— Brother Phil Enlow: None of this is meant to be condemning. It’s just reality. This is what salvation is about. You know, I’ve made the point many times from the scripture in Romans 5. It’s not the death of Christ that saves us. That’s what gets rid of our sins…that opens the door so I can be saved.
Salvation is God changing me, delivering me from sin’s power, delivering me so that my sin is not the thing, the principle that’s in control of my life, but His life is! I’m saved by His life. That’s what has to come in and be expressed in me.
But oh, how we express other stuff. And the only way God can deal with that is to bring stuff into your life and into mine that challenges that. And so, in that sense, He is our adversary. It’s not that He’s against us. He’s against the things that would kill us.
Folks, if He left us alone, and we followed our nature, it would lead to death. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got a God who loves us enough to say I’m not gonna just let that happen. I’m gonna do stuff to wake them up, to call them out, to show them that there is another way, there’s another kingdom they can be a part of.
So anyway, but if we’re wrong…you remember the saying that came into our midst so many years ago: You’re wrong, even if you’re right, if your spirit is wrong. See that’s the issue that God is most concerned about.
So, what are some of the examples of this? Obviously, there are ones that we use all the time. Paul is an example of somebody used greatly to the point where pride was a potential problem. And God understands human nature enough to know, Paul, you’re really struggling with this. I’ve got to help you out. So, the form of help that He gave him was a demon.
Now, by a lot of the messages of today, He should have been able to snap his fingers and command that demon of go, and it would have gone, and that would have been the end of it. But that didn’t work. He had to contend with that. There was a…there was something pushing against him that he had to fight. He had to stand against it.
Sometimes, it is having done all, to stand, because God had more of a purpose in that thing continuing a bit so that Paul could learn something. He could learn, I can’t trust in my own strength. None of this is happening because of me. I bring the weakness to Him, and He gives me His strength.
That’s where it’s at anyway. Isn’t that the life of the Kingdom? Where does it come from? You? You think He invited us into His Kingdom because we’re so smart and can add so much? All we can do is present ourselves and say, God, fill me. Make me into the one you have called and envisioned as part of Your Kingdom.
You infuse into me the life of the world to come and change me so that that’s the life I live out here and do it in the community of believers so that together we can grow up, and we can live here as an expression of the Kingdom, but we can also be being prepared for that. That’s what this is all about.
And so, Paul was doing that. And Paul finally got it. He said, no, I’m gonna boast about something a whole lot different. I’m not gonna boast about all these wonderful visions I had. I’m gonna boast about how weak I am. Isn’t it great?
But you see a real work of grace it took. That wasn’t just blowing smoke saying what he knew he was supposed to say. That had become a revelation to him. God, You are my adversary in a real sense, but you really weren’t against me. You were my adversary in a real sense, but You weren’t against me. You were against that part of me that was gonna hold me back. And so, I get it, Lord. I accept it. I worship You. I trust You in this. And Lord, I’m just gonna go forward and serve You, because I know Your strength is what does it anyway.
So, do you see a reconciliation of Paul? Isn’t that a wonderful thing that happened on the way? What would have happened had Paul not gotten reconciled to this? You think it would have affected His ministry? Yeah. If he’d started to get a bitter spirit, God, I’m serving You. Look at all the stuff I went through for You. I’ve preached. I’ve sacrificed. And Lord, You won’t even make this devil go. God, this is not fair. I don’t feel good.
You know, all the stuff that we gravitate to. And if he’d allowed a bitterness to take root in his heart, do you think that would have affected his ministry? Do you think those things affect us? Yeah.
That’s what God is wanting to help us with. So anyway, Peter is another obvious example where the Lord saw that he wasn’t as capable and able as he thought he was and allowed the devil to test him. You know, we’ve been through this so many times, but the principle…you see how God was behind it? Even though the devil came and was his adversary, God said okay. Go ahead. Go for it.
The same thing in Job. God wanted to do something for Job that could only be done as he went through that hard experience that he went through. It certainly teaches us. But Job learned something about himself. He learned things about God, and when he was done, he was a different person from the one that went into that circumstance. God was not working…was his adversary in one sense, but He was working for him in eternal ways.
You know, the poster child for all of this would certainly be Joseph. Here’s a man that God had raised up with a glorious future, a promise of exaltation to a place of real honor and service. So, what was the pathway that led him to that?
His brothers, first of all, conspiring to kill him. And then so they get something out of the deal, they sell him. So, they got some money out of it, instead of just throwing him in a pit. They sell him as a slave.
Do you think they slipped up on God, or do you think maybe God had a purpose in all of that? Yes, God had a purpose in all that.
