— Brother Phil Enlow: Praise the Lord! I’m so thankful we have something we can sing about this morning. I just praise God for His mercy and His grace. Thank God!
But I was just thinking about the reality of what the Lord has given to us, what we’re remembering today…obviously the death of Christ and what that means, but the resurrection that sealed the deal. I mean, the evidence, the reality, the proof, God’s stamp of approval on everything that Jesus said when He declared, it was accomplished, it was finished, was affirmed when He brought Him forth from the grave.
And the Lord arranged it so that nobody was expecting that! I mean, the only people that were halfway expecting it were the unbelievers, and they thought it was gonna be faked. But the disciples were the ones that had to be convinced. They didn’t believe it at all. They didn’t understand. They were left in…I mean, everybody was clueless on the day that all this happened as to what it was about.
But I’ll tell you, when God brought Him forth, the scripture tells us that it was by many infallible or, “…many convincing proofs…” (NIV). They knew! And somehow in a period of 40 days, they went from being scared and hiding to boldly standing forth before all the people and declaring the truth of the Gospel. That’s the Lord we need in our midst.
( congregational amens ).
We don’t need to practice religion. And that’s one thing I want to emphasize, I guess, about this movie. I appreciated the testimonies they made. The one danger is that you can go to seed on the doctrine…and think, well, I’ve got the doctrine right, therefore, I’ve got it, I’ve got it.
Folks, if that’s all we’ve got, we ain’t got it. We need the One the doctrine is teaching about. We need the presence of Christ. It’s not the truth in the abstract sense, it’s the One who is the Truth. He is the One that we need in our midst today and he is the One who will carry us through.
You know, just to lead into what I had on my heart, you will remember how John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the people around him. On one occasion, right in the beginning of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist declared, behold, “…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
And you know, he was doing this in a religious environment that knew something about sacrifice. They literally sacrificed lambs. You know, we brought out, several years ago on an Easter, I believe, the amazing…it’s amazing in some ways it shouldn’t be amazing, but the coincidence of the very moment…what was going on when Jesus was on the cross was the observance by the Jews of the Passover, the Passover being a type of what was happening on the cross!
And so there He was declaring it was finished, and over in the temple there was a high priest offering up a lamb and about to go through the rest of the ritual of the Passover. And, all of a sudden, the veil of the temple splits from top to bottom and there’s an earthquake, and…God was trying to get somebody’s attention.
But I’ll tell you…the idea of sacrifice and of a lamb, and the need for sin to be somehow dealt with was clearly understood because of what had happened in the Old Testament. I just…a couple of scriptures that kind of bear this out, one of them is in Romans chapter 3. And this is preliminary but important.
Romans chapter 3, this is where Paul is laying out the truth of the Gospel, why we need it, the principle of the law, that God gave them laws in the Old Testament but they were never meant to be a pathway to acceptance by God. They were meant to show our need so that we would come to Him on another ground other than our performance.
How many of you here want to stand before God one day and declare, I am here and I am worthy of Your Kingdom because I have measured up? Not one of us could possibly do that. There has to be another way. But the issue is, God is just, isn’t He? Now what does justice mean?
( congregation inaudible ).
Well, what is…yeah, that’s true. But what does the principle of justice mean? It means that there is a law, and somebody breaks that law, then justice demands that the penalty for breaking that law be carried out! Well, that leaves us in a bad spot, because there is, as he points out, there’s none who do good. Every one of us has come short.
So, what is the…I mean, how can a just God possibly give any of us here this morning hope? If He’s just, how can He do it? And that’s the miracle of the cross. Let’s see…the scripture I literally wanted to focus on was in…well, in verse 25. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice….”
See, God didn’t leave things…He didn’t just say, oh, I feel bad about this, I’m gonna let you in. Justice had to be honored. God…how can God be just and show mercy? That’s the conundrum here. But He has a way, doesn’t He? Thank God!
“He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
That’s the amazing thing. When Christ died in our place, God’s justice that I deserved was carried out upon Him. So, God upheld the justice of the Law, and allowed me to have hope in Him. Praise God! That’s the hope that God desires for every one that hears this.
And…I sometimes come away and say, oh my God, how…this has got to get through. This is not just religious doctrine we’re talking about. This is destiny-affecting stuff. And my burden is that anyone who hears me, I don’t want them to able to stand before the throne and say, nobody warned me, nobody told me.
