— Brother Phil Enlow: You know, I feel like if I had to title this this morning, I would say, “The Missing Piece.” Because I believe, for many of us, the thought, the simple thought that I really am gonna get to is really the missing piece, when it comes to translating what we know into real life.
Now, I wish I could say that it’s a matter of picking up and plopping it in and it’s done. It doesn’t work that way, in the Kingdom of God, if we have the ‘understanding’ part right. But nonetheless, I believe God wants us to know, in a deeper way, how He means for this wonderful privilege we have of standing in the finished work of Christ…how does that work out, in our everyday life? Okay?
Now, I’ll turn to the Book of James, and again, by way of introduction, James talks in chapter 3 about two kinds of wisdom. Now, there is a wisdom, of course, we know, that comes from God. There’s a wisdom that comes from the world. All right, so what’s the difference? How do the two wisdoms work out?
“Who is wise…,” verse 13. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life…” (NIV). Now, do you see where the ‘how’ comes in? This isn’t simply wisdom that’s out here in the ether waves somewhere. This is actually, again, translating what we know into real living. So, if you’re really wise, let’s see it.
“Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such…” quote, “…wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.” That’s pretty plain language, isn’t it?
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
Now, I wonder how many here could say that that list characterizes your life, 24/7. There’s never a hint of unrest and anxiety and all the things that come from this world. No, we’re not there, are we? And so, he goes on and he expounds upon the bad side of this, those who are really walking according to worldly wisdom. And, this is what he wants to get to.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” I mean, you know, we know that all it takes for it to have a fight is two people. That’s simply human nature. We are so self-absorbed that all we care about, ultimately, is our own welfare and if that comes into conflict with somebody else, well, you’re gonna have a fight, because they’re the same way as you are.
So, what you have here are Christians, but yet they are still living almost like they’re people of the world. Didn’t Paul say that? Yeah, in 1st Corinthians he said, I wanted to write to you like you were spiritual…but you’re still carnal. You’re still walking and live like men. So, I’m gonna have to talk to you on that level. We’re gonna get there, but right now, this is where you’re at.
This is where most of us are, more than we’d like to admit. We talk about the things of the Spirit, but too much we walk in the flesh. Now, the flesh is a way of talking about our old nature. And we respond and we act in harmony more with it than we do with the Spirit of God.
Now, you can…the thing is, if you’re just a part of the world, you’ve never been born of God’s Spirit, that’s all you’ve got. Now, you can take on religion and act like that’s not the case, but God’s looking at the heart. God is not looking for actors, in that sense. He’s looking for people who come to a real knowledge of the truth, and the truth is that you’re not fit for heaven. And God has the only answer and that’s the person of Jesus Christ!
There is another life that will ultimately replace this one that needs, basically, to be put to death. That’s what salvation is about. It’s putting one life to death so that another one can grow up and take charge. So, when the end product is finished—when there is an end product…I’m redundant all over again, here again! When we come to that end product, that’s all that’ll be left. There won’t be any of this old nature. It’ll just be that beautiful nature that comes from God Himself, and what he’s just described as the fruit of that.
See, it’s fruit. It’s something that doesn’t have to be manufactured. You don’t have to try to be something. How many of you are tired of trying to be a Christian? Yeah! That’s not what it’s about. It’s not trying, it’s trusting. I believe God wants to bring us to that place where we understand that His burden is not heavy. God has not called us to try to be something that we are not. He has called us to take on something that is real. But how does that happen? How does that work?
Okay, so now he’s going back to the reality of what he’s dealing with with people who are Christians and yet, they’re still walking very much, too much, in the flesh. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” Now, if you ever run into somebody that this applies to, you’ll know how to tell them, right?
( laughter ).
Okay? But, here’s the key. Here’s the scripture that just came to me over and over again this week. And it was very personal. It wasn’t just for you. “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” Is anybody here that there’s something you’ve really…you’re in a place in your life, you need something and you don’t have it, that apply to anybody here? Okay?
“When you ask….” See, here’s another dimension to this. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people….” Now, you know what adultery is. You’re married to somebody but you’re off having a fling with somebody that you’re not married to. You’re violating the relationship that you promised you would uphold.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” Boy, how plain can that language be? You know, we’ve said over and over again, in other messages, what a radical choice it is to follow Jesus. And I appreciate so much the service we heard Wednesday night.
We had an unusual service. We listened to Pastor Cymbala again. It was wonderful. And I appreciate so much how he emphasized, at the end, when he was calling people to come and to really make that commitment, he kept using the expression that we know from our culture, ‘all in.’ I’m not calling you to come and just take on some religion, add Jesus to your life and go on. This is an ‘all in’ thing. You are either 100 percent with Him, standing against what the world stands for, or you are with the world 100 percent.
