Dont Settle for a Substitute
From 1995 through 2003, I spent most of my life immersed in God’s outpourings at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, in Pensacola with the Brownsville Revival and in Smithton, Missouri with the Smithton Outpouring.
Not only did I document on film and produce TV programs sharing the news that heaven was touching earth, but I was personally transformed in the midst of God’s waves of glory. To say I will never be the same is an understatement. I am so grateful to God who allowed me to experience these great moves of His Holy Spirit. I thank the Lord for Carol and John Arnott who have hosted this move of the Holy Spirit in Toronto and have allowed the Father to manifest His perfect love and healing to the millions who have traveled there to bask in God’s presence.
One day while I was preparing to appear on Sid Roth’s TV program, “It’s Supernatural,” to share about the film series I had produced on the three revivals, a young man in the makeup room asked me a startling question. “How could the Jews, after witnessing signs and wonders, like the Red Sea parting, turn so quickly back to worshipping a golden calf?”
His question troubled me. The Jewish people had seen the Egyptians humbled by ten horrible plagues. Yet God didn’t harm them. The angel of death even passed over their first-born males because the blood of the lamb was applied to the door of their houses.
They were delivered from slavery to the Pharaoh of Egypt. They beheld God’s pillar of fire keeping the mighty army of Egypt at bay, watched God’s power part the Red Sea and even saw the Egyptian army destroyed before their eyes. They beheld the cloud of God’s glory and the thundering of God’s voice from Mount Sinai. How could they worship a golden calf?
Then, I thought about the church today. Many of us were delivered from the bondage of a wicked slave master named Satan. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the sacrifice of the true Passover lamb, we have passed from slavery to freedom on the other side. The enemy of our souls has been forever destroyed. But how many times have we, like they did, turned away from God and set our attention on some other substitute for experiencing the real presence of God? And why do we do it?
WHEN YOU GET RESTLESS
As I examined the book of Exodus, I noticed similarities between the Israelites in the wilderness and how we react today when God shows us His power. I believe one similarity is the restlessness we experience when God doesn’t seem to move on with the program when we think He should. The children of Israel got restless when Moses went up onto the mountain to meet with God. When they thought he was away too long, they grew impatient and decided to ask Aaron to fashion a new god for them. (Ex. 32:1)
I wonder if they reacted that way because the place where they found themselves was not what they had expected. I imagine that once they passed half way through the Red Sea, their fear turned to anticipation as they began to ponder, “I can’t wait until we get to the other side. God promised a land full of milk and honey!” But alas, as they turned away from the Red Sea, they saw that they weren’t in the land of milk and honey. Instead, they were in a desert, a place of testing.
Aren’t we the same? How soon we forget the miracle of salvation, God’s deliverance and His healing miracles. We find ourselves doubting God’s goodness the minute we face a new trial.
How many of us were set free from the “slavery of religion” as we experienced the glorious move of God in Toronto or other places of revival? Yet when God began to “dig deeper,” the enemy conjured up the lie that things were much easier before the blessing came when we were in the “prison of religion.”
We were told when to get up to pray, how to pray, what was acceptable to wear and even how to interpret the Word of God. In that prison we were judged by our outward conformity to man invented standards, rather than by our inner response to God’s love. We had grown so accustomed to the old life, where like prisoners in Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp, we were told, “Arbeit Macht Frei” meaning “Work Brings Freedom.” Yet, our freedom had already been won on the cross. We forgot how miserable we had been before the renewal, and we comforted ourselves with, “I suppose this is the way church life will always be. It’s tough now, but someday, the blessings will flow again!”
MAKING A SUBSTITUTE FOR HIS PRESENCE
The most contemptible fruit of Israel’s restlessness still lay ahead. While Moses delayed coming back, they began taking matters into their own hands. They removed the gold earrings from their wives’ and daughters’ ears and brought them to Aaron who fashioned the molten gold into a calf. Aaron announced, “These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 32:2-4)
What are we doing with what He's given us?
God had given the Israelites the spoils of Egypt because He had a future purpose for them. They were to use these to build the Tabernacle of God, a dwelling place for God’s “shekinah” glory. Instead, they used what God had given them to build a golden calf. In the same way, we receive the blessings of God not because we deserve them, but because they bring Him glory. When God gave us revival, it was for a purpose He was yet to disclose. Have we taken the revival spoils and fashioned them to resemble the religion we’ve always known or to serve our selfish purposes? Have we substituted what we’ve fashioned for the real presence of God?
It is time to ask ourselves, what are we doing with what He’s given us? God gave us this blessing to fulfill His purpose for our lives as ambassadors of His Kingdom, so have we done any better than the Israelites did in the wilderness?
