— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, I confess this morning to a great deal of questioning and struggle as to what…the thoughts that I had had. But I’ll tell you, what the Lord came to bring is just incredible. It’s amazing. He came to reconcile us to God. He came to open a way where we could live the way God intended when He created us.
He never intended us to live independently of Him, but as an expression of His life and yet, retaining all the uniqueness that each of us has. And, the Lord put away our sins and made that possible, and, praise God, while we worship a Savior who came and lived as a little baby, and grew up and lived among us, and we rejoice in the cross. We rejoice in the resurrection.
I’ll tell you, the One we need to be seeing…the One I need to be seeing, is the One who’s on the throne, the One who holds all authority and all power in heaven and earth, and has been given the commission of finishing the Kingdom of God and establishing it forever. He’s already defeated our enemy. He has promised to take us through, so Praise God! I hope I’m listening to this! But I’ll tell you what, we’re all fighting the same battles, aren’t we?
You know, recently, within the last couple of weeks I guess, in my Bible reading, I was reading in the Book of 2nd Corinthians, and there was a phrase that stuck out to me, especially in the first five chapters. Now Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians was written, probably a few months after 1st Corinthians.
You remember 1st Corinthians was written to a people, a Gentile church that had been converted out of heathenism, still had a lot to learn about what it meant to live for God. And so, Paul had to deal with a lot of issues.
And, his intention, he expresses…I’m not gonna get into all that, but his intention was to come back by and he didn’t want to come and have another confrontation with all that stuff, but yet he was intending to come by on his way back to Jerusalem. You remember the chapters where he talks about gathering the offering for the poor saints and so forth. So now, he’s writing to them.
But the real issue of the book is that a lot of false ministries had come in and tried to belittle Paul and take the position of authority over the people, and move them away from what Paul had preached. And so, he is put in a position of having to defend his ministry.
And yet, if you read it, it becomes evident that Paul is not defending it in ego-sense. Hey, this is mine. Get away…in that human sense. But it was entirely based on the conviction that what he had was from God. And so, therefore, if they were being moved from that, they were being moved from what God had sent them, because it wasn’t about Paul, rather, it was about the God who had sent him.
And the phrase the jumped out at me, I mean, right from the beginning of the first chapter, was this simple phrase, ‘from God.’ And it’s amazing how many times it occurs. And it seems like such a simple thing that you would just pass over. Oh yeah, yeah…we know that. But I believe it’s significant in a way that you and I, especially I, need it this morning.
We need to recognize what God’s purpose is…that there is a, not just a resource but a Person, a Being who longs to share Himself with us in every area of our life.
You know, I was expressing last night some of my concern. I didn’t have any emotions. I didn’t know whether this was what the Lord wanted or not, and so I came to the men’s meeting this morning and half of what I was gonna say was said. How often has that happened, when the Lord just specifically said things?
And I’m just sitting there and taking this in and thanking God for the way God is building the Body, because this isn’t about me, this is about us. This is about Christ in every one of us, and God’s life being expressed in every one of us. The Lord is teaching us those things.
But, I’ve wrestled, as well, with how to do this because every one of these instances where he uses the phrase, you could build a message on it. So, I think I’m just gonna go through and try to give more of an overview of this, and I don’t know whether the Lord wants to take us deeper into some of the specifics, or not.
There’s nothing new about any of it. But one of the interesting things is, right at the beginning in chapter 1, verse 2, he begins by saying, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV). Now how many of you would read that, like I probably have most of my life, and said, yeah, that’s the standard greeting? It’s just, okay, let’s get to the good stuff, as though that’s just sort of an obligatory, nice way to say stuff.
I don’t believe that. I believe that Paul had a sense, when he wrote, when he spoke, about the power of words! You and I were created in the image of God, were we not? When God does something, how does He do it? He speaks! There’s power in His words. You and I have power in our words and I believe Paul was not just giving them a warm and fuzzy greeting, but he was literally expecting that through his words, there was something that was gonna flow from God to the people. Think about that.
But think about how that applies to every one of us. Is there not power in words? Of course, we know from the scriptures there is power of life and death in the tongue. And so, here is Paul with this sense that God has given me a tongue, He’s given me this immense power through words, but my place is to use the words that I have as a vehicle for God to literally help somebody else.
It’s not so that I can be looked at as an orator, or somebody great. In fact, Paul talks about the fact that, in person, he was not particular impressive. We don’t think about him that way, but Paul was not a commanding presence. What he was, was somebody that had God with him in a very unique way to build the church in his day.
But here’s Paul literally seeking to convey to these people to whom he wrote, I want grace, I want God’s peace to be ministered to you. Do you know that every member of the Body of Christ has that power? Did Paul not talk to the Colossian believers and say, let your speech always be seasoned with…that it may minister, I don’t remember the exact words, but the focus phrase there is that it minister grace to the hearers?
I’ll tell you, you and I…I believe all of us need to have a greater sense of what…of this power that we have, because I’ll tell you, we tear one another down. We tear people down. You know, what do our words do?
