— Brother Phil Enlow: I’ve just had some thoughts that have been very persistent in my mind and they’re thoughts that I feel very much my own need of really laying hold of in a deeper way. I believe there’s some really basic stuff that we’ve sometimes misunderstood and it’s become a barrier to us.
And, I’d like to start with an unusual scripture as a jumping-off point and I believe it’s in John chapter 20. And this is the occasion when, on resurrection Sunday, first of all, Jesus had appeared to several…some near the tomb, and then the road to Emmaus, there were the two disciples there, and then He met with the disciples…in the closed up, locked room, He suddenly appeared among them on this resurrection evening.
But in verse 21…I’m sorry, it’s 24…my eyes are getting old here: “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord! But he said to them, unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (NIV).
Now, it’s an easy thing to miss there. A lot of times we will look at that, perhaps, and we’ll say, oh, we don’t need to depend on what we see. We just need to believe. But notice his language there. He does not say, I cannot believe. I’m struggling to believe. I wish I could, but I just can’t. There is a statement that is so clear that he says, I “will not” believe.
And the thought that has just been continually coming to me, again in my own life, but there are so many things it touches on scriptural truth is this simply, that the true nature of faith is that it’s a matter of the will. It’s not a matter of ability, it’s a matter of the will. Will we believe God, or will we not? Or will we believe something contrary to Him?
Now, you know, a lot of folks…well, let’s just use Hebrews chapter 11, because the scripture defines…I’ll just quote the verse, defines what faith is. It says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” So there is a conviction that leads to a choice to believe God.
And you know, a lot of unbelievers would just look at religious people, as they think of it, and they’ll say, well, you just…there’s something that you really want to believe because it makes you feel good, it’s encouraging and all of that kind of stuff, but it’s really just fantasy. You’re just taking a blind leap and just sort of believing that it’s so, and it really isn’t. It just makes you feel good. And it’s sort of like the guy who leaps off the cliff in the deluded belief that he can fly. His belief will not enable him to fly, will it? He can’t defy the laws of gravity.
But, I’ll tell you, the faith that God talks about in the scriptures is not a faith that is without evidence, is it? God gives men ample reason to believe Him and to put their faith in what He has said. And again, the issue, over and over again, is not ‘can’ we, but ‘will’ we? And, this affects those who have not yet come to faith. It affects all of us.
I don’t know how far I’ll get this morning. The Devil’s been trying to work on me and I’ve had to walk in what I’m talking about this morning, where I’ve just said, okay, Lord, I ‘will’ just trust You. How many of you fight those battles every single day? Yeah. Where there’s everything in the world that just fights against you, doing the simplest things. But there is an evidence, and basically, I guess the summary…some of these I will just recite or refer to the scriptures.
But in Romans 10, verse 17, we find out that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. In other words, it’s basically like this. If God left men to their own devices, what would we do?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, we would just die. We would perish. There would be no hope for any of us. None of us seek God, naturally. So if there is anything going on that has to do with God, God’s the One who’s reaching out. It’s His heart that reaches out to us and He communicates in so many different ways.
And that is what begins to make us responsible. It isn’t just simply the fact that we’re sinners. You know, death is a consequence of the fact that we are sinners and we walk in our own way and we violate every law of His being. But when it comes to the punishment and the responsibility for sin, that’s a response to our choices with respect to sin, not the mere fact that we’re sinners.
And so, the current issue of the MCM goes back and we reprinted some of the articles that Brother Thomas had written. “Does God Speak to You?” And without going through that, we know that God speaks in a lot of ways. He speaks through the human conscience. Everybody has a conscience. We’re born with an inward sense that when we do something wrong, there’s something that we feel on the inside. And there’s an inward monitor that says, that’s not right. You shouldn’t do that.
If we would listen to that, it would begin to lead us God-ward, wouldn’t it? But that’s something God implanted in the heart of every person that lets them know without any reference to the Law of Moses that certain things are right and certain things are wrong.
