Where God’s Presence Resides

Where God’s Presence Resides
Robert Wurtz II

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Heaven [is] my throne, and earth [is] my footstool: what house will you build for me? says the Lord: or what [is] the place of my rest? (Acts 7:49)


It is hard to imagine a question as profound as the one Stephen quoted in Acts 7:49b — given by God — in Isaiah 66:1b, what [is] the place of my rest? The verse implies that God is at rest in some places, and He is not at rest in others. Perhaps we could use the language “at home” to describe what He means by “at rest.” Where is the place where God is “at home”?  Where will God come to take up residence? This is the subject I wish to address in this important entry. 


A Sermon For The Ages


In Acts 7 Stephen preaches to a wide variety of synagogue worshipers and leaders what is certainly one of the greatest expositions of scripture and the mind of God ever delivered. He recounted every major step that God took in the Old Testament to draw near and dwell among His people. In fact, God embarked on a process of reconciliation as soon as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. He wanted to draw near and tabernacle with man. Nevertheless, though He would strive with man; man was always resisting Him.



God always desired a place of rest here on earth. However, since the Garden of Eden, man has not made God welcome. From Genesis 3 to Genesis 6 men were on the fast-track to absolute destruction. The people were so against God, that they would not retain Him in their mind (Romans 1:28). That is to say, they did not factor God into their decision-making process. Moreover, they did not seek after God. In fact, they fled from Him and resisted Him on every hand. In Genesis 6:3, God said that His Spirit would not always strive with man, but that his days would be 120 years. A few people began to call on the name of the Lord; nevertheless, by the time of Noah, there were only eight people that would listen to and obey His voice. Eventually the world was destroyed by water, and Noah’s family began to replenish the earth. However, over time, man drifted away from God again until there were only remnants of people who feared the Lord. 

God Returning Among Men

In spite of the stubborness of the masses, the eyes of the LORD ran to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart was perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9). God found such a man in Abram (Abraham) and called him out of Ur of the Chaldees into the land that He swore unto him. God appeared to Abraham and started a process by which He would slowly bring man back into fellowship with Himself. God had to deal with man’s sin debt on the one hand, and a rebellious nature on the other. 


People typically want to be left alone to do their own will unthwarted. Nevertheless, God went forth searching until He found someone He could reveal Himself to. Abraham was that person. When God began to speak to him, he built altars and became a praying man. He sought the face of God in the mountain and from place to place. It was his desire to please God and do what was right. When God spoke, Abraham responded in obedience and became the heir to the righteousness of God that is by faith.


Conversely, Abraham’s nephew Lot, travelled with him as he lived by faith. In time it became necessary for the two families to separate. Abraham gave Lot a choice of the land, so he pitched his tent towards Sodom. This was the most evil city on the face of the earth. In fact, they were on the brink of being destroyed by God for their wickedness. These people hated God utterly. When the children of Israel came into the promised land they pitched their tents towards the Tabernacle; where God dwelled. When they stepped out of their tents at night the first thing they saw was the fire of God — the manifest presence. During the day they could step out and be met with the cloud. Nevertheless, all that Lot saw, who had pitched his tent towards Sodom, was the madness of sin. 


While Abraham was walking with God, Lot moved into the city to walk with those who hated God. He could not help but weary his heart and mind with the vexing torments of other people’s sins. It goes without saying that God could never be at rest in such a person’s life. As a result, Lot never knew the closeness of fellowship with God that Abraham knew. He wanted compromise in his life, and God could not walk with him, as a friend, as He did with Abraham. Lot could have chosen the path Abraham took. He could have shared in his altar experiences. Nevertheless, Lot seemed to want just enough of God to keep Him on retainer. He would never experience a close relationship with Him as did Abraham. Lot’s life ended in disaster beyond words. The consequence of his compromise would be felt for thousands of years. Each of these men had to come to their own personal decision to serve God. 

These Are Our Examples…

Over time Abraham would have a promised son named Isaac and Isaac would have Jacob (Israel). Israel had twelve sons who became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Most of these sons bore many children and did not walk in the way of their father Jacob, but Joseph feared the LORD and God showed Himself strong through him. The Twelve Tribes of Israel were slaves in Egypt 400 years, and multiplied into the hundreds of thousands. Being sorely vexed of the Egyptians, they remembered the God of their fathers and cried out to Him. God raised up a deliverer in Moses. With a mighty outstretched arm God delivered all of the children of Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt. At first they seemed to be happy to go, but soon they began to grumble and complain.

God cannot rest in an environment of unthankfulness. God’s presence and sin do not mix. When He was near He He either brought swift judgment or He departed. One of the two has to go; God or sin. They cannot abide together. If He stays he has to judge the sin. Simply put, if He does not deal with the sin then His unique presence has to leave. God drew very near to Israel when Moses went up on the mountain. He came down and his face was glowing with the radiance of God’s glory. This was their opportunity. Did the people line up to see Moses’ face? Did they long to look upon him with awe and wonder savoring every glimpse of God’s majesty? Did they ask Moses’ what it was like to be with God or perhaps they could get permission from God to come up? No on all counts. In fact, they tried to cover his face to shield themselves from any remembrance of God. The would accept the book (covenant), but they did not want God near.

