— Brother Phil Enlow: This is the dividing line of history. This is the defining moment in history which everybody’s destiny is determined by where they stand in relation to that. And I’ll tell you, His resurrection, as I say, was a victory over death. Here was the greatest enemy, the consequence of my sin is that I die—I’m destined to die! I cannot live with God. I cannot bring this sin that infects me into His kingdom! It has no place! “…Flesh and blood,,,” the scripture says, “…cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (KJV). Man, something radical has to change!
But Jesus came forth, and He came forth as the Victor, the Conqueror of death itself! As I said, He convinced all of His doubting followers! Do you remember that first Easter morning? There were different encounters with different individual people, but the body of disciples were still, huh, what’s going on? I don’t get this. You know, people said this, I’m confused. I don’t know what’s going on.
And then, Jesus meets, joins up with a couple of disciples not part of the apostles but just two other followers, and they’re headed out to the village of Emmaus. How many of you remember that simple story? They’re walking along, taking about all the stuff that’s happened, and Jesus kind of joins them and says, “What you talking about?”
They said, “Are you a stranger around here? You don’t know what’s been going on? We saw this…we followed this guy, we thought He was the Messiah, we thought He was the One, and they killed Him! And it’s been three days! And then some people have been coming up with these crazy stories! They’ve seen Him! We don’t know what’s going on.”
“O fools, and slow of heart to believe…,” He said. And as they walked, He began to open up the Old Testament scriptures. Boy, would I have loved to — wouldn’t you have loved to listen in on that and have Him take the Old Testament scriptures and open them up? Do you know when they preached the Gospel in the New Testament, they preached it from the Old Testament? The New Testament wasn’t written yet! That’s where we go.
But I’ll tell you, the Gospel is there from Genesis right on through, what is it, Malachi? Anyway, right through the end of the Old Testament. And here’s Jesus taking them right through, showing them exactly what had to happen and why He had to die.
They still didn’t know who He was. So, they come to the house there, and so, He says, “Have a nice day.” And they realized, “Hey, wait a minute. Stay with us. It’s late in the day, we’ve got a house here. Come on in. Let’s eat something together.” So, they sit down to eat, and He breaks the bread and thanks God for it. And all of a sudden, they realize who it is. And instantly, He vanishes from their sight.
You want to know something about this life, this other life? It pays no attention to laws of physics. It’s not bound by all the things that bind us. This is something different. So, man, they’re excited. They go running back in. I don’t know if they ran. It’s several miles, but anyway, they hurried back into Jerusalem. They knocked on the door, because the disciples were in a locked room, and they let them in.
They said, “We’ve seen the Lord,” and locked the door again. All of a sudden, Jesus is in there. And you know, in the state that they were in, oh my God! We’re seeing a ghost! He said, “Don’t be afraid. A ghost doesn’t have flesh and blood like you see me have. He holds out His hands, and they touch Him. They…my God, He’s real! He’s got a body! We see Him just exactly — I mean, He’s right here!
And just to really settle the issue, Jesus said, You got anything to eat?” They gave Him a piece of fish, and He sat there and ate it in front of them. And they’re trying to take this in. And over the next few weeks, Jesus turns a bunch of scared, hiding people into people who are ready to just embrace the power that He was about to send, and stand up to that whole generation with a conviction that nothing could shake!
Every single apostle was martyred for their faith, went to their grave convinced and standing for the simple truth that Jesus was raised from the dead, except John. They tried to kill him, and it didn’t work! The Lord preserved him so he could write the book of Revelation, experience that revelation for us.
And do you know what we’ve read this morning several things that Jesus said prior to the cross. There were many other things, of course, through the Gospels. But I want to make this simple point. Everything Jesus said was completely authenticated by the fact that He rose from the dead. People may hear this and be angry with me, but Muhamad is dead. Confucius is dead. Buddha is dead. Plato is dead. All these people that had these great ideas about what the world is about and how we should live and all those things, but Jesus Christ is alive!
( congregational amens ).
He lives today, and He can be known today! We may not see Him with our natural eyes, but He is alive, and He is real, and every word that He told us is the truth!
( congregational response ).
When He says the one who loves his life will lose it, you can bet your last penny, let alone your dollar, you can bet your last penny that it’s the truth. And I’ll say again, He’s not telling anybody that because He’s condemning, angry, trying to put you under His thumb and make you miserable. It’s because He sees the condition that you’re blind to.
And He longs to reach down and pull you out and lift you up to a place where you’ll say, “Oh my God, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand. How glad I am I gave You my heart and my life.” Praise God! He authenticated everything that He said.
Here’s something that’s sounds like it’s gonna come out of left field, but, when Jesus died, He wasn’t the only one that died that day, was He? There were two thieves, one on His right and one on His left. And the crowd was down there mocking! “You claim to be the Son of God! If You’re the Son of God, come down from that cross! Who do you think You are?” Just mocking Him.
When they started all of this, both thieves were in agreement with that. And one of them particularly said, “If you’re the Son of God, save Yourself and save us!” You see where His interest was, preserving his life? That was the most important thing to him! I’m about to die here. Fix me up. Save my life. That’s the prime value that I hold.
