Question: Do you know the difference between God turning His face to you and God turning His face away from you. Most would respond that God loves His church, as God is a loving God and He would not turn away. I would say that most people who call themselves a Christian would respond this way. They go to church, therefore God loves them. I grew up going to church because that was what you did; it was the right thing to do. Going to church lets everyone know that you are doing what you are supposed to do as we are told Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” If you are just meeting together without following the true gospel, you might as well go to Costco. So, the church gathered and some got quite efficient at it. Some could even have multiple services and keep them in the designated time restraints. I visited one church one time that had a badly designed parking lot. Let’s just say the worshiping stopped as they left the building. Sundays became about entertaining the masses for an hour so everyone could feel they had worshipped and then gather to do it week after week. Your worship depended on the worship team playing the right songs and doing it well. Your Sunday also depended on who was speaking and how well they spoke. Programs also play a big role. If all this doesn’t come together, then it is time to move on and find something more palatable to the taste buds.
                As I said I grew up going to church all the time. I grew up in the Free Methodist denomination and then later joined another called the Wesleyan Church. There was something really special about a man named Wesley. The problem was this was supposed to be a holiness church, meaning it would be seeking after God’s holiness and then being holy because God said, Leviticus 11:44 “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. 45 I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” We are also told Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is actually what we are supposed to be following and was a good thing except man got in the way. Now for a directive that these denominations were supposedly following, most did not even think it is possible. Most people who call themselves Christians have a problem with these verses. They say we are human so we can’t be perfect even though Jesus Himself said Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Most also didn’t think you could stop sinning even though 1 John 3:5 “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” Obviously, holiness, perfection and no longer sinning is not something we humans can accomplish on our own so maybe it is time to start believing what the bible actually says so that the works of the devil can once again be destroyed.
                The two denominations that I was with really had no idea that there was power available to those who would believe. They had become legalists and church became about rules and regulations and dress codes. Colossians 2:20 “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Jesus said Mark 7:6 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Then the pendulum swung away from legalism and they tried their hand at following the church growth gurus like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels to no avail and still worship in vain. Instead of seeking truth, they sought after men to show them the way, only to join in rebellion against God. Instead of turning away from their wickedness, they ventured further and further away from the truth and were content with what their hands had made.
                Like many other denominations they followed the teachings of men like John Wesley instead of following the actual gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ was seen in light of what John Wesley taught. Yes, these denominations will tell you ours is the way, the truth and the life but then so will those who follow John Knox (I thought this was interesting – “The Scottish Confession of Faith, or the “Scots Confession,” appeared during the Protestant Reformation in, of course, Scotland. Its group of six authors—all of whom happened to share the first name “John”—included John Knox, one of Calvinism’s most influential leaders”), John Calvin or even John MacArthur, John Piper or John Hagee. While the name John is important, we are not to worship men. As I have said before, the seminary I went to even idolized John Wesley in the form of a statue or even a trinket from the bookstore. John the Baptist said Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The church instead of listening to John the Baptist listened to the teaching of men, many of them named John and rebelled against the words of God.
                As we saw in Mark 7 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” When men and women let go of God’s commands, God turns His face from us but most don’t know the difference as they think the church they go to is really what the church is. The church I grew up in was void of power; it was simply a gathering of people. Those who were part of it actually thought they were following the commands of Jesus but there was no power. Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 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.” The church that most attend and not only Methodist churches think they are alive but in reality they are dead, as God has long since turned His face from them. Five of the churches in Revelation describe most churches today.
                When God turns His face to us, that means He dwells with us. Revelation 21:3 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Matthew 1:23 “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Paul said 1 Corinthians 15:55 ““Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When God dwells among us, we do as Jesus did. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” But notice the rejection of His words right away. “22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Yet the demons knew who He was and the power that came when God dwells among us. Luke 4:33 “In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
                When God turns His face to us, His presence comes upon us. 1 Kings 8:10 “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” 2 Chronicles 7:1 “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Now we are the temple where God will dwell. Acts 2:1 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. David knew the difference between God turning His face to Him and God turning His face away from Him Psalm 21:7 “Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.” Psalm 31:4 “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.”
