One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.
Continually, as I watch the world go 'round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing?
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34a).
Almost with intentional naivete, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the upper room. Today, people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?
There must be a reason—or many reasons—why so many do the unthinkable.
Why People Reject God's Greatest Gift to Mankind
They have no grid for the presence of God: "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
One second in the presence of God will absolutely cure the most devoted skeptic. I believe it. I often wonder what unbelievers think when they witness moves of God that result in shaking, falling to the ground, groans of intercession, shouts of freedom and other manifestations. They have no option but to presume the people are hyper-emotional or mentally unbalanced. Why? They have not experienced the supernatural presence of God. Experiencing a visitation by a holy, supernatural force requires a "sixth sense." They simply can't understand it in the natural, so they dismiss it. Many mock it. They definitely reject it.
The countless times I've experienced the divine presence of God have changed my life many times over. It's impossible for God's presence to be invented, an emotional reaction, mind over matter or some other naturally explained experience. If you are standing in the ocean, you are wet. God's presence is as tangible and simple to understand as that.
As a youth pastor in San Diego in the 1990s, I took the teens to a powerful Vineyard Worship conference. It would be impossible for me to explain what happened there. God's presence overtook me as it did many people there. I suddenly fell to my face as God's weighty, holy and overwhelming presence consumed me. I was out. God was pouring out His love on me.
Hundreds of people eventually filtered out, leaving a few others and me in the building. The youth helped me to my feet, and I stumbled out of the room and to the van. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel where most of the people attending the conference were staying, I saw something I'll never forget. All around, I witnessed people being carried into the hotel, undone by the presence of God. This was no mass emotional delusion. God's presence was healing and transforming people. Lives were forever changed. The lost have no grid for this.
They have never experienced a miracle.
"God worked powerful miracles by the hands of Paul. So handkerchiefs or aprons he had touched were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).
I often say it should be absolutely impossible to doubt there's a God when a legitimate miracle occurs. I mean, when an invisible God moves in great power and does the impossible, what else is there to discuss?
The signs, wonders and miracles I've experienced over the last 49 years of my life are too numerous to list, though I've written about many of them in my books (burton.tv/shop). My life has been changed time and again as God revealed his love and power through stunning, incredible miracles that are fully indescribable in the natural. Only a loving Creator could move in that way.
People who reject God don't typically experience wonders like healings, or they explain them away. Financial miracles are foreign to them. Prophecy that comes to pass is dismissed. They just can't grasp the reality of a God who moves in the lives of those who love him.
True peace, joy and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.
"You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
Speaking of miracles, when depression, fear and darkness are suddenly dispersed by a strange and wonderful supernatural invasion, you are forever free!
I love seeing before and after photos of people that depict the transformation of Jesus. Before surrendering to Jesus, you can often see emptiness, and afterward, their countenance is erupting with joy and freedom.
How glorious is it to rest in God's peace that passes all understanding and to rejoice with joy that's unspeakable and full of glory.
It's an awesome thing when two strangers meet, and they both know the other is a believer. The presence of God is on them. The joy of the Lord is evident. Sadly, the lost cannot know this freedom outside of meeting Jesus and falling in love with him.
They have settled for counterfeit love.
"Jesus answered him, "If a man loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him'" (John 14:23).
I'd encourage you to read my article "The Great Love Deception" for a comprehensive look at how both the world and the church are falling for counterfeit love:
As God's love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.
God's love looks and feels very different than most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.
They haven't heard God's voice.
"Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know" (Jer. 33:3).
My book Revelation-Driven Prayer is a handbook that will help you discover the wonder of God's voice. When God talks, it absolutely shocks and rocks us to our core! His voice is life-giving and life-altering.
The Bible tells us that it's his sheep who hear his voice. The lost are wandering without a guide. They simply need to cry out to God in desperation and be amazed at the voice that bellows from the heavens.
God's voice is real, not some weird, imagined sci-fi style message. God talks to us. We know His voice. Those who reject God implement radio silence.
Dreams and visions are foreign to them.
"'In the last days it shall be,' says God, 'that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams'" (Acts 2:17).
My life has been impacted beyond description by the communication of God through dreams and visions. When you have a "God dream," you just know it. His truth explodes through imagery that is delivered in ways only a deity could. Mysteries are revealed. Questions are answered.
I've written about several of my dreams and encounters with God in articles and books, and have taught on them many times. Other believers all over the world have had even more dramatic encounters. Those who reject God are not in tune with Him and therefore don't regularly receive from Him in this way. Of course, God has and will visit people who have rejected him, giving them an opportunity to surrender all and follow Him. It happened with the apostle Paul. It happens with Muslims today. It happens with many who have hit rock bottom. But it isn't until we develop intimacy with Jesus that the dreams and visions become normal in our daily lives.
They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.
Now the works of the flesh are revealed, which are these: adultery, sexual immorality, impurity, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I previously warned you, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).