Now, you may think you’re on the fence. There’s no place on that fence to sit. Of course, he used the example of Pilot, who tried very much to straddle the fence and…I mean, he knew he kind of had to go along with the people to stop a riot, but he really wasn’t on board with what they were trying to do, but the fact is, he was…because he gave in, didn’t he?
I’ll tell you, God is looking for people who are ‘all in.’ Are you? It’s a good question, isn’t it? I believe…I pray that God will take that simple truth and burn it into your heart if you don’t know Him! Do you have any idea the danger you’re in? You cannot mix your earthly desires and ambitions with the call of God to leave that and come and follow Jesus! There is no middle ground!
“…Friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses…” notice this word, “…who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace.” Thank God!
Oh, how do we escape such a fate here? It’s divine grace that reaches down and fills…I mean, it becomes our enabling power. It becomes everything. That’s God coming on the scene and lifting us out when we could never do it.
“That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Somebody who’s double-minded…you know, you want this on Sunday and you want the other the rest of the week. Or you say you want that on Sunday. Do you? Where’s your heart? “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Now, one of the key things that strikes me as I read this…think about the players. Here are you, and here’s God. Now, is God reluctant to give us the things that we need? Is there any problem on His side? Here’s a God who loves us beyond our power to imagine. He knows that without Him we truly can do nothing and yet, in so many instances, in this passage, you have a case where there’s God and here’s you in desperate need, and you’re staying that way and He’s just standing there doing this.
Now, what is it that He’s waiting for? Is He waiting for us to get worthy? See, that’s the point. We can’t. We’re gonna have to come to Him…we’d be proud. He’s saying, resist the proud. If we could do that…so, there’s a principle that’s involved here.
You know, a lot of…this is something we’ve brought up, in the past. But, there are a lot of folks who emphasize the sovereignty of God, almost to the exclusion of man really having a choice in the matter and God just almost, arbitrarily picks people and puts them in the Kingdom and sends the rest to another place.
And I thank God for the sovereignty of God! God is in charge. The question is how does He use that sovereignty? And of course, you have people on the other side of the ledger who, they’re all about the will of man. You’ve got to choose. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that. But yet, preaching in such a way that it’s almost like, I’ve got to find the ability somewhere down in here. I’ve got to muster it up. I’ve got to work it up. I’ve got to do something to somehow get His attention.
There is a divine-human partnership in what God is doing in every one of us. And there is…the missing piece that I believe many of us, in so many individual, unique ways…the piece that we’re missing is in this area. Why is there something that you need today that you don’t have? Why? What does the scripture say? “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
When we think about asking God, we are so prone, as human beings, to think in very earthly terms. I’m glad that God cares about earthly matters. He’s told us, with respect to our needs, He’s faithful. But you know, how often is most of our praying, an awful lot of it anyway, it has to do with, oh God, I’ve got bills I can’t pay. God, I’m sick. God, I’m…there’s this circumstance. Fix that person that annoys me. And so much of our asking has to do with these kinds of things.
But what did Jesus say in Matthew chapter 6? In the first place, He gave us a very clear, admonition about seeking earthly wealth, for example, because He was talking to people, and in the presence of people who just worshipped money. I mean, when it came right down to it, they loved money more than they loved God. And He says, you can’t do that. You, “…cannot serve God and mammon.” (KJV). Or money.
And then He talks about the needs that we experience. And I think many of the people probably lived a very subsistent living, existence. They were…I mean, daily food was probably an issue. The simple things of life, the needs that we have…and He talks about how He takes care of the birds. Don’t you think God cares? Don’t you think He knows? Aren’t you worth more than a bunch of birds? And God takes care of them. Look at the lilies. They don’t put forth any effort and yet God adorns them with such amazing beauty. Don’t you get it? God cares!
But what did He tell them to seek? He said this is what the world is after. This is all they’re focused on, is life here and our needs here. But says, I want you to focus on something else. I want you to seek first My Kingdom, and My righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, as well. God will take care of the things that you truly need in the world. This isn’t about prosperity. This is about God’s place for you, in the world.
And so, the focus is not on this world, but on the character that God is seeking to form in us. That’s what we need to be consciously asking God for. This needs to be the heart of our prayer. Oh, God, help me!
