— Brother Phil Enlow: You know, I’ve been sort of meditating the last few days on simple thoughts, and yet, I think profound thoughts that the Lord has kind of allowed me to think, I guess. You know, I believe many of us live, we all live, if we know the Lord, between the tension of what is and what we hope will be and what we’ve been promised the Lord will do.
And, it’s always a challenge to deal with both. The challenge, I guess, is to look at what is and what we feel and all of those kinds of things and still see beyond that. And, I certainly share those same struggles with every one of you, because that’s where the Lord has us. This is part of His way of doing what He is accomplishing.
You know, what we just heard about — here were some negative, difficult, challenging circumstances and yet, we have a brother who sees the Lord in it. And may we all have that kind of a faith and a vision to be able to understand that God knows what He’s doing. Thank God!
I tend to see principles and then see a whole lot of scriptures that feed into that, so I guess that’s how I’m gonna, Lord willing, approach this, by trusting the Lord to put it together. But Romans chapter 4 is a good starting point. And I guess the underlying thought comes from that passage.
And Paul, of course, is unfolding the principles of the Gospel and he’s dealing with, how does a man become right in God’s eyes, reckoning on the fact that we’re all sinners and we all come short, and we have no power in ourselves to please Him or to make ourselves acceptable to Him? How in the world then can a man be right in God’s eyes?
And so he lays out, from the life of Abraham and God’s dealings with Abraham, the principle that really applies throughout history. In spite of the fact that God gave a Law through Moses, this never changed. There’s only one possible way that I, or anybody, can be right in God’s eyes, and that was how Abraham became right. He didn’t do it because he worked for it or earned it or put God under any obligation. Rather, he believed God — very simple.
And so the scripture tells us — I’m kind of summarizing, because I don’t want to wade through all the details necessarily. But, the principle here causes Abraham to be the father of all of God’s children, not simply those who were Jewish, but of everyone, because the principle apply to all. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Jewish or Gentile, we become right in God’s eyes because we believe Him, and that’s it.
And so, let’s just pick it up here, down in verse 16. “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace…” (NIV). And what is grace? That’s God reaching down to help us, to do for us what we cannot do, to empower us to do what we could never do in ourselves. Okay, so faith is the way…it’s access, but grace is the way it all happens.
“…So that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: I have made you a father of many nations. He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
And the phrase that just has gone round and round in my mind and my heart the last few days is “things that are not,” because, we who know the Lord have been promised some awesome things, have we not? I mean, think about what we will be! God says, we’re gonna be glorified! I look out here and I don’t see anybody that I have to put sunglasses on because of you, nor do you see that in me. But yet, that’s what God has said.
And so, here I am with my current weakness and all that I feel and see, and all that seems real to me at this moment in history, and yet there’s God’s promise about what I will be. And that’s an amazing thing. But that’s the place that Abraham occupied when God told him that.
And so, here’s a man who has no natural ability to see any of this happen. He’s simply listening to the voice of a God who has made Himself known to him and declared, I will make you a father of nations. If you go back to Genesis 17, He first says, I “will” make you. But then He turns around and says, I “have” made you. Wow! Now you’re not simply dealing with the realm of, okay, there ain’t nothing to this yet, but I’m gonna do it. This is, I have already done it!
And I believe with all my heart God longs for us to come to a place where we understand that everything God has purposed for every one of His own is not something merely that He “will do” in the future, but rather that He has done! It is a fixed thing in God’s heart and God’s mind. I mean, what an amazing God we have who is able to call things that are not as though they were!
And of course, then he goes on to talk about the fact that, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, So shall your offspring be. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact….”
You know, it’s a good thing when we face facts, when we’re honest we’re able to come to a place where we recognize there’s no resource in us that can contribute to this. Nothing! The playing field is level! No one has an advantage, when it comes to the things of God, over anyone else.
The fact — if you are born with some kind of earthly advantage, as men reckon such things, the reality is, God’s going to have to destroy the illusion of that in your mind in order to bring you to the place where He can now save you, and do for you what He has promised, because this is not for the strong. This is for the weakest of the weak, the most unworthy of the unworthy. Thank God, for the hope that we have!
Oh, that name Jesus we were singing about this morning! That means “God saves!” That name just isn’t something that God put on His Son and said, okay, I’m different from you, but I’m gonna let it all happen through You! This was His name!
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You look at John 17: Jesus was praying and said, You gave Me Your name! Ultimately, that name is from the heart of the Father Himself. It means “God saves!” Praise God! What an awesome God we have to lean upon! God, open our eyes to see beyond today, beyond yesterday, beyond all the things that we are not, because things that are not….
I mean, there are two senses in which things are not. We see what we’re not, and we allow that so easily to hinder us and to discourage us and to cause us to just not believe, not rest, not find comfort and strength in the Lord. We listen to the voice of the enemy! But also, as I said, the things that God has promised that are before us, thank God for what He has declared to be a fact!
