— Brother Phil Enlow: Praise the Lord! Good to see everybody this morning. I appreciate the spirit of praise, and thank God it’s not just something where we can come together and sing and feel good, there’s a reason behind it.
( congregational response ).
Praise the Lord! Well, last week we focused on Colossians 2 and 3 and the title of the message was — I think it wound up being, “All and in All,” and it focused on Christ and the fact that what we have is not religion but a Person. The answer to everything is not policies and procedures and all those kinds of things, but it’s a Person.
And, my mind went back to one of the scriptures, though. There’s a point that I feel like is critical. I certainly came up, in my own life this week, when I came face to face with a need and immediately there was a thought that came to me and it was connected with this passage and it’s in Colossians chapter 2. One of the scriptures we focused on, but there’s one aspect of it, like I say, that we did not.
In verse 6, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (NIV). So, the one point that I have often made out of this verse is that the principle by which we are saved in the first place is the principle by which we live. It’s not two different things.
There’s this constant sense where I need something I don’t have, and the answer is in Christ. Everything that I need is in Him. But there’s a…language is a funny thing. There are no two languages where there is a word that has the exact equivalent in another language. There is a range of meaning within this culture of a certain word that’s used and you take it over here and you’d have to translate it sort of one way or another and it doesn’t quite capture the whole meaning.
And one of the words that jumped out at me, as I said, this week was the word ‘received.’ And, in English, the word ‘received’ almost has a passive connotation. It’s like, I’m sitting there and I get a package and I receive it and I sign for it and all of that, but there’s not a lot of action on my part. I’m sort of passive to it.
And there’s a lot of the Gospel that’s preached today that’s a little bit like that. It’s so simplistic that I just ‘accept’ it, I just receive it and that’s about all there is to it, almost.
But there is an action part of this that is…that we can easily overlook and we can get stuck in the mode where we’re asserting all that Christ is but not benefitting as we should and we’re stuck in our individual lives in certain areas. And I won’t ask for a show of hands how many people who are in that place where you’re sort of stuck. I mean, you know there are things that Christ has provided but somehow we’re not…you’re not enjoying that.
And I certainly would have to raise my hands, because it is a journey and we do face things all along and issues all along where we need that change that we were singing about this morning. The Lord’s changing us, isn’t He? Thank God, He is! Thank God He will continue that work until that day. And the end of it is a certainty for everyone that has genuinely given their heart to Him.
But there is…most of the time, if you were to trace that Greek word through the New Testament, it does not say ‘receive,’ it says ‘take.’ Now that’s quite a difference, isn’t it? If I just receive something, that’s one thing, but if I…I’m just really…I’m asserting my part, there’s a part that I play where I am reaching out and I am ‘taking’ that.
And that’s what I felt like, in my own experience, that was lacking…that there was an area where I wasn’t taking. Christ was offering. It was available, it was there, but I wasn’t really, aggressively taking. And that is an aspect of truth that I…we need that balance.
Thank God for everything God has done! He has provided everything and not only did He provide it, but He came seeking us. He came convicting us so that we would have a heart-level belief, a conviction that we need Him and that He’s the answer, because that’s the only foundation for approaching Him and coming to Him. There’s nothing in us that would ever do that. So, it’s God. But, there’s a point at which He looks for a response!
You know, I think I mentioned before, and I don’t remember if it was last week or not, but there are some that so emphasize the sovereignty of God, that it’s almost like we have very little responsibility, and others that so emphasize the response of man that it’s like God is a beggar, trying to sign us up for some better plan for our life.
But there is an awesome provision of God that is sovereign! He is in charge! The question is not whether He’s sovereign, the question is how does He use that sovereignty? And He uses that to appeal to men, to convict them, but to bring us to a point of real surrender. But it’s more than just an acquiescence, where we just say, okay, I give in. I’ll tell you, we’ve got things to overcome.
And I thought of a number of scriptures and I just want to kind of go through some of these and balance this truth out, or at least enlarge upon it, show what that meaning of that word really is. Receive, again, is more than just a passive thing.