The allure of the flesh is powerful and satisfying, and many who reject Jesus simply don't think surrendering to their passions are that big of a deal.
The enemy is very good at bringing confusion in hopes of validating sin in people's lives. Further, people presume God to simply be a "good guy" who is unconcerned with behavior and is smiling on them from far away. In fact, many delusional Christians believe in similar ways.
My article "Five Marks of the False Grace Message" will bring clarity to this point.
God is holy. God is aligned against those who choose to reject Him and His love—until they turn from their wickedness. Then He will run to them and embrace them and welcome them as sons and daughters. What a glorious God we serve!
As anyone who was living in rebellion to Jesus before leaving their life of sin behind. They are alive! They live in the fear and love of Jesus, and they would not have it any other way. The transformation is very real indeed!
They haven't experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.
"When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31).
When the power of God truly hits, natural man yields to supernatural wonder.
Suddenly we are aligned and calibrated with the heart and nature of God in ways we could never have experienced before this baptism.
The moment I was baptized in power is the moment timidity disappeared from my life. No amount of counseling could have done that. Positive thinking was futile. It was only when God himself burned through me like a fire and transformed me in ways I'll never be able to explain.
A supernatural force is ready to invade any who would ask.
How powerful would it be for another Azusa revival to erupt, except this time among those in Hollywood. Can you imagine a Holy Spirit fire burning in people like Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and others?
I'm not sure why I mentioned Hollywood at this point of the article, but as I'm sitting here in Starbucks writing this, a spirit of intercession came over me. Let's all pray for a supernatural invasion of the Holy Spirit to interrupt movie sets throughout Hollywood!
The Word of God isn't alive to them.
"For the word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
A barometer of spiritual vitality is when reading the Bible causes us to come alive. Reading the Word of God intellectually, as those who don't know Jesus are limited to, doesn't bring life. But when we are intimate with God, the Bible comes to life. The truths are enlightening beyond measure. You can't get enough!
What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).
They simply don't believe. They are skeptics. Without faith, people are hopeless.
They must be convinced that, yes, there is an invisible God who loves them and who is ready to come to their rescue.
Again, the number of times God has manifested in miraculous ways in my life rocks me. Oh, is He real! When we walk by faith and not by sight, everything changes.
Their prayers have gone unanswered.
"We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him" (John 9:31).
The prayer of sinners God hears is the prayer of repentance, surrender and brokenness.
Those who don't know God yet expect God to respond to their cries for personal satisfaction will forever be disappointed. It's when we truly surrender all that God will hear our cry and move on our behalf.
Further, even Christians will go through desert times when the voice of God isn't booming. God doesn't just answer every email we send to him. He moves deliberately though often very mysteriously. He is to be trusted, not used.
They are unconcerned about eternity.
Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. For you know perfectly that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape (1 Thess. 5:1-3).
There is no urgency. Today it's becoming rare for people to live in the fear of the Lord or at least acknowledging the severity of unavoidable eternity that rests just beyond the horizon.
They live for today. The need for God isn't strong. There is life to live.
God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.
They did not receive the love for the truth that they might be saved. Therefore God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:10b-12).
From my article "These Are Words We Never Want to Hear God Say":
How strange (and troubling) it is that God would do this. In His wisdom, He opens and closes the window of opportunity for people to come to Him.
Most often we presume people have until the day they die to turn to the Lord. This isn't the case. There are many who have been turned over to delusion. Eyes have been blinded. Others have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It's too late.
Many are nearing the point of no return, and for a significant number of them it will come well before they die. They will be spiritually hopeless, fully dead, possibly decades before an obituary is written.
This is a terrifying reality, and it should increase our urgency for intercession and evangelism.
I'm so terribly grieved when people reject Jesus. The price he paid for all to know him was so great. His love is so deep. The lives people could live if they only fell in love with Jesus would be miraculous. I hate that so few choose to live this way.
I wrote an article titled "Christianity: Failed mission or glorious victory? Yes."
Jesus died for all, but so few will be saved.
There are many reasons people reject Jesus, including the few I revealed here. People say no to Jesus day after day, no matter how much God loves them and no matter how great their lives could be should they surrender.
I don't understand it. I despise it. I'm wrecked.
If you aren't radically in love with Jesus, be you an unbeliever or a Christian, please know that God is ready to pour out his Spirit on you! The miracles and wonders are waiting for you. Yes, the sacrifice and surrender are very real. The brokenness can't be denied. The humility required to say no to our own selfish desires is costly. But, remember, we are talking about being intimately united with the ruler of the universe.
Who could reject such an opportunity?
How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation, which was first declared by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him? God also bore them witness with signs and wonders and diverse miracles and with gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His own will (Heb. 2:3-4).
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. A large and growing library of audio and video teachings, articles, books and other resources can be found on his website at www.burton.tv. John, his wife Amy and their five children live in Branson, Missouri.
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