“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Restoring Our Shields of Gold, by Randall D. Kittle

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Our God is a God of restoration. Ever since the Garden of Eden He has been doing a restoring work. Satan comes stealing and destroying, and the Lord returns to us abundant life. It started in the Garden of Eden, and it won’t end until everything is completed that is written in the book of Revelation. From beginning to end the Bible is a book of restoration because that is the very nature of our God.

Nowhere is this restoring work more needful than in the Church. In the days ahead the Church will be renewed, restored, rekindled, and refined before the Lord returns. In fact, some of the most important passages of Scripture to understand in the coming days will be the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation. Why does the Church need renewal and restoration? We need restoration of purity and holiness because the Scriptures tell us that we will be
“a bride without spot or wrinkle,” and as of yet we still need more than a little “dry-cleaning.” We need a restoration of power and purpose because Jesus promised we would do “greater works.” In fact, we will have to be restored to the greatness God has destined and designed for the Church in order to stand in the days ahead — days, the Bible says, that will be draped in a deep darkness of wickedness like those in the time of Noah.

God spoke to me recently about one aspect of His restoring work. He said,
“I am restoring the Church's shields of gold.” To understand this word, we need to look at 1 Kings 14:21-28.

Shields Of Bronze
“Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother's name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 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.

“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the Lord's temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom.”

Following Judah’s backsliding, Shishak attacked Israel taking back to Egypt the treasures of the king's palace and the Temple. (This must have been one of the richest plunders of all time since Solomon had been the richest man in all history.) Included in the spoil were the shields of gold that Solomon had made. These gold shields were in the guard room by the palace, and were held by the guards as they escorted King Solomon to the Temple. They displayed the splendor and glory of their God and the rich blessing He had poured upon Israel. But now they were gone.

What was Rehoboam’s response? To cover his embarrassment he made shields of bronze in lieu of the missing golden shields. “We’ve got this great ceremony going on. Let’s keep it going. We have plenty of bronze around here. Let's make shields of bronze to replace the shields of gold we’ve lost. After all, bronze is goldish in color, and it’s shiny. Things will still look pretty much the same.” When Rehoboam went from the palace to the Temple, the same number of guards accompanied him, all carrying large metal shields shining in the sunlight. While at first glance things might have looked unchanged, everyone could see it was the sheen of bronze not the splendor of gold. Imagine the guards who had carried the shields of gold, who had seen the shining display of the glory and blessing of God, and now had to go through the same ceremony with these bronze shields. What a letdown! How embarrassed the people of Jerusalem must have been when they saw the king’s procession pretending to have the glory of bygone days.

If only the Church felt the same sadness over the bronze shields she continues to perform with. Yes, much of the American “churchianity” has been robbed of her golden shields. Instead of admitting it, though, we press on by waving shields of bronze. The power and presence are gone, but the programs and performances remain; like an empty cocoon reminding us that the enveloped life has flown away. We are busy putting on the glitz, and hoping noone notices we have only bronze instead of gold. Because of our backslidden condition, we too have lost our shields of gold — God’s glorious presence, and have substituted the bronze shields of religious busyness — performance without power! Much of our church activity today is simply bronze trying to shine like gold. Too much of our church-life has become
“… a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). We have spent our time polishing up the bronze, when we should be getting back the gold.

While bronze can be made to shine, it can never take the place of gold. Many lukewarm believers will never notice the difference, but the world knows we have been robbed. How many "bronze" revival services take place every day across North America? How much "bronze" worship takes place every week — more performance than praise, more worked-up than worship? Our general lack of persecution should be a clue as to having lost our gold. You see, this form of lifeless religion is well tolerated by the world, for it is little more to them than a show, a staged performance. To add injury to our insult, this brand of religion is of little threat to the enemy. We will not overcome the enemy waving shields of bronze. Religious busyness may get us excited and tire us out, but it will never turn back the enemy and take ground for the kingdom.

Accept No Substitute
This “bronze shield Christianity” so rampant across our land is a new brand of replacement theology, where we have replaced the way of Christ with a form of lifeless churchianity. And the Lord is calling us in our day to discard the cheap imitation. The Holy Spirit is telling us to "accept no substitute," for there truly is none. We need to repent for we have been offering the world a “generic substitute.”

I remember years ago when I tried to help my wife with the grocery shopping after my oldest daughter was born. She would send me to the store with a list of the things we needed. Some things on the list were quite general (like milk or cheese), while other items were listed by the exact brand she wanted (Tide, Downy, etc.). I often tried to help us save some money by picking up a generic or “off-brand” item for the name-brand one she had listed. A good generic tries to look as much like the brand-name as possible, so you will believe the content will also be equivalent. While they are usually packaged a lot like the original, they are much cheaper in price. I was often lured into trying the generic to save some money. I had to learn the hard way that while some generic and “off-brands” can be fine, this is generally not the case. Nearly always the generic brands turned out to be much less powerful and effective. This was the case with one of my attempts when I picked up a generic instead of my wife’s requested Tide laundry detergent. I soon discovered that Tide was telling the truth when they said that only the original formula had the proven deep-cleaning power!

It is the same in the kingdom of God. Performances and soulish energy, programs and services designed to meet the needs of everyone surveyed, will never change lives like encounters with the living God. Only Jesus’ presence in our lives and His power flowing through our lives have the “deep-cleaning power” to transform the lives of others. The Church needs to quit offering the world a generic alternative and return to God's “gold standard.”

Instead of falling to the low place of making imitations to put on a pretense, Rehoboam should have fallen on his knees in repentance and contrition. What was needed was God's presence, not godly-appearing pretense. Rehoboam needed to be broken and desperate to regain what had been lost. Like Moses, he should have cried out “we can’t go on unless your presence goes with us. We can live without the symbol — the shields of gold, but never without the substance — the glorious presence of God with us.” If this had been the cry of his heart, Judah would have had revival — instead of mere pomp and ceremony.

The gold of God’s presence will be with us when we repent of choosing our way and once again embrace His Way. This return to “the gold standard” we so desperately need will not happen to us corporately until it happens to us individually. We need to repent of “playing church,” and instead embrace Christlikeness. This means to be doing the works of Jesus — laying down our lives (our time, our agenda) for others, discipling the faithful, ministering to those we come in contact with (see a “job description” in Isaiah 61). It is high time we began truly being “Christians,” which means
“little christs.” It is time for the Body of Christ to be like Christ when He was in His earthly body! We need to die to self so we can live to Christ! We need both the crucifixion and resurrection in our lives. After all, who wants to be buried in baptism without coming back up?! It is not sufficient to wonder “What Would Jesus Do,” we must find out “What Is Jesus Doing” and be doing it! It is time for Galatians 2:20 to no longer be just an oft quoted Bible verse, but the testimony of our lives. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in Me."

God is promising that He will restore to the Church the shields of gold — His glorious presence. It is up to us to respond. Do we want His presence, or will we settle for some seemingly spiritual pretense? It is time for us to press on past the gleam and glitter of the polished bronze of living acceptable American Christian lives, and recover the glorious treasure God has given us — the very life of Christ living in us.


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