But yet, you and I have this ability, if we will, if we’ll live with that sense…hey, I’m not just, this is not just me and God is off there. This is God wanting to express Himself through me in a way that will build somebody else up and be a blessing to them.
And so, right off the bat, Paul is immediately jumping into this picture. And I’ll say this for the sake of those who would love to get a title early, back in the room back there. The title I had is sort of an odd one, but perhaps it’ll get the point across. “A ‘From God’ Life,” “A ‘From God’ Life.”
And I believe with all my heart, that’s what God wants every one of us to live! He wants that for His church, to live a ‘from God’ life so that everything we do and everything we are literally has its origin in God and simply flows through us to accomplish His purposes and to become the kind of people that He wants us to be.
So, there’s that dual thing. He wants us to be different, but He wants to do something through us. It’s never just about us, okay? So that was the first instance.
The second instance is in verse 4, and…he speaks of the God, in verse 3, of the God of all comfort. Wasn’t that mentioned this morning? Interesting how that occurred during the choir. “… The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Now you see, if you look in the context…this is a scripture we’ve read many times because Paul launches into a discussion or expression of what he has just been through. He’s been through one of the most difficult times in his life. He went through a time when it says, he, “… despaired even of life,” itself.
He didn’t know if he was gonna make it. In fact, it wasn’t just, oh, I’m afraid I’m gonna die, he said, I know I’m gonna die now. This was a point where God had brought…God had allowed him to come into a situation where, as far as he was concerned, it was over.
Now, that tells us something that I think we know, but we need to be constantly reminded of. It’s the reality of the world we live in. God has never promised His people that we’re going to be trouble free. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Here was God literally allowing…do you think this just happened? Do you think any of this thing that Paul talked about, happened and God just sort of didn’t care or He was busy with something else and didn’t pay attention? No, I’ll tell you, God looked down and there was a need in Paul.
Think about what he says. In a way, I’m racing through something but I know that this is something that we have heard many times, where Paul says, down in verse 9, it says, “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Praise God! God is going to give us, not simply the blessings of resurrection, but the reality of the cross in our lives because there are things in us that have to die if we’re going to live this other life. And God looked down at His servant Paul, and said, all right, Paul, I’ve blessed you, I’ve used you, but you’ve come to a point in your life where you don’t even realize the degree to which you are relying on yourself!
Anybody know what I’m talking about? We go along and we think we’re doing fine and then, all of a sudden, God introduces a set of circumstances that show us something about ourselves that we didn’t know.
Now, is He mad at us? Is He trying to condemn us? No! God’s purpose in this…Satan’s was to bring him down, destroy him. But God’s purpose was to bring him into a situation that would cause him to say, I don’t have what I need! And so, I’m gonna just cry out to God in this situation.
But yet, there was enough wisdom in Paul for him to recognize, God did this and He did it for a reason! He gave me what I needed but there was a lesson that I had to learn and this was the only way I could learn it!
But it wasn’t just a personal lesson…okay, I thought I could handle life and I couldn’t and I need God…okay, now we’re done. Do you see the sense of God building every one of us into vessels who can be used of Him in the Body of Christ?
And this is something I was conscious of and I want us to see this in every area where Paul’s talking. This isn’t just for apostles. These are principles that apply to every single member of the Body of Christ!
Now think about the larger context of where he’s writing. This is a few months after he had just written 1st Corinthians. In 1st Corinthians, he spent a lot of time laying out the principles of the Body of Christ, where nobody is unimportant! Everybody has a place. We just have a different place. But the responsibility in every part is to be a blessing to others.
And so, what God was…what the Devil wanted to do was destroy him. What God wanted to do was to make him more useful. But one of the main things that it enabled him to do was to be able to say, I’ve been there, done that, and God was faithful! He brought me to a difficult place, but when I was there, He came with all the comfort that I needed. And so, now I am in a position that is better than I was before. You see where Paul’s eyes are.
How many of us come through something like that and, oh poor me, look what I went through, look at all the bad stuff, instead of saying, God has put me in a place where I need to learn something about Him.
And I’ll tell you, if I will keep my eyes there and I will remember what this is really all about…it’s not being comfortable in the world, it’s about me dying so He can live in me. And I’ll tell you, now I’ve been there, I’ve been in a place where my brothers and sisters are going through the same things and now God’s put me in a position where I can speak a word of authority.
I’ll tell you, there are people who have been through stuff. I mean, you think of Joni Eareckson Tada, and you think of the voice that God has given her anywhere in the globe: what can they say? You know, somebody come out of seminary and spout all this and say the same things, it doesn’t carry the same weight because she has been through hell on earth, if you will.
And God has become real to her and she will stand there and give a ringing testimony of what God means to her in the middle of circumstances that are beyond what most of us will ever experience. Man, that counts for something!
