“Which Thief Are You?” Part One
April 21, 2019
Transcript of message from TV Broadcast 1385 -- taken from Closed Captioning Text
— Brother Phil Enlow:
Well, Praise God! The Devil’s certainly been fighting me this morning so I hope that’s a good sign, because the Lord has done so much for us and that’s what so many are celebrating today was the victory of the resurrection.
And you know, there’s so much to talk about and I always come to this and say, oh, Lord, what do we talk about this time? And that’s just human reasoning and all that stuff and I just don’t want to, I don’t want to fall into that trap. But I just — I’m gonna give out the thoughts that the Lord’s given me and just trust Him with it.
Because without the resurrection, I mean, without what goes before the resurrection, the resurrection is just a nice history lesson. And, I thank God for the cross and for what it means to us. And we’ve sung so much about that this morning.
And, there’s one passage that’s always kind of intrigued me. It’s just a little bit different, and that’s in John chapter 12. Jesus is speaking, of course, before going to the cross and I believe He gives us some insights into what it’s really about. I mean, we know some of the basic things. We hear them all the time, but there are some truths in here that I pray everybody will get.
And I don’t know, my burden, I guess, as much as anything is for people that don’t really understand all this, that don’t get it. And I’m certainly not an evangelist. But I just trust that God will breathe life into His truth so that this won’t just be a, okay, this is Easter, we’re supposed to talk about the resurrection and go on with our lives. This is something that has Eternal significance. And so, let’s just read the words of Jesus beginning in verse 23.
“Jesus replied…” to something that’d been said, “…the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (NIV). Boy, isn’t that a good way for us to react to life?
“Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
“The crowd spoke up, We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man? Then Jesus told them, You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light. When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”
I’ll tell you, we need divine intervention in our lives! The condition of the general population certainly reveals a whole lot, doesn’t it? They were just blind to what was going on. And, I’m just gonna try to bring some thoughts out of this and other scriptures and, like I say, I’m just trusting the Lord this morning. I feel extra weak, which is probably a good thing. But Lord, You take over this and just have Your way and speak Your truth.
You know, one of the things that really jumped out at me, as I was reading this the other day, was where Jesus began. It said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Now think about the context in which He said this. He’s about to go to the cross and He’s saying, I’m gonna be glorified. Do you think maybe, just maybe, He had a pretty good confidence in the Father’s plan? Yeah! Wouldn’t it be good if we could see beyond today and beyond what’s going on and realize that God has an immutable plan, that He is carrying something out that no devil in hell can stop?
( congregational amens ).
Praise God! He’s not saying, oh, I’m gonna be crucified, it’s gonna be terrible. He said, I’m gonna be glorified. He was seeing right past all of this. Wasn’t it — didn’t the scriptures say it was, “for the joy set before him,” that He was able to see that and the cross was just a stepping stone to get to that? It was necessary, but it was only a stepping stone to something that was real.
You know, when Gospel truth comes to someone who has never seen it and never really bowed to it, it sounds an awful lot like a threat. It’s a threat to human nature! It’s a threat to my own will and my own wanting to do what I want to do.
But I’ll tell you another thing, a thought that came to me very distinctly in thinking about all of this was: everything Jesus said was truthful, but the spirit behind it was one of love, a desire to reach out. If He had just never intervened, men would just die, live and die like lost animals. I mean, it would be no more significant than that. But I’ll tell you, God intervened in history, because of our condition and our need. Thank God!
( congregational amens ).
And I’ll tell you, bowing to that is the ultimate freedom, not the ultimate prison. Natural man says, “You’re gonna take away all my joy. You’re gonna constrict me and make me live a religious life. It’s gonna be terrible.” And God says, “I want to set you free.”
How many can say you’ve been on both sides of that, maybe, where you’ve suddenly seen and God’s opened your eyes and when you finally bowed, you said, “Why did I wait so long?” You remember Brother Thomas’ testimony, so many years ago.
But anyway, some of the things that He said…He said this is verse 31, “Now is the time for judgment on this world…,” talking about the significance of the cross. We always think about it in, well, He died for my sins. Yes He did! But I’ll tell you, there was something deeper going on there. God was judging the world! I mean, I understand that the outpouring, I mean, the outworking of that is something that is yet to come in our future, when this world will have its end. But I’ll tell you, you want to know why I can have confidence that that’s true? Because God’s already done it!
( congregational amens ).
God has already judged the world. Now when we talk about the world, what are you talking about? You just talking about the rocks and the trees? You know, we know better than that. But there is a system. There is a government, if you will, that is over this world that is ruled by wicked spirits. They are behind the scenes of everything that exists in this world.
And I realize there are things that are held up as, oh, this is noble. Man’s got so much nobility buried in him. If we could just get rid of the bad stuff, we could rise and conquer the stars. I’ll tell you, there is a world, a system—a spiritual system that is in rebellion against its Creator. And I don’t care what happens, God has already judged that and said, that will not continue! Jesus said, the world will pass away, “…but my words will never pass away.” And I’ll tell you, if you see any hope in this world, you are seeing something that I can’t see. There is no hope!