And of course, He speaks through the witness of nature, doesn’t He? I mean, you’ve got atheists out there that will look at all of this and they can’t find any reason to believe in God. Oh, it just confirms their atheism. What’s the problem? Is it an intellectual problem? No, it’s a problem of the will. It’s the problem of someone who wants to be their own god and wants to do their own thing and is looking for justification in their minds for it.
But I’ll tell you, the heavens, the scripture tells us, do what? They declare—they declare the glory of God. The firmament shows His handiwork! And there’s no reason, there’s no place for an excuse with that. That voice has gone everywhere. Everyone on this planet has the ability to look and to say, my God, this could not have ‘just’ happened. Somebody’s behind all of this. And it’s a witness of God.
And of course, God speaks through His Word. When He begins to send somebody out, because that’s the context of Romans 10, isn’t it? When God begins to send somebody out with the message…this is a word, not about, you straighten up and I’ll receive you, but I have put away your sins. I have sent a Savior to die in your place. There is a place of forgiveness. There is a place of deliverance and I have provided it. And so that’s the place where suddenly, over against what we, in our sinful nature we believe, there are ideas that hold human beings captive, and against that comes the Word of God. And ultimately it comes down to a choice, doesn’t it?
And let’s just look at some scriptures that kind of bear some of this out. One of them is in John chapter 6, and it’s an amazing thing when you look into the life of Jesus and you see that right before everybody’s eyes, he was performing miracle, after miracle, after miracle, things that they couldn’t deny were miraculous. And yet, for all that, the majority of people—the majority of the people rejected Him and collaborated ultimately in His crucifixion.
Now thank God, God was overruling all of that and turned it into a total victory, what looked like defeat. Thank God! Yeah, I appreciate that song about Barabbas, because that’s exactly true, folks. There is a reality behind the message of that song.
But anyway, Jesus is now in sort of a discussion, a debate, if you will, with some of the religious leaders. Verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Now He’s not talking about physical bread. There’s something much deeper. This is a bread that satisfies the deep needs of the heart, the very basic needs of our inner being. And He’s saying, I’m the answer. I’m the One that God has sent down to satisfy everything, every longing of your heart, everything that’s buried down in there that needs salvation, that needs deliverance, I’m the One! I can satisfy the thing that you chase, that hunger that drives you to chase after something. “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.”
Okay? “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Praise God! That’s an awesome promise, isn’t it? See God is all…you will find throughout the scriptures, God is always on the side of encouraging people to believe. He’s not looking for reasons to reject people. He is reaching way beyond, He’s going way beyond anything we could reasonably expect from a holy God, reaching out to sinners. His heart just goes over and above and beyond what reason would dictate in reaching out to us and encouraging faith.
So He goes on, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me….” Praise God! Do you see the…I’ll tell you, if you’re discouraged today, if you’re wondering, am I gonna make it, you’ve got the God of all gods, the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ on your side. He’s made a promise to you.
Of course, many times, the problem is, not His promise, but do we believe His promise? Do we really rest in it? So anyway, what an awesome promise that is. “…This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…”
What a simple, awesome statement that is! “…And I will raise him up at the last day. At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. They said, Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, I came down from heaven? Stop grumbling among yourselves, Jesus answered. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
You know, if you sort of stopped at that verse, it almost sounds like God just picks them, and we don’t have any choice in the matter. God just picks them and he says, you’re gonna be saved, you’re gonna be saved, and the rest of you are gonna go to hell. Is that what He’s talking about here? Is that what He’s trying to say?
You know, some people really take it that way. They go to that extreme, that God simply arbitrarily makes all the decisions and all we’re seeing is the outworking of something that He has put into motion and we really have no responsibility in the matter.