Now, here’s where we…here’s how we apply that, many times. We’re bopping along, living our lives, doing everyday stuff. And all of a sudden, we make a mess. I mean, spiritually. You understand what I’m talking about. We mess up, and we make a mess. Oh, God, help me in my mess! Oh, God, forgive me and…whatever we go through to…oh, God, I’m sorry, I did it again! Oh, God.
Do you know when we needed to be praying and how we needed to be living? Before we got in the mess. Because, the reality is, we may profess that we believe what Jesus said in John 15 that, without Him we can do…
( congregational response ).
Nothing. But we still think we can do stuff. The ordinary, everyday stuff…it’s not about the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s not the outward things that we can…we do, we can function, in one sense, in the world. It’s the character!
See, the people that James was talking about, they were ‘doing’ the everyday stuff, but on the inside, they had all kinds of characteristics that sprung from the earthly wisdom and the old nature. This is where I need help.
And if I would focus more on that, and realize I can’t just bop through my day and just float and count on…oh, Jesus, help me today and then forget about Him and go through my day. I need Him.
How many of you have been in those places where you thought you were just coasting along, everything was fine? But all of a sudden, the Devil used your weaknesses to maneuver you into just the right place, and here we are again.
I believe with all my heart, God wants to teach us the truth behind the song that we sing, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” The Christian life is not about what we ‘do,’ it’s what we ‘are.’ If we get what we ‘are’ right, the other will happen, because it’s not the product of manufacturing that God is looking for. He’s not looking for manufactured results, He’s looking for fruit.
Fruit just grows. Fruit is an organic process. It automatically comes from a certain kind of life. You don’t have to manufacture pears and apples. You grow them under the right conditions and they are produced, naturally. There is fruit that God longs to bring forth in greater abundance in every single life here, starting with mine. Greater victory, greater experience of what we say we believe. But I believe with all my heart, God is looking for a heart that reaches out.
Do you notice, “You do not have, because you do not ask God”? (NIV). Well, what’s God supposed to do, just step in and give it to you anyway? No! There is a response, there’s something He’s looking for from us. He says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” He says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
Well, if you don’t come near to God…do you see what God is looking for? And we’re bad to project human characteristics onto God. Okay, it’s an ego trip. He’s peeved at me. His feelings are hurt because I won’t come around. No! He knows what it means for us to express faith. That’s what it is. We don’t come based upon our personal qualifications. We come based upon our faith in His power and the life that He’s put within us.
But we also come with a sense of why we need to come. I need to come because I have no other resource! I cannot do this. He has called me to a life that is impossible unless He lives it in me. And so, there’s this constant need for Him to have freedom to change me and to live in me. I can’t just muddle through and think I’m doing okay.
You might be accomplishing a lot of things, outwardly. Everybody might look on and say, there they are, they’re successful. But they don’t know what’s going on in here. But, you see, you do, if you have any discernment at all.
But here’s the other side of that. How much do we just mindlessly go along thinking we’re living out the life of Christ and we’re not really? We’re just living out natural…a natural existence.
We come to…you know, here’s an illustration. I will bet that if we ask any one of you to stand up here and talk to the people, maybe give a testimony, maybe open a scripture and read it, do you think you might say, oh, God, I need you?
Or, if you’re asked to do anything that’s spiritual, that’s…you know, we tend to break life into the spiritual stuff and the ordinary stuff and we think just living out our life and not doing anything really stupid is okay.
But think about the life of Jesus. Again, how did He do what He did? Do you think there was this difference between, okay, Father, I know You’re there, thank God, overshadow Me. But I’m doing carpentry today, that’s just ordinary. I can handle this.
Do you see the problem? We think we can handle stuff. We think, based upon the stuff we know, that we can take that knowledge and translate it into godly living. And as long as we don’t steal and rob and do something really bad and really stupid, we’re okay. Is that what the Lord wants? No.
Are we really, if we’re doing that, are we really living out the life of Christ? No, we’re not. We’re just living out a religious façade. And God wants every one of us that knows Him to be real. And so, Jesus lived His entire life dependent upon His Father.
We’re told in Hebrews, in one place, that He offered Himself by the eternal Spirit. You notice the agency. Notice how He did what He did. See, we’re talking about the ‘how.’ How did Jesus do what He did? He offered Himself, without spot…sinless…without spot to God, by the eternal Spirit.
But I don’t need that, I’m good. You see the problem. Jesus knew how it worked. He knew if He was gonna produce the kind of fruit that God was looking for, not just what looked good to men — He knew if He were gonna produce the kind of fruit that God was looking for, it was gonna have to be done supernaturally. He was gonna have to depend moment by moment upon His heavenly Father.