— Brother Phil Enlow: Praise the Lord, and good morning to all! The Lord is so good. I appreciate His presence this morning. We certainly have nothing in ourselves, but we have everything in Him. And as long as we look to Him from our hearts and lean upon Him, He will be here and He will show up. That’s His heart toward every one of us.
You know, I was thinking about the service today, and over and over my mind went to a simple word that we’ve heard a lot and is associated a great deal with this season, and that’s ‘peace.’ The kids sang one song about peace this morning. And, as I thought about it, I said, it wasn’t that long ago I preached the same message. And I looked back and it was three years ago I preached on “Peace on Earth.”
And while I’m sure a lot of the thoughts will be similar, but somehow I feel like the Lord wants us to focus on that this morning. You know, we don’t need my sermon. We don’t need anybody’s program. We just need something from His heart to us, because I doubt that anybody here is enjoying perfect peace this morning, despite the fact that we know we’ve been given it in Christ. It’s ours. But yet, He wants us to come to a place where we experience that in a much deeper way than we do.
You know, there are so many scriptures you could use. I’ll just pick one just to start reading and that’s in Isaiah chapter 9, familiar scripture. And this is where we have the wonderful prophecy about the coming of Christ. You know, the Lord hid these wonderful prophecies from the eyes, even the minds, even of those who uttered them. They didn’t know what was coming. They gave out the word that God gave them, in faith, not really quite grasping how it was all gonna work out.
And you know, as we said many times, God hid it deliberately, partly from the Devil. So the Devil just walked into a trap, thinking he was doing away with the Son of God, and he wound up engineering his own defeat. But when you look back with the eyes of what has happened and what God has now revealed, suddenly the Old Testament becomes a different book.
( congregational amens ).
Praise God! Not just a book of laws and all that stuff. It’s about the coming of Christ. So anyway, in verse 6 the prophet writes, “For to us a child is born…” (NIV). Boy, isn’t that something? Right off the bat, to us. It’s to us. Everything that God has done is because of our need!
( congregational praise ).
Praise God! Do you have a need this morning? God’s interested in that. He knows about it. I mean, we’ve sung so many things about that this morning. But it’s reality. We don’t want to just sing this, and talk about it as though, well, this is our theology, we’re just gonna uphold it. This is meant to be real! This is meant to make a difference in our lives! God help us! God help me! I need this as much as you do!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isn’t that an interesting title? I mean, you think of God being the God of love. Could have said, the Prince of Love, but He said, the Prince of Peace.
There’s something about this Kingdom that stands in absolute distinction from every other kingdom that we know about in this world. There’s no peace here, is there? Because there’s no peace in the human heart. But here is One who is the Prince of Peace. But isn’t it interesting the language that He uses? The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and yet, here is the Son being called by those names.
Why…you know, I don’t want to go into theology here, but the fact is, God was in Christ. This was not something where the Son said, hey, I’ll go do something and then try to convince my Father about this. This was God’s initiative, to not only send His Son…can you imagine Him being willing to come down and start out as a single cell in a woman’s body? I mean, you think about the willingness of our Creator to come and to do that!
But when He came, He didn’t come just to be a human being, He came to be a vessel. He came to be a way for God Himself to inhabit a human vessel and live among men so that men could actually have a contact with God if their hearts were in tune, if their eyes were open. He was there!
Now, most people who met Jesus didn’t see the Father in Him. They didn’t understand. They just thought this was a…maybe a special man, maybe a miracle worker or prophet. But they did not see that the God of the universe lived in Him, and was making Himself known. And so, that’s why this language is the way it is.
But the, “…Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” Thank God! Thank God! So, He’s talking about a Kingdom that was going to begin here but it was going to have…it was not gonna have any end. I was gonna say it was to end over there, but it’s not gonna have an end, is it? This is gonna be…you know, one day we will stand there. Those of us who know Him, those of us who have been born of that same life that was in Him, He will finish what He has started.
( congregational praise ).
How many times have we said that? He is not…we sang somewhere in the music this morning, the Alpha and Omega. That somehow jumped out at me. That’s the beginning and the end, the first letter and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. And He is the beginning and the end but He’s also the middle. He’s everything that we need.
