— Brother Phil Enlow: You know, I’ve had thoughts this week, and I’m just trusting the Lord will bring them out the way He wants to. And, I guess in a way it’s connected quite a bit to what we talked about last week.
You know, we used Paul as an example. And Paul was sharing with the believers to whom he was writing, the pattern of his life and what the principle was by which he lived. And, thankfully, it’s an awesome thing where he realized that living up to the Law, as a Jew, as what he had been, a Pharisee, was not going to get it, was not gonna win him any kind of acceptance with God.
Rather, he needed to throw all his trust in that and in himself in the trash and say, “Lord, I am Yours. I see that Jesus has given me everything that I need and so my hope and trust is in Him. And so, I come to a place where I’m willing to forget what’s behind, I’m willing to die and to join Christ in dying to this old life and laying hold of the new.”
But then he talked about how he pressed forward and how he reached. But not just reaching in some vague sense, there was something that he actually took a hold of. There was literally something that he was able to take a hold of that made a difference in his day-to-day life, and yet, it was a journey. I haven’t arrived yet, but this how I’m moving toward the goal to which God has called me.
And, I thought of some scriptures, again, very familiar, but I know that the Lord can take something that’s familiar and bring out something new and fresh. How many know that? How many of you have had circumstances where there’s a scripture you’ve read all your life, and all of a sudden one day it jumps off the page and it means something right where you’re at in your journey?
And so, I guess…I’m back and forth as to where to start, but I’ll go ahead and start in Romans chapter 12. There’s just one thing I want to bring out of this. You know, there are so many different emphases you can make here. But Paul has been laying out the Gospel. Here’s the foundation.
And this is…the foundation we stand upon is, again, what God has done. He’s done something about our guilt. He’s done something about the fact that just dealing with our guilt isn’t enough, we still live under the power of sin. We have no power in ourselves to rise above it, to do any different than we’ve ever done, unless He does something. Unless He comes in and makes us a new person on the inside, empowers us to live a different life, we’re just gonna be the same old person. And so, all that He’s done…and Paul talks about the purpose for which God has called us, basically to transform us, to make us into sons and daughters of the living God who are able to live with Him forever.
It’s something, I guess, we’ve said many times lately, but somehow the Lord, I believe, is emphasizing this. He certainly is to me, because no matter how much we affirm these truths, no matter how much we assert them as beliefs that we hold, unless it makes a practical difference in our everyday lives, what good is it?
See, that’s where God is going with all of this. I believe with all of my heart God wants to help many of us to get off dead-center and to begin to grow and to begin to get victory and begin to be changed, in real practical ways. God’s not satisfied with a people who sit here and practice a religion where we believe all the right stuff. He’s after changing us. And, the scripture here, of course, deals with that.
“Therefore, I urge you…” (NIV). Now ‘therefore’ is based on what? Based on what God has done, based on His mercy, based on all of this that he’s been talking about. Therefore, what’s our place in response? What’s the proper response to this?
You know, a lot of people think the proper response to this is just ‘accept’ salvation, like it’s a free gift with no obligation. And it really comes across that way in some places. But I’ll tell you, what kind of salvation is it when we basically are telling God, I want You to take away the guilt of my sins, but it’s still my life, I’m gonna live it the way I please?
See, that’s not what we’re being saved from, not just the guilt of stuff we’ve done…it’s what we are that needs to be changed. And so, the only appropriate response for someone who has given their heart and their life to Jesus, is what he’s talking about here.
But it’s interesting that he’s writing to Christians. So that reminds us that just because we have opened our hearts and invited Him in doesn’t mean we get it, doesn’t mean we have a full blown understanding. There are still a lot of basic instructions that the Lord has to give us.
And the fact of the matter is that we, even those of us who know the Lord, we’ve actually been born again of His Spirit, far too much we live in the energy of our old nature. We live in accordance with its ways and in accordance with the world, and that’s what he’s dealing with here.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…” based on what I’ve been telling you for 11 chapters here, “…to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” And so there has to come a conscious, Lord, I’m not only Yours in this vague, general sense, and to go to heaven one day, I am Yours to do what…to make the changes that need to be made in my life. I am presenting my life, and I’m presenting it where there’s a part that has to die.
I mean, a sacrifice is something you kill, isn’t it? And so, what we are recognizing is that this old part of me, the life I have been living, man, there is only one possible solution to that life. And what is that? It’s got to die—it’s got to die, so that this other life can live in its place.
But this is not just a dead sacrifice, where we say, okay, I’m guilty, Lord, kill me. This is, Jesus has died in my place, but I am willing to so identify my heart and my life and my spirit with Him that I lay down my life so that You can change me. And there is something very definite that God desires for every one of us.