Things got worse at the foot of Sinai. When Aaron saw the golden calf, he built an altar before it and proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” The next morning the wild party began.
Aaron made a golden calf to appease the people and only hoped that it would please God. Looking at the image of the golden calf, one of the gods of Egypt, he proclaimed a feast to the God of Israel! God hates mixture; and when He saw Israel’s revelry, He sent Moses down the mountain.
God was hurt and angry and was ready to disown and destroy Israel; but Moses stood between God and the people and interceded for them and the scriptures tell us that God “repented” of His anger against them. Then Moses went down and confronted Aaron, the leader who ironically was to be the future High Priest.
Are there any similarities in the Church today? I don’t want to be a leader like Aaron who will continue to settle for less, because that’s what the people want. Without realizing they are compromising, a leader like this says, “I want revival,” but they blame the religious status quo on the people. “It’s the congregation’s fault. It is they who want a golden calf. I want God’s glory to come, but the people keep whispering in my ear. And I am afraid they will all leave the church, so I’m giving them what they want!” At that moment, there is nowhere to turn but to a substitute for the real presence of God, a life content with mixture.
Leaders, we need to recognize that if we do not passionately pursue Him, then what hope is there for the people?
SEPARATION IS COMING
After Moses confronted Aaron, he confronted the people and cried out, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” The sons of Levi gathered to Him.
Before God could reveal Himself further, he had to separate the people who wanted Him from those who were content with mixture. God is pouring out His Holy Spirit all over the world, but there is a choice to make. Are we going to jump into this living river of God or stay banks? Are we going to settle for the comfortable, familiar place and remain lukewarm, or are we going to become red-hot for the Lord? God is saying today, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
Do you want to see your loved ones and friends get saved and other Christians go deeper? Postponing the inevitable decision to act will only help them build their golden calves. So what can we do? It is certainly not time to criticize, but we can do what Moses did for Israel which was to pray.
Full immersion in God’s presence has forever transformed my life!
Are we going to settle for the comfortable, familiar? Before we pray, we must look to ourselves. We must humbly pursue an intimate relationship with God by continuing to walk in the relationship with Him that He introduced us to when renewal first touched our lives. As we restore experiencing God’s love to first priority ourselves, we can then see clearly to urge others to do so.
Then, like Moses did for the Israelites, we must intercede for them because we love them. If we do, I believe God will hear those prayers and open their eyes. In the Israelites’ case, God eliminated the 3,000 rebellious ones, and then the rest of the children of Israel repented. Separation had to come in order for God’s purpose to be accomplished. In test after test, separation came before the day Israel finally entered the Promised Land. Whether we like it or not, our spiritual temperature has an effect on everyone around us.
MORE TO COME
After Israel repented, Moses gave them God’s plan for the Tabernacle, the temporary dwelling for His presence in the wilderness. I wonder what is ahead for us if we will turn away from the things we’ve been substituting for God’s presence.
Then God told Moses that He would still bring them into the Promised Land, but God Himself would not lead them. He would send an angel to do what He was going to do Himself, because they were “stiff necked.” (Exodus 33:2-3)
The price of Israel’s choosing the “golden calf” would be that God would deny them what He wanted to give them which was Himself. God said, “If my Presence were to come in the midst of them, it would consume them and they would die!” Instead, God said He would send an angel before them to lead them on their journey. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an angel, I want His glorious presence! I’ve been spoiled by what I experienced from my time in Toronto. Full immersion in God’s presence has forever transformed my life! How can I be satisfied with a substitute?
Moses was not happy with a substitute for God’s glory.
Meeting with God had “messed him up,” and that experience had changed his life forever. Moses begged God, “Show me Your glory!” This prayer found favor with God. God relented and restored His promise to personally lead them to the Promised Land instead of sending an angel. (See Exodus 33:17) And God said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Moses exclaimed, “If Your presence does not go with me, then carry us not up hence.” (Exodus 33:13-15)
HOW CAN I BE SATISFIED WITHOUT A SUBSITUTE?
In each of the three films I produced about the revivals in Toronto, Brownsville and Smithton, I found that prior to each outpouring, the pastors of each work had come to the conclusion that they were fed up with second best. They desired God’s real presence. Their discontent with business as usual was actually a way of seeking His face.
Soaking in God’s glorious presence is wonderful, but are we like Moses? Do we want more? Moses prayed, “I beseech you, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)
God’s response was to shelter Moses in the cleft of the rock and allow Him to catch a glimpse of the “More” he had prayed for. God is asking today, “Do you want Me? Do you want My glory to be made manifest in your life?”
Not settling for the substitute will unlock the door to the “more” you have been praying for.