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Rainbow Divider
MCM Broadcast

TV Broadcast #1335

Are You in Prison?
Part One

May 6, 2018

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— Brother Phil Enlow: I’ve had thoughts going through my mind and my mind’s come back to something really over the last two or three weeks, I suppose. Last week was a particular service, and so we went in a particular direction, because there was some ordination going on and I think that was exactly right. But I just want to share some thoughts that are not new, but yet we maybe haven’t heard them exactly this way in a while. And I’m gonna preface what I say today with this simple question. Are you in prison? There are all kinds of prisons, aren’t there?

( congregational response ).

But I’d like to just read a verse from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Many of you who’ve been here for a long time and remember Brother Thomas, you will remember that he ministered many times on this particular verse, and brought something out of it that I just have felt in my own heart, needs that I have…but I see it in all of us and it’s a dimension that we need to know if we’re gonna think about being in prison and what that means…and being free, for that matter.

In verse 25…now I’ll say this first. Jesus is talking a lot about human relations and He’s portraying what godly character looks like in our relationships one with another. He describes all kinds of situations including persecution, and you name it…disputes of various kinds.

But here’s one in particular where He says, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (NIV).

So it sounds to me like He’s talking about a situation in which you really are wrong and somebody is trying to use the law, at least on the natural level, someone is using the law to take you to a place where you may wind up losing your freedom if you are stubborn about it. You won’t give in. You’re right. You’re gonna cling to your rightness and your way, and by God, nothing’s gonna move you off of that. And so, watch out, you might wind up in prison and then you’re gonna have to pay the price.

But, there is a deeper level of truth that Brother Thomas often…and he’s not the only one who’s ever done this…has brought out. And the question really we need to ask is, who is our adversary, ultimately? It’s one thing to talk about conflicts between people. But do we or do we not believe that there is a God who reigns, who created all of us with a purpose, who is working out His purpose, and who is doing it in spite of the fact that we live in a broken world of lost men and women who are motivated by a nature that hates Him? And yet, in the midst of that He is at work.

And I’ll tell you, there’s probably not a person here, certainly not, who has not been…had your nature and what you want and how you feel and all of that, come into conflict with something where you got wounded real good. You were really angry at somebody. You were holding onto something…there’s some conflict between you and somebody. Maybe it’s recent, maybe it’s just in the distant past. But by God, you’re right and you’re right to be wounded, you’re right to be hurt. You’re right not to forgive and all that stuff.

And you know, we’ve heard these kinds of truths, but this other dimension is one that we really need to get if we’re gonna have the whole picture. If you’re just gonna think in terms of, well, somebody hurt me and God wants me for forgive them. Well, that’s true as far as it goes. But when you bring in this truth into that, it changes the whole picture, because regardless of the means by which something happened to you which wounded you, who is really behind it, ultimately?

( congregational response ).

You see, that’s the whole point. God is! God is sovereign. We see it played out throughout the scriptures in so many instances. We see God raising up a man like Pharaoh, knowing the kind of man he was, knowing he was proud and stubborn, and no matter what God did, he was gonna rise up and fight him back.

Well, God used that, didn’t He? He used that to teach His people, to bring a great deliverance. But He used it to spread His fame across the whole globe. I’ll tell you, there’s a God who knows how to use a broken world to accomplish His purpose.

But oh, how we, as His people, need to understand how He works in us, because the same God who raised him up, the same God who raised up Nebuchadnezzar and then brought him low and taught him who was really in charge…that God is in charge of our lives. He reigns! If there is something that has happened in your life that is adverse, we need to remember who the real adversary is.

Now that sounds like a contradiction in a way because why would God be against me? That’s what it sounds like to human nature. Oh, God’s against me! How many of you have ever been in a situation where no matter what you did, you were spinning your wheels, you didn’t get anywhere, and it’s like…God, why are You against me? Why don’t You…you know? We have this simplistic view of God.

You know, we’ve recently used Job and his experiences as a backdrop for talking about some of this. You know, all of a sudden Job was righteous, doing everything he thought he could. I mean, even stuff that he was…oh man, my kids had a party, maybe they cursed God. I’d better offer a sacrifice…everything he could think of to do right in God’s eyes and to be a righteous man.