Now, there are many aspects of truth here. And you see what the end result of this is when you get into this passage. I want to go back to verse 2…but basically, where he’s going with this is the picture of a people who now, instead of living independent, self-driven, self-seeking lives, now we become a part of a whole. God imparts spiritual abilities to each one, and so we live together in the same sense that my body parts live together and all serve me, presumably.
But you know, in God’s kingdom there’s something so much higher, so much richer that God has planned for us. So, God is taking people who are children of Adam and transforming them, changing them into a people who can actually live, not just for themselves, but for one another, can have gifts of God, supernatural gifts, that God can operate through them for the benefit of the whole.
And we live, not…it’s not all about me, it’s, I belong to You…everything about me belongs to You. I’m not just simply a law unto myself. And so, it also produces some of these other things he talks about, sincere love, hating what’s evil, clinging to what’s good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love. This is verse 9 and following…honoring one another above yourselves and having this zeal and spiritual fervor, patient in affliction.
I mean, all of these spiritual qualities…how any of these come from Adam? None! This is entirely the result of God’s supernatural work in the human heart that is presented to Him, saying, God, I’m on board with this. This is what I desire You to do in me.
And he goes on…live in harmony. “Bless those who persecute you…live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.” Don’t repay people with evil, all the things that we observe in the world, God is taking us out of that. Okay?
So the question is, how does this happen? Now last week we talked about Paul reaching for something. I believe there’s something in this passage right here that tells us a good deal about the process. How does God actually do what He’s doing in me and in you?
I mean, how many of you here right now, you know…there’s stuff that, you’re not like this. There’s stuff that hangs on and just hangs on and hangs on, and it’s what you are, if you’re gonna be really honest in a practical sense, there’s stuff that’s there.
Well, I’d have to say I’m in the same boat because that’s part of being on the journey. There’s gonna be stuff that God has to deal with. But here’s the key right here, I believe. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world….” Now, what’s he talking about there? Is he talking about the planet we live on?
The word ‘world’ refers to the spiritual order of things on this planet. What happened when Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, listen to Lucifer, listen to the serpent, and obey him and seek after an independent sort of god-hood? What happened?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, sin entered in. There was an infection, if you will, of the sin principle in the human family that nobody’s ever been able to escape. There’s no religion that can fix this. There’s nothing that can fix it, but death. And that’s why this is totally beyond us. But, there is a world out there that has its own way of looking at stuff. And, it has its own values, it has all the things that are important to it.
You know, was it John that said, don’t be conformed to the world. “…The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” (KJV). None of this comes from the Father. This is not God’s plan, that we should live driven by inner desires in a very selfish way. That’s what’s made the world like it is. And folks, you and I are far more shaped by the world and the world’s system in which we live than we care to admit.
And, is this world system founded on truth? It’s founded upon lies! And we see it in operation every single day and we are living in, I believe, the last period in the world’s history! And the picture that is painted for us, for example, in 2nd Thessalonians 2, is of a world that reaches a point where they so reject God, so reject truth, so trample on the love of God revealed at the cross, that God says, all right, I’m turning you loose!
And what God turns them loose to believe is called ‘the lie.’ It’s not even ‘a’ lie, it’s ‘the’ lie. It’s the lie that I can be my own god. My best interest is to seek for what I want, to follow my own innate desires. That’s what life is about.
And we are going to see a world that is increasingly devoted to that, locked into that, where people cannot even be reached. That’s the world we’re seeing evolve and it’s gonna come into a society, a world society that is ruled over by the Devil himself.
And I’ll tell you, what’s gonna end it is the coming of Christ. One day…at the time that nobody thinks such a thing is possible, Jesus is going to come back and it’s gonna be curtains for this world.
Folks, I don’t want to be swallowed up with any of this. I want to have the truth. I want to be entirely, exactly what we were just singing…”let the worshipers arise.” Let us be entirely identified with Jesus Christ without shame, without apology because this world is demanding that we bow down and just affirm everybody and everything. But I’ll tell you, there is one name above every name in this world and it’s the name of Jesus Christ!
( congregational amens ).
He alone is worthy of being worshiped as we worshiped him this morning. Praise God! But oh, I’ll tell you what, we are shaped by the environment in which we live. How many times have we talked about young people…because the tendency of every young…young person is to want to be accepted. So how do you achieve this ‘acceptance?’ You compromise, you conform, you accept the values of your peers. You try to please them. You try to go along.
I’ll tell you, if you listen to the wisdom that has come to the people of the world, you will be in bondage, you will be in blindness and you will wonder how you are like you are, if you have any sense at all…how did I get this way? Now I’ll tell you, there’s a powerful force that would absolutely bind every one of us. How many of you know what a habit is?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah. I mean, how many of you…let’s use one of our favorite examples. How many of you when you’re going down the road and you get behind a turtle…you stop and think, now, let me think about this situation. How should I understand this and how should I react? What would be the logical choice? How many of you do that? No! However you naturally react, it just happens! How did you get that way?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah. Following your nature and following your nature and following your nature, and it happens again and again, and you get to the point where you don’t have think about it anymore. You know, we have…our mind is not just this conscious thing where we’re thinking about something and thoughts are going through our heads, there is whole, buried down deep unconscious mind. And I’ll tell you, we have spent our lives burying stuff in there.