How about Matthew chapter 11? Matthew chapter 11 is a passage where Jesus was asked about John the Baptist, who was the forerunner, who came announcing that He was coming. And Jesus said this, was very interesting, in verse 12 of chapter 11 of Matthew. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Well now, one thing that we mentioned last week is certainly contained in that, and that’s the fact that what God is doing in the world is a divine invasion. That could easily have been the title. But there is an invasion that God is doing that is forceful and it’s mighty and it’s invading the Devil’s territory, to rescue people for Eternity!
But that’s not the whole of it, is it? Because it says, “…forceful men lay hold of it.” There is an effort, there is an opposition, anytime you and I would try to move toward the Kingdom of God. I know you know that, if you know the Lord at all. You know that this doesn’t come without opposition.
And the question is what do we do about that? Do we just sort of say, oh, it’s not for me, or a thousand and one responses that would cause us to stop short of what God has provided, fully, when He wants us to put forth some genuine effort, and yet…oh, I’m getting ahead of myself here, but thank God, it’s not a self-effort, but there’s an effort! There is an absolute reaching forth that has to be…where our will has to be geared up and there’s an insistence about it!
You know, one picture that came back to my mind is one I’ve mentioned before and that’s from Pilgrim’s Progress. You remember early in the journey where Christian was headed for the Celestial City, he came to the House of the Interpreter. And the purpose of that was to learn some spiritual truth, and this was prior to his actually encountering the Cross, and losing his burden.
But he learned some things. One of the things that he learned…the interpreter showed him a beautiful castle. And everyone in that castle was happy and healthy and rejoicing, and it just looked like a wonderful place to be.
And outside of that castle were a number of very strong soldiers who were standing there with swords to oppose anybody who would try to get in that castle. And there was a company of men who acted like, I’d sure like to be in there, but they looked at this opposition and they just…they were afraid. They backed off. They wouldn’t go.
And then he saw one man go up to a table where someone was writing down the names of those who were going in, and gave him his name, put on his armor and he just took off. One man against all of these, and he just valiantly fought his way through and then was received into the castle.
Folks, that’s a better picture of salvation than a lot that’s preached! I’ll tell you, if anybody gets saved, it’s gonna be against a whole lot of stuff that’s going on in here. You’ve got enemies in here that will not yield, that don’t want to surrender, that you want to bargain with God! There are a thousand and one things that will stop you from really entering the Kingdom of God. We’re gonna have to…we’re gonna have to be able to push through that.
There’s gonna have to be a willingness, not just to passively say, okay Lord, put the salvation in my back pocket, a ticket to heaven and I’ll go on with my life. This is something…this is an all or nothing kind of thing.
And I’ll tell you, you won’t get to that place until you realize the stakes…that this is an all or nothing question! We are either going to be destroyed or we’re going to live forever with Him and the price of salvation is our life!
And you are gonna have the Devil whispering in your ear a thousand and one things that will cause you to say, wait a minute, what about this, what about that? And we’re gonna have to be willing to push through. And so, just even coming to Christ, this is not some simple, little, okay, God, I’ll go along with you, kind of thing. God is looking for people who are dead serious.
You remember the parable of the sower? You had some that the seed had no effect on their hearts and their minds. They just were so seared, so hardened. But there were two other categories of people upon whose lives and upon whose hearts the seed of the Word of God fell.
One of them, the soil was shallow. Boy, does that picture a lot of the American church. I mean, the idea of forgiveness of sins, being a friend of God, getting to go to Heaven one day…yeah, why not? I’ll go along. I’ll be willing to go to church and take up that lifestyle and all of that. Yeah, who doesn’t want a deal like that?
And…but what happens? The problem is underneath it’s rocky! There are issues in the heart that have never been touched, never been confronted. Self is still on the throne! The principle of sin still rules and it doesn’t take but the right circumstances for them to say, wait a minute, I didn’t sign up for this.
You know, I’ve said many times, when persecution comes to this country, how many people will still identify with Christ? It’s gonna change a lot, isn’t it? That’s what’s happening in India, right now. They’re undergoing a very particular persecution and it’s growing, but we can stand with our brothers there.
