2015 Reversal and Refuge
2014 will be remembered as a year of great evils; MH 370 disappears somewhere to the west of Perth; MH 17 is shot down over Ukraine; another flight “goes missing” over Indonesia; Ebola breaks out in West Africa, 100’s of Nigerian schoolgirls are kidnapped, ISIS hits the headlines and a “lone wolf” strikes in Sydney. It would be naïve to predict that in 2015 the visible terrors that strike fear into the human heart will somehow disappear. I sense however the Lord wants to reverse our priorities and transport our perceptions from the visible to the invisible realm. As the decline and fall of the Roman Empire precipitated a prayer revival in the form of monasticism so the arrival of numerous barbarian influences, not only at the gates of our cities but deep within them, is a catalytic call for a prayer revival in 2015. This wave of prayer will give priority to the eternal and unseen world (2 Cor 4:18).
Seeing the Invisible
In God’s plan his “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Rom 1:20). Today however the idolatrous heart of man worships the power of science and technology (scientism) distorting our discoveries of the order and potential of the natural world into a drive that takes us further and further away from God. The recent rise of militant atheism in the West e.g. Richard Dawkins, may appeal mainly to the intelligentsia but it helps create a climate where talk of the immortal, invisible and eternal (1 Tim 1:17) becomes an object of ridicule. It is time that the people of God defied the dominance of the visible and moved in the realm of the unseen Spirit. After all “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” which are our real enemies are themselves unseen to the physical eye (Eph 6:12).
It was said of Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27). The ability to “see the invisible” is exactly what needs to be recovered today. There is I believe an important order to help us move into this realm that is outlined in the book of Revelation.
Seeing Behind the Curtain
In Revelation 6 Jesus begins to open the scroll in the hand of God and war, famine and plague are released on the earth as expressions of the wrath of God and his all conquering Lamb (vv. 1-8). These are exactly the horrors headlining our world today. To those without access to the throne room of grace the traumas of this world are simply causes to turn away for the face of God and curse his name (6:12-16; 16:9-11, 21). But we share the heavenly throne of God’s grace with Jesus (Eph 1:3; 2:6; Heb 4:16).
Hebrews exhorts us, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…let us draw near” (Heb 10:19-20, 22). To go behind the curtain is to enter into the most intense intimate presence of God, it means to enjoy that place where wrath has been turned away; it is to see the Lamb smiling upon his Father’s children (Matt 18:10; Heb 2:17). It is by going behind the curtain with Jesus that we can see what God is doing in the world and affirm it with a sense of peace. Those who dwell in the holy places in heaven reign in life in the midst of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and the sword filled with the conviction that in all these things God is working good for those who love him (Rom 5:17; 8:28, 35-37 cf. Ps 110:2).
In the last week we have remembered the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami which took a quarter of a million lives and the 40th anniversary of cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin, such is the world in which we live (cf. Rom 8:20-22). Whilst I cannot see good growing in the world in 2015 we can grow in the goodness of God by drawing near to him.
The Secret Place
Jesus counselled us to give, pray and fast “in secret” and our heavenly Father “who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:4-6, 18). In 2015 we are being called to live a secret life of prayer, fasting and giving in the presence of God. Those who would know the secrets of the kingdom of God and of the wisdom of Christ and his Spirit must abide in the secret place (Am 3:7; Mark 4:11; Rom 16:25-27; 1 Cor 2:7). The dominance of highly visible persuasive charismatic personalities with can-do pragmatic solutions to life’s problems must to come to an end in the Church if we are to understand the order of God in creation and redemption. The reversal to which we are being called reflects the order unveiled in the book of Revelation; entry into the heavenly throne room of God the Creator and the Lamb slain and standing in its fourth and fifth chapters must precede insight into the world of judgements in chapter 6. Spiritual things are known only by spiritual people (1 Cor 2:13-16 cf. John 4:24).
Though more personal petition and greater time in interceding for others may be a fruit of the secret place this is not our primary call. The call is into the pure presence of God mediated only by Christ to know the Lord in a more direct face to face way (Ex 33:11; 2 Cor 3:16-18; 1 Tim 2:5). This is the very opposite of the avoidance of the face of God which is the preoccupation of those who “dwell on the earth” today (Rev 6:16). When Revelation describes Christians persecuted by the beast as God’s tabernacle/sanctuary and “those who dwell in heaven” it describes the followers of Jesus both dead and living (Rev 13:6). With lives “hidden in God” we are a tent of witness offering sanctuary and refuge to those whose lives are tormented by the evils of our time (Col 3:3). As the monasteries of the Dark Ages provided sanctuary for the fearful this is the call upon the Church in Perth today. A call which can only be obeyed if we leave behind the dominance of the public space, the space of work, family or church life, to draw aside to be with Jesus as our first priority (Mark 6:31).
The presence of God which the Church and the world so separately needs in these fearful times cannot be found primarily in meetings characterised by mood music and lots of emotion, but in the secret place of stillness before God (Hab 2:20; Zech 2:13; Rev 8:1). It is time for a “New Year’s Resolution” to spend more time with God and less time with people, or perhaps less time with people in front of screens. We are being called to the practise of the presence of God so as to taste of the goodness of the Lord and the power of the age to come (Heb 6:5; 1 Pet 2:3). This unalloyed goodness of God in Christ cannot be expressed in words but can be expressed in peace and stillness to a mad, bad and busy world (2 Cor 9:15; 1 Pet 1:8). Coming from the secret place “every public thing in your life will be marked with the lasting imprint of the presence of God.” (Oswald Chambers) In this way transformation will come not only to the people of God but a door shall be opened for the salvation of many.
 An expression used in Revelation for those under judgement (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 14:6).