And I thank God that the end is coming, but I’ll tell you, I see something else. I see the mercy of God! Why has it not happened already? How in the world can God put up with what’s going on in this world? A lot of people wonder about that. How can God — you know, if God can do anything, why doesn’t He just stop all this? I’ll tell you, there’s one reason. Because God is, “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (KJV).
And I’ll tell you, as long as there is any hope for an individual, God is gonna be reaching out. God is gonna be confronting people saying, I love you. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can give Me your heart and give Me your life and surrender. I’ve got different plans for you.
And I’ll tell you, the principles of this world are sin and rebellion. They are slavery. It’s not just that I follow my natural desires. That would be a basic principle of this world, that life is about just, I have desires and I’m gonna follow them. I’m gonna try to satisfy them. It’s not just that I do that, it’s that they become my master! I become a slave! I cannot stop from being that kind of a person who lives in this kind of a world.
I’ll tell you, this world is a prison house! Well, didn’t we just sing about that? Yeah! “I was in sin’s prison.” And there is an inescapable dominion of spirits of darkness that only the cross and the resurrection can overcome! There is not a man, woman, boy or girl that’s ever been born that can overcome or escape any of this!
How many of you remember, oh, some of the old movies? Ben Hur was one of them I remember. You remember the rowing scene, some of you who have seen that? When the Roman galleys, when they would go to war, what was it that powered their ships?
( congregational response ).
It was slaves who were down in the bow, down in the belly of the ship. And they were, many times, chained in place. All that they could look forward to in life was to row as hard as they could and die, sooner or later. If the ship went down, they went down with it.
And I’ll tell you, that is a picture of life in this world. You have been given a rowing — a place to row and you are chained to that and you’re gonna row, thinking you’re getting somewhere.
I’ll tell you, this is a world that God has judged. The ultimate fate of what is coming upon this world was foreshadowed on the cross. God drew everything — He became the representative of the entire human race! God created a perfect world, and Adam and Eve chose to rebel. I’ll put it this way. Eve was deceived into rebelling. Adam made a choice. She had already made the wrong choice and he made a deliberate choice to follow her instead of God.
I’ll tell you, that’s a terrible thing to do! And because of that, all that’s part of this world, this creation, has been corrupted by that rebellion. There is no solution except for God to exterminate it from His universe! None of this is gonna survive! Thank God!
If you want to know, you want to get a picture of the blindness that sin causes? How about the Lord using the Devil to carry out His plan, and allowing the Devil to think, I’m winning! I’ve been able to crucify the Son of God! Now we can rule! Now the Creator Himself is gone and we can rule!
The scripture says, if the princes of this world — they didn’t understand this — if any of them had understood it — this is 1st Corinthians 2, if you want to look it up. If they had understood this, “…they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (NIV). You want to know how deceptive sin and darkness is? The Devil thought he was winning and he was engineering his own defeat. Boy, I’ll tell you what, I want to be on God’s side, don’t you?
( congregational response ).
That’s a darkness I want to escape! But you know the main thing we think about with the cross, thank God, is deliverance from the guilt of sin! You know, I need — I mean, it’s so obvious, all of the sins that I have committed in my life, what am I gonna do about them?
What are we talking about? “The acts of the sinful nature….” Look at Galatians 5, 19-21. I’m gonna read it but you can look it up when you want to. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
So this is not a exhaustive list, is it? It can go on and on, but all of it is built around gratifying natural desires and impulses, in a very selfish way. I’ll tell you what, every one of us has sins that separate us from God, apart from Christ. And here’s the kicker! Let me ask you this question. Is God just?
( congregational response ).
I mean, how do you find justice? If there is a law, and a judge says, “Well, I know what the law says but I’m gonna change — I’m gonna do something different this time. I feel sorry for you. I’m not gonna apply the law.” Is he just? No! So, how in the world can God be just and we have any hope whatsoever? Is there anybody here hasn’t sinned? No, of course not! So, how in the world can God remain just and we get off? “The soul who sins…”
( congregational response ).
He’ll die! That’s the law! That’s the law! There’s no escape from that principle! God has to punish sin! And it’s not just the — these acts that we talk about. There’s something deeper than that.
I want you to imagine a scene right now. You’re standing before the bar of God’s justice. God’s sitting there in judgment of you. And you are aware that you can’t hide anything. And I want you to think back to the most shameful things. I’m assuming you’ve got a conscience. I want you to think back to the most shameful things that you have ever done in your life, things that maybe nobody else knows about it, but you do. And if they were ever brought out into the open, you would just be filled with — you’d want to crawl in a hole and pull it in after you, as the expression goes.
But now, let’s go beyond that. Maybe you’re not somebody who’s done a lot of these things. You haven’t robbed any banks. You haven’t actually committed adultery with somebody. But what did Jesus say about that? He said the one who’s looked at a woman with lust in his heart, has already committed adultery.
