— Brother Phil Enlow: God wants to be part of your life. He wants to be, not part of it, He wants to ‘be’ your life. He wants to be right in the center of everything you do. When you’re driving down the street, when you’re pounding a nail, when you’re…turning over the pages of your books, every part of it, God wants to be in the center of it.
But He walked with Enoch, didn’t He? “Enoch walked with God.” It says the same thing about Noah! There was a man, at a critical juncture of the world’s history, when the world itself had turned its back upon God to the point where He said, “…every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (KJV). There was a man in the midst of this, who walked with God. And guess what? God walked with him, and talked to him, and made provision for him.
That’s the God that we serve. His eyes run to and fro in the earth, seeking those whose hearts are turned to Him. Oh, praise God!
And then, of course, you see the heart of God toward the Israelites. My God, you look at their history, you look at their beginning coming out of Egypt, a bunch of unbelieving rebels for the most part, yet how many times in the scriptures do we read about His reaching out to them, even during the wilderness journey? Like an eagle watching over you, “I bare you on eagles’ wings…” (KJV).
I think that was one scripture. I carried you, I brought you because I wanted you to be a people of my own. I loved you. I saw you in your condition and I reached out…my heart was to want to dwell among you. The problem was, of course, on their end. They didn’t understand this. They didn’t get…but, you see….
I mean, here’s the thing. When we feel like we’ve come short, that’s the time we feel we can’t go. But here’s God, knowing, and continually reaching out to a people that definitely don’t want Him. Why can’t we have confidence in that God, when He reaches out to us and when He invites us to come? That’s the way I want to see it in a deeper way, not just intellectually.
I know all this stuff, up to a point. I mean, I get the scriptures. I know what they say. But there is an emotional disconnect an awful lot of the time, that I want gone. And I believe the Lord wants it gone. He wants us to see.
And the testimonies of scripture are so rich, about God becoming so real to somebody that they didn’t see the presence of God as something threatening. They didn’t see it as something to be uncomfortable about…oh my God, I’ve got to really watch myself here. Oh, what’s He gonna think of me if I’m not perfect?
And yet, there’s a God who reaches down to the imperfect, and says, love Me, trust Me. I’m the One who’s gonna take care of what’s wrong with you. I’m the only One that has the power anyway. If I just give you laws, you’ll mess them up. You won’t be able to do it.
I mean, look at David. Look at a man like David. And you know, he was far from perfect. He did some pretty bad stuff. He was guilty of murder, adultery. But over and over again, you get this sense of how David longed for the Lord. He saw the presence of God as something to run to! This is my place of refuge. This is where I go! This is the place I long to be! If I’m not there, I want to be there.
See, it’s not a matter of just coming in here…okay, now I’m in the presence of the Lord. It should be everywhere—it should be everywhere. We shouldn’t ever want to be…okay, I hope He stays away right now. We should always be wanting to run.
But listen to his heart in Psalm 84, was one particular one. I thought of several scriptures I wanted to just read as an illustration, an encouragement. But here’s the heart. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (NIV). Is that how you feel? Is that how we feel? That’s what God’s looking for.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you….”
Is that the issue in your life? You feel God is ‘out there’ and so when you face an issue, you don’t really have the strength to deal with it. Do you see what’s going on there? I believe God wants to give us all a clearer picture of how all this works.
And again, it’s not just a matter of the technicalities of it, it’s the reality. We have not been called to a religion! We have been called to a relationship! The outward forms of what we do could change radically. We might be just meeting in homes, secretly one day. Will that change the reality of our relationship with Him and one another? No! Because that exists apart from the building, all the things, the programs that people run to.
God, I want to get a religious experience. I need something that just sort of excites me a little better, makes me feel better. God, the one thing that is missing, and could be missing right here, more than we realize is that He is not just the center of our belief system, but He becomes the actual operating center of our being, where we live and operate in harmony with Him.
I realize growing into that is a process, learning. I wish I could tell you an experience. You could come down, we could lay hands on you, and you’d suddenly leap to that, or leap into that. I mean, there may be experiences people have but, there’s no substitute for just growing and learning from Him.
And He’s not sitting there saying, what’s the matter with you? There’s a heart that is constantly reaching out, right where you’re at—right where you’re at this morning. God wants you to know you can come to Him just like you are, and say, God, I need You…but I know that You love me. I know that I’m welcome, to come into Your presence, to invite You here, right now, to help me.
But, you see the heart of this. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” So, here’s someone on a journey. “As they pass through the Valley of Baca…” – which is a place of weeping, I believe – “…they make it a place of springs….”