But you know, it’s having good fruit. God always advances His kingdom in the face of whatever the Devil throws. We’re asleep here! We don’t know what’s going on. You know, if you have any awareness at all, you can see the forces of darkness gathering and all it takes is the right circumstances and things are gonna change dramatically!
But God’s getting His people ready. He doesn’t call upon us to fear. But anyway, there is a battle to fight to get into the kingdom.
And I mentioned the parable of the sower. The other one was somebody who…yeah, they accepted the Word. That was great and they started to produce something, but then the cares of this world took over. They were more interested in this world. That was the real priority—the true priority of their life was what they could get out of this world, their life in it, all the issues connected with it. The Kingdom of God was not the center!
Folks, for God’s people God’s kingdom is the bottom line! And you’re gonna have a fight on your hands if you enter this kingdom. But I’ll tell you, the glorious thing is when we fight, when we agree and say, yes Lord, I want this with all of my heart, you’re gonna find out that God will come along and help you. You’re gonna find out it’s not up to your strength at all. All of a sudden, God comes on the scene!
That’s what grace is about. It’s by grace that we are saved! God has to help us. But when our wills align with His truth and with His provision and His purpose, and we set our hearts to do what He says, He will come on the scene and we’re gonna find out we’re not alone.
( congregational amens ).
That’s real salvation. That’s the principle by which people come in. Now, I thought about another scripture that is closely connected with this, and I think it’s in Luke 13, if I remember correctly. Yeah, this is one we used to hear a lot and need to not forget that it’s in the book!
Jesus was going from village to village, verse 22, “…teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Well, He didn’t directly answer it, but indirectly He did. He said, “He said to them, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”
Now how do you put that together with just accepting Jesus or receiving Him? I mean, I realize there’s a…sometimes that can describe something that is genuine. Thank God for every time it does! But oh, there’s so much deeper truth in that. Because, here are people who actually are making some kind of effort. They see the Kingdom of God, to some degree, and they’re trying to enter it and they want to enter it, but they’re not able to.
Why in the world? Is God trying to keep them out? Does anybody here think that God is just trying to block the door and say, no, you can’t come in? I don’t care how hard you try, you’re not. No! That’s not it!
What’s the issue? The issue is there’s something they’re not willing to let go! At some point, there is a choice that has to be made regarding the Kingdom of God and something in their life. I mean, I’m sure everybody by now has thought about the rich, young ruler, a classic example. Here was a young man who was zealous for serving God with everything he knew, which was the Jew’s religion and the Law of Moses, and he kept it from the time he was a boy. He was scrupulous about it. He was zealous toward God and all of that.
And so, he comes and said, I’ve done all the things that you’ve talked about. Oh, what else do I lack? And Jesus said, sell what you have, give it to the poor and come and take up your cross and follow Me. Now, that’s not a general command to everybody, but that was the god of his life, wasn’t it? That was the issue. There was a narrow door there and he couldn’t bring his love of his wealth.
I mean, God’s not against people having money if He has them and has their hearts. God has all kinds of people. Thank God! But for this man, this was his god. And when that was put that way, you are either going to be in the Kingdom of God or you’re gonna have your wealth, he went away sadly, didn’t he? So, this is a pretty good description of somebody who wanted to enter but wasn’t able.
Folks, we’re gonna have to come…God’s gonna put His finger on issues in every single life! And I say that to ones growing up here. God is gonna put His finger on the issues of your life. It may be some ambition. It may be some desire for a mate. It could be a thousand and one things that your life and your affections get fixed on. But I’ll tell you, if we come to Christ, those things are gonna be laid on the altar. He is going to be Lord!
But do you see this balance that you see in the scriptures, between the fact that we come to a place of surrender, which sounds very passive, on the one hand, but there’s also this battle, this fight, to get to lay hold of that? I’m gonna have to put forth everything that I’ve got into this battle. I want that more than I want my next breath. That’s what it really comes down to to enter into the Kingdom of God.
But I find, in my own life, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, that there are so many times when I’ll come up against a need, and I know, theologically and scripturally, what the answer is. I mean, I wouldn’t dare say, God, you didn’t prepare me for this. You didn’t provide for this. There’s no real answer for this. I’m just stuck being who I am. This is who I am. That’s all there is to it. I’m stuck.