    David knew the difference but the church doesn’t seem to. The reason for this lack of understanding is simply because of disobedience which shows that God has turned His face. When we reject His word, we loose power and God’s protection and as a result our enemies then prevail against us. Because the church has gone after the ways of men, we have received what our actions deserved. God gave David a promise so we have not been completely destroyed even though we deserve nothing. Ezra 9:13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” Daniel said Daniel 9:4 “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.” None of us deserve to be living, yet here we are which is only due to God’s great mercy but don’t think for a moment you can go your own way. You will be judged according to the way you choose to go. Choosing your own way only leads to death and destruction. Jeremiah 5:31 “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” Deuteronomy 32:28 “They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. 29 If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!”
                  A senseless nation does not listen to God’s word. Even though many listen to sermons week after to week, they simply do not hear as there is a famine in the land. What they do hear are man’s words about God’s word. Bibles are everywhere especially with the access to them on the internet, yet most have no idea what it says other than what they are told by those they have chosen to listen to. Many are very selective and do not want to hear truth. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” There are teachers and preachers everywhere that will scratch your ears as this is already happening. Here is another question. When exactly did you think false prophets and teachers, doctrines of demons and antichrists were coming? 1 John 2:18 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”
                God turns His face against us when we reject His words and go our own ways. We were warned very clearly this would happen. Deuteronomy 31:18 “And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.” Today other gods are also other gospels. 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.” Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all.” Leviticus 20:6 “I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people.” Jeremiah 2:27 “They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!” It really is amazing how many church-goers have been deceived by the new age such as Yoga and other eastern meditations, mindfulness and medicines. It is very clear that God will turn His face from us for our unfaithfulness. Ezekiel 15:6 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the Lord. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign Lord.” We were warned what would happen if we did not listen. Leviticus 26:14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. 18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. 20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit. 21 “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.” It is not just the present unfaithfulness of the church but also those who have gone before us. 2 Chronicles 29:6 “Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him.” Ezekiel 7:22 “I will turn my face away from the people, and robbers will desecrate the place I treasure. They will enter it and will defile it.” Jeremiah 32:31 “From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem.33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline.”
                Today the church continues to provoke God by its unfaithfulness to His word but there is hope for those who will return to God’s word. Accepting only the parts of the bible you like and fit with your doctrines and theology is not following God’s word. We were told if we would return to God, He will return to us but we must return wholeheartedly. 2 Chronicles 30:9 “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.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We have a choice to listen and return or to rebel and continue in our disobedience. Both of these have eternal ramifications so don’t take a chance with your eternal life and where you will spend 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.” We do not need to be a useless vine as there is still hope for the church. Ezra 9:8 “But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.” Isaiah 54:7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.” Don’t think for a moment that you can reject God and go your own way without consequences. There is still a remnant because God promised David there would be. Ezekiel 39:25 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. 26 They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. 27 When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Pentecost was not a one-time event but to be a continual outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
                You may have been taught that God is love and that He would never turn His face from you because you go to church. You may have been taught that God would never take His love away like He did Saul. That is true but remember what happened to Israel and how they were annihilated by Babylon. The actual promise is that there will always be a remnant. It doesn’t say you can live however you want and still be secure. Your manmade doctrine will not save you no matter how much you believe it to be true. Jeremiah said Jeremiah 5:12 “They have lied about the Lord; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. 13 The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.” Be careful who you listen to as your life depends on it.
                If we want God to bless us and dwell among us once again, we must return to Him. Daniel’s prayer is a prayer of confession but he also asks God to be merciful. Daniel 9:4 “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Psalm 67:1 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— 2 so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 3 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. 5 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 7 May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.”
                Don’t expect to be at peace with God unless you are willing to obey His word once again. If you refuse you will remain God’s enemy but if you are willing to turn from your wicked ways (your way, manmade church etc.) then peace will return, a peace that only comes from God. Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Numbers 6:24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”