But listen to what the next verse says. “It is written in the Prophets: They will all be taught by God.” Not arbitrarily chosen, but they will all be taught by God. “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”
So now you get a different picture. There’s more going on there than God just arbitrarily picking somebody. God is reaching out. God is speaking, like we said. And the ones that come are the ones who have done something that the others did not do. What did they do? They listened.
Now suppose you have vital information that affects me and because of your concern for me you come to me and you begin to give me that information. Now it’s kind of critical that I listen, isn’t it? If this is vital stuff, I may have my opinion. I may have what I think is the right way, the right whatever, but if you’re giving me truth and I sit there and I go like this…I don’t believe it, I believe what I want to believe, and just go away and leave me alone, who’s the loser here? I’m the loser.
Folks, you and I do not know the way. You and I will, if God leaves us alone and we go, we do what we think is right, what seems right to us, what’s the end of that? I mean, Proverbs tells us. It says, “There is a way…” that does what?
( congregational response ).
Seems right! It seems right. I mean, you’re gonna look at it and you say, yeah, it’s right. It’s what I’ve always believed and it’s how I feel. And of course, feelings are everything in today’s culture. It’s just…this is right! I have learned things about life and this is how I see it and you have no right to tell me any different!
Man, if you’ve got that kind of a spirit, there isn’t a God in heaven that can help you! I’ll tell you, God, in mercy, will strive and work and speak and convict and do everything that is possible to challenge the ideas that would otherwise send us straight to hell! Oh, thank God, thank God!
What a blessing it is when we get off our high horse and say, God, I don’t know anything as I ought to know it. Oh God, when You speak to me and You challenge ideas that I hold dear and I think are right, and seem to point in the right direction for me, and You put Your finger on that, God, I want to listen. I want to have a heart that says, yes, God, I receive what You say to me. I want to learn from You. I’ll tell you, God works in the heart of anyone that He brings to Jesus.
Do you see what’s going on? There’s a process by which God works with a heart and at some point He brings that person into a situation where they see, Jesus is the One I need. I’ve got to have Him! My sins will otherwise stand between me and a holy God and I would have no hope!
And not only that, it’s not just that I’ve committed sin, I can’t stop! Everything that comes out of me, that originates in my own nature, is so contrary to Him that, God, I just need a Savior. I need Someone, not just to forgive my sins and wipe my slate clean, I need Somebody to come in and change this and begin to work in me.
And so, you see how God draws and brings? It’s not this arbitrary, I choose you and not you. This is, you need to listen because as you listen to Me, I’m gonna mold your heart, I’m gonna change the way you think and I’m gonna bring you to a point where you’re gonna surrender and you’re gonna trust Me. And it’s gonna be good. Praise God!
Look at the scripture that bears this same thing out in Luke chapter 8. There are so many things that I thought about in this connection and it’s probably almost more than I need. But, this is the parable of the sower and I’ll just kind of go through it quickly because Jesus is talking about the different kinds of hearts that hear the Word that He speaks.
And one of them, the seed falls along the path. It’s a place that is trampled down, that’s hard, and the seed does not make any kind of penetration whatsoever…it’s just, the birds come and eat it and it’s gone, there’s no penetration at all. But some falls on, what He describes in other versions of this, as rocky soil. So there’s a little bit there. And so what happens is the seed penetrates that little bit of soil and it comes up and it’s looking great! But what’s the problem?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, no root…down underneath there’s no place for it to go. It runs into the hardness and then it just withers. And so there’s another kind, though, that it grows up, but the soil is not just really given to the seed of the Word, which is what He says it is…it’s My Word sown in the heart. It’s not given to that. There are thorns and briars and other things that spring up and they choke it out. In other words, it’s not really dedicated to that. It’s like, I want Him and I want this, too.
