word of God as strong as any former desire to sin.
With the faith of a child I read the stories of great men and women of God and His mighty works, hanging on every word. I remember how utterly real the Christian life was. I desired that the coarse of my life would be as one of the prophets of old or the Apostles – to reach our generation with the full Gospel of God. I remember the power of God I sensed in the word of God and the authority that issued forth when it was preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. I remember believing that the prophets were men of like passions as we are and that God could use you or I just as He used them. I remember emulating the lives of the great heroes of the faith who seemed to be so in tune with God.
I remember learning to pray in morning prayer meetings with my former Pastor Rev. D.L. Burch. Learning to pray and desiring to pray later manifested in a tremendous youth revival with weekly prayer meetings. There were 7 young men at that time and it grew to even more in the weeks and years ahead. I remember trying desperately to get to God. I remember how my heart burned within me as I walked and talked with Him in the way (Luke 24:32).
Take My Houses- Take My Lands…
I remember driving late at night coming home from work, alone, worshipping God to my favorite worship tapes. I remember preaching to myself ‘toe stomping’ messages from wells within my spirit. There was a tremendous presence of God. I remember God being more real than the very sights before my eyes: Was He in the wind? Was He in the earthquake, was He in the fire- nay! But in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:1ff). I learned that when He beckoned He expected obedience.
When God spoke to my heart I obeyed- no matter how embarrassed I might have gotten. I remember being so close to God that I would go to bed at night and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to my heart through His word. I remember being totally sold out to God. A common prayer of that day was simply… “Take my houses, take my lands, take my dreams, take my plans, for what ever it takes Lord for my will to die that’s what I’m willing to do.” God answered that prayer in the lives of many of the youth, as several are still in ministry today. I remember being with ‘on fire’ young people – praying into the late hours of the night. I remember a group of young men that were literally a revival looking for a place to happen- and sometimes it did!
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent (Revelation 2:5b).
After reviewing several sermons in that day I found a common definition of repentance that characterized the way we felt, walking close to God: “God I would rather die than do that again!” Repentance is not when people weep at the altar- it’s when men and women rend the hearts and not their garments in the presence of a holy God. (Joel 2:13) We would pray radical prayers like, “God blind me if I look at that again” or “Purge my mouth shut if I say that again!” It was radical, but that’s the way it was.
We believed in purity. No slapdash living back then. No calling on grace to cover our rebellion and compromise. We believed, as one preacher put it, that a young man or woman ought to live close enough to God that it would have been as though the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies with sin in his life if some uncircumcised Philistine were to touch the Temple of their body. They would have dropped dead in the midst of their sin! It would have been as Belshazzar and the hand appearing on the wall when they misused what was sanctified to God. We believed we would know when we had reached the end time revival- because of the swift judgment that would occur when we sinned. We had a common saying: “God’s presence withdrawn means judgment delayed.”
When I Consider the Lord I Tremble and Fear
There was a time when I literally trembled at the very thought of my own sin. I would plead with God, as did Isaiah, for Him to take a coal from the altar and purge my iniquity. (Isaiah 6:1ff) I would wonder why people could sin and sin and sin and not even blush anymore. (Jeremiah 6:15) I somehow felt responsible to help keep the rest of the youth and the church close to God. I’m not saying these things are all right, I’m just recounting the facts as I remember them.
When I would see people backsliding it would vex me to the heart. That’s a word we seem to have lost, vexed. We feared to quench or grieve the Holy Ghost in a service or in our lives (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Ephesians 4:30). We knew that one too many grievings meant the Spirit of God just might lift-off of us and that was absolutely unthinkable! We were walking in the fear of the Lord. No one bothered to tell us that grace covered all of our sins and that we ought to just relax. We probably would not have believed it anyway. I remember getting away from people who blasphemed or cursed God and tried to make me a partaker of that sin (1 Timothy 5:22). I remember the overwhelming conviction that would accompany any foolish talking I might have engaged in (Ephesians 5:4); and the check from the Holy Spirit that might come in mid-sentence!
At some point along the way we began listening to the lies of the devil, who tempted us with quick-fixes, new programs, and false promises to achieve the results in our spiritual lives that only the timeless acts of prayer, the word of God, godly fellowship, and the Holy Spirit can bring. How can we possibly replace being full of the Holy Ghost with something else?