Every one of us is different. But every one of us has taken from our experiences, from our environment, from our parents, from our own…from our peers, from the world around us, the media, the movies, you name it, we are being inundated with the world’s wisdom, which of course is wonderful truth, isn’t it? No, it isn’t. And every one of us has stuff in here.
So what that does, many times, is bring us to a place where we can affirm something that the Bible says. But the reality is, when we are in the situation that that verse or that saying in the Bible, where it applies, we don’t do that. Why not? Because we’ve been conformed to this world.
And thing is, a Christian can just mindlessly go on and imagine that this is how life is. I’m just the way I am, as though God can’t even change us. I mean, how many of us from a practical standpoint have gotten to that point in some areas of our lives? I mean, God himself doesn’t have an answer for this one, I’m just stuck this way. I mean, if you put it into words, that’s what we actually believe…we live as if that’s true.
And I’ll tell you, there’s a God who wants to begin to deal with those deep places of bondage in our lives and remove the chains. But unless He can get down into those deep places, unless He can get down into those areas where habit has just taken a hold and this is our mentality, this is the way we look at life, this is how we react to certain situations! And this is how we justify how we act in certain situations. And it goes on and on and on and on, this mentality that just has been built into us in a practical sense. I’m so thankful God is patient.
( congregational response ).
I mean, if it were you and me looking at us and looking at the…I mean, we’d just throw up our hands and say, it’s hopeless. But I’ll tell you, we serve a God for whom nothing is impossible. And He has declared His intention to change us into the image of His Son. And I believe with all my heart He is doing that.
The process is painful at times, but I’ll tell you, He doesn’t want us simply to be mindless robots. He’s not creating artificial intelligence where He just programs us and we walk and we say hallelujah and all that kind of stuff. God wants people who will take hold of His truth, and it will become so deeply rooted in our hearts and in our spirits that that will become the thing that causes, that governs our actions and our reactions in the world. Do you believe that’s possible?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah. And, of course, we all say, yes and then…and then we say, yeah, some way, somehow. And then in a practical sense under our breath, no way. And I believe God wants to take away that ‘no way,’ because I can think of areas in my own heart.
You know the reality is, we would look at somebody who lives under the chains of alcohol, something obvious, and many of us would sort of…well, that’s a shame, God can deliver them. We have faith for them, of course.
And yet, every single one of us has areas of our lives that do not conform to what God is intending to make out of us! It may not be something obvious like that, but I’ll tell you what, there’s not one of us who’s any different! The issue may be different, but the particular manifestation of this old nature is just…I mean, it’s the same. It comes from the same nature!
So, I’ll tell you, there’s not one of us here who has the right to look down on anyone. We stand on the same ground with the same need. And I’ll tell you, if you don’t think so, you hang around. God will have His way of showing you what you are.
Now, thank God, he doesn’t it to destroy our confidence and just grind us down. He does it so that we’ll wake up, humble ourselves, do what He’s talking about here and say, God, I can’t fix this. God, I present myself to you. I need to be changed! And that’s what this is about.
So the beginning point is, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got a problem. We are full of the world, in one way or another. We’re full of it! We listen to its attitudes. We drink them in, we act them out and they become so ingrained in us, we don’t even have to think about it anymore. We just act and react.
Okay, how in the world is God gonna deal with something like that? I mean, you think about it. That’s a pretty deep challenge. I can’t fix it, that’s for sure. But listen to what he says. “But be transformed…” (NIV). Be transformed!
I’ll make the point, as I’ve often made it before. This does not tell us transform ourselves! God is not in the business of merely giving us information and saying, here’s how you fix it, go for it. This is a process by which we surrender to Him. We trust Him. We open up our hearts to His saving process, and we are the recipients of His action. He’s the only One who has the power to save me! If He won’t do it, I’m lost. I have no hope.
But thank God, for a God who is willing and, “…able to save completely, those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Thank God. Praise God! So this is a passive thing. I occupy the place of someone who is receiving something that God is doing. Okay?
Be transformed…but how is this happening? “…By the renewing of your mind.” Now again, this is not simply teaching us on this superficial level the doctrines we’re supposed to believe. Now, it involves knowing those things. But this is where God has to get down into that part, that unconscious part that actually controls the way we really are. God has to replace those things that have caused us to act in a certain way…maybe when we’re chasing the turtle.
You know, it’s something we can all identify with. But God has to do something that actually changes this, so that our natural, the reaction that we come up with without even thinking about it is the one He wants, instead of the one that has been in there because we just are a child of Adam living in the world.