So you see what’s going on in every case there? How did the hard soil get hard? How did it get to the place where there was nothing that could happen except birds come and take it away and it makes no impact at all? How does somebody get like that?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, God speaks and they say, no. There’s a persistence in saying ‘no’ to the Word of God! I will not hear! My idea is right. What I want is right. My life is mine to do as I please. I will not listen! Well, you keep doing that—you keep doing that and you’re gonna get to the point where you can’t even hear it. It makes no impact on your heart whatsoever, does it? That’s a scary thing.
But now, this second class…you’ve got a little bit of soil there, but what’s happened is the hardness is still there, but it’s just kind of down a little bit. There’s been a resistance at the real heart level! There has been a clinging…ultimately it is my life! I will not let go. I will do as I please.
And what you’ve kind of got there is a cafeteria Christianity. I’m gonna take the good parts. I’m gonna go down the row and I’m gonna pick every little tasty thing. I’m gonna get the ice-cream and the candy and the dessert and all the tasty stuff that I like, and I’m gonna leave all that other stuff. So you’ve got somebody that hears the wonder of the Gospel and the wonder of what God has promised, but they have no idea what it means to serve Him and to give up your life, and to be delivered from this condition! They don’t see the condition! They don’t see this as something from which they need to be delivered.
There’s a resistance at a certain level that says, I ‘will’ have my own life. I ‘will’ do my own thing. And so when the trials come, when you run smack dab into the fact that you live in a world that hates Christ and you’re called upon to stand up for Him, and there ain’t nothing there to stand up with, because your heart really is in agreement with the world. And so you walk away from Him.
And of course, you’ve got others that want that…well, praise God. I’ve got some water rolling around up here, let me get rid of that. Then you’ve got others, though, that their life is still theirs. They want Christ, but they want what they want. And so, they’re working real hard to give their life to both. They’re gonna come to church on Sunday and they’re gonna sing the songs and they’re gonna be Christians. The rest of the time, they’re gonna just go out and live their lives, plan their future, do what they want to do, and somehow it’s all gonna work out.
I’ll tell you, you have no idea what it means to really follow the Lord. Praise God! Is He worth serving? Is it worthwhile to give up everything and to serve Him? Absolutely! Boy, the Devil will raise up every kind of objection in here as to why it’s a dumb idea, it’s a terrible thing, you’re setting yourself up for a life of misery and religious bondage. And sadly, there are some people in that condition. But I’ll tell you, the Gospel does not lead people to bondage. It leads people to freedom…because I need freedom from this. Praise God!
So anyway, Jesus is explaining the parable and at the end, He says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” His disciple asked Him what this parable meant. He said, the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “…Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not…understand.”
Now why in the world would Jesus talk and deliberately hide truth? In a way I see God’s mercy, but I see God making a distinction between people because if these people had had a heart toward God, if they had listened when He spoke, if they been one of those that God could actually talk to and they would say, yes, Lord, I want to listen, I want to learn, then they would have been in a position to understand what He was talking about.
You see what’s going on here, because He really specifies it right here. And He talks about the meaning of it. He explains that the seed is God’s Word and so forth.
But, let’s see…all right, I want to come all the way down here to verse 18. “Therefore consider carefully…” “…Consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
You see the pattern that’s being established in the scriptures here? God communicates. What do you do with it? The one who listens when He communicates, is the one to whom God will give more. Do you think God is anxious to leave people in the darkness? He’s the One who sent the Light. But what’s the problem when He sent Light, when Jesus came as the Light into the world?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah. “Men loved darkness instead of light….” They made a choice, didn’t they? Do you see the will involved in this? It says, consider…what is consider? How do we consider…is this feeling that’s based on emotions? Is this, do I feel like believing it? No!
This is a choice of the will to say, I ‘will’ listen! This matters to me! This is truth that God in His love and His mercy is making me aware of and I need to listen. Now, I don’t understand it all. There are a lot of questions I have. I don’t get it all, but I believe what I have heard. And my heart is, God, I need this. I need more. Help me. Do you think for one second that God would despise a heart like that? That’s what He’s looking for!