Somewhere along the line, one of the thieves began to find his spirit touched. The only explanation is that God touched his heart. Nobody has the power to come out of this kind of darkness. If you have any inclination at all towards God, God did that! God’s reaching out to you. You wouldn’t care!
Somehow, that thief began to see things in a different light when he heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” He listened, and he watched, and he saw His reaction to everything. And finally, he rebuked the other thief and said, “We’re dying because we broke the law. We deserve what we’re getting.” Then, he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And one of the points that’s really come strongly to me was the divide that happened that day. Everybody connected with that event that day was on one side or the other. There is no middle ground. How many of you know that?
( congregational response ).
There’s no middle ground. You are either 100 percent identified with Christ on the cross, including you dying, laying down your life, following Him, or you are part of those who will perish! There simply is no middle ground.
And I’ll tell you, any message that short-circuits that is a deception! I want to stand there that day and say I told people the truth! Where did I hear — a while back about a church that had — when people came, they were invited to say this little prayer. Sorry for all my mistakes. Thank You for salvation and something — that was the essence of it. And they consider them Christians! My God!
Do you have any idea what it takes for God to confront a life, and say, “You need Me! Without Me, you will perish!” And then to come and to realize that it’s not a voice of condemnation, but it’s a voice of love that entreats, that calls, that draws, that offers something at the cost of the Son of God laying down His life.
My God, what’s it gonna be like on that day? Do you think there’s gonna be some middle ground between those who are in glory and those who are marched off? That divide exists now. We don’t always know. That divide is in this room this morning. It’s wherever people may hear this. And all I can pray is that God will do what it takes.
You know, one sort of quirky way I thought about putting this is, there were two thieves there: which thief are you? You’re as guilty as either of them. Are you gonna stand with the mockers, or are you gonna stand with those who surrender? And they willingly lay down their lives because there’s a hope of something beyond all of that, that is as sure as the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?
I’ll tell you what…when they went out and preached the Good News which is what the Gospel means, when the apostles went forth into that world and preached the Good News, man, it was not some easy-believism. It cost people their lives to follow Jesus. People were persecuted, thrown into prison. Some of them were killed.
That’s still happening today. In fact, there have been more — I believe there were more Christians killed in the 20th century than in all of Christian history combined before that. And the trend is going up. I heard one figure, and I don’t know how reliable, but it’s just an indicator. There’s something like 100,000 Christians that die every year from some form of violence. You see the world we’re going into? We need the Lord.
( congregational amens ).
We need Someone who will carry us through. Whether we live or whether we die, we’re gonna be with the Lord. Now, I’ll tell you, one way or another, your life is gonna end here. We can live it for Him and enjoy what He has for us forever, or we can perish with a dying world.
But their message was an uncompromising one! It was repent! Your attitude needs to be totally reversed about sin! Whatever is wrong, displeasing to God, you can’t say, “Oh, I’m gonna toy with this, I’m gonna hang on to this, I love this! I’ll give up this if You’ll let me have that!”
No! There is a repentance where your heart, your attitude, you see the evil that it is and you say, “God, by Your grace, I turn my heart away from that. I want to — I need to be delivered from this! I need to be forgiven for all the things that I feel guilty for!” And I’ll tell you, you will feel guilty when God confronts you. Don’t run from that!
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Take that to the cross, because the answer is not to cover it over! You can try to cover it over with alcohol or whatever you want! You’ll never escape the guilt! There is one answer for the guilt that comes when we realize what we really are, and that is to bring it to the cross! And I’ll tell you, when the blood cleanses us from that sin, even the sense of guilt is gone!
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Thank God! That’s real salvation. Only God’s power can do that! Thank God! It wasn’t just, repent of your sins, it’s to lay down your life. My life doesn’t belong to me anymore. Just as surely as Jesus made a one-way trip to the grave on the cross, when we come to Him, that’s the journey we make. Our life, our heart, every part of us is presented to Him.
Yes, I understand, like Michael was talking about, there’s an outworking of that. We have to learn. We have to grow in all those things. But I’ll tell you, there is a time when we are literally laid down. We’re repenting of our sins, but we’re giving up our life, as well, and saying, “God, it is Your life. You do what You will with it, while I’m here. But You remake me into someone who can live with You forever.”
And I’ll tell you — and you believe the Good News. You believe the promise that God will take your life and give you His gift of eternal life. There is repentance, there is a laying down of life, a surrender, and there is faith.
Where do you think the ability for that comes from? It doesn’t come from me. It comes from God! When God is speaking, when God is dealing, that’s the time when we have the power to do what He commands us to do. And I’ll tell you, we become responsible to do that.
But then, what did they do? When they preached the Gospel, how did that work out? I mean, what was the expression of that? I’m trying to get to something. They were baptized!