Now, I tell you, it went from bad to worse. We’ve been through the story many times. But Joseph wound up being falsely accused, thrown in jail, but the things about it that just stands out as a shining light should be a shining light to every one of us. In every bit of that, he never got bitter. He never…let me say it this way. We see the bottom line that he didn’t get bitter, didn’t allow bitterness and anger to take root in his spirit and poison him.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t go through hell getting to that point. This is a human being. I’ll guarantee there was anguish. There were questions. There was crying out to God. There was weeping. There was all these…God, why did this happen? But yet, there was something in him that said, I will trust God in spite of it all.
And here was a circumstance where he truly was innocent. What happened to him was evil, was wrong. If there’s anybody, anywhere that had the right to say I’m right, and all of you are wrong, and I’m justified in having feeling about that, that was the guy. Well, there was one who exceeded that by leaps and bounds. Moses, other heroes of faith, you go through, you see the same principle worked out.
But look at Jesus. Now, here you go…here’s a picture of what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. In 1st Peter chapter 2, is one scripture that is very relevant to this. You know, we read last week or recently anyway about our being living stones built into a spiritual house and all of that. But down here, he begins to talk about how you live for God in the world. We’re meant to express God’s Kingdom here. What does that look like?
And he talks about how we’re, though we’re part of a different kingdom, we’re not rebels against the authorities that there are. We pay our taxes. We obey the laws and that sort of thing. But down here, he’s talking about somebody who is doing good and suffering, and they’re called to endure it.
In verse 21 it says, “To this you were called…” (NIV). How many of you knew that’s what you were called to do? You sometimes suffer for things, and you’re innocent, but you’re suffering anyway. How many of you understood that’s part of the call of the Kingdom? Wow! Let’s go! But that’s part of it, isn’t it?
“…Because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” You talk about the utter example of innocence? That was Him. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate…” (NIV). You want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like? “…When he suffered, he made no threats.”
So, what did He do? “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” You need healing today? It’s not talking about just the physical. He’s talking about this other stuff that we’re talking about.
“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Was it last week or the week before, we read from Isaiah 53, “…as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (KJV). They beat Him. They did all the things that they did, and there wasn’t anything…there wasn’t even a moment when He retaliated and reacted in human anger.
God gave Him the strength to do that. But, He made a choice to humble Himself to that and to seek the strength of God so He could do that. So, you see where human choice comes into this, in a big way. He made that kind of a choice.
And you go and you walk…you look at the scriptures…well, I’ll look at one quickly here in Matthew chapter 27, a pretty good example of some of what He had to endure. Imagine what it would be like, walking to the cross knowing you’re innocent. And so, they were…verse 39, let’s just pick up some of this.
“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. He saved others, they said, but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants…” (NIV).
Oh, my goodness. It’s just on and on and on heaping insults. You know, we sang the song this morning about how I heard ‘my’ mocking voice. Folks, when we were a part of the world, that’s the side we were on until God…unless God has changed your heart and made our identification with Him instead of with the crowd.
So, what was His reaction? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Man, it takes the grace of God for us to be like that. Oh my, how we need Him. But is that not what…is that not what God’s Kingdom is about? Isn’t it about making us into the image of Christ? Isn’t that what the Kingdom will look like in the future…is everyone of us conformed to the image of Christ, “…that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
That’s the whole deal. Is there some magic button He pushes when we suddenly leave this world and we go to the other side? Or is God gonna do what it takes until that day? I guarantee there’s work that’s going on in people on the other side, but it isn’t done like it is here with the ‘in your face’ adversity. But I’ll tell you, we have a God who’s gonna do His job.
So, what is the thing now about getting out of prison? Suppose you’re in prison. That’s a silly point. We’re all in prison, in some degree. There are issues in everyone of our lives where we are in captivity. We’re not as free as God wants us to be. And it’s because there are covered-up wounds that have been allowed to get down in here and get buried, and they continue to rise up and cause us issues. But what do we do about it?
Well, the first thing, I’m gonna come back to this thing that I said about Jesus. It’s a matter of choice. What God has done for us, what He has taught us, puts the ball in your court and in mine. Getting out of prison is our choice. We’re not just victims of divine something or other that we have no say in the matter.
I mean, yes, there are circumstances that go on, but you can be in a circumstance like Joseph was in prison, and not be ‘in prison.’ He may have been in man’s prison, but he wasn’t in the other one that we’re talking about. There was still a freedom in here to serve God.
That’s the prison that we need to be concerned about. You can be out here free as a bird in the eyes of men and be full…be in prison. You can be in prison and be free. But getting out of prison, the choice is ours.