When Moses came, many people found out that they did not really want their God. Nevertheless God gave instructions to Moses to build a mobile tabernacle where He could reside among the people. In time that tabernacle passed away and a Temple was built in Jerusalem by Solomon the king. It was glorious! God manifested Himself in powerful ways. However, as the people sinned God left again and the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Seventy years later they rebuilt the temple that would eventually become “Herod’s Temple.” God was never present there in the way He had been with the Wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. In fact, it didn’t even have the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. 



Albeit, as Stephen pointed out, God was not really interested in inhabiting a building. The entire 7th chapter of Acts sets forth God’s efforts in drawing near and establishing a covenant that would make this process of restoring relationship and tabernacling among men possible. Nevertheless, the people generally rejected God’s presence. At the very least they were content to leave God dwelling in the building while they went home to their own lives. Is there any wonder that most wanted nothing to do with the New Covenant that made people the temple of the Holy Spirit? it was all many could handle simply having God in the Land, much less Him moving in to their body. Having set forth God’s purposes to the people, line upon line, precept upon precept, Stephen gives God’s estimate of it all Acts 7:51; You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye.


God in a Building?

Stephen was never allowed to finish his sermon. They stoned him first. In fact, he only quoted a portion of Isaiah 66 to them. Undoubtedly, many knew the rest of the passage and understood the implications of what he was saying. Consider the full context of the passage.

Thus says the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things have my hand made, and all those things have been, says the LORD: but to this one will I look, even to they who are of a poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:12).

Although God appeared to man at different times and places, even moving among them in the Wilderness Tabernacle and Temple, He ultimately intended to make His dwelling place in people. Not a building or a structure. Not a spot on a map, but to this “one” (person) will I look. God was looking to live inside men and women all along. Everything He had done to this point was merely a series of steps leading to this ultimate destination. 

The first man that God tabernacled in was Jesus Christ. Many have been filled with the Spirit, but Jesus was the Temple of the Living God when He walked the earth. (John 2:19) He is quoted as making this statement in Mark 14:58; I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. They totally missed the point. Another temple made without hands? Herod’s Temple (made with hands) was on borrowed time. Forty years to be exact until the Roman conqueror Titus would annihilate it. However, the Temple of the Body of Christ (made without hands) was made possible by His death and resurrection.


Whether or not these religious leaders misquoted Jesus in Mark 15:48 is beside the point, because the theology of what they said was spot on. Jesus Christ intended to pitch a Temple that was not the works of men’s hands, but the working of the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 8:1ff) After Pentecost God began once again to walk with man in sweet fellowship and communion — only this time the Garden of Eden was in the Temple of men and women’s bodies. He desired to be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth and made that desire possible once He ascended into Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to baptize those that truly believe into His One Body. 

The Place of God’s Rest

To this one will I look, even to they who are of a poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2b)


This verse contains what God is looking for in a residence. He is at rest in a person who is humble and that trembles at His word. This is two things. Pride is a stench in the nostrils of God unlike anything else. In fact, it was the snare and condemnation of Satan. Jesus Christ, the first living temple of God, was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). Paul goes into great detail in Philippians showing the extent of His humility.


Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6–8 ESV)



The second characteristic of God’s residence is one who  trembles at my word. Sometimes God would address a group by saying, “Hear, you that tremble at my word!” God was talking to people who took His word absolutely seriously. They don’t scoff at obedience. Their attitude is that God’s word must be obeyed and swiftly. Again, this was the attitude of the first living temple. 

It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

(Matthew 4:4 NKJV)

Satan has a characteristic that helped get him cast out of Heaven. He undermines God’s word and entices other to disobey. Is there any wonder he was cast out and ultimately down to hell? Jesus confronted him with Matthew 4:4. This was His attitude towards God’s word. It is more vital to us than our necessary food. When we take on this attitude in sincerity, God can rest in us. 

Summary  


In modern times it seems that people will do almost anything to get God’s presence to come. They employ Old Testament techniques thinking that if they sing the right song or play the right tune God will come and “inhabit their praises.” However,  under the New Covenant the saints sing because God has already come and His presence is already in them. We sing from the fullness of the joy of the Lord. We don’t strike up the band and wait for God to come. 

I suggest that the prime reason why so many revert to Old Testament thinking is that they have not considered what Stephen preached. If one wants to be a place where God resides, they have to follow His requirements. There is no side-stepping them. Otherwise, we risk going without His presence and even entertaining counterfeits. For the ages Stephen preached it. It has not changed since. This is the way for us to consider and walk in. As if the world wants to know, what [is] the place of my rest?” God tells us plainly. To this one will I look, even to they who are of a poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.  


  

Remembering Where You Once Were

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!

Repent

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! 

Turning Back to God

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.      

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