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Power Failure

Source: Art Sadlier, Sunday February 12th 2012

The Christian life, the function of the church, and our service for Christ are all to be carried forth in the power of God. We have the promise of God’s help and God’s power as we seek to do His will and to serve Him.

This promise is found throughout the Scripture. We have a classic presentation of this promise in the life of Joshua and in the experience of Israel. As Israel set out to enter into the land, Joshua was given this wonderful promise, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:5-6).

God not only gave Joshua the promise but He also fulfilled His promise in a powerful and wonderful way. In Joshua we read that the walls of Jericho fell down flat before Israel. “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20).

That is a pattern for the life and warfare of the believer, not the same physical manifestation, but of inward spiritual power causing the believer to triumph in his spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 reveals this transition to spiritual power. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

In Joshua 10 we see the mighty power of God on Israel’s behalf as a pattern of what God wants to do for us in this present hour. “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword...... And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it; that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:13-14).

What a mighty display of God’s power on behalf of His people!

These things happened unto them as examples of what God wants to do on our behalf today. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The power of God is further displayed on Israel’s behalf in Joshua 11:8, 23. “And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining.”

The promise of God to give Israel victory is summed up in Joshua 11:23, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”

 It is a source of great grief that our lives and our ministries and our churches are often so powerless in these last days. It ought not to be so.

There is a great lesson sandwiched in between the victory at Jericho and the final conquering of the land. In between, Israel suffered a terrible power failure. When Israel went to battle against the city of Ai they suffered a drastic defeat as they fled from before the enemy. Joshua knew that this would embolden Israel’s enemies and cause them to move to crush the Jewish nation.

Joshua did what we so often do; he went in prayer to seek the Lord’s help. As he poured out his heart to the Lord a seemingly strange thing happened. We read about it in Joshua 7:10 “And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

We see God’s servant in the dust in despair and confusion.  Joshua is praying a prayer that God refuses to hear. The Lord announces to Joshua that He has forsaken the children of Israel and it is of no use to pray. We read in verse 12, “Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” The Lord said to Joshua that He would not help Israel again, they would be forsaken and on their own from then on.

The reason for God’s abandonment of Israel is found in verse 13, “...There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee...” Herein we find the difference between experiencing God’s power and the lack of God’s power in our ministries, our lives, and our churches.

The Accursed Thing

Accursed means devoted to destruction. The accursed thing is something which displeases God and is devoted to destruction. John also tells us about the accursed thing in 1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” We see contrasted here two things which are opposites, the love of the world and the love of the Father. Verse 16 describes the love of the world, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

In verse 16 we see that the love of the world is accursed and will pass away. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” The things of the world are not of the Father and will come under the curse of God. Worldliness will come under the curse of God and will bring the curse of God upon our lives and upon our ministries and upon our churches. Worldliness is simply the love of the world and the things of the world.

We see the accursed thing in Joshua 7:13, “Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

Notice that the accursed thing is named in Joshua 7: 21, “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.”

The dress of the world was coveted by Achan, he wanted to dress like the world and be like the world. Not only the dress of the world but the things of the world were coveted by Achan, the desire for the world’s gold and its silver replaced his desire for God and obedience to Him.

God had warned Israel before the battle that the silver and the gold were to be His. “But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD” (Joshua 6:19).

God has promised His people that He will supply their clothing and their needs. God gives some of His people silver and gold to bless them, but He also has warned us that the love of money is the root of evil. The things that God gives us to bless us become accursed things when we set out hearts upon them. When we do that, the accursed thing causes God to withdraw His power and blessing from our lives and ministries and we become powerless.

Today we as believers are called out of the world and belong to God, to live to please Him and to die to the world and the things of the world. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Another powerful example of this principle is found in the life of Samson. The power of God was upon the life of Samson but one day Samson had a power failure, we read about it in Judges 16:20, 21, “And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.”

Samson fell in love with the world; he lusted for a woman of the world, he loved the world more than he loved God. The power of God was removed from his life; the enemies of God took him, as weak as a kitten and bound him and put out his eyes. Samson spent the rest of his life going around in circles, pushing the mill stone, grinding at the mill, serving the enemies of God. What a sad scene for the man who experienced the power of God upon his life!

Oh, how like that, much of the church of Christ is today! Going around in circles; busy, busy doing nothing that demonstrates the power of God. Instead of God’s enemies being defeated by the people of God, those same enemies are laughing at much of the church and defying the living God.