And God recognized the effort, even though he had an incomplete picture. His theology really wasn’t complete. God used all of that. But all of a sudden, the inexplicable happened to him. He lost everything that he had in his possessions. He lost his family, all in one day…everyone but his wife, and she was no help.

( laughter ).

And then, on top of that, he loses his health in such a way that he is in misery, and no clue as to why any of this happened! And his wife is sitting there, why do you keep your integrity? “Curse God and die!” Get out of this! This is ridiculous!

And you know by the theology that people had in that day, that shouldn’t have happened. I mean, everybody knows that God blesses the righteous and He curses the wicked! So if something bad is happening, it’s because you’re a sinner and God is punishing you. That’s the only concept they had.

And the consequences of righteousness and sin were always thought in terms of earthly things. Again, you’re blessed in an earthly way. You have wealth and status in society and possessions and blessed in good health and all of that stuff.

There’s an awful lot of that in Christianity today. At least, what purports to be it. There’s such a mixture of this blessing, legalistic kind of stuff that God just wants to bless His people in an earthly sense. I’ll tell you, there are blessings that go so far beyond that. We have no clue. And it just sounds like, as I say, it sounds like a contradiction for God to be our adversary. Why would God be our adversary?

( congregational response ).

Yeah, there’s the answer right there…because He loves us. But think about what’s going on here. What is it that God’s against? We have got a nature that hates God and if we simply do what comes naturally, it will absolutely take us down to death and judgment. Our nature, the carnal mind, we’re told in the scriptures is, what?

( congregational response ).

Enmity against God. Those that are in the flesh can’t please God—cannot please God! I don’t care what you do. You can do all the good works in the world. That doesn’t gain you a thing with God. It’s not righteousness in His eyes because it comes out of cesspool of nature that is self-seeking! All we want to be comfortable and happy in the sense of…the worldly sense.

Oh, I’ll tell you what, we have got a nature if God didn’t do something about that, He really wouldn’t be for us, would He? What God is against…what God is seeking to deliver us from is that very thing that possesses us and we are so clueless about the depth of that! We don’t get it! We don’t understand!

Oh, how righteously do we react in our own feeble imaginations, when some evil person does something that makes us feel bad or actually injures us in some way! Oh, how right our cause is! Oh, how right we are to be angry and to be upset and to point the finger! You shouldn’t have done that!

Oh, my God. What else can you possibly have in a world full of people who are selfish, with fights and conflicts? My God, everybody in the world wants their fur rubbed the right way. Who in the world is gonna do the rubbing?

( laughter ).

Boy, are we so turned in…oh, as I’ve said many times recently, our culture today has just gone off the deep end in terms of ‘it’s all about me and my feelings.’ Good Lord! What a horrible pit that is! What a trap that is of Satan!

But I’ll tell you, there is a God who knows how to intervene in our lives to move us in the direction that He wants us to go. I’ll tell you, the most wonderful thing that God can do for someone who does not know Him, has never really come to the place that we’ve been singing about this morning. You’ve never really…that barrier is still there. There’s still a barrier of sin and unbelief and you just…you see it and you hear people talk about it, but you really haven’t entered in. The most wonderful thing that God can do for somebody like that is to bring trouble into your life in some form, something that makes you feel your need!

How many testimonies I’ve heard over the years of somebody who has just gone down the wrong road! They’ve lived with abuse! They’ve lived with a thousand and one wrong things and they’ve tried to drown their sorrows with this and with that! And they come down to a point where, it’s no use! Life is not worth living. I’ve got the pills, I’m gonna take them. In fact, the girl that sang that song that we sang a while ago…praise God, what was it?

( congregational response ).

“Mercy Tree.” Thank you. How many of you have seen that video on line of her singing that? That’s amazing, the power behind that. But the story behind that is what’s more amazing, because that was her story! Life was not worth living! She was dead-set that she was going to take her life and some friend would not let up on her, and said, you’re coming with me to a meeting tonight! I will not take no for an answer!