A lot of things in our pathway, sometimes, in reaching out to the Lord, we go through all kinds of times, don’t we? But here’s…you see the heart just longing, that knows where the help is at, knows…it’s not just a self-help kind of thing. See, that’s what happens when we take religious principles and try to say, okay, I’ve got the secret now. That’s just self-effort. That’s just me trying to remain in charge, instead of saying, Lord, my job is to let You do it in me.
So, they go through this valley of weeping. “…They make it a place of springs….” It turns into something that is a positive. “…The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
You see how God had just changed his heart. Do you think this was just some extraordinary individual? I mean, we would look at him and say, yeah, this is unusual. Is this not what God wants for every one of us?
“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”
I mean, do you get a feeling that David has a real relationship and not a religion? I was wondering about a title. That might not be a bad one. “Relationship, Not Religion.” If we could talk about the problem of strength…my strength versus needing His and all of those kinds of things, but it really comes down to the Person. God wants us to dwell with Him, and to know Him.
You know, one scripture that really highlights that is in Hebrews chapter 8, quotes from the Old Testament about what was coming, when it was originally written. And, I’ll go ahead and read this whole section. I believe it begins in the middle of verse 8, chapter 8.
“The time is coming….” This was the prophet, back in the Old Testament talking about what was coming, through Jesus. “The time is coming declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt….”
Do you not see the heart of God even in that? Knowing their condition, He took them by the hand and led them. Wow, is that a God who wants to be involved in the center of your life? Yeah, it sure is. He’s constantly doing the reaching. I want to reach back, don’t you?
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“…When I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” That’s where we need…His truth. It needs to be in here, but of course, part of that truth is that I can’t do it, I need Him. That’s central to it.
But, “I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying know the Lord, because they will all know me…” We don’t ever want something where people come in here and they think they’re gonna get it from the pulpit.
God wants you to have a personal relationship with this God, and walk with Him every single day…where you can talk to Him and know that He’s listening, and you can hear His voice. And He is central to your life. I’ll tell you, we’re gonna have a lot more power, a lot more freedom, than we’ve ever enjoyed because that’s all He’s about! I mean, how could we be in harmony with Him and not experience those things?
“…From the least of them to the greatest.” So, if you feel like the least, this is you, too. Praise God! “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Thank God! You see, it’s not only His heart toward us, it’s the fact that He has made the provision! How could I come as a sinner before a holy God, if He had not sent His Son to the cross?
And it’s by His death I have been reconciled to God! Reconciled means that I was His enemy and now I’ve become His friend. I have the right to go into the Holiest place! Is that not what God demonstrated? When Jesus cried, it’s finished, what happened in the Temple?
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The priests were actually there offering the ritual sacrifice of the Passover, and there was the real Passover over on the cross! And God took that curtain and ripped it down the middle. What did that curtain represent? It was a barrier between a sinful people and a holy God. And I’ll tell you, under that Old Covenant, if you as a sinner were to dare to go through that curtain, you would be instantly struck dead.
See, this is not a God who’s just soft on sin, but He knows how to deal with it. He knows how to deliver us! And now we have a way into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus. That’s my hope this morning. I can come! I don’t have to wait until I feel better about myself…well, I’ve mentioned a song that Jim Johnson used to sing, about how he’d messed up and, he wanted to come but he moped around another day…moped around and blew another day, I think was the line.
How many of you have ever done that? Yeah. Sure, we all do. But the Lord has told us that there is a place, there is a throne. I don’t have to wait until I feel good enough. I go when I’m in need. And I don’t come, tiptoeing in like, I don’t really belong here. I’m sorry, Lord, I shouldn’t be here, oh, poor me. I go in there with a freedom, with a thankfulness, with a boldness…not a boldness like, I’m somebody, but a boldness because He has made a way.
I’m not going in there because I deserve it. I’m not going in there for any other reason than He has made a way and He has invited me! I have an engraved invitation from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! I have a right to go before the Son of God, and before the Throne of God, because of what Jesus did when He went to the cross in my place. Oh, God wants us to sense that freedom!
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He doesn’t want that sense of distance! What did Paul say when he was writing to the believers in Rome about the things of God? He said, don’t anybody say in your heart, who’s going to go ascend to heaven and bring Him down? Who’s going to go down into the deep and bring Him up, like He’s somewhere else? He said, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”
Folks, God has given us everything we need to just, quit listening to the Devil and just enter into God’s presence, and to do it without this fear and this…all the barriers that the Devil is so clever at erecting.
You know, one of the things I was thinking about as I…pondering some of these things, I made a long list of scriptures and I said, there’s no way I’m gonna try to wade through all of that. But I thought about this. How did people…I’m not talking about the Pharisees, but I’m talking about people that actually gravitated to Jesus. How did He make them feel when He was here?
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Yeah. There was a peace. There was an acceptance. He could go to a Samaritan woman…and there was a barrier between Samaritans and Jews. And a woman’s place was not a particularly good one in that society. And her’s was even worse, because she was a known tramp. And there’s Jesus, who engages her in conversation.
