When God Moves the Hedge: Part One
March 3, 2019
Transcript of message from TV Broadcast 1378 -- taken from Closed Captioning Text
— Brother Phil Enlow:
I’ve had a number of thoughts rambling around in my head and I’m just praying the Lord will make some sense out of them. You know, sometimes my mind seems to work in these big picture things and I’m going everywhere into something that you could take a year exploring. And obviously, that’s not always appropriate to take big things, but, I’ve sensed the Lord wanting to encourage His people.
I know there are a lot of things happening in lives and I believe the Lord wants us to have an understanding. And, a lot of times it’s not things that are totally new but we need to see them freshly. We need to see them with a sense of real perspective.
And you know, when you talk about encouraging people, encouragement has to have some sort of foundation, doesn’t it? You can’t just say, hey, be happy. There are reasons, there’s understanding that God wants us to have to enjoy and to have.
And the more we understand, the more we’re able to look at things, for example, the way Paul did. We heard that Wednesday night about how Paul could be sorrowful and yet rejoicing at the same time. And I believe God wants His people to have that kind of perspective, so that no matter what He calls upon us to go through and experience in our lives, we get it, we understand what its place is in God’s economy.
And I guess — you know, I was reading in my Bible reading. I think Ron and I are going through the Bible in chronological order. And so, I was reading the other day in Luke chapter 22, and this was the occasion when Jesus was arrested. And you know how He went to the garden, He talked and taught the disciples quite a bit.
We had that recorded in John, but then He has the occasion where the three hours of agonizing prayer, where He wrestled with what He was facing, and God gave Him strength and basically, the position He kept taking over and over again through all that battle was, God, not My will, but Yours be done. There was a sense in everything that Jesus did that He was a part of the outworking of a divine purpose.
You know, I believe it helps every one of us to see that there is a divine purpose and it isn’t always what we think it ought to be. We have a very earthly point of view. And so, He understood that for Him, the outworking of God’s purpose meant not having a happy earthly life, but giving it up in a tremendous, incredible sacrifice, the signal event of all history.
But there’s an interesting thing that He says to those who come to arrest Him, and I believe it’s in verse 52. “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.’” (NIV).
You know, there’s just something revealed in that. My mind went in every direction from reading that, because, do you know that there is a time when darkness reigns, when God takes His hands off of Satan and lets him do his thing? Not only that, that’s part of God’s purpose. And I believe we can see it in the big picture, but I believe God wants us to see it at every level, because of where we are in history, but where we are in our individual lives, because this affects us.
And, we see it in the life of Jesus plainly. Why did Jesus go, for example, into the wilderness? Who led Him there? God. Do you think the Devil could have just done what he did, if God hadn’t said, all right, I’m sending you out there to be tested? No. This was part of God’s plan.
And you know, the Scriptures are explicit as to the fact that Jesus was not just who He was, but He was a tested, tried stone. It uses that kind of analogy, that He’s someone who’s solid, someone who’s been there, who’s gone through every possible test. Every kind of temptation that you and I could ever think about facing, He faced.
And He made the right choices. He trusted God with everything and He recognized that He’d been given an earthly life, but this is not where it was at. This is not what He valued.
Folks, this is what we value more than we would like to think. We want our comfort, we want all these things. And here was Jesus called upon from the very beginning to lay down His life, to give up even the living out of His own will and His own comfort, and anything that had to do with My will and My way and My welfare in this world.
And so, He gave it up and then, of course, here we come to this and we see Him being literally turned over to the Devil to be executed. I mean, think about that. God’s taking His hand off and saying, all right, Devil, do your thing. Man, if we could really understand it, I’ll tell you, the Devil is behind every evil thing, but God is the One who has to take His hands off.
And you remember how Jesus warned Peter? He said — what did He tell Peter? He said, Satan has ‘asked’ that he might tempt you. I’m paraphrasing just a little bit. But Satan had to go and get permission from God to tempt him and to put him in the situation that wound up with him experiencing his own failure and ultimately — you can see God doing something wonderful in it, God doing something that is meaningful, that made him a stronger person, made him a better servant of God.