But His purpose is not just to bring us along and hope He gets there. This is absolutely a done deal. And one day, every one who knows Him will stand there in purity, in white.
If you have any conflict in your heart, now, that will be gone! Can you imagine a place where there is zero conflict? Now, to a human being, that sounds boring. But oh, my God, that’s what God intended from the beginning! He invested so many abilities, so many qualities in us that…because we’re born in His…I mean, we were created in His likeness, weren’t we? We have a will, we have the ability to create, we have ability to imagine things and we have feelings, we have all of these qualities about us. He even invested things in our bodies that have a part to play in this.
But we know, from the beginning, that there was a rebellion that took place. And that rebellion was in the heart of one of God’s servants who happened to be especially powerful and beautiful. And he got to looking at himself, and all that God had invested in him, suddenly he began to imagine, this is for my benefit, this is to make me somebody, and so I’m going to be, “…like the Most High.” I’m gonna be…I’m going to be like God!
And that thing was born in him and it absolutely twisted every good thing that God had done, into something that was evil, something that was destructive. And we know how he led a great host of angels with him, and then he led our first parents into rebellion and sin. And the world has never had any peace since. The very nature that was in Satan was reproduced in Adam and Eve. And all that God had given them began to be focused upon self.
And you know, that’s the essence of sin. We think of sin as rulebreaking. Here’s some stuff that God doesn’t like and we’re not supposed to do that. Well, I mean, those are representatives of what the real issue…the real issue is when you take anything that God has given us and use it for a selfish purpose, then everything becomes twisted and broken, and it leads to death. It leads to corruption. It leads to conflict. It leads to everything other than what God designed us for in the beginning.
My God! He is the only One that can bring us back, folks! That’s what this is about. You think about the world. You know, we remember the scriptures, in a couple places in Isaiah where God said, “There is no peace…for the wicked.” Now, I’ll imagine that most of us, when we think of somebody who’s wicked, we think of somebody like Hitler, or a mass murderer or somebody who’s done something really terrible. And that’s what a wicked person is.
The fact is, every one of us was born with a nature that is wicked, that is against God. I don’t care who you are, how righteous you appear before men, how commendable your deeds might seem, at the root of it, it is self! And I don’t care what you do and how many homeless you feed…I mean, that’s a good thing, but I mean, don’t you depend upon that to make you right with God! It will never do it.
And how many times have we pointed out the example of Isaiah, who surely was one of the righteous…I mean, the guy wrote this, was used to write it. And how, just a few chapters before this, he records the time when he, who had been called to denounce the sins of Israel was suddenly called up into the presence of the Lord, and all of a sudden, oh, my God! I had no idea. I knew He was Holy. I heard about all that. I see the things that they’re doing wrong. I know God doesn’t like it, but I had no idea what He was really like!
Folks, if any human being was suddenly transported into the presence of God, we would…you know, I think most people would be vaporized. It would just be overwhelming, the difference, and yet, that is what God is going to reproduce in the hearts of His children! Only God can do that! Praise God!
But you think about the nature that we were born with, and how it works. I had so many scriptures come to me and they’re not in any particular order. I’m gonna go ahead and turn to one that you might not think of. And that’s in James chapter 3. Some of this was quoted this morning. It’s amazing how many times we come through a men’s meeting and a lot of the thoughts that I’ve had will come out.
But James is writing to believers here. But he is obviously recognizing the fact that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t automatically become perfect. There’s a whole lot of stuff that needs to change. We have got a nature that is still operating in these bodies that is still aligned with the world. It’s aligned with the kingdoms of this world.
And so, what he describes here is an example of what Christians need to recognize, in themselves, and say, look, that’s not what He’s after. He is after something else, and I need to recognize when these things rise up in me.
He asks an interesting question, here. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” I’ll ask the same question. How many of you are wise and understanding? Yeah, an interesting question, isn’t it? We sort of read right over some of these things. So, let’s see what wisdom and understanding bring to pass.
