The reality is that that church is completely powerless against their enemies. Having said that another reality is that if we return to God, He will return to us. God gives us the choice to pick powerless or powerful. With the yearly celebration of Easter approaching, this week has shown the destitution of the church. Instead of the church being filled with power, we see the church void of power, empty, weak and defenseless against the opposition of the enemy. God has turned His face from shining on us. There is no other way to see it and this week confirms what has been happening for centuries. After generations of church splits, which generated into different denominations distinctive beliefs and these churches spread across the globe because of missionary work, oddly the church still stands powerless against their enemies.
                So that means something is seriously wrong because that is not how it was supposed to be. It means the church did not adhere to God’s word. Jesus told Peter Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” But the enemy has overcome the church. Did Jesus lie to Peter? No! The Old Testament makes it very clear what happens when we disobey. As these churches perpetuate their teachings more and more people are led astray. Yes Paul did say in Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If we say as Peter did “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” God will be with us. The question is, who is the Messiah when all the churches are teaching something completely different about the Messiah? They have gone their own way and have expected God to do for them what His word states he would do if we obeyed. If we did follow His words then God would honour them. We were told Deuteronomy 11:26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.” Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Since God does not change, this still applies. You then can read what happens in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 when we follow obediently or disobey. Since the church has disobeyed the word of God, Jesus tells us Matthew 15:9 “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Paul said about the true gospel 1 Corinthians 15:2 “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” The church has believed in vain because the church did not hold firmly and has followed the empty ways of man and doctrines of demons instead of adhering to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of our disobedience, God brought a delusion on the church. 2 Thessalonians 2:10 “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
                This is the state we find the church in. The church has been taken captive as well as the remnant just like when Israel was taken captive to Babylon. A verse I have read so many times says 2 Chronicles 34:21 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.” At that point there was only a remnant left and then 2 Kings 21:14 “I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies.” 2 Chronicles 36:20 “He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power.” But because of God’s promise to David 2 Kings 19:30 “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. 31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
                When Israel faced the enemy they could see them but today we face the same enemy, we just can’t see them. The enemy is strong and has retaken the world that Jesus came to set free. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil and we were supposed to continue that work and do as Jesus did in the power of the Holy Spirit. God was still God in the Old Testament when the enemy came against Israel just as Jesus is still King of kings as he has allowed the enemy to come against us for our disobedience. It was supposed to be Revelation 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Jesus still reigns but because we have disobeyed he has allowed the enemy to take us captive just as Israel was taken captive. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” God has allowed this to happen.
                To put into perspective how satan operates, you can look at how the coronavirus operates.  Just like satan you can’t see it but it is there, bringing fear, sickness, devastation and death. It has global impact. The enemy we face can only be battle with spiritual warfare. God said choose life and prosperity or death and destruction but death and destruction came because those who went before us did not adhere to the word of God and went their own way. We are now paying the price as the enemy has infiltrated the church. This virus also shows how fast the work of satan can spread. While I am comparing this virus to satan, there really is no comparison. Think about war torn countries where there is nothing available and they are holding on to life by a thread. There is no food, water, sanitation etc. We have all of that and people are still panicking. Yes there was even toilet paper in the stores yesterday.
                As the pastor from Winnipeg said, “We will do the socially responsible thing.” As we look at the church over the years, many have been socially responsible but remained powerless. As we have seen society is against the words of God and it is getting worse. Church has never been about being socially acceptable. Are we responsible yes but Jesus said Mark 13:13 “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Churches have closed thinking they did the right thing but most do not ask what have I done wrong and continue to go their own way. They do not ask where is the power available to all who believe. Let me just say I am aware that the church doesn’t have the power to heal as described in scripture and closing was the only option they had. Yet they don’t for a minute think there is anything wrong because that is all they know. They have become convinced that even though the bible looks totally different when compared to the church, everything is as it should be.
                But the church is not as it should be. Because the church is so far from the truth, we must return to God. This is done by turning from our wicked ways and repenting. This is the danger of the dispensational movement we talked about last Sunday. Everything we need to know about our repentance is right here in the Old Testament. We need to learn from it, not teach that God works differently. God still expects the same. This is what He expects us to do today. Leviticus 26:40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’”
                The good news is that the remnant will be freed just as the remnant was freed from captivity in Babylon. Sadly many lives have been lost to the enemies power but due to the grace of God Matthew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” We give praise to God for His goodness and grace to us. The only solution there is, is to cry out to God for salvation not just from a virus but also from the hold of satan. God is the only answer. Just like Israel was freed, we too will be freed and the remnant will rise up once again and do what we were supposed to do in the first place. Yesterday we saw what happens when people gathered together as one. Paul said Philippians 1:27 “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” Last week I talked about a song called “Awake My Soul.” I feel it summarizes what we need to do and what God will do in response.
    The lyrics go like this.
    “There is a sound that changes things, the sound of His people on their knees
    Oh wake up you slumbering; it's time to worship Him.
    Awake my soul and sing, sing His praise aloud, sing His praise aloud
    And when He moves and when we pray, where stood a wall, now stands a way
    Where every promise is amen and when He moves,
    Make no mistake; the bowels of hell begin to shake
    All hail the Lord all hail the King”
    Paul tells us in Romans 13:11 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” He was talking about how close it was then. It’s really close now! Revelation 3:2 “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” So wake up and return to God. God has given us His word that if we return to Him, He will return to us. That gives us hope, which comes from God’s word. Micah 7:7 “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.” Our only hope is that God will hear our cry and restore us but we must ask for mercy as we return to Him. Lamentations 5:9 “You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. 20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.” So we too plead that God will hear our cry and continue to plead for mercy because we don’t deserve it. Psalm 80:1 “Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. 3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. 4 How long, LORD God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. 6 You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. 7 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. 8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. 9 You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. 12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? 13 Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it. 14 Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, 15 the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. 16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. 17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. 18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. 19 Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
                King Hezekiah told the people as they prepared for Passover. 2 Chronicles 30:6 “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” With all the fear in the world fuelled by the media, you do not have to be afraid. Put your hope in the Lord. Psalm 33:18 “The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”
    Continue to cry out “Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”