Could it be that some of us have become like the church at Ephesus? (Revelation 2:1ff) We may have thought we had it all right, but we left out, and have been blinded to, the love (passion, intimacy, and commitment) that we had at first for Christ. He wants to dwell in us and will stop at nothing until He does. (Isaiah 66:1-2) Could we have lost our passion (zeal) when we allowed other things to crowd our fellowship with God (intimacy)? Have we taken the love that belongs to Christ and given it to other things? We must remember our vow, restore the intimacy, and regain the zeal we had at first. To do this Jesus instructed us remember where we once were; repent of the things that challenge intimacy with Him, and do the works we did at first.
Returning to the Refiners Fire
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. (Revelation 2:5c)
As I retrace our footsteps of the times when we were so close to God, the first thing we did after getting right with God was to begin the process of subjecting ourselves to the Fire of the Holy Spirit. We allowed that fire to burn out the impurities so that our vessel would be worthy of the Master’s use. (2 Timothy 2:21) What use are we to God if our vessel is filthy and empty? We need to be accessible and useful to God so that He can call upon us at a moments notice. I believe the Spirit of God is once again calling His people to the Refiners fire that their lives might be purged from the dross. (Malachi 3:3) We can’t live reckless lives and expect God to bless that. If we entertain evil in our hearts the Holy Spirit is not going to manifest Himself there in the way He desires to. If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me; however, He will bring conviction, but what He wants is fellowship and obedience.
The Bellows is Burned
Let us not be as Spurgeon declared concerning the voice of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:29):
“He exhausted himself without being able to melt the people’s hearts-so hard was the ore that the bellows were burned before the metal was melted- the Prophet was exhausted before the people were impressed! He had worn out his lungs, his powers of utterance. He had broken his heart, his powers of emotion. But he could not divide the people from their sins and separate the precious from the vile. Now, alas, this is no solitary case, for throughout the whole history of the line of Heaven-sent ambassadors, this has been the rule and not the exception! The bellows have in almost every case been burnt, but the metal has not been melted.”
One thing was clear to all of us when we were young Christians; God would not fill and therefor use a vessel that was not pure. What do we believe today? Have we come up with theologies to hide behind? The great evidence is in owning if God’s unique presence is resident or not. The prophet Ezekiel watched as God’s glory departed the Temple. Has God changed His mind about sin?
Meet for the Masters use (A Chosen Vessel)
I believe that much preaching and teaching today could be eliminated if believers would determine that they are going to be a place of God’s rest. (Isaiah 66:1, 2) I don’t mean God is there in the eminent or omnipresent sense, but His unique presence. God is in the gambling halls and pubs, and He is God there; but He is not there in the way He wants to be. (G.W. North)
God desires to fill our vessels (bodies) with the Holy Spirit continually so that we are enabled to be the salt and light in the earth that He described in Matthew 5:13. He wants to pour in to us- so that He can pour out into the lives of others. We have to come to Him in sincere heart felt prayer asking to be filled once again. (Matthew 3:11) We are commanded to be being filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18) The times of refreshing come from the presence of God when we repent and return to God (Acts 3:19). God will not baptize a person in the Holy Spirit who is resisting Him. (Acts 5:32) We can’t receive and resist at the same time. Moreover, we might ask, will God send rain into the desert of our spiritual life when that desert condition is of our own willful neglect of prayer? Surely He will send rain when we turn to him again (Isaiah 43:19-20).
The Key is Obedience
God calls on us to forsake our sins and seek Him afresh. We cannot minister before the Lord calling people to obedience to God when we are not obedient ourselves. That is common sense. We have to do the works we did at first. The works of prayer, bible-study, fellowship and the yielding to the Refiners fire. Without that Refiners fire there can be no fullness of the Holy Ghost- and without that fulness there can be no power- and without that power we have no authority- and without that authority we have no boldness- and without that boldness we cannot witness- and if we cannot witness we cannot fulfill the great commission (Mark 16:1ff).
Going back and doing all the things that we did when we were close to God and effective- is the one and only solution to coldness, lukewarmness, and powerlessness. It is the only true solution to keeping the devil from building strongholds in our lives. Everything else is a mere detour to prayerlessness that ends in a dry desert. No modern methods or technology can replace the basics that were so fundamental to our first love experience with God.