How many of us would want, not just our deeds to be brought before the bar of God’s justice, but all of our thoughts and our intentions, our attitudes? Every time you’ve rebelled against your parents and been angry, or been angry with somebody, or gossiped in a malicious way or, anything you can think of. Or you just let your mind dwell in the wrong places. You went to the wrong places on your computer. I’ll tell you what, we’ve got a lot to deal with.
But now you’re standing there and the Lord reads off this long list of charges. How do you plead? Everybody here would have to say the same thing. “I’m guilty. I deserve to die. Your law declares that I deserve to die.”
But now there’s a different scene that comes along. And now your Creator, who has come down to this earth to become a part of His own creation, to come down in flesh and live His life among men, just like you did…. But there’s one difference in Him. He has never been guilty of the first thing. His life has been one of perfect harmony with His heavenly Father. He’s perfect.
But now, instead of you standing before that bar of God’s justice, He stands there. And God reads that same list of everything that you have ever done that’s been wrong, every shameful act, every shameful thought, all of these things that cause you such deep conviction and shame. They’re all read. But now they’re read against Him, who has done nothing! And God says, how do You plead? He says, I plead guilty. And the sentence is passed, and it’s a sentence of death.
I’ll tell you, that’s a sobering thing. But until we come face to face with that truth in a personal way, what we’re talking about this morning is nothing but a history lesson, something we can say, “Yay Jesus,” and go on about our lives.
But I’ll tell you, the reality of what happened there has to become deeply personal. It’s not just that He died for everybody, in this vague, general sense, but that I stand before the bar of God’s justice as a guilty sinner and that He steps into my place. He embraces my guilt and willingly goes to the cross.
And so, in that way God’s justice is perfectly satisfied. There have been sins committed, there has been One who has embraced the guilt of all of that and He has received that ultimate punishment. All of God’s wrath against all the sins that have ever been committed were poured out on Jesus Christ and He willingly did it!
I’ll tell you, what does that mean to you? Does that mean anything? I’ll tell you what, that’s some sober stuff to think about, isn’t it? Thank God! Thank God! We have a God who is just and yet able to forgive. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for the cross. Thank Him for the blood.
Has that ever become real to you? I’ll tell you, if it ever becomes more than just a Sunday School lesson to you, it’ll change your life. It’ll change your destiny, ‘cause that’s what this is all about! You’re part of a system that’s gonna perish. I don’t care what you do, I don’t care what men do. I don’t care whether they try to go to the stars. This world is gonna perish! God has already judged it, but He’s already judged your sins and mine. I’ll tell you what, that’s something to think about, isn’t it?
Now one thing that Jesus said that bears some comment, He said back here in verse…is it 25? “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (NIV).
You know, there are three times, I guess, the word “life” is used but most people would not know that there are different words in the Greek. When Jesus talks about your life and my life, He’s using the word soul. He’s using the word for the created life that came in the beginning. God imparted a life, a created life to Adam and Eve. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of, literally, lives, because it’s reproducible. But he had a created life that God gave him and that is what has been hopelessly corrupted!
But what are the words of Jesus? Here are people who are faced with a choice. Am I going to serve Jesus? Am I gonna embrace what He did for me or am I gonna cling to this life that I possess? This is what matters to me. What I want, that’s what matters. The words of Jesus cannot be countermanded! He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it….” There’s no wiggle room in this.
But the other kind of life, when He mentions eternal life, that’s a different word! That is that word, “zoe.” That is God’s life. How many of you know there are different kinds of life? This is a subject — I probably — it keeps coming back to me from time to time and it may be — one of these days it’ll be time to address it, as a doctrinal issue, is this question of what happens? Is the soul immortal?
I don’t happen to believe that it is. I’ll tease you with that much. My Bible says only God is immortal. I’ll tell you, there are gonna be a lot of people, on the Day of Judgment, whose eyes will be opened, finally! They will have no choice. They will see what God has purposed! They will see the righteous standing there, not because they did something, but because they surrendered to what God could do! And they’re standing there in glory and power and freedom and life that will go on forever!
And there they are, guilty in their sins being marched off to a place of destruction! Crying, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, begging for another opportunity when there will be no remedy on that day. But these are the words of Jesus. The one who loves his life — they were clinging to it.
And I’ll tell you, the most — the scariest part of that is when people embrace religion, in some fashion, but they never really let go of their life. Jesus talks about that in Matthew chapter 7, because He says there are two gates and there are two ways. He talks about the false prophets who essentially let people believe—they lead people to believe that they can come in and somehow, in some sense, acknowledge Jesus, even call Him Lord, they use the words the Lord Jesus, but as Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”
And it’s in that context that He talks about people who arrive on that day and say, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, didn’t we do great works? Lord, we were working for You all our lives. We went to church. We never missed Sunday School, all the things that you’re supposed to be doing as evidence that I’m a follower of Jesus. What was the problem? They never let go of their life!
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