In 1st Peter chapter 5, it certainly is a scripture that we’ve used many times, and it’s very relevant here, where Paul says…I’m sorry, Peter says, “All of you…” verse 5, the last part of it, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…” Why? “…Because, God opposes the proud.”
Does that sound like an adversary to you? God opposes. Have you ever been in a position where you’re adamant about your rightness, and there’s something you know? And finally, you get it. You say, oh yeah, God doesn’t like that. He’s against that. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So, what’s the key then? “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand.” Recognize that the things that He allows in our lives are by His permission, not to hurt us but to do us ultimately good by killing the things that would destroy us, and allowing us to lay hold of that which would give us life and make us more like Him.
And that requires a whole different way of looking at the adversities of life than we tend to do. No longer is the issue what they did, or this, or the injustice of that situation. It becomes, what is my reaction to this. Lord, I humble myself into Your hands. I know that You’re the author of this circumstance because You want to do me good.
Lord, give me understanding. I want to humble myself and be the kind of person You want me to be. I’m not gonna sit here and play the blame game and the angry game and the bitter game and all that kind of stuff. Lord, I need You. “Humble, yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” There’s a due time. Thank God!
“Cast all your anxiety on him…” and do we have that to deal with. And we can do that because he cares. “…He cares for you.”
And in that context now, “Be self-controlled and alert.” Because we do have an enemy, but God wants us to have, to be so full of Him that we can stand and live as the children of light in the world.
What about the principle of forgiveness? Isn’t that kind of important to this one? Matthew chapter 18, a familiar scripture. And this is where Peter says, “…How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” You know, it doesn’t even say right here that he sinned against me, and he’s coming and falling on his face and said you’re right. I’m wrong. I repent. It doesn’t even say that. He said sinned against me. Up to seven times? Boy, he thought he was being really spiritual.
( laughter ).
“Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven…” Oh, we’ve got the Kingdom coming in here, don’t we? “…The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.” That’s a lot of money.
“Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything. The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.” Lunch money, basically. “He grabbed him and began to choke him. Pay back what you owe me! he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, Be patient with me, and I will pay you back. But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”
And so, remember what happened? The other servants told the master. And, the principle was, look, I forgave you all of that, and you’re not dealing with other people the way I’ve dealt with you.
Folks, I don’t care who you are and what has happened in your life. It could be something really terrible. But nothing that has happened to us as a result of even some evil or wrong in somebody else, is as great as what God has forgiven us. And if we don’t get that, we’re gonna be always in that position of blaming and condemning and finding fault and all of that.
I’ll tell you. God can take care of stuff. Don’t worry, He will, and He has. So, the issue, trusting God, leaving issues to Him…sometimes there are issues that we just have to walk away from.
But here’s another one, and this comes from that same passage in Matthew chapter 5 about seeing God. Who are those who see God? The pure in heart! He’s not talking about seeing an image one day. He’s talking about discerning the hand of God in the events of our life!
There’s a condition of heart that enables us to see God is the author of this! He has a purpose in it! I’m trusting in Him, as opposed to reacting like everybody else would.
I want to have that kind of a heart that humbles myself before Him and learns from Him and says, Lord, what’s important to You is that I become like You, not that I get my way and have a smooth life.
And here’s another thing about forgiveness. If it’s gonna get us out of prison, it’s gonna have to be unconditional. There are hurts. There are wounds. There are things that get buried in our lives. It’s the devil’s job to bury junk and poison in our spirits. And we’re gonna have to forgive. We’re gonna have to be willing to say the issue is not anything that’s happened to me or who’s to blame. It’s me and the changes God wants to make in me so that I can be free.
But the other dimension is this. If we are unwilling to do that, who are we really angry at? Are we not angry at God? Is He not in charge? Is He not working for us and not against us?
Oh, may God grant us the grace to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, to grow up in our understanding of Him so that we can trust Him, we can let go, we can put things in His hands and go on and be free. And I say we, because every single one of us is affected. But we’ve got a God who is merciful.
You know, one of the Old Testament scriptures that talks about the coming of the Messiah was He’s gonna heal the broken hearted. Do you know that there’s…if you’re one this morning, He longs to heal!
But who’s the one that has the choice? Are we willing to come to Him and say, Lord, this is the real need? Help me. There is Someone who will help and who will heal whatever is gone on in anybody’s heart and life who just wants to come to Him, and say, God, I want to be part of Your Kingdom. Set me free. I want to be an expression of Your life and be like Jesus. I have no power to do that. Forgive me, cleanse me, help me. He’ll do that, won’t He, because that’s the kind of a Savior we have. Praise God!