— Brother Phil Enlow: I don’t know, I’ve been back and forth in my mind and I’m just going to go ahead and read a scripture and trust the Lord to bring out what He wants. It’s in 1st John chapter 3.
And you know, as we go from week to week, I find myself saying, well, Lord, we’re saying the same old thing, time and time again. But yet, I believe there are things that He wants to emphasize.
And I appreciate what Matt said the other day. He made the comment that, to that effect, that we’re hearing a lot of the same things but yet…we’re layering in truth. There’s kind of a breadth and a depth to what the Lord…to the picture the Lord wants to get…wants us to get, because it isn’t just a simple matter of, oh yeah, that’s true and then we go on with our lives. There are things the Lord wants to bury deep in us, a lot deeper than just our intellect.
And, I am as keenly aware of that as anybody, because of my own needs. But I thank God for His faithfulness! This isn’t dependent upon us. Ultimately, it’s dependent upon Him. And so, I’ll just read about three verses here and then we’ll just sort of start and see where the Lord goes with it.
John writes these words, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (NIV).
Now, this verse, this passage, as is the case with every scripture passage, occurs in a context, doesn’t it? We talked about that last week. We read verses surrounding the thought that I had. And John is writing late in the first century to believers to encourage them, but also there’s a particular need.
You know, there were many ways in which Satan attacked the people of God. One of them is obviously persecution. There were some terrible persecutions in the first century. But the most effective, perhaps, and subtle of his attacks, was with that which was false. There were supposed believers that came in among the believers and they really weren’t believers.
There were teachers that supposedly represented a message from God, but they weren’t. And so, there needed to be some real teaching and understanding on how to tell the difference…what’s real and what isn’t. And so, part of that is on the scope of the assembly and how we see things, how we understand the difference.
But a lot of it is also on a personal level. How do we know that we’re His? You know, what’s the difference? What are the signs of the difference? And so, he talks about many things. I’ll just quickly summarize.
But, you know, he begins talking about the fellowship. That’s the basis of everything. This is a real, organic relationship between us and God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That brings us into a place of a relationship one with another.
And so, the first thing that he deals with is the fact that we walk in the light because He is in the light. He’s nothing but light. So, if we walk in the light, then we have that fellowship, but if we walk in darkness, there’s a deception going on there. So, you see somebody who’s not really walking with the Lord, their life doesn’t reflect what they say, there’s reason to say, wait a minute here, something’s not right.
And, he goes on, and yet, he talks about the fact that he’s not talking about Christian perfectionism. He’s talking about the fact that we have a heart toward God so that when there are things that are needful to repent of, we have a place to go. There’s a fountain that flows. We can come and there’s a place of forgiveness and cleansing and acceptance, not based upon us, but based upon the justice of God in having already punished the sin of which we’re guilty! That’s the amazing thing about the Cross. Praise God!
And he goes on and talks about things like the love of the world, and the love of the brethren and all those kinds of things. We often read a scripture about, don’t love the world, if you love the world the love of the Father isn’t in you. There’s a real clear picture there. And so, you find somebody who says, I know God, but obviously their life doesn’t reflect that, something’s…there’s a question. And he talks about false teachers coming in.
And then this is where he gets to this point. And, he’s about to launch into the point that somebody who really comes to the Lord, there is that difference in their life. They don’t just say, oh, I believe in Jesus and then go back to the life they were living…you know, go to the same places, hang out with the same people, have the same loves and same interests. That just doesn’t jive. That doesn’t go together.
And so, “No one…” it says in verse 6 here, of this same chapter, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” So, these are some of the guidelines he’s talking about.
One of the most often recurring things, though, is the love of the brethren. You know he talks about, later on, if you say you love God…how can you love God, whom you haven’t seen, and you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen? It doesn’t fit. If we really, genuinely experience the love of God in our hearts, that will be reflected in our spirit towards one another. And that’s one of the main things that is a sign of what God is doing.
And you know, he talks about false teachers coming in and we’ll know them because they have this independent spirit. They don’t recognize that Jesus is here. It’s not just that He came, back there, but He’s here. He has come in the flesh and He resides—He continues to reside in the flesh of His body.
So, you’ve got somebody who comes in and they’re just gonna stand here and tell you, but they won’t listen. See, there’s something wrong with that. There’s another spirit involved. And what a glorious truth he gives us there that, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
And of course, chapter 5 deals a whole lot with the reality that we can know that we know Him. God wants His children to have a solid foundation for knowing that we know Him.
But this passage that I read is right smack in the middle of the book, I didn’t count the verses…but John wants us, wants his readers, but he wants us by extension, to understand the ground upon which we stand, in a deeper way, in a clearer way. Anybody here a candidate for that?
( congregational response ).
Yeah! I mean, we know it intellectually, but emotionally we just don’t quite live up to what we know. And, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
The Greek is very simple. I remember my…what little Greek I did study…the book where we started, as an example of Greek, was the Book of 1st John, because the language is so simple, it’s almost like, ‘See John run. Run, run, run.’ You know, it’s the way you start reading.