And she finally gave up and said, all right, I’ll go with you. I’ve got the pills. I’ll come back and take care of it afterwards. Well, you know what happened. God used that meeting to touch her heart and basically, the message is, you’re ready to throw your life away, why don’t you give it to Me?

( congregational amens ).

Oh, praise God! And she did!

( laughing ).

I’ll guarantee she’s never been sorry. God did a marvelous work of filling that empty heart with a peace. That doesn’t mean everything is all fixed up instantly. But I mean, there is a whole turning around, a new direction in life.

And if you’re here today and…the most wonderful thing God can do for you is to bring you to an awareness of your need. And whatever He has to do to do it, He will! He may use people! He will use circumstances and your inclination, and mine would be the same…to blame them, and if you’re really thinking about it, you’re gonna say, God, why did You do that to me?

And if you take that stance and that attitude and you will not give it up, what’s gonna happen? Do you think you’re gonna succeed? Do you think that’s the right course, to cling to yourself and hang onto your life against all odds? My God, there’s a God who loves you enough to run you down, to bring you to a place where you’re ready to give up and let it go and give Him your heart and your life!

( congregational amens ).

Oh, when His voice comes, listen! Open your heart! He does it because He loves you! He will bring trouble into your life because He loves you enough not to let you get away with sin! He knows what it’ll do

 My God, is a doctor mean because he treats cancer cells the way he does? Man, they’re the enemy! Well, sin in your enemy and mine. And there’s a God who is faithful to His purpose. He is going to have a people, when it’s all said and done, that have been cleansed forever, from every taint of sin and death, able to live with Him in a place of perfection. Only God can do that!

( congregational amens ).

But it’ll never happen with an unrepentant heart that refuses to let go and let God have His way in the heart and the life. Oh, praise God! But I’ll tell you, this doesn’t just affect people who don’t know the Lord yet. It affects every one of us.

There’s not a person here who doesn’t have areas of your heart and your life where things have happened! Like I say, they could be way in the past, they could be an accumulation of things, they could be stuff that happened today…where something adverse has come into your heart and into your life, usually through somebody—often through somebody. And the Devil would focus all of your attention upon that and would focus your heart upon the rightness of your position and the wrongness of what they did! And you miss the point completely. God does what He does to deliver us from ourselves!

( congregational amens ).

I’ll tell you, when something comes along and “makes me mad,” as is the expression. You know, I’ve pointed this out many times. Nobody has the power to do that. That’s a choice I make! I am not compelled to be angry!

What better example do we have than Jesus? All the stuff that He suffered! “He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (KJV). He knew all about this stuff. They persecuted Him and hounded Him to a point of a miserable, tortured death, for you and for me.

But there was something in His heart that was so surrendered to the will of His Father that even though the God of heaven sent that adversity, arranged for it, stood back and let it happen, there was a reason, there was a purpose, there was something eternal that was being accomplished.

And so it enabled Jesus to look up to the Father and say, oh God, if there’s any way, let this cup pass. “…Nevertheless not my will…” Not my will, but Yours be done! What a place, what an example for us! He knew that God had ordained this! And we see the Apostles later talking about this. They say, they killed Him by Your appointment! They killed Him, Father, because You ordained this for our salvation! Praise God!

But, oh do we not see this in our personal lives. Can we not see the hand of One who loves us enough to do whatever it takes! Many times it will bring out the very worst in you and the worst in me! But I’ll tell you, it’s like taking that deep wound and bringing it out into the light. How can it ever be healed, if you don’t? How can it ever be healed, if we cling to our own way and our own rightness? I don’t care if the Devil himself comes up and with all the wickedness he can muster, he does something against you…if that happens, God let it!

( congregational amens ).

God did it! Not to us, but for us! He did it to bring something that happens in our lives so that we will turn our hearts to Him. My God, I need to know my need!

( congregational amens ).

I need to understand what’s wrong. Why would God do such a thing? Because He longs to turn my mind from my own way to see what’s wrong…oh God, to able to bring it to His feet and say, yes, Lord. Yes, all of this was wrong, but I see the wrong in me. I see what happens when I hang onto this…when I refuse to humble myself, when I refuse to let go of the hurt, when I refuse to let go of what’s wrong, what they did! Who is hurt? Does what’s going on in my heart hurt them? I’m the one that’s in jail. I’m the one that’s in prison and God wants to set me free.