And of course, the great event or the great example, I guess, in the Scripture is Job, isn’t it? I mean, there’s Satan, we don’t know how in the world all this played out, but we do know that there was some kind of communication between God and the Devil about Job.
And who was it that brought up Job? I mean, talk about not wanting to fly under the radar, sneak around and say, hey, I’ve got a good God, I just don’t want to let the Devil know about it. This is God pointing him out, saying, there’s a man who serves Me, who loves Me, who’s faithful.
And the Devil says, yeah, You let me touch everything he’s got and we’ll see what happens. So the Lord said, go for it. In modern parlance, that’s how He would’ve said it.
And anyway, so we see the Devil — we see a little bit of what he’s capable of. He raises up heathen raiders to come and destroy his servants, his herds, one thing after another, there’s a disaster. And not only that, we see him mounting up a huge wind storm! Do you think the Devil can have something to do with the weather? But how did he get to exercise that power against Job’s family.
( congregational response ).
Yeah, God gave him permission to do that. You know, there’s a lot of stuff in our world that doesn’t make sense to anybody whose mind is worldly oriented. But God had a reason. God had a purpose in all of this.
And then, we see Job: he’s lost his family, he’s lost his possessions, he’s lost everything, from an earthly standpoint. And he says, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…” (KJV). To the ground, I guess…I’m gonna leave the world the same way. God gives. He takes away. “…Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Wow! How many of us would have had that kind of perspective under those circumstances? I mean, we are so geared to our own earthly welfare that if God does something bad, what did I do wrong? Where’s God in all of this? And yet, we see the outworking of something in Job’s life that ultimately brought him to a knowledge of God that was amazing.
And, I sense in my own life, there are things that happened — it’s like we came back from the meeting last week and it seemed like, one after another, so-and-so’s going through this, such-and-such a thing happened, Brian had a heart attack. And one thing after another, we see these needs, these serious needs that come up.
And I know how the Devil works, because he works on me the same way. It’s, oh God, just when I was ready to sit back and, whew. what else, what next? But I’ll tell you, we have Somebody on the throne who knows what He’s doing and He has a different value system than we do.
And so, then of course, the Devil goes back and Job hasn’t fallen, hasn’t denied the Lord, hasn’t taken a wrong position about all this, He says, all right, I get it. You take everything he has, that’s one thing, but you touch him, then we’ll see. So He says, all right you can do whatever you want, just don’t take his life.
And so he brings him into a place where he’s covered with boils from his head to his foot. How many of you have had one boil? It’s not fun, is it? How would you like to have it from your head to your foot? Yeah, so he was pretty miserable and the Devil said, I’ve got to do something more than that. I’ve got to drop some thoughts into his wife’s mind. You foolish man! “Curse God, and die.” Get it over with! I mean, what’s the point of doing all of this? What kind of a God are you serving anyhow?
Where did she get that inspiration? See, it isn’t just the stuff that happens. It’s the thoughts that come with it. It’s the wisdom that comes. And then he sends some theological friends around. And all they’ve got to work with is tradition. They learned their theology. It was a very simplistic thing. If you served God, you’re gonna be blessed. If you are wicked, you’re gonna be cursed. That was their whole deal, so obviously the problem is that he’s done something terrible. He needs to confess it and get rid of it, only he hasn’t. And this doesn’t fit their theology but they won’t give it up.
And ultimately, the Lord comes on the scene and He reveals Himself in a deep way and Job is ultimately more blessed than he was to begin with! And we see that even though he wobbled — he even wished he hadn’t been born. He went through some pretty deep waters, didn’t he? You know, real followers of God can feel some deep things.
You know, one of the things that I see that — and I know many of you see the same thing. There is a way that the Gospel is presented out there that is extremely misleading. ‘Accept Jesus’ — the very language there is not right. There’s something superficial about that. Accept Jesus and He’ll fill your life with peace and joy and happiness and blessing.
And, there’s an element of truth in that, but the way that it’s presented is, all of your problems are gonna go away. Life is gonna be smooth and sweet. God’s gonna be on your side. I mean, what natural man, listening to something like that, isn’t gonna gravitate to that?