But, there’s a simplicity about this fisherman that God anointed to write stuff. “God is love.” In Him is no darkness at all. Those kinds of sentences are just so simple to get.
And, the King James, in this instance, uses the word, ‘manner.’ “Behold, what manner…” (KJV). What kind? What sort is the love of God? And that’s a pretty big—that’s a pretty big thing to think about, because we have ideas in this world as to what love is, but we have no idea!
I mean, when you talk about any earthly love, I don’t care how noble it feels, and how deep and strong and all of that, it doesn’t even begin to compare with the love that forms the foundation for you and for me! And this is one of the things he wants us to understand. The foundation you and I stand upon has nothing to do with what we are. It has everything to do with a God whose whole nature is love!
We’ve said this over and over again, but I feel the need in my own heart to get this in a deeper way! Oh, the kind of love that He has shown to us simply doesn’t exist in this world. We talked last week about the amazing picture of our Savior before the world was, when He was fashioning these incredible stars, and all the immensity of it and yet, right down to the subatomic level every detail is exactly what it needed to be to uphold the universe.
And right now, He’s holding it up! You know why the stars hold their orbit? Because He says so! This is an amazing Savior!
And for someone like that, to come down, in spite of what we are…without that even being an issue, as to what we are, as people, when He’s reaching out to us. And to come down, not only to say, hey, I’m for you, I want you to be part of my family, I love you and all of that, but to turn that into a personal sacrifice of the level that He did. I mean, we could say the words, but I’ll tell you, when you talk about the love of God…we’ve mentioned this so many times.
How many times…what did Paul say in Ephesians 3? He wanted the Christians to get, “…the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (NIV), the immensity of His love. There’s no searching the end of it. With all my heart I believe that we’re not gonna plumb the depths of His love in all eternity! It is just so rich and so unimaginable!
And how hard we struggle, to somehow see that God can love somebody like us, especially when we become aware of our shortcomings and what we are and what we aren’t. To try to come to terms with the reality that God’s love is not dependent upon us and who and what we are! Thank God for the love that He has shown!
And not just that we should be called “subjects” of His Kingdom. You know, I’ll let you into a corner of my Kingdom. We’re His “children”! His children! Not just His subjects. But to be willing to share Himself with us and change everything about us, that’s amazing!
You know, if you and I were thinking about building an eternal kingdom and we decided we were gonna go out among human society and recruit members for our kingdom, do you think we might have a little different set of criteria than He does? Oh, my God! We’d look for the mighty, we’d look for the talented, we’d look for the good-looking, we’d look for the ones with strong will-power and great ideas and, oh man, we’re gonna really build something.
Well, who did Jesus recruit? Wow! Jesus said, I know there’s somebody…I know a good candidate for this Kingdom. And I know your normal way of getting to Galilee is to cross the river, go north, re-cross, ‘cause you won’t have to go anywhere near those ugly Samaritans. I mean, no good Jew would dare to go among the Samaritans. That’s not the people we’re interested in. They’re just a bunch of half-breeds. They’re just…we don’t want them. But they went through Samaria.
And they were hungry, so the disciples went to the nearest village to buy food…and there’s Jesus waiting by a well. And a woman comes out in an unlikely time of day, by herself. And instead of being a good Jew and turning His back and saying I don’t want anything to do with this woman. Boy, there’s something wrong here. I’m in the middle of Samaria, and it’s obvious the Samaritans don’t care about her. So, why would I care?
But He immediately engages her in conversation, and wants a drink of water. And one thing leads to another, and it uncovers a revelation of what her life had been like. This was not your recruit. This is a woman who’s just desperately looking for love in all the wrong places. She’s had five husbands! And she’s with somebody else right now and they’re not married.
You wonder why the women didn’t want to hang around her. She’d probably been with all their men. And there she is, a social outcast in every possible sense of the word…and yet, remember Jesus did what the Father showed Him? This comes right straight from the heart of God Himself.
Do you see what love is like? It looks for the people who are in need. What she was had nothing to do with anything. Oh my God! That should give every one of us hope!
( congregational amens ).
You see what John is seeking to communicate here? The matter…how great is that love that would not only do what He did, but apply it to the worst of the worst…to go down there and say, if you’d have known who I was, you’d have asked me. I would have given you living water. And that kind of water springs up to everlasting life. He’s inviting her into this Kingdom.
He’s not…he can’t reach these guys in Jerusalem who think they know it all. But He goes out to somebody that the world would have despised. She was the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. And there’s the love of God reaching out and saying you are a citizen. I want you in my Kingdom.
Jesus did, “…not come to call the righteous...” He came to call “…sinners, to repentance.” And oh, how we live so much in the…I was going to say the reality, but the fact of what we have been, what we are naturally…this goes back to the question of identity we’ve talked about lately. Who am I?