What in the world is this about? And He did not ignore her need. He was direct and He was truthful. But there was something about His Spirit that caused her to be, to feel loved. I don’t want to run from this, as though this is terrible, He’s shining light on my need. I feel loved! I feel hopeful! I feel accepted!
She runs back into the village and tells them all about this guy and they wanted Him to stay. He winds up staying there three days. They said, now we believe, not because you told us but because we’ve heard it with our own ears. This is the Son of God, robed in flesh, walking around meeting people, who were in all kinds of need. And the people that loved Him, that were near Him, that wanted Him, they felt loved. It wasn’t based upon their worthiness.
You think about the woman that was taken in the act of adultery, and how the Lord’s word to her was, “…neither do I condemn you…go…leave your life of sin.” You think of people like John, the beloved disciple. There was something about the love that he felt in Jesus, that just so captivated him that when they come to that last supper…I guess they didn’t realize this was the Last Supper. They didn’t realize still, what was coming.
But do you remember how…they would dine in a reclining fashion. They would lay on…I guess they would have to lay this way, wouldn’t they, and eat this way? But whatever it was, they would sort of recline at the table. And John was inclining his head against the Son of God. I mean, you think about that…and how we would think, oh my God, don’t you know who He is? You better stay clear. You better stand back…respect Him.
But here’s Jesus, welcoming somebody who wants to just lay his head on His breast, because this is where I feel loved. This is where I feel safe. This is where I want to be, and I feel welcome here.
You wonder why John was able to write later about the fellowship to which we’ve been called. You read the beginning of 1st John. We read that recently. I think we were talking about Body life. But it isn’t just this. He says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
There is something that is so real that God wants us to know, and He wants us to feel like John, that we can come. And over and over again, we see that same sense. What about with the children? Those disciples acted like, and reacted like normal people. I mean, this is Somebody, this is the Son of God! Don’t you know who He is, kids? Get away. And he said, don’t forbid them. Allow them to come. And He spent time with them and He talked with them. And they felt loved in His presence.
You might be a young one here today. I’ll tell you, that’s how God feels about you. He wants…I mean, He wants this to start now. There’s a hunger in His heart, if you want to put it that way, to just wrap His arms around you. I mean, you think about…there are so many incidents that came up. But one of them, I guess, that looks at it from another standpoint…you want to see the depth of that love, what about when Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
What did He say? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you….” But what did He say then? How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing. Knowing the history, knowing all that was wrong, yet that was His heart. I want to gather you. I want you to be under My wings.
What did David say, about being under His wings, under, “…the shadow of the Almighty.” There was this sense of the awesomeness and the place that we can occupy, and the relationship that we can have with Him, even in a broken world.
Oh God, help us to see this. Help me to see it. I feel my need. Like I say, I’ve grown up knowing so much and seeing so much, religiously speaking, and yet, this has got to be the heart. I don’t care what you know and what you’ve, in terms of…okay, this is how it’s done. These are the principles by which you gain victory, this is…there is one principle. It’s just Him…and being willing to realize that He loves us, that He’s right there, He’s not off somewhere, that we have the ability to enter into that presence, at any time.
What did the psalmist say in Psalms 100? I’m trying to remember the words. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” (KJV). Enter in—enter in. They’re right here. Again, it’s not somewhere else. He is right here with us! We’re not tuned in.
You know there are radio waves, TV waves, there are all kinds of signals that are all around us, but we can be totally oblivious to all of that if we don’t have a receiver that’s tuned in to that. But how many of us live like that? More than we want…more than we should. God wants us to realize that we have the privilege of tuning in, right at the point of our deepest need, and knowing that He loves us, and is right there.
This is His heart for you! Here! Today! I don’t care what your history is. I don’t care where you’re at. God loves you! He wants you to know Him. He wants…actually wants to spend time with you, and be real to you. And He alone has the power to make you what He wants you to be. And it is the pathway of peace.
Oh, humanly speaking, the Devil is so good at making us feel like…well, I’ve got to experience You all the time. We get this religious picture of what He’s after, instead of just saying, thank You, Lord. I’m gonna stop trying to be religious. I’m just gonna spend time with You and enjoy You, and let You change me. That’s a whole different ballgame, folks, but that’s what the Lord is after.
I’ll tell you, it’s relationship, it’s not religion. And, I just hope that in some way He’s communicated His heart to us, to you, today. He loves you. He wants to share your life, wants to walk with you. He’ll give you wisdom. He’ll give you what you need. He’s not gonna make life easy in the traditional sense, but He’ll sure walk with you. You may go, “…through the valley of the shadow of death…” but He’ll be with you, and He’ll take you safely to the other side. Praise God!