Now, you know God’s Word is not like our word. You think about it. We work within the confines of an old creation. Now, men are pretty creative. God made us in His image and we are able to take things that are part of our world and learn about them and manipulate them and build stuff and do things, and all of that. But our resources are limited to what belongs to this creation. I can’t go outside of that.
And I’ll tell you, we are a part of a creation that God has judged! You say, when did He do that? At the cross. That’s part of the meaning of what the cross is about! Jesus was about to go to the cross and He said, “Now is the judgment of this world…” (KJV). I’ll tell you, something was set in motion at the cross. And I don’t care what you do in this world, it will burn up in the end!
Imagine working for a boss and you’re building some great something, some great project that’s visible and physical, and you finally come to the end and you’ve expended your whole life’s energy in this thing and you hand it over to the boss. And he says, well, that’s great! Blow it up. Burn it. If you’re living for this world, that’s what your life will — all the value that you produce, that you think is so great, I don’t care what you do, it will burn up in the end.
( congregational amens ).
We are part of a world that has been cursed! You know, I was thinking about this business of being confined to the old creation. You think about a motivational speaker, what’s he got to work with? You know, think about it. What he’s really trying to do is to change people’s ideas about how they think about themselves and to tap into some supposed greatness that’s in you that just needs to be unlocked so you can be everything you’re supposed to be. But, where do the resources come from? They’re still coming from you! They’re still coming from the old creation.
But we serve Somebody who is not confined by that. And you’re talking about a Word that is able to create what is said! That’s amazing when you think about it. I’ve just meditated on this and I don’t even know how to quite put it into words. But you know one of the things in the “faith chapter” that’s interesting to me is, right near the beginning it says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God….” And the things which we see — I’m having to paraphrase here — the things which we see are, “…not made of things which do appear.” How did God create?
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Yeah, He spoke it! Did He need raw materials?
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You know, I’ve sort of put it this way before. I can imagine God saying, or Jesus, as He was the Creator, pointing to His Father and saying, Father, what am I supposed to do? There’s nothing out there! You told me to make this world; what am I gonna make it out of? There’s nothing to work with.
He doesn’t need anything to work with. The Word of God is living and powerful, we’re told. It has the power to create what is spoken! Man, do I need to get that! You see what drives salvation, what drives the work of God and what He is doing? It is a work of creation.
When He went to create in the beginning, He said, “Let there be light.” He didn’t tell His angels to go and round up some materials and mix them together and — no! He just said, let there be, and there was! And everything in creation was brought forth simply by God speaking. That’s all He had to do to create stars!
I mean, this is the God who is alive today. This is the Jesus, by the way, who was the One who spoke those words, the same Jesus that we are called to invite into our lives to take over, He is One who spoke galaxies into existence in the beginning! He was there! I’ll tell you, He is the divine Son of God! Thank God! There is a work of creation that He is capable of.
But we know that what the Kingdom of God is about is not about a religion to practice. We’ve said this so many times. It’s not some self-help program. It’s not a set of rules by which we qualify ourselves to be accepted by God! This is a new…
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…Creation. This is something that has not existed, but God is bringing into existence! Now, go back to Abraham and you think about all that he — everything in his experience told him, that what God had promised didn’t make any sense. It couldn’t possible happen!
I’m guessing that there’s nobody here that’s ever had that feeling about yourself. When you think about what God has called you to be, you’re just so brimming with confidence, right? You know that you’ve got it in you! God’s called you because He sees good in you and, man, He’s gonna fan it into flame. No! God is going to — God is bringing forth something that has not existed, that has nothing to do with the old creation.
You read through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I’m just pulling stuff — you’re gonna have to look a lot of this up, and I pray the Lord will help me to burrow down if I need to at any point. But you remember the Book of Galatians. What’s that about? That’s about Paul writing to a group of Gentile believers. They had been brought to the reality that they could be right with God by faith in the promise, faith in what Jesus had done, end of story, not other addition to becoming right with God, but just committing themselves into God’s hands, trusting in His provision. That was it!
So then, after Paul leaves and goes someplace else, some other teachers come in and say, oh, that’s great! You believe in Jesus, but what about the Law of Moses? You’ve got to keep that — and start introducing all these requirements of the Law, these ritual parts of it that you’re supposed to be doing.
And Paul was so angry about this, he wished they’d all go to hell! I mean, that’s plain language. But, I mean, it was — it’s damning error, not truth, it’s damning error! To see that — to tell people that they have to somehow produce something, that Jesus isn’t enough, that what God has done through Jesus is not quite enough! You’ve got to somehow come up with something to add to that and then God will accept you! Oh my!
And so, he comes to the end, though, he makes an interesting point. This idea of creation kind of comes into the picture in a number of his letters. But he’s talking about the virtue, or the lack thereof, of the Law, and he says, basically, that’s worthless! That can’t help you a bit. But the only thing that counts is, what? How many can remember that scripture? The only that counts is “a new creation.”