( congregational amens ).

Oh God! Praise God! Are you getting any of this? Does this make sense?

( congregational amens ).

Can you relate this to your life and things that have happened? I believe as God brings us to an awareness of things, we can bring them to Him and say, Lord, I want to see that through Your eyes. I want to see past what happened. I want to get out of prison, Lord. I want to agree with You.

You know, sometimes people, maybe because of the circumstances, I don’t know…sometimes people come to a place where they realize, hey, this is really God! I’m in something here and it isn’t like somebody did something terrible to me. My circumstances are so bad, God’s the Author of this! And they’re wrestling.

Again, we talked about Job and the battle that he had with his religious friends and how they just brought their theology books out and tried to explain it to him. And he was so relentless in defending his own righteousness that he actually fell into a trap of beginning to somehow entertain questions about God’s justice.

God helped him. God was bringing him to a deeper revelation, that there are other purposes besides God blessing you or cursing you in an earthly sense. He wanted Job to know him in a deeper way and to understand that there are purposes that sometimes require bad stuff to happen. In fact, they often do. How do we…when do we learn more about God? Do we learn about Him on the mountain top, or do we learn about Him in the valley when He carries us through?

( congregational response ).

Yeah, I can see a lot of heads. You know the answer to that. You might not want to admit it, but you know. I think about Joni Eareckson Tada…we’ve used her many times. What an example! This beautiful, young athletic 17-year-old that suddenly finds herself a quadriplegic and she’s been a Christian, at least…not in a deep sense, but at least a Christian.

And I appreciate so much in her writings the honesty with which she lays out the battles that she fought. And oh there were deep, deep, heart-rending questions, where she was just wrestling and just had this sense…God, why? God, I don’t get…how could such a thing happen? How could You be a good God and let this happen to me.

And this wasn’t just an overnight thing. This was a long, long drawn out battle to be reconciled. Oh my! And it was just a terrible battle for her and it would be for anybody, for heaven’s sake!

( congregational response ).

I respect how the Lord brought her through that. I don’t know what I would have done. I’m not gonna stand up here and boast. I don’t have any strength in myself. My God, if we have anything, if have any ability to be in agreement with God, it’s gonna have to be His ability! It’s gonna have to be surrendering to the grace by which I can do those things! I have no power to do it. Oh, He’s so ready, so ready to give us what we stand in such desperate need of.

And the Lord brought her through and there was a period of time when everybody said, oh, you’re supposed to be healed. Well, God can do that, if that’s His purpose. But oh, she had to wrestle with this question. Why are other people being healed and I’m not? What did I do wrong? Why me?

I went through something like that…a little bit. I mentioned it…I’m not gonna go through it again. But that experience I had in college when I just got mad. I pouted. It wasn’t a drawn out thing but I just gave up. God wasn’t doing me right and I wasn’t happy about it. But He so patiently brought me through that. He didn’t get mad with me about it. He understood what I was going through.

How many times do we see it in David? I mean, here’s a man that was anointed to be king and his life just falls apart, as far as circumstances are concerned! He goes from bad to worse! Running for his life! Going through periods of time when he wrote like in the Psalms, Psalms 13. “How long, O LORD?” (NIV). How long am I gonna have to put up with the wicked seemingly triumphing and I’m in misery, and I call and You don’t answer me, Lord? How long is this gonna go on?

But somehow there was a degree of faith down in his heart that enabled him to end Psalms like that: “But I trust in your…love.” Oh, isn’t that what God is looking for? And I’ll tell you, where does that kind of trust come from? It comes from God, I understand that. But how is it formed in us? How does it become part of us?

( congregational response ),

Experience…what kind of experience?

( congregational response ).

When we need it. When that is the only thing standing between us and disaster, and we’re willing to trust God. We’re willing to let go and say, God, I know You love me. I know that You’re doing this for me. Yes, You may be…there’s an adversarial relationship with things that are wrong in me from which I need deliverance, but You are my God and I still trust You! I mean, you think about what enabled Job in the beginning to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” (KJV).