— Brother Phil Enlow: Praise God! Doesn’t that make a difference to understand who we are? We are not just nobodies. It’s not a matter of being proud, thinking we’re somebody in a carnal sense, prideful sense, but to realize we are not victims. We are…we are absolutely in the hands of an eternal God who knew us from the beginning, made a plan, and He’s carrying it out, and we’re part of that plan. Praise God!
Your life and mine have meaning! It has purpose! We’re here for a reason. We do need to do exactly what Steve said, walk with Him, and talk with Him, and listen. So, Paul’s burden at this point is a scripture…these are scriptures we’ve read many times, but that’s all right, I think we…I need it. I need it fresh.
“Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” (NLT).
You know, I want to stop and emphasize something here, because the reality is, I don’t care if you are the smartest person who ever lived from the standpoint of an intellectual ability, you do not have the power to understand the things of God. You cannot discover them.
You cannot study and read this book, as some people teach, and believe, oh, God meant us to understand it. All we have to do is study it and we can figure it out. Hogwash! The only people who understand what God’s purpose is and the real message of this book are those to whom God enlightens on the inside, and it’s gonna have to get past your intellect.
( congregational amens ).
You will never run out of questions that you could possibly raise. But I’ll tell you, it gets past that. I think about a simple illustration of the difference between knowing somebody and knowing about them, because you could know the facts about somebody and learn more and more about them, but there is a difference in knowing them and spending time with them and getting to know them as a person.
There’s a knowledge that goes past the mind. You might still not know a lot of facts. There may be more facts you would learn about them, but you can come to say I know them. There’s a knowledge that goes way down deep.
You know, that’s how when God called Paul, that was his testimony. God shined the light. The same God who spoke and said, let there be light, He said let there be light in Paul. And that’s what every single human being needs, is for God to shine His light, to bypass your understanding, go straight to your heart and say, I am God, there’s none else. I made you to know Me, but you’re a sinner. You need a Savior. You need to surrender your life to me, and I have the power to make it new. That’s the message and the hope of the Gospel.
But folks, is there anybody here that has such a level of knowledge, wisdom and understanding that you can say okay, I’ve got that, let’s go on to something else? We need to be praying. We need to be seeing more than we see. God has more for us. There is an endless array of knowledge and wisdom and understanding that you and I have never plumbed the depths of.
Even as Paul prayed for us, because this was not just to the Ephesians, this was to everybody. We need to be praying for ourselves. We need to be praying for one another. God, deepen our understanding. The scary part, sometimes is in a way, how does He do that?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah, He puts us in situations where we’re gonna have to experience something rather than…this is not classroom stuff. You can’t just go sit in a classroom and get all this information, and then, you’ve got it. This is learned in the school of hard knocks, and we’re gonna have to say, Lord, teach me however, whatever it takes, so that I can see the truth about myself, the truth about You, the truth of Your love for Me and how to live for you, all of those things.
Lord, my skills are just…they need some help, they need some work. Anybody here that doesn’t apply to? I didn’t think I’d see any hands on that one. But oh, we’ve got an awesome God, don’t we? So, he’s praying. He’s seeing the need of this, “…so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” Again, this is experiential, personal knowledge. This is not mere information.
“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light…” your hearts, not just your minds, “…so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”
Okay, so, so far, we’ve got a God who is able to look into the future and make a plan. We’ve got a God who accomplished this incredible thing at the cross, and has called us and shined His light in our hearts, but can He pull it off? Does He have what it takes to follow through…I mean, that Devil is a pretty bad fellow? And look at the hold he has on the world. Look at what he’s been able to accomplish. Can God really pull it off? And so that’s what Paul addresses next.
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” Do you think there’s anything the Devil can do, and God’s just helpless to do anything about it? Poor God. He meant well, but He just doesn’t have what it takes.
There is a God who has all power in heaven and in earth. He’s given that authority into the hands of His Son to gather Him a church, and Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail…” (KJV). God has the power to reach into Satan’s strongholds and pull people out.