“Let him show it by his good life….” So, obviously this wisdom and understanding is simply not a mental comprehension of Christian doctrine, the ideas that we are all supposed to affirm. This is not simply an idea kind of thing. It’s not a cultural kind of thing. There is meant to be a reproduction of His life in ours. Okay? You say you’ve got wisdom and understanding. Let’s see it. Okay? Now it’s getting quiet.
“Let him show it…” How? “…By his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Boy, if we ever learn…if you think…if you acquire some kind of spiritual knowledge and it begins to make you feel…you know, I’m better than other people. I’ve got all this knowledge. Oh, my God! You don’t know anything! Knowledge puffs up. It’s love that builds up. If we ever see ourselves through God’s eyes, we will discover that we’ve got a lot to be humble about.
( congregational amens ).
We have nothing to be proud about. Isn’t it amazing that God would look down upon somebody like us and love us anyway? And commit Himself with such an amazing Gospel to reach to the lowest of the low and say, I have the power to make something of you! Boy, there was a wonderful example given in the men’s meeting this morning. Was that you, Carl, that rebuilt something? Somebody did. What Ben was talking about?
( congregational response ).
David. Oh, okay, Beth’s dad. Yeah! That’s right. I knew it was a dad in there somewhere.
( laughter ).
But there was some piece of furniture that looked like, to them, it was junk. Nothing! Worthless! I mean, just throw this thing out. And somehow he had the vision and the ability to look at that thing and see, not the wreck that it was, but what it could be. And so, he went part by part, took the thing apart, replaced things that he could replace, improvised what he had to improvise and wound up with this beautiful piece of furniture you could probably get a lot of money for it.
You know, we’ve got a God that’s invested…I mean, doesn’t that reflect our Creator? The fact that somebody would have that kind of ability built in. This is our Creator and…He’s…there’s no way to compare any ability that we have with what He has in His heart. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you’ve done, where you’ve been. We’ve got a God who can pick you up and make you something that’ll last for eternity.
And I’ll tell you, if you think you’re…if you measure yourself by other people and say, well, I’m not one of them. I’m one of the good ones. He’s got an extra job on you!
( laughter ).
‘Cause He’s first got to show you what you really are, and then He can pick you up and do something. You know, sometimes the one in the gutter has an advantage. You don’t have to tell him he’s a sinner. He knows it. Oh, my God!
But, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” and Paul said, “…of whom I am the worst.” Isn’t that amazing?
All right. So, there’s a humility that comes from wisdom. Now here’s an interesting way to measure wisdom, what we call wisdom. “…If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” Now, is that not a pretty good description of human nature? Human nature is just about a bunch of desires that we have, and we try to deal with them.
Sometimes one desire will just carry us along and take us down a terrible path. I mean, you could…an obvious example would be alcohol or drugs. But it could be anything. I mean, if you don’t happen to have that particular problem, don’t you look down on the one who does. You’re just as bad in a different area. Every single one of us has things that we’re born with!
You talk about being born a certain way. We’re all born sinners. Every single one of us, if we simply follow the inclinations of our…of the nature with which we were born, we will be prisoners of Satan! There is no hope for it.
And I’ll tell you, if you’re on your own…no hope outside of Christ. And if you’re on your own, you think about how Satan works. I’ll tell you, this is how he works on believers. You’ve got a besetting sin. You’ve got a weakness. And it rises up, and it begins to pull on you. And it begins to pull on you and you sort of…no! I’m not going that way. No! Been down that way. Don’t want to go that way. And you fight and there’s a battle going on.
How many times does the Devil come and say, you ain’t gonna win this? You might as well give in. Save yourself the trouble. You’ll feel better when you give in. My God! Satan has got us by a leash because of this nature that we were born with. We got it from him. All it does is long. All it does is reach out and want.
And you talk about a lack of peace. It’s not just that I want this, it’s sometimes I want two different things! And I can’t have them both! They were conflicted. My God! There’s nothing but unfulfilled—an unfulfillable desire built into every one of us. Folks, if we’re gonna find peace, we’re gonna have to have it some other way.
I’ll stop and inject this. Again, there are so many logical orders you could put this in. But one of the phrases that you will hear a lot, this time of year, is ‘Peace on Earth.’ Right? ‘Peace on earth, good will to men.’ And, a lot of people will get the idea that that’s what God wants. He’s gonna bring peace to this world. Everybody will hold hands and, I think I put it one time, sing “Kumbaya.” And you know, there’s just gonna be an end to all conflict.
That will never, ever happen in this world. Now, I realize there are people’s theology that says different, and I’m not gonna fuss about it, I’m not gonna worry. I’m not gonna throw you out because of it. But I’ll tell you, the picture that I see in the scriptures is one that this world is gonna get worse and worse, darker and darker. The hearts of men who say no to the Gospel is gonna get to the point where they are completely blind, and what they believe is gonna sound absolutely insane to somebody that knows the truth, and yet they believe it with all their hearts! Don’t we see that happening now?
( congregational amens ).
It’s happening now! It’s gonna get worse! The Devil may indeed bring this world into a sort of a union, but it will be a union of rebellion against God, and there will be no peace—no real peace in the hearts of men. This is not about peace—that kind of peace in this world.
In fact, there’s another place where Jesus was talking to His disciples and said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?” How do you put those two together? The angel said, ‘peace on earth.’ Jesus said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?” How many of you remember that scripture? It’s in Matthew 10, if you want to look it up.
No, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What did He mean? Because people are going to make a radical choice. They’re either gonna remain in the kingdom of darkness, serving and following the dictates of their own nature, saying, it’s my life, I will pursue what appeals to me, or they’re gonna surrender that, come to Him, see the problem and surrender to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace!
( congregational response ).
And it’s gonna divide families. It’s gonna divide…bring all kinds of divisions. Now, does that mean we need to have a bad spirit? Of course not! But I’ll tell you, there will be a division that is radical.
I mean, you think about the division that’s coming. How many destinies are there gonna be on the Judgment Day? Two. There will be those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, and put their faith, not in themselves or their church or their religion, but in His saving power, the power of a brand-new life imparted to the heart! They have surrendered to Him and they’re part of that kingdom that Isaiah was prophesying would come. Or, they remain a part of this and they’re gonna be destroyed. That’s pretty radical, isn’t it?
But yet, the angel did say, peace on earth, didn’t he? So, there has to be some meaning to what he said. Now we know that there’s going to be a peace that will come. Like I say, once all of these kingdoms are destroyed, every opposition is thrown into the fire and it is gone, there’ll be nothing but peace! Oh, man! We will be set free to be everything God ever intended us to be. That’s not like we’re gonna sit here and be little knots on a log or something. I’ll tell you, we will be able to do, but there will be no conflict in the doing thereof.
( congregational amens ).
There will be no frustration. There will be no…I was first, this is mine. You know, all the stupid stuff that goes on in this world. We’re all like kids. We laugh when kids say that, but we do the same thing. It’s just we have more sophisticated ways of doing it.
But oh, I’ll tell you what, what God is talking about…what He came to do, though, was not simply about the future. Thank God for the future! But God…do you think God wants His people to have peace here and now?
( congregational amens ).
Yeah! See, that’s what James is getting at. And he’s showing the contrast of what human nature does to us and what real wisdom is. So, he’s talking here about, “…bitter envy and selfish ambition….” I want something that I feel like is going to give me satisfaction. If I get that then I’ll have…good luck with that! I don’t care what you get, it will never satisfy the itch that’s in here. It’s deeper than any man can scratch, and you will be chasing…you’ll be like the…like they used to use for an animal. They would dangle a carrot out in front.
But I mean, isn’t that a picture? Oh, if you could just have this. I know it didn’t work out last time, but if you just do it this way, or do it just one more time. Do it. You’ll be happy. You get these fleeting moments of good feelings and then they’re gone, and then you’re empty and then you’ve got something else. Oh, my God!
If you harbor that envy, that unfulfilled, natural desire…if that’s what’s driving you, were does that come from? “Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.” You see where the source of that comes from? It comes straight out of the heart of Lucifer!
How many of you think he wants your welfare? Good luck with that! He is out to destroy everyone. He is angry! He knows he has lost the war! And he is determined to take down everyone he can. Thank God he cannot countermand what Jesus has set in motion!