And so, you have multitudes joining churches, making decisions, and God’s not even involved in the process many times. I mean, you’ve got somebody preaching by tradition. They have no more wisdom from God, in many cases, some cases at least, than Job’s comforter’s did. They’re giving out what they’ve been taught. Here’s how you get people saved. You tell them about all the wonderful things that are gonna happen. If they give their hearts to Jesus, they’re gonna have peace and joy and happiness and all of that.
And, that’s not how Jesus gave the Gospel, was it? He said, unless you give up your life and take up your cross and follow Me, you can’t be My disciple. Well, they’ll read a Scripture and say, oh yeah, that’s different. You can accept Jesus as Savior and that’s a free gift! Just take it and go! But being a disciple, now that’s a different thing. No, it isn’t. The call of the Gospel is a call of salvation! What is it that we need to be saved from?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah! And what the Gospel is presented so many times as, it’s a way to get rid of the guilt of the things that I have done. Well, thank God, it is that! That’s what Jesus’ shedding of His blood was for, was to take the punishment, to pay the penalty that I deserved and you deserve.
But man, I need to be saved — I feel like I’m covering the same ground in a way, but I pray that God can make it fresh. What I need to be saved from is me! It doesn’t matter if God gets rid of all of my guilt! What’s going to change if He doesn’t give me a new source of life to live within me and to motivate me to have a different viewpoint?
I’ll tell you, it takes a miracle for that to happen in a human life! And you’re gonna have to come to a point where you reckon on the reality of what you need! I’ll tell you, that’s the greatest need! It’s wonderful to come to a realization of who God is, who Jesus is! But if someone’s gonna be saved, they’re gonna have come to a realization of who they are! There’s gonna have to be a sense of need.
You know, I remember J.P.’s testimony. When God — it wasn’t even in a service, he didn’t come to an altar. It was just — God just faced him. Many of you could say the same thing. There came a time when God faced you with the reality of what you were and what your prospects are having to face God without something changing pretty drastically.
And so, here is God setting out to save a people and His objective is not to enhance earthly life! Thank God, He can bless! But His objective in everything that He does is to deliver me from me, and to engineer things in my life that cause me to make choices, that cause me to face trials and face difficulties.
And you know, I almost think about something like this — they say, oh my God, here we go again, we’re gonna talk about trials. Well, that’s kind of like life, isn’t it? I mean, you think about what it is that we face every single day and how the Devil works in that. But, like I said, here was God sending His Son out to be tempted!
And I guess one of the perspectives that I want to get in my own heart a little clearer is that everything that happens — we think of the big things, like the story of Job, but I want to say that everything that happens, if trouble crosses your path, if temptation crosses your path, where’s it coming from?
( congregational inaudible ).
Well, it’s coming from the Devil, but God is the One who has to take His hands back. You know, what the Devil complained to God about in the beginning of Job was, You’ve got a hedge about him. Thank God! Do you understand that there is a hedge?
( congregational response ).
There’s only — the Devil cannot do anything that is not part of God’s eternal purpose, and it is an ‘eternal’ purpose! It’s not simply to make you feel good and have a successful earthly life. You know, a lot of religion is that, too! What they consider to be church is a place where people come to feel happy, to feel good about themselves and good about God, and then they go on about their life.
My God, there are many times when God’s true servants, come into a church, come into the gathering of the saints and they’re carrying burdens, aren’t they? They’re carrying deep hurts. They’re carrying deep wounds. They’re facing terrible trials and the Devil is faithful to sit there and explain it all to them.
Is he doing that to anybody here right now? Yeah! ‘You want to know why this is happening? You did something.’ Sometimes we can bring things on ourselves, no question about that. But I’ll tell you, what did Job do to bring all that upon himself? Nothing! He was going about his business and wham! All of a sudden the bottom dropped out. I’ll tell you, we have a God who knows how to deal with His children, because God has a purpose.
You know, like I say, I’ve had so many thoughts, if I gave them all out this would go too long. On the other hand, I almost feel like I’m galloping through. But, Lord, help me to get across what I want to say. God’s purpose in allowing the Devil to work on every one of us is certainly to try us.