There is no middle ground between the wrath of God and eternal life. Its one or the other, and there’s only one path to that life. I’ve said it over and over again. Those who cling to this life…that’s what every other lie is about. It’s, cling to this life, my will, my way, what I want, what pleases me! If you do that, if you pursue that and your interests are bound up in the desires of this world, you will stand before God in the Judgment and you will lose everything! It is only those who come by way of the cross, who lay down their lives and surrender them into the hands of a holy God….
John, the gospel writer, wrote very plainly in chapter 3…drew the difference between those who have faith in Christ and the end result is eternal life. Those who believed in Him had eternal life, but those who reject Him, those who do not believe, refuse to believe, is the real sense of what he’s talking about…those who have refused to believe, do not have life.
But it’s worse than that…and the wrath of God abides on them. The wrath of God is not on ignorance. The wrath of God is on people who absolutely possess the knowledge of what is right and…the only way of deliverance, and then they say, no, I’m gonna stand with the crowd. I’m gonna spit on Jesus. The heck with Him, I want my life.
And I don’t care how you package it. I don’t want anybody that I hear, or that hears me, to have any illusions about this. This is what is at stake. This is not simply religious dogma you’re meant to accept and go on with your life. This is the only reason we are here in this world, is for God to redeem a people out of it on the basis, not of merit, but of mercy! And it all is focused upon the person of Jesus Christ and what He’s done.
And we know from Hebrews, in particular, we get an understanding of what the Old Testament was about. Do you know the Old Testament was a mystery? The purpose of God was there! It was all encompassed in it and men think they can unravel the meaning of the Old Testament with their intellects! Folks, you can’t do that.
It’s not about a natural people with an earthly destiny, I’m sorry! It’s about a heavenly people with an eternal destiny! But oh, it was so…it was couched in such language that the Devil himself didn’t understand what it was about.
But think about this…we’ve made this point before. What was it, when the apostles went forth and preached the Gospel in the first century, and they opened the scriptures, what scriptures were they opening? The Old Testament! There was no New Testament! That evolved over time with Paul’s letters and the gospels and so forth. They opened the Old Testament.
God was the One through His Son who opened their eyes and began to teach them. You remember that occasion when he opened their understanding and showed them Himself, all the way through the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, there was Jesus. He’s the main player in the Old Testament. And suddenly their eyes were…I get it, now I know what it’s about. All that that went before was a type and a shadow.
And I thought about this, and I think it’s very plain from Hebrews. We know from Hebrews that the blood of bulls and goats and lambs, and whatever, can they take away sin? No! So, what was the deal? What was that about? That was God giving them something, a way to express faith that would teach them, that would give them an understanding of what was to come.
And the God who saw into the heart of the person who was doing that, said, mark that one down. That sin will be taken care of. When was it taken care of? When Christ said it was finished. That was the sacrifice to end every other sacrifice.
If I was an Old Testament believer, one of the remnant, somebody who really had the understanding of what it was about and was doing this in faith, if I went and offered a lamb, God forgave my sins. How did He do that? Because He knew what was coming and it was as certain as if it…as if it had happened. Don’t mind me. Don’t get old!
( laughter ).
Praise God! But that’s where they preached from, was the Old Testament. And I’m getting to something because there’s a phrase, there’s a truth, there’s a principle that came to me over and over again…I just finally had to look it up. And, you see it right in the beginning of the Book of Leviticus.
Now I know everybody here loves reading through Leviticus, all the rituals and rules and regulations and how they were supposed to conduct themselves. But you know God was teaching things through that. I’m certainly not gonna try to unpack it all, but there’s one thing right at the beginning that had do with the offering of a sacrifice.
And…verse 3 of chapter 1, “If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he…” that’s the one who is coming, “…he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.”
Now here’s the thing that kept coming to my mind over and over again. “He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”
Now, if that was the only reference to this you might just dismiss it and say, oh well, that was interesting. But you read on through the next few chapters and over and over and over again, ‘and he shall lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice.’ He’s gonna bring this lamb, he’s gonna lay his hand.
And you go back into other places in the Old Testament and you will see when they were sanctifying the priests in the Temple and all of that, they came and they laid their hands upon them. When Hezekiah reestablished the temple worship and the Law and they offered the sacrifices again, there was a time when all Israel was assembled and Hezekiah and the others laid their hand on them. What’s the significance of that?