I don’t know who may hear this, but I’ll tell you, there’s a God who can save the worst of the worst, if that’s what you think you are. “…The incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”
So, where do we get a picture of this? “This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him…in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” He didn’t just get him out of the grave and say, phew! He put Him all the way on a throne, gave Him the highest place in the universe under the Father, and every devil in hell knows it.
They don’t want you and me to know it. They will do everything in their power to lie to us and to pull on our nature and on circumstance to blind us to the simple truth that He reigns! I don’t care who wins, in one sense. I don’t care who wins in the election. I don’t care what happens in the world. He reigns! And if our eyes are on Him and listening to Him and seeking Him, we can find our place and our purpose in such a world as we find ourselves in.
Now, as a result of what God’s power did, “Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things…” But there’s no period there. “…Made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.”
Folks, what God did is for your benefit and your benefit and my benefit. He reigns over everything that would come against you or come against me or hinder you or hinder me. He is on a throne and He reigns over it. He might let us go through something like Job did, but did God have control in that situation? Yes, He did.
How did Joel…how did Job wind up? Sorry, Joel! How did Job wind up? He kind of came out okay, didn’t he? You think he’s sitting there, God, I like how this came out, but I sure didn’t like the process, I’m mad at You? No, we’ve got a God who has all the wisdom and understanding to accomplish His perfect purpose in your life and mine.
Oh, I’ll tell you, do we need to trust Him? Is that a need in any of us here? Do we trust Him perfectly? “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him? How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er…” like the old hymn. Every single one of us has lessons of trust where we need to learn. I can trust Him with this issue. I can trust Him with that. I can let it go and just say, Lord, I want Your will, not mine.
That’s what my life is all about is Your plan. I mean, isn’t that all of what Paul is unfolding here? Is it our plans? Are we making plans how to use God for our purposes, or does God have a plan from the foundation of the world, and it is unfolding? It is getting closer and closer everyday to being completely fulfilled! And here we are at our particular time in history experiencing that plan and seeking to learn how better to understand it and to fit in with it.
But He is, “…head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Praise God! Well, I’m gonna read a little bit more, because this is the scripture you tend to read when you’re talking about who we are and our identity.
Doesn’t that make a difference if you understand who you are, if we’re His child, if we’re blessed? I mean, how many times has God brought this front and center? We need this, folks. Every day, that truth is under assault if we listen to the wrong voice and we focus on the wrong thing.
If we do what Steve said and keep going to God, God can help us to understand, you’re my child, I’m with you. Yes, I’m allowing you to feel your weakness because I want you to feel my strength. I don’t want to leave you with only your resources. I want to pour in all that I have for you. Come, because you’re My child, and I love you.
So, where were we before all of this? Lest there be any person who somehow looks in the mirror and says, I’m part of this because I’m better than other people. Oh, my God. I pray there’s nobody here that would ever, would even emotionally think that.
There well may be people who listen to this who are in prison for terrible crimes. But I want you to know that I am no better than you are in my nature. If the right circumstances came along, there is nothing, no evil that wouldn’t, couldn’t come out of this nature, because I was born with every inclination being wrong.
Listen to what he says. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.”
Now, Paul puts it in a different way. He says, “All of us….” All of us—all of us! Paul is including himself, isn’t he? The self-righteous, religious Pharisee among the Jews who thought he was righteous before God because he kept the law…all of us. “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”
Folks, every single human being is in the same category of need. I don’t care if you grew up in the church and like me, you’ve never gone out and lived it up to the flesh and done terrible things. Then, you look at somebody whose life is wasted with drugs or alcohol or crime or what have you, and you look down at them and you say, I’m better than they are.
You are not. Oh, God, give us an understanding heart to know the mercy and the grace of God. If God has shown you mercy, He can show them mercy! If you’re hearing this, I want you to read the next part of this.
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much…” That includes you. “…He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.” Praise God!
Praise God, that’s my hope. I can’t look in the mirror and find a single reason to have hope, but I can look at Jesus. I can get to know the God who loved me that much, who saw everything that was wrong with me, and all that, still, He’s working on. But He loved me anyway.