That’s it! Paul was given a tremendous revelation of what this is about. This is about God bringing forth a brand new creation to replace one that has already been sentenced to destruction! Salvation is about bringing out people “from” this, rather than them suffering the fate of being destroyed with this creation, to be rescued “out of” that, fitted for the new one and prepared for that! That’s what salvation is about! Anything short of that is just religion! I’ll tell you, do we need the Lord?
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Yeah! This is it. This is not about who we are and what we are and what we can bring to the table. This is about people who just simply hear the voice of God, like Abraham did, by the way. What did He do? He believed God, and of course, his faith manifested itself in obedience, but that obedience did not earn him something, did not obligate God to do something for him. Rather, it demonstrated, yes, I really believe You!
I mean, suppose God had said — well, God did say, leave your family. Go to a land I’ll show you. Yes, God, I believe who You are! But I’m gonna serve You right here. See that’s not really believing God, is it? Believing God is, God, I know You have promised something that I cannot do, but I believe Your promise to me. I believe it and I’m going to commit myself to obeying Your voice. The rest is up to You.
Sounds to me like a restful place, doesn’t it? When we come to the place where we are so, we recognize so much our dependence upon Him, that we’re able to rest….
I mean, so many scriptures that we know, that I hope the Lord can kind of connect the dots in our minds. I referred, a few minutes ago, to the scripture where the Word of God is living and powerful. Do you remember the passage that’s found in? That’s in Hebrews, chapter 4.
And the writer there is dealing with the reality that there is a promise that God has finished something. “I have given you this,” was the promise to the Israelites. I have given you the land, but they didn’t believe it and so they never, that particular generation failed to enter into the promise because of rebellion and unbelief.
So then he goes on to point out that there is yet a promise of God of entering into His rest! Who enters the rest? Who is it that enters that rest? Those who cease from their own works and enter into His rest. How can we do such a thing? Isn’t there work to be done? Where does the work come in? He did it!
The works were finished from the foundation of the world. Yeah, you see what’s going on here? What did Adam and Eve have to do to enjoy the Garden of Eden, until they messed it up? What did they have to do?
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Enjoy it! Rest in it! God didn’t say, all right, I’ve done up to a point but now you’ve got to finish it. You’ve got to do this — no! They stepped in. That’s what salvation is about. God has done something that is so complete that He longs for us to just stop trying and start trusting.
( congregational amens ).
Putting our lives in His hands, understanding that He is pulling us out of the fire, as it were, and getting us ready for eternity, and doing what none other can do. You know, the writer to the Hebrews — there are a whole lot of things that he brings into the picture. Sit down and read chapter 6 sometime, particularly the last part is what I’ve been thinking about. And, you come to that passage where he talks about a hope!
Now hope has to do with, what? Is that the present? Do I have to hope I have a pulpit and hope I’ve got people to listen? No, there you are. I mean, it has to do with something that’s in the future, hasn’t happened yet. And so, there’s an expectation there. This is not a wishful thinking kind of thing. This is, I have an expectation that something is going to happen. Now, what’s my ground for that? Am I just imagining up all this stuff or do I have real ground for doing it?
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Yeah. And so, he talks about two different things that are unchangeable, immutable, depending on which translation you’re looking at. They cannot be changed! They’re unchangeable things! You cannot change them! No devil can countermand these things!
And what God is wanting to communicate to you and to me is simply this: there is a solid ground for hope! And it’s not just one thing, it’s two things! And you know what those two things are? Well, he tells you. One of those things is His purpose. God has at some point, in the only language I know how to use, conceived a purpose. This is something that He has determined “will” happen! When He’s done, there will be a perfect, pure creation, no sin, no death, no sorrow, none of the things that corrupt this first creation, and He will have a family to share His love with throughout all eternity! That’s going to happen!
( congregational amens ).
Whether you and I participate in that or not, that’s gonna happen. That’s a fixed purpose that is unchangeable! No devil in hell can change that! That’s why the Devil is so angry, because he knows he is shut out from that forever! You wonder why the world’s in the shape it’s in and getting worse? Just wait. Thank God, God’s purpose, though, is not affected by anything the Devil is allowed to do.
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God’s purpose stands! So that’s one unchangeable thing! But he says there are two! The other thing is His promise! Now, can we trust a promise from Him? He can’t lie! That’s it! You’re talking about Somebody who says something — that Somebody is incapable of telling a lie!
So now you’ve got two things to hang your hat on. One of them is an unchangeable purpose! Now there is a promise to carry out that purpose in specific ways. And so, Abraham stepped out in faith based upon that. God didn’t just say, I “will” make you, He said, I “have” made you! Those two things come together as a promise.
You see why he puts that business about creation in the beginning of chapter 11? You see the nature of the promises upon which all the heroes of faith rested their hope? It was that creative, fixed Word of God! And that promise of God was allowed in their hearts and their minds to trump everything that would rise up against it, like Abraham, who hoped against hope. Praise God!