You know, was God gonna accept…was it acceptable, for example, if somebody sent a servant, hey, I need a sacrifice…servant, go take my thing down there, go take my animal down there. Or, here’s my sacrifice, see you later. Do you get a sense of what the Lord is trying to say?
“The Hand on the Sacrifice.” That’s as good a title as any, by the way. ‘The hand on the sacrifice.’ What does that mean? What is the Lord trying to convey?
Folks, when they brought a sacrifice, God meant it to be something that was participatory. They are saying, this sacrifice stands for me. This is me presenting myself. I’m coming because I’m guilty of sin. I broke His laws. I sense the guilt. I realize I need God, and I’m coming to the place where He told me to come and I’m bringing what He told me to bring.
It’s not just some leftover animal I don’t care about…with a broken leg, and ugly and all that kind of stuff. I’m bringing exactly…I’m bringing the best. But, when I put my hand on that animal’s head, I am saying, this is me. I am coming, oh Lord, there’s something in my heart that is represented by that gesture. My heart is involved in this. I am coming…I’m taking ownership of the reason that I’m here. I’m not making just excuses…they did wrong, and I…no! I did wrong.
Just like David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” (KJV). Nobody made me do this. I did it, Lord. I take full ownership and I come. And I come based upon Your promise, Lord. I have nothing else I could offer, but what You told me to do. But, oh Lord, this represents me. He is my representative. I am the one who should be there, but God has shown me mercy and given me a way to die and yet live. Folks, it represents not just the end of His life, but the end of mine. The hand on the sacrifice…that means something. And I believe God was teaching something.
You know, I thought about how many times in the Old Testament the Lord said…talked about their sacrifices being worthless, meaningless. You’re going through the form. You’re doing it, but…your heart’s not in it, basically, is what it came down to. Or, okay, we’ve got to do it so let’s find that lame old beast that I don’t care about, nobody cares about. Let’s bring that. In Malachi, you’ll see that.
But so many places that same theme is brought out. But here’s a holy God knowing the basis and the foundation for forgiveness was to come in Christ! And we know that God doesn’t look on the outward appearance! There’s not a person here who’s impressing God by sitting in a pew on Easter.
( congregational response ).
God looks at the heart!
( congregational response ).
And what do you think when God looked down and He saw one man who came with a genuine sorrow, contrition, repentance, and he did what God said and he laid his hand on that? Do you think God made a difference…do you think it made a difference in how God responded to those sacrifices, and somebody else who just went through the motion and didn’t have their heart in it at all?
Do you think it’s any different today? Is God looking for the outward appearance? Is He looking for the form? Is He looking for agreement with doctrines and religion? He is looking for the same thing today.
And, while we don’t literally employ that gesture, that gesture has the same meaning today. It is a 100 percent identification with that sacrifice. And that’s what God calls every one of us to. Praise God! It’s such a simple thing, and I don’t know…but the reality is, the sacrifice of Christ has no value until it becomes personal!
Now I’ll drop this in here. One of the burdens that I have, and I know it’s been expressed in so many different ways…we want to see God change hearts, change lives. We don’t want to see people grow up and miss this. We don’t want to see people come in and just miss this! I know that there will be…I know not everybody will listen!
And we rightly emphasize the fact that the Word has to be anointed! You cannot simply stand up here and spout out correct doctrines and expect it to do something! God has to come and infuse words with His Spirit so that they have life-giving power! But that’s only half of the equation! Jesus had that in spades. He had the Spirit without measure and people walked away and didn’t see it.
What’s the other side of it? God has to prepare hearts! I am so thankful when people come up to me and say, I’ve been praying for you or I’ve been praying for the services. We’re asking God to come and to speak and to give the Word. But oh, don’t stop with that! Keep doing that! Thank God!
We need that, but pray that God will plow the ground in people’s hearts and make them so miserable and feel their need that they’ll come and their heart’s will be open and say, oh God, let that Word enter in here. Don’t let me be hard soil. Do what it takes! Oh God, I need what this is about and I need it with all my heart.
Only God can open a heart! And it’s different with everybody, but it comes down to the same thing. Pray that God will open hearts when the Word comes. Let’s pray on both ends that God will work, and I believe He will, don’t you?