Like Joshua and Samson, we pray and hope and go around in circles, wracking our brains to come up with some new idea or some new program that will replace the lost power of God on His church. We bring the unholy things of the world into the sanctuary and into our lives. We bring in the entertainment of the world and the programs of the world. We bring in anything that will replace the void of the lost power of God working in and through His people and His church. We pretend that the power of God is not for the church in this day and hour. Some substitute a false fire to replace the real thing.

Like Samson, God’s people are grinding around in circles. Samson replaced a donkey that pushed the mill as the Philistines made a jackass out of Him and ridiculed Samson’s God. My heart cries out at the powerlessness of the Church of Jesus Christ today. The weaker the church gets the bolder the enemies of God become.

For years it has troubled me to understand why many good churches and good believers are so powerless. I believe the answer is worldliness and the accompanying loss of separation. The lines have been so blurred between the people of God and the world that we can scarcely tell the difference. Many are drinking at the wrong fountain: the world’s fountain. Their focus is on the world’s sports, the world’s life styles, the world’s ambitions, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the world’s things. We now can click a button and have the world flood into our living through the TV set. And we sit and drink in the accursed things of the world by the hour and wonder why our lives are powerless and why our church is so powerless. God calls it the accursed thing and it causes the Holy Spirit to withdraw His power from the lives of His children.

We realize that among other things, worldliness is not the only cause of the loss of God's power in our lives and ministries and in our churches. Disobedience, lukewarmness and dead orthodoxy will also cause the loss of power.

We also realize that large numbers are not neccessarily a sign of God's power on our ministries. The church at Jerusalem grew to many thousands and also decreased to a dozen or so, all in the will of God. Over the long centuries of the church age, the body of Christ has mainly consisted of a faithful few, a remnant. It is also true that wherever the power of God has been present in the church, the believers have grown in grace and given a witness and souls have been saved.

The sin of one man brought the curse of God on the whole nation of Israel. By extension the sin of one believer can bring the curse of God on the local church. When Achan sinned God said, “Israel hath sinned.” When Achan sinned God said, “they have also transgressed my covenant.”

When there is sin in the congregation of the local church and it is not dealt with the whole congregation is held accountable. When the local church is content with lukewarmness, compromise and worldliness the Spirit of God is grieved and the church will have a power failure.

God is a God of power and He intends His people and His church to experience His mighty power in their lives and ministries. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

If we are experiencing a power failure we need to discover the reason. We need to search for the accursed thing in our lives and deal with it mercilessly. It wasn’t until Achan was dead under a heap of stones that Israel experienced the power of God again and the victory that goes with it.

God intends that we should experience His power on our lives and ministries, but there is a price to pay to experience it. It will cost us the world.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”   Galatians 6:14

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob practiced separation from the world around them according to the command of the Lord. That separation was lost by Jacob and his family. We read about it in two incidents that occurred in Genesis. First we read, “And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city” (Genesis 33:18). In that act Jacob abandoned his pilgrim nature and compromised with the world in disobedience to God.

Jacob’s loss of separation quickly rubbed off on his children. We read in the verse that follows, “And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land” (Genesis 33:1). Lot had made the same tragic mistake earlier when he pitched his tent toward Sodom, a mistake that would destroy him, his family and his testimony.

Back in the late 1940’s some in the fundamental church of Jesus Christ made this same tragic mistake. We read about it in what is really the manifesto of New Evangelicalism.

Dr. Ockenga wrote, “Neo-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many evangelicals... It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life.”

At that point, those evangelicals took the same step that Jacob took when he “pitched his tent before the city.” They took the same step that Dinah took when she “went out to see the daughters of the land.” It brought disaster to Jacob and his family and it brought disaster to those evangelicals.

New Evangelicalism abandoned separation and lost the power of God upon their ministries and their lives. Ever since that time they have been seeking substitutes for the lost power. The New Evangelical church of today is not even recognizable in comparison with what the church was in the first half of the twentieth century. We now have two last day’s churches in our world, the Philadelphian church and the Laodicean church. The Lord said that He would spew the Laodicean church out of His mouth.

There is a further tragedy that has come upon us in that New Evangelicalism has deeply affected the present Fundamental church without our being aware of it. We, as fundamentalists little realize how much we have been affected by the New Evangelicalism all around us. We also have become worldly. If we do not repent and return to our position of separation we will lose our candlestick just as the New Evangelicals have.

For the last 60 years a transition has been taking place. Fundamental/Philadelphian churches have been transitioning to New Evangelical/Laodicean churches.

That process is still going on. Hold fast! This is a crisis hour for the body of Christ!