Do you understand the connection between baptism and everything we’re talking about this morning? That’s what baptism means! It means I am laying down my life! I am going down under the water! I’m surrendering! This is not just a religious ordinance that I’m practicing! I am — this is what’s in my heart, to lay down my life and to give it to You, but I am doing it in the expectation that when I come up, I will come up with a new life!
I’ll tell you, there is a God — when somebody lays down their life in faith, there’s a response to the Gospel, there is a God who will seal you with His Spirit!
( congregational amens ).
You will be a different person on the inside! Yes, you will have to grow! Yes, we will have many battles! Yes, we will go through many valleys and mountains! But I tell you, there’s a change.
When Jesus was baptized, what happened? The Spirit came on Him and He said, this is My Son. There was an identification of God. This is My Son. I’ll tell you, when somebody really is responding to the Gospel in faith and they’re baptized, God says this is My son. This is My child. He will give you the response to that exercise of faith. This is the Gospel. This is the way they preached it. Is this right or wrong?
( congregational response ).
This is right. I want people to think about this. I’m not gonna try to make something happen. I don’t think they did in the New Testament. I don’t see a place where they gave altar calls and you know, a lot of the things — God can use all those kinds of things. But I’ll tell you, I want God to take His Word and so convict the heart, that people will just cry out to Him until He does what is necessary.
And they will respond and say, “I need to surrender. I need to be baptized.” I want God to do it. I don’t want to try to add my efforts to make something happen. But that’s God’s part. My part is to repent, to lay down my life and believe the Good News and express it in that manner. And God’s part is to give His Spirit. That was the way it happened.
And I’ll just ask a simple question. Which life is yours, earthly or heavenly? Everybody here has some kind of life. We all have the earthly life in our bodies, but you understand what I’m saying. Do you have the heavenly life? Do you have what Jesus is talking about in this passage?
This is what God’s heart is! He longs to share His life, but He’s not gonna share it with sin, with somebody who means to go on like they are and cling to their earthly life, and intends to go on in a life of self will!
That’s what religion — that’s the track that Satan leads people off into a religion. Oh, I’m okay because I’m religious! And their heart’s unchanged. That’s what Jesus said about the Pharisees. Outwardly, you appear righteous, but inwardly, you’re just a bunch of graves with dead men’s bones in them. I don’t want to be that. I want to be real from the inside out. Only God can do that.
Folks, we need God to come in miraculous power. And I’m not talking about signs and wonders, particularly. I’m just talking about — we need God to come and change hearts and lives and do something that is unmistakably His work, because He’s the only One that can do it!
Just coming here and participating in the church isn’t gonna do it! You need to meet — you need to have a personal encounter with the God who raised His Son from the dead. Have you been born again, or are you just religious?
Everyone before the cross, as I said earlier, was in one camp or the other. Everyone! Everyone made a choice that day. I reject Him. He’s a phony. He’s a fraud. He deserves to die. And then some said, I’m with Him—I’m with Him.
Are you with Him? Praise God! There is no middle ground! And look at the last part of what Jesus said. “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” (NIV).
We’re living in a world that is falling under what Paul called strong delusion. Strong delusion means you are absolutely certain you are right, and you are totally deceived. When Christ comes, it will be a shock to this world, because they were so sure. That’s the power of darkness from which we need to be delivered.
( congregational amens ).
When God comes, and He begins to convict the heart of the need, that’s the time. There’s light right there shining in your life. But now, there’s a choice that has to be made. What will that choice be? Will I reach out?
I’ll tell you, if this concerns you at all, I pray that there are people who will go and cry out and say, “God, help me. I don’t even get all of this, but I need You. I know that I need You. I feel the sense of my need of You! But oh, God, open my eyes. Help me. Strengthen me. Give me faith. Give me whatever I need.”
There’s a God who will hear that prayer! That’s what He longs to hear! Oh, He’s not a God of anger and wrath. That’s not what He wants. There will be plenty of that for people that say, no, I will not have this — we will not have this Man to rule over us, as Jesus said some people would say.
I’ll tell you, there’s a God who loves you with an amazing love that we can’t even fathom. There’s a Creator who came down and walked among us, sinless, took every bit of your shame and mine, willingly embraced the wrath of God that was justly due for everything you and I have ever done.
Oh, I embrace that. I am what You say I am, Lord. I need You. But I bow, and I put my faith in Your — in what Jesus did and in Your power to change that and to give me a different life. Lord, without that, I will perish.
I pray that everyone here will just rejoice in what God’s done for you, if you know Him. But God has begun this good work. He’s not gonna stop. You put your faith in Him no matter where you’re at in your journey. The same God who has begun that has planted something in you. Do you know the life He gave you can’t die? If He saved you by His Spirit, that life cannot die! We just need to put our faith in Him.
But I’ll tell you, if you’ve never known Him, I just pray that God will just turn you every way but loose until you are sure, because if you’re not sure about this, what else is worth anything? This is the question upon which our destiny hangs. This is why Jesus died. This is why He rose again, to demonstrate God’s power to save, to destroy sin and death that would otherwise rule over us. It’s the only way of escape. Put your faith in Him. Seek Him with all your heart. Praise God!