Last week we talked about the church following the god of our understanding. Unfortunately most people in the church today have put God into a box. Each person has a different sized box but still a box. In most cases God has been neutralized / nullified as in the example I gave last week. The power is talked about but its okay if it doesn’t happen; just do the best you can. This is what we have grown up with, which is exactly as described in 2 Timothy, a form of godliness but denial of the power. This verse follows Paul’s teaching to Timothy concerning false teachers. He said 2 Timothy 2:25 “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” There are millions of people that need to come to their senses yet the strange thing today is that most people don’t know the difference between the truth and false nor do they realize they have been deceived and have been taken captive. Because God has been put into a box of their understanding, the church remains in captivity because they do not see the need to repent. As we look back through scripture we see Israel repent when they were taken captive or were defeated by an enemy. They cried out to God to save them and have mercy. The church today doesn’t cry out, they just make up a new doctrine or theology to explain the powerless church.
                How sad it is that the church doesn’t know that it ought to be crying out for mercy, that they should be begging God to hear their cries and see their misery, yet they do not. They just explain it away by putting God into the box of their understanding. Wherever you go you there will be a different understanding, each going in their own direction of choice but each choice taken them further and further away from the truth. Each choice explains away the missing power of the Holy Spirit with no one asking where it is or why God has turned his face from shining on us. The answer comes to us by looking at what Israel did because we have done the same thing. Their disobedience led to the temple being destroyed and taken into captivity. Ezra says Ezra 5:11 “This is the answer they gave us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.” Yes this passage is talking about the temple that was destroyed because of their disobedience. They failed to keep the commands of the Lord so much so that even the remnant was cast out of the Promised Land. This means their enemies were allowed to defeat them. 
             We too are rebuilding because of our disobedience. We too have been defeated and taken into captivity and the church lies in desolation. The good news is the great king is still the great king; therefore we have hope. Jesus came, as did his kingdom yet most have turned away and have not adhered to the gospel and only worship in vain. The church has followed other gospels only to remain in captivity. Jesus came to set us free but we decided to go our own way and ignore his commands, therefore we too were defeated. Judges 2 gives us this bleak picture. Judges 2:1 “The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” 4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.   6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. 20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.”
                 We have done the same with each generation worse than the last. 
    Now as you can see the people at least cried out to God to save them yet they refused to remain in Him.  The church is in this very same position because they do not know the Lord. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” This problem comes from generations of ignorance and disobedience. So just like during the judges and the kings, our enemies are there to test us. Will we serve God and be victorious or will we serve the god of our understanding and be defeated. God’s word makes it very clear that if we seek Him with all our heart, soul and mind, we will find him and that is a promise but we must turn from our wicked ways. For most they think that means the lost need to turn but it is actually talking about the church. When we follow mans ways those are wicked and we must turn from them. Look at how many denominations and their theology follow men and their ideas. So how did it get to the point of the land overrun by the enemy and in great trouble and disgrace as described by Nehemiah.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” How was it that they were vomited out of the land and the land left in desolation and few that survived taken into captivity? The answer is simple; they disobeyed the word of the Lord just as wee have. In spite of what man says; God does not change. From the very beginning he demands obedience and faithfulness. He told Israel what would happen if they did not obey wholeheartedly. Since God does not change, the same applies to us and here we are in desolation just as Jesus described and like Israel there is just a remnant left; a remnant who will rebuild the church to what it was intended to be.
             So lets go back and look at Israel’s demise. Stephen sums it up when he said, Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” God said to Moses after Aaron made the golden calf, Exodus 32:9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Skip ahead to Samuel and Saul. 1 Samuel 13:13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” David then is anointed king and God gives him an amazing promise that He still holds to today. David then says to his son Solomon, 1 Kings 2:2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go 4 and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.” This means that no man would stand against them just as Joshua was told but Solomon decided to go his own way. 1 Kings 11:4 “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 9 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
              Then we have Solomon’s son Rehoboam but before him an amazing promise is given to Jeroboam. 1 Kings 11:37 “However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39 I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’” All Jeroboam had to do was be faithful. Before we continue with Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son then lead Judah to sin against the Lord. 2 Chronicles 12:1 “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” 1 Kings 14:22 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.” Because of this King Shishack of Egypt attacked them. 2 Chronicles 12:2 “Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. 3 With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, 4 he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. 5 Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, “This is what the Lord says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’” But here is the difference between them and the church today; they repented. 6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” 7 When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”
             Today’s church and for that matter the generations that went before us don’t seem to know the difference between serving God and the gods of the world. The problem is the church seems to think they are thriving on serving the god of their understanding but as Moses said, 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!” Jeremiah 5:3 “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.” Jeremiah 8:4 “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? 5 Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. 6 I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.7 Even the stork in the sky and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord. Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. 12 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.  So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished says the Lord. 13 “‘I will take away their harvest, declares the Lord. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.” The church doesn’t even acknowledge that this has happened and continues blissfully down a path to where the dead are.
