— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, praise God! I believe the Lord’s trying to tell us something, starting with me, this morning. I’ve many of the same thoughts that have been expressed. I appreciate Ron expressing what he did. I read the same passage this morning, by the way. But anyway, no matter what I try to think about, it seems like I always come back to the same thing, and it has to do with the…the basics of the Christian life.
And we…we live like paupers. That’s the reality. There’s so much that we claim to believe that we don’t live and we don’t experience. And we just sort of accept it. And I just feel like the Lord wants us to go on, wants us to get past some hang-ups.
But turn, if you will, to…just for a moment and as a jumping-off point to a familiar scripture we’ve used many times in 2nd Peter chapter 1. You know, one of things the Lord has mentioned—has emphasized, over and over lately is the completeness of what we have been given. And it’s wonderful that we embrace that and affirm it as a doctrine. But the reality is, as I say, most of Christendom, most Christians throughout history have never really tapped into, but the tiniest little bit of it.
You know, it’s almost like, well, my sins are forgiven, I have a hope of heaven one day, and the Lord knows I’m weak so He just accepts me like I am. We wouldn’t quite say it that way, but that’s kind of, almost, what it gets down to, and then we just practice an outward form of Christianity in some fashion, and that’s all…that’s as good as it gets.
And, we may hear about somebody like Hudson Taylor or Andrew Murray or A.B. Simpson, or so many others of the past who seemed to break into another realm and live a different kind of a life. And, well, that’s great for them. That’s just not me. All these things are true, but not for me.
Now, I wouldn’t dare to ask for a show of hands of everybody who, if you’re honest, wouldn’t say, that’s kind of how we approach a lot of these things. There’s a level of unbelief that I believe God wants us to break through.
And in one sense, it’s the Devil that we’re fighting against and all of his resistance. That’s absolutely right. But I’ll tell you, the power that overcomes that is not in us. It’s simply not us. We don’t have it.
And the sooner we come to a realization of that…the earlier, the easier…the sooner, I guess, is the word I want, we will get to a point where we realize, hey, wait a minute, that’s not how it’s done anyway. This is called salvation for a reason, because in ourselves, we are helpless, hopeless. There’s not a thing we can do to qualify ourselves for what God has purposed. And so, it all has to come from Him.
Well, here’s Peter at the end of his life, he is facing crucifixion pretty soon. I don’t know if he realized specifically that’s how it was gonna happen, but anyway, he’s in prison and writing to believers one last time, wanting to leave them with something that they could hang onto. And so, he greets them in verse 2, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (NIV).
Boy, I need some abundance of grace, don’t you? Grace is God coming down and helping me, because I can’t do it myself. But I sure need abundant grace. Anybody here with me on that one?
( congregational response ).
Yeah. But here again, we were saying earlier about the foundation that’s laid. Let’s just lay it again here. Let refer to that before we get into something else. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these….”
Through, what now? His own glory and goodness, not mine. I don’t qualify for being able to enjoy these things because I’m anything. In fact, the pathway to enjoying these things is, first of all, to declare bankruptcy, spiritually, and to recognize that I’m not worthy, I can’t. But I come to You on that ground because that is who Jesus came to save. He did not come to save the righteous people who try to be righteous and qualify themselves for His favor. He didn’t come to save those kind of people. He came to save sinners!
Well, everyone of us qualifies, whether we would like to think so, or not. Every one of us has nothing by which we can commend ourselves to God. It’s just not there. But He has given us promises, not based upon our performance…that was one word I left out of that little bit I said a while ago about how we read this. It has never been based upon our performance! It’s based upon His provision!
Time and time again I need His provision for my lack of performance. Thank God that there is a provision, and it’s not meant to just leave me there either, but there is a…but I’ll tell you, no matter what happens I have someplace I can go.
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners, plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.” Thank God, He’s made a way that I can stand before Him as if I had never sinned! What an incredible hope the Gospel of Jesus Christ is!
But through these, based upon His own glory and goodness, “…he has given us…” We didn’t have to earn it, did we? Oh, the language is so clear throughout this whole thing. “…He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
So, God’s provided everything! It’s based upon promises that He has made, and it’s through those promises that we are able to actually lay hold of something, and that which He has provided now becomes ours, in our experience.
Okay now, you’ve got so many ways people approach this. You’ve got some that think it’s an experience we’re all supposed to get…that suddenly catapults us to this level. And of course, you’ve got people that go way off in the ditch and say, there’s a place of sinless perfection that we can achieve. No, it’s not that at all.