I mean, how many think that’s the case? We all know it isn’t. Either God has provided everything we need in Christ or He hasn’t. So, if He has provided everything and we’re not walking in that, where is the issue? Is it with God?
( congregational response ).
It’s with me, isn’t it?
( congregational response ).
God is looking for people who are gonna be on board with Him, completely, and looking to Him and trusting in Him and not only knowing that I have a need, but being bold enough…you see, there’s got to be an assertiveness on my part.
And that was the kind of reaction I had to something. I said, wait a minute! You know, I’m sitting here being a victim. I’m sitting here putting up with something when God has already told me what the answer is. I need to get up on my hind legs and say, wait a minute! I insist upon obtaining what Christ has provided for me! It belongs to me!
God is looking for a greater boldness and assertiveness, in His people, to lay hold of what He has already paid such a high price to give us! That’s the heart of the burden that I felt this morning. And I see God saying, I’ve done everything for you and here you sit. God help me to come to that place where I have that boldness!
I’ll tell you, we’ve got a God who values boldness. He values that kind of a heart that says I will not accept anything less! In some ways, I’m galloping through this, but that’s all right. I’ll tell you, God…the central thought is such a simple one. But I just pray that God will get it through our thick skulls, what He’s wanting from us today!
He doesn’t want us to go and say, oh, that was wonderful truth! Praise God! And then go back to our lives like they are and not be changed by it. God wants to change me! He wants to change you! But you and I have a part to play. Are we gonna seek Him? Are we going to believe Him? Are we gonna actually stand on the promises, or as my dad used to say, just sit on the premises?
( laughter ).
And that’s what a lot of Christians do. Instead of standing on the promises, they’re sitting on the premises, sleeping, when the Lord has done so much. He’s given everything for us! Praise God! We rightly worship Him! He alone is worthy of our worship!
But you know, one of the scriptures that came back to me, and I guess we can turn to it so you’ll know where it’s at. It’s in Genesis 32, I believe. Remember, Jacob was one of the patriarchs and he was a character. He did a lot of things his own way and the Lord worked in spite of it. How many are glad the Lord works in spite of us?
( congregational response ).
Yeah! He reaches us when we’re in a condition of great need and He begins to mold our hearts and our minds and He brings us out of all kinds of things. Jacob was somebody who believed in the Covenant. I mean he valued the Covenant and he valued the birthright that would have caused him to be able to step into the benefits of that Covenant with God, the covenant relationship.
His older brother, Esau, didn’t care! Because, one day he got really hungry and he traded his birthright for a bowl of soup, or a bowl of beans or whatever it was. And so, he despised that birthright.
So, in spite of the fact that Jacob cheated him out of it, what you see in him is a heart that says, I want that! That matters to me. And God began to mold that and meet with him. And he had to flee from his brother and go to another country, and wound up getting married, and acquiring flocks and herds, and he starts back.
In the process, God reveals Himself to him in greater and greater way and says, I’ll go…don’t be afraid, I’m with you. And now he’s coming back to meet Esau, though. And he remembers how it was when they parted. Esau was trying to kill me. And then he hears Esau is coming with 400 men. Whoa! And he reacts just like you and I would.
So, he does everything he could think of to do. He separates his family into two groups and he sends gifts ahead and he just does everything he can naturally think of to do to try to mollify his brother’s anger at him. And then he’s left alone, isn’t he?
And it says, in verse 24, is it? “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
And this is the reply, “But Jacob replied, I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Think of the boldness! Think of the brassy, I will not let you go! I’ve got to have…that was driven by need!
But here is a man who is…he’s talking to God! I don’t know if this is Christ or an angel, but whatever it was, he was not dealing with just a man. He was dealing with something more than that. And yet he has the gall, if you want to put it that way, to say, “I will not let you go….”
How many of you think that God wants us to have that kind of a boldness with Him? I’ll tell you, God wasn’t offended by this. This is really what God was looking for, was that sense of, I have got to have You! If I don’t have You, I am a goner! I want You above all else, God! I need You! And there’s this holy boldness to say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And God blessed him!