I mean, we talk about trials. What is a trial? It’s to try us to see what we’ll do. And He’s putting us in a position — how many of you have been in a position that Peter, for example, was in? Where you thought you had achieved a certain level of maturity and spirituality, and God said, okay, we’ll see. And next thing you know, you’re in a place where your level of spirituality kind of doesn’t live up to its standard and next thing you know, you weakness comes right out.
Is that a sign that something terrible is happening or that God’s against you? No! It certainly wasn’t in Peter’s case. God wanted Peter to understand something about Peter! It was after this — you remember how the Lord said, Peter, when you were young you went where you wanted to go! You did what you wanted! Man, you were full of zeal! You wanted to go out and do something for me. And when I told everybody that I was gonna die, you said, I want to die with you! I’ll never — you know, all this boastful, self-confident kind of stuff!
And Peter needed to realize the truth about himself. How could he help anybody else? I mean, if you don’t get that knowledge, if you don’t come to a knowledge of what you are and how deeply you need the Lord — a man who is in that position is gonna stand up here and he’s gonna tell everybody how to do it. And it’s gonna be all about him and his ability, and what’s the matter with you? Why don’t you live up to my standards? Religion is full of that!
And then you have Paul, like we heard the other night. I hope others can perhaps listen to that Jim Cymbala message. But that was wonderful. And how the honesty of somebody like Paul who talked about his own struggles and talked about the difficulties and the challenges that he faced in serving God, and how he was in places of perplexity, didn’t have the answers, didn’t know what to do!
And yet, God put him there! God was the one who moved the hedge and said, Satan, there he is. God is going to put you and me in places where we are over our heads and He means for us to learn something about ourselves and to be willing to be honest and humble ourselves!
Wasn’t Peter the one who said later, “Humble yourselves…under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Of course, we’re anxious for the ‘up’ part. But we need to realize, God, You know what’s wrong with me. You know what I need to experience.
You know, every one of us, I guess, would love for the Gospel to be a choice between my old life and my new one. Okay, I lay my old life down! Okay, I’m gonna die and go be with Jesus right now. But it doesn’t work that way. God has called — every one that He calls to His own, most of them, to live here, to have to serve God and learn to serve God in the midst of a world that hates Him!
If you understood the spirit of the world, it hates you! It would kill you if it had a chance, if God pulled back the hedge — and He may! Are we gonna be ready as Jesus was, to lay down our lives for Him? I’ll tell you, we’re gonna need His grace.
We’re gonna need to come to a place where we don’t have any confidence in ourselves, as Paul said. I have no confidence in the flesh. Zero! That’s what that means. Zero means nothing. I’m afraid most of us can say that but when it comes to living, we don’t really ‘know’ it. We haven’t quite gotten there yet. We need to understand just how desperately we need a Savior.
And you know, you look at this from God’s point of view. He’s got a world of people who are infected with an incurable moral disease. You talk about cancer. Cancer is nothing compared to sin. But we are born into this world as a cancer in God’s universe! The only answer is for God to come and to rescue us, to put to death that which is of the old world, and this present world, and to impart to us a life that cannot die!
That life is born in the heart of everyone who is truly born again of God’s Spirit, not just becoming religious, but I mean, there is a birth that is literal. I pray if you haven’t come to that place, God will bring you there! Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice and laid the foundation for every single one of us.
What did it cost Him? Everything that had to do with this world! It was an utter renunciation of the world, everything it stands for, all of sin! It was, I will freely lay this down because I know what’s coming! That’s what I want. I don’t want this. I don’t need this. And he willingly laid it down.
When Paul went out and ministered, did he have an easy time? God allowed him to go through tremendous things, to experience all kinds of difficulty, opposition of every possible kind, fears within, fears without, anyway fears and fightings in and out. I don’t know which was which, but it wasn’t fun. Beaten, left for dead, imprisoned…all kinds of things that he had to go through.
How did he see this? As terrible…oh God, why would You let such terrible things — I’m trying to serve You — oh, God? He said, no! This is, “…the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” (NIV). This is what it costs to see the Kingdom of God built!
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