And I’ll tell you, when God works in us, it’s twofold. It is to change us, to break the hold that self has and to enable us to serve Him. Praise God, like I say, you see the problem I’m trying to have thinking about this. You could take every one of these and just go to town with it. But this is not a small thing, is it?
There’s another place where Paul begins to talk about his ministry and he’s forced to talk about himself. But verse 12, it says, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.”
Notice that phrase there? Do you think that’s just thrown in there to fill out space? I’ll tell you, that is deeply significant. “We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” Folks, God longs to produce godly virtues in us, that we should be a holy people, separated unto Him, that we should have a sincerity in what we do!
And I think we all know that there is a human counterfeit to all of that and it’s so easy for us to act the part, to know how we’re supposed to behave on the outside. But God’s not interested in that. He’s interested in something that happens in here.
And when we take hold of what God puts in here and then express that, it’s not us anymore, is it? “It is no longer I…but Christ who lives in me.” (NLT). This is virtue that comes from God. That’s what God wants every one of us to have…to get past the point where we act the part of a Christian, and when we’re genuine, because it comes from here. Okay?
So, here’s Paul talking about…I was with you. I lived the kind of life that I should. I was deadly sincere, but I want you to know, man, I was not doing that for selfish advantage. I wasn’t doing it to try to impress you with how spiritual I was.
When it’s said, I’m deadly sincere…well, sometimes people are deadly sincere for very selfish reasons. But Paul’s sincerity was, this is genuine! This is not me doing this. This is God doing it!
That’s something that God wants to bring every one of us to. I’ll tell you, we’re not the good people we think we are, and so many of our virtues are simply products of our own self and our own energy and they are for self.
I’ll tell you, I want to have a consciousness, where I can say, God, I am not what I need to be. And, Lord, I want that which is real. I want You to produce in me, at the heart level what is real, something that comes from divine energy, divine grace, so that when I’m acting, when I’m speaking, when I’m interacting with people, it’s not me trying to play a part.
And you notice that in the context, he’s talking about his relations, not only with the people of God…a lot of times we can come in and act a certain way and then out there we’re a different person. But Paul says, it was the same either way, whether we’re having relations out here with the world or whether it’s just with you. We want the real thing.
And I’ll tell you, it comes from God and it’s by His grace. It’s certainly not by anything that I deserve or anything I could muster up. This is the foundation of my relationship with you. It’s God at work in the heart. Is that not what we need? Every single one of us, in our personal relationships, in our relationships with the world, we need God living in us.
Now, it’s easy, again, to look at somebody like Paul and say, oh yeah, God called Paul. It was a great ministry. Do you know God has called every single one of you? If you have been called to be a part of the Body of Christ, to be a part of His Kingdom, there is a call of God in your life.
You may be called to be a faithful housewife and mother of children. You may be called to be a faithful mother in Israel. You may be called to be a faithful worker on a job who manifests the Spirit of Christ, or the father of a home, the man of the house that builds a godly home. All of these things are divine calls that are just as real as the one Paul had.
And it’s interesting in the context here, he has just been talking about that what comes through him, he calls it, “…the aroma of Christ…” (NIV). You know, a good sermon title sometime might be, ‘what do you smell like?’ Well, Paul had the right kind of odor, didn’t he, spiritually speaking?
When Christ is in the life, there will be an aroma. There will be an atmosphere that that person generates that people…I’ll tell you, the Devil will know about it. It will have an effect on those around you. I pray that God will…God will give us more of that, give me more of that, because I confess my need.
God, it’s so easy for us just to run and do and be in our own strength and not realize what God has us here for. It’s not for this! It’s for eternity and God has a place for every one of us in this place.
But are we living from God? See, if we’re living from God, we’re gonna have an effect that will draw some, and they’ll say, man, I love that smell. Tell me more. And then there are gonna be others that are full of self-will and sin, and they’re gonna say, no, that stinks.
But are we really making that kind of a difference in people’s lives? May God help us to recognize that. So, of course Paul has this ministry now. God sent him. Okay, now how do I do this becomes the next question, doesn’t it?
And the scripture we have read so many times in chapter 3, he talks about the confidence that he has. “Such confidence as this…” in verse 4, “… is ours through Christ before God.” Now, he jumps right in and says, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
Our ability! Our ability to do the job! How does it come? It comes from God! Every one of us, if we’re honest and we’re seeking God, and we’re wanting to do His will, we confront inability and this sense of inability constantly! I certainly do. Oh my God, I’m not up for this. I can’t do this.
Well…guess what? Of course, you can’t. That’s the point. That’s why we’re called to live a ‘from God’ life. If God has put you in a place, you have every right to go to Him and say, God, You put me in this place. I’m trusting in You. I want to live with Your energy, with Your ability…You give me what I need.
This is not a…this is an ongoing relationship he’s talking about, isn’t it? I mean, every time I stand up here, I’m literally saying, God, I can’t do this, because He knows that in myself I can’t. This isn’t about human ability. This is about God. But God wants you to know that. He cares about you!