And if you are that low-down, less-than somebody who’s human characteristics are this, and it gives me a disadvantage, and I’m this and I’m that and I’m not the other. I’m not strong. I’m not worthy. A thousand and one things the Devil will point out about you that are true, but in God’s economy every bit of that is completely irrelevant!
It’s not about who you are. It’s not about what you can do. It’s not about the prospects that you bring to the Kingdom of God so you can help God out, and then have a better Kingdom. God is looking for people who just surrender, and say, Lord, everything I am naturally leads to the grave. It leads to death. But you are offering me life at the cost of Your Son going to the Cross in my place. Lord, that’s what I want. I want you to come and make me a brand-new person.
If God can bring the human heart to that place, it doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what you’ve done in this world. There’s only one thing that matters at this point, and it’s the power of God to take nothing and make everything out of it!
( congregational response ).
That’s the power and the hope of the Gospel. Praise God! Praise God! To take somebody like that woman, and bring her to a place where she’s a child of God.
Now, do you think, thereafter, everybody looked down on her? I mean, the disciples and people in the Kingdom of God? Do you think God looked down on her? Do you think He always said, well, yeah, I let you in but I know what you are? Don’t you ever forget?
He wants us to come to a place where we can forget and leave everything about what we are in the past, be set free and go forward. I get that that’s a process, but that’s the reality. That’s the picture John is painting here.
He’s not saying you were all these things, you were this, you were that, and God sort of let you into His Kingdom, and now you got to muddle through…and try to live up to this religion you’ve embraced. This is a brand-new life.
There is a God in heaven. He did not do what He’s done for you based on you! It does not matter. If He can take somebody like that…if He can take somebody like Mary Magdalene…you know, we don’t know what her background is, but if she had seven devils it wasn’t good. I’m sure there was immorality in there. I’m sure there was a lot of stuff. She would have been a person who would have been an outcast in every sense.
Well, that poor woman…somebody lock her up, she’s having another spell. And yet Jesus cast those devils out of her and she became a follower. Did He look down on her because of her past? There was an honor. There was a respect. It’s not about your past, it’s about your future!
You see where God wants my focus to be? Do you see where He wants your focus to be? God sets people free from everything in their past and declares, you are my child! And it’s more than a declaration. There’s a literal birth that takes place when we give Him our heart! He comes in and He comes to live and there’s a brand-new you! Don’t you know you’re a child of God? “And that is what we are!”
That’s one little phrase that doesn’t exist in your King James and there’s a reason for that, because it was based on manuscripts that they had in the Roman Catholic Church. There are a whole lot of others that are a whole lot older, and that’s where that comes from. It’s a very simple thing in the Greek…in the Greek it’s something like, ‘behold what manner, or look what type of love the Lord has given you, that you should be called children of God…it’s children, not sons…children of God. And we are.’
It’s two words in Greek. You see how the meaning of that is kind of enlarged by saying, “And that is what we are!” Praise God! That’s the reality. Do you see the heart of John who wants to get that across? It’s not just, look what God’s done, that’s what you are!
Get this! If you get this, it will mean the difference between a defeated life, and a life that has purpose and meaning and looks forward to the very purpose for which God has done all…has shed this love upon your heart. It’s there. It’s real. God wants us to know what we are.
In fact, that’s as good a title as any. “What We Are.” Oh, praise God! You could go on and on with the people that God reached out to. The woman taken in adultery. I mean…Zacchaeus, the despised, short tax collector.
( laughing ).
I mean, from every human standpoint this was a guy that nobody thought much of, but Jesus did. He paid attention to this man. The Father said, that’s Mine right there. I know what he is in the eyes of men. But…oh, I have the power…my love has the power to change everything about his future! I can wipe away all that he is in himself and start brand-new.
I can make something happen that did not exist. If I can speak stars and galaxies into existence, I can speak new life into this man, and I can put away everything that he was, that would seem to cause him not to qualify for my Kingdom.
Oh, do you see what we need to be relying on? Do you see what we need to be getting free from? Oh God, help us! God, help us!
But one thing…I guess a major point out of this, is a very simple one. If I were to ask you how God sees us, what would you say? How does God see us?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah! How does He see us? Is He sitting there constantly looking at what you were and what you are and your weakness and all of that kind of stuff? Or is He saying, you’re My child? You’re my child. I love you. I have brought you to a place, I have given you life. I’ve already put away your past at the Cross. Don’t worry. It’s fading away. It’s on the clock and that clock’s gonna run out, and there’s gonna be nothing left but what I’m doing.
But I want…My focus is on you. I don’t see all that stuff that sticks to you, that clings to your heart. You can’t get free from what you are naturally to be what you are in my Kingdom. And God says, I don’t see you the way you see yourself. You see all of your weaknesses. You see all the reasons why God couldn’t love somebody like me. You feel the pull of doubt and struggles and all these kinds of things.
I don’t see you that way. I see you as my child! And I want you to know it. And that’s why I put that little exclamation in there. Behold…”How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”