                So back to Jeroboam who also refused to obey and did not believe God at his word even though God had given him an amazing promise. 1 Kings 12:26 “Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.” He then becomes one of the worst kings and the king who other kings who disobeyed were compared to. 28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” This is what the church does when they worship the god’s of their understanding. Jeroboam’s family was then wiped out. 1 Kings 14:14 “The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. Even now this is beginning to happen.” This happened all because he refused to believe God’s word. The kings that followed were described this way. 1 Kings 15:34 “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.” So often God’s gives us a promise yet men and woman refuse to believe it. They think just as those who thought before going into the Promised Land that they would be defeated. Numbers 14:3 “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
                As we continue to wait on the promise of the Lord; believe in his word. I have said this before but I find it amazing how so many preachers preach away the power of God’s word. They refuse to believe what God says. By doing this they disobey and teach others to do the same. I looked at one sermon and the whole message was teaching his followers why you can’t expect the same power of Pentecost. How sad for those who refuse to believe as their choice only leaves them with death and destruction. They are basically following in the ways of Jeroboam. They have built their golden calves and are telling their people this is the way, the truth and the life. So even though we are supposed to be the sheep of the good shepherd most do not know his voice and try to enter the wide gate. 1 Kings 22:17 “Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master.”
    There is good news in all of this as God will always keep his promise to David and there will always be a remnant (those who remain and stand firm) rise up in the power of God. Even though it appears that all is lost, we have hope because God is faithful to those who seek wholeheartedly. God will hear from heaven and answer our cries for mercy. When Jeroboam was offering sacrifices a prophet came to him and said, 1 Kings 13:1 “By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. 2 By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David.”
                This is how amazing God’s word is. Much, much later Josiah became King. His grandfather Manasseh was one of the worst kings ever but also one of the most amazing accounts of turning from wicked ways. 2 Kings 21:9 “Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. 2 Chronicles 33:10 “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” Again the church is not distressed enough to seek the favour of the Lord. Then we have the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken to Jeroboam. Josiah found the book of the law and said, 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” He then carried out all that he was supposed to do. 2 Kings 23:25 “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.”
                We see what can happen when we adhere to the word of the Lord and turn from our wicked ways. Unfortunately most don’t know the difference. We have been raised in a time where the church has been powerless yet think they are adhering to God’s word. They don’t realize the enemy has been released upon us and we are defeated and in desolation because of our disobedience. The only way out of this desolation is to turn from our wicked ways. We need to be like Josiah and turn with everything we have. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God has given us so many promises. Will you be like Jeroboam and turn away or will you be like Josiah and turn to the Lord with everything you have. We are surrounded these days with men and women neutralizing /nullifying the power of God by their preaching. We also have men and women giving credit to God when actually it is satan. Do you know the difference? Can you discern whether it is God or satan? Do you know the difference between serving God and the god’s of this world? Will you be like Rehoboam who 2 Chronicles 12:14 “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” Or will you be like Josiah who 2 Chronicles 34:1 “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” 32 Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors. 33 Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
            What choice will you make? Moses said Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Joshua said Joshua 24:14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Will you listen to the word of the Lord or turn from it and go your own way? Hezekiah guides us in our return from desolation and captivity. 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.” “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
                After the desolation the Lord keeps his promise to David just as he will keep his promise to those who seek Him wholeheartedly and turn from their wicked ways. When Nehemiah returned to the land he Nehemiah 2:17 “said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
                Yes people will mock you but do not fear. People will mock what they do not understand especially when it does not comply with the god of their understanding. We saw what happened after Josiah died. 2 Chronicles 36:15 “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 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. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” Remember as Malachi said, Malachi 3:6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”
              David said to Solomon 1 Chronicles 22:11 “Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. 12 May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. 19 Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God.” Knowing the difference will have eternal consequences. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” David praised the Lord following the promise God gave him. He said, 1 Chronicles 17:20 “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God. 23 “And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, 24 so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.