But there is a life, there is a provision, and our Christian lives are a matter of learning and growing and laying hold of things as we go, instead of just muddling through and saying, well, that’s as good as it’s gonna get. The reality is, a lot of us, that’s where we’re at. This is as good as it’s gonna get. Well, it ain’t. All right?
So here’s how he portrays this. This is not a matter of learning doctrine and getting our doctrine clearer. This is not a matter of entering unto some supernatural experience, though God can do all those kinds of things. That’s not a substitute for this. God becoming more real to us is not a substitute.
I don’t care if God comes down and fills you full of the Holy Spirit and you’re just enraptured, that’s not a substitute for this! People can experience the power and the presence of God and then it really not change them underneath. And all you have to do is have that go away and you find out what’s really still there, what’s in control, is what I’m talking about. Okay?
So he goes on and he says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance…” The quality of never giving up, “…And to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
That sounds like it’s a very gradual, progressive kind of thing, isn’t it? Thank God, He doesn’t hit me with everything at once! Thank God, I can just go to Him and get up in the morning and look to Him and He brings across my pathway the things that I need to face that particular day. But with that, He always gives me the way of escape so that I can bear it. Isn’t that what scripture tells us in 1st Corinthians chapter 10?
Always, there’s that perfect balance. I feel like I’m saying the same things over and over again, but I feel like I need this. And I feel like God sees the hearts of His people, many of whom are hungering and saying, Lord, I know there’s more. Why can’t I get there? What’s going on here? Well, I believe God wants to begin to inspire us.
I’m very conscious as I say this that, it would be easy to turn something like this into a pep rally. And a pep rally is designed to evoke people, to bring people into an emotional state where in the strength of that, they can go out and whip the other team, or whatever. Well, what happens when the emotions are gone? See, we need something that is not dependent upon how we feel. Isn’t that what we just sang?
( congregational response ).
Yeah. It has nothing to do with how we feel, because there are gonna be times when we feel pretty alone and pretty empty. That’s part of living in this world. And that is not a sign, necessarily, that something’s wrong. We go through, though, every kind of experience where God…I mean, God will bring us to a place over and over again in our experience, where we have nothing to hang onto except His promise! That’s the essence of the Christian life!
But we don’t like that. We want something to kind of see and feel…and we’re focused on experiences, when God is focused on changing us. Isn’t that what he’s talking about here. He’s not talking abut God rearranging our experiences and making our life pleasant. I thank God He can do that. He can meet practical needs. He does, many times. But the greater need is for me to become like Him and I wasn’t born that way. And so, the Christian life is presenting our lives to Him so that He can begin to transform us!
How does He do that? We’re gonna have to go through experiences that challenge this old man’s dominion over this vessel. I’ll tell you, when we are united to Christ…this is something I’ve preached and I struggle with it myself. When we are united with Christ, the old man has died. But we don’t live as if that’s so, do we?
You know, it’s like you’re…you were a slave, okay? And you had a slave owner. And, in your state as a slave, you had no choice but to obey what he told you to do. If he said jump, you said, how high? But then something happens that changes the relationship between you and that slave owner. And now you have been set free and you’ve got a new master who treats you differently.
But what happens when the old slave master come around and starts giving orders? See, this is what happens. We still act as if the old nature is in charge, far too much. And this is where God is going to take us down a pathway that is unique to our needs, and bring us face to face, not with just everything out there that’s wrong, but everything in here that needs to change.
And His purpose in doing that is never, never to discourage, but always so that we will reach into the unsearchable riches of Christ, so that we will reach into things that go beyond our understanding, beyond our expectations, and realize that there is no end to His provision for us.
I see the Lord looking down and saying, there are people here that love me, they want me, but they’re stuck. They’re stuck at a certain level. I want to come forth in power. And it’s not like we’re seeking signs and wonders. I’m not talking about anything specific. I’m just talking about the living presence of Christ in a greater way!
( congregational amens ).
I’m talking about His nature reproduced in us, so that when people look at us, they don’t see us anymore, but they actually see Jesus! Jesus was the image, and is, the image of the invisible God. He is exactly, the exact representation of His being. But is it not His purpose to conform us to that image?
You know, what would be the result of that, in varying…as we go along and in varying degrees, do we not become the image? From glory to glory, is right. Is that not where God is going with this? We’re living in a dark hour. We’re living in a bubble in a sense. It’s almost too peaceful here. And we go to sleep and we don’t realize what’s happening in the world around us and how dark it’s getting, and how much Satanic power there is.
But I’ll tell you what started me in this direction. I didn’t start with this scripture, as I was thinking about it. I was thinking about exactly what was expressed this morning…how much pressure we experience, how much Satanic opposition we experience as we begin to try to reach out. I’ll bet you anybody here who has heard some of these truths and say, yes, that’s right! I need more! There’s more in God! I want more! Oh God, give me more.
Everybody who does that, the Devil just walks away and says, oh well. How many of you recognize that, boy, the hammer comes down? All of a sudden, you are fighting a major headwind. You have got everything in the world coming at you and it’s just like…in the face of it, you’re struggling. And then, all of a sudden, he pushes just the right buttons in you, and whoa, that old nature just kind of goes into gear. And there you are and you say, well…pretty soon, you’re right back where you were. I’m gonna climb that mountain! Oh, and then, I’m not…then we back down.
Every one of us…I mean, this is Christianity 101. This is the nature of it! Paul didn’t say to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith,” for nothing. Somehow, we think that if we can just get our doctrines right and do the right stuff, then everything is gonna be hunky-dory, but it’s a war.
And what God has purposed to make us, of us, to conform us to His image, to build that family that He is building, it happens in the furnace of affliction! It happens against everything that the Devil can array against us. This is normal!
And we act like…oh my God, something’s wrong. And inevitably, the way the Devil works is, well, ‘something’s wrong with you!’ You’re the problem. God would like to do stuff, but you’re just such a problem. I’ll tell you what…in one sense, we are the problem, because we don’t believe Him. But what happens is, we’re believing more in the opposition than we are in the Lord.
You know, where I started thinking about was actually in Joshua. How many examples do we have that are…you know, circumstances in life that we can relate to, because there are physical battles, physical opposition?
You know, if you go through Deuteronomy you will see Moses reiterating the history and the law and the promises of God for the new generation that had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They’d grown up there. They hadn’t seen a lot of that, many of them. They were born in the wilderness. And, all the older ones that had been 20 years and older were gone, except for Caleb and Joshua.
And now it was time to go in, and over and over and over again, you hear the same language. Be full of courage. Be strong and courageous—be strong and courageous. A chapter later, be strong and courageous! Do you suppose there’s a reason for that? Do you think that might have some relevance to you and to me this morning? It certainly does to me. Be strong and courageous.
And so, now we come the point where, Moses is gone. Up to this point, I’m sure Joshua would think about it. What’s it gonna be like? And whoa! The Lord comes to him and says, “Moses my servant is dead.” And all of a sudden, it begins to dawn on him, what’s going on. Now, everybody’s looking to me. Oh my God!
I mean, this was a man. This was not some superman. This was a guy just like us. God had His hand upon him for a particular purpose. And He reiterates the promise in verse 3 of Joshua chapter 1. “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” And then He describes the territory.
But look at how verse 6 begins. “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.” I mean, okay, Lord, You said that. But do you see what the Lord understands about our need? Here He is looking down at His servant, recognizing, man, this guy is up against it. Everything he is going to be looking at and experiencing, is gonna be against what I have told him is going to happen. He is gonna need to have something on the inside, if he’s going to really be able to believe My promises over what he sees and feels.
Do you see where the Lord is going with this? Isn’t that kind of where we’re at? Where there’s only one principle by which anybody can ever lay hold of anything…it’s gonna have to be this quality of faith? I thank God that God is the one that gives it to us, but we have to take it. We have to lay hold of it and say, yes, Lord, I need Your faith and I need You to strengthen me. Oh God, help me to focus my vision upon You and Your promises until that becomes more real to me than what I see and feel.
See, boy, we are human beings living in a broken world, and I don’t care what the Lord’s done for you, as long as we’re in these bodies, these bodies still want what they want. You know, being set free from the old slave master doesn’t mean the slave master was shot dead! And if we never feel anything that he’s, or never hear his voice again, the question is, does he have the right, does he have control? And if we yield to him, then, for all practical purposes, he does.
Thank God, God has given us everything that we need. So, over and over again, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey…” verse 7, “…all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Boy, do you think there’s a lesson is that? If we spend our time, listening to the world, meditating on its thoughts, embracing the things the Devil puts in our mind, looking at circumstances, going by how we feel, we will live in a state of defeat.
And we’ll sit there and feel sorry for ourselves. Like, God’s just against me. Or, this stuff is wonderful but it’s not for me. Hogwash! This is for the weakest of the weak, the lowest of the low. I don’t care how you see yourself in the natural, this is God’s gift to His people.
And we see this picture being formed, and God knows the weakness of humanity, and He sees His servant facing something that he’s never faced in his life! He always has had Moses there! And now, all of a sudden, he’s alone, and everybody’s looking to him. Okay, tell us what to do. Oh my God! And there he is.
And now, verse 9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.” Wait a minute. You said that, Lord. Do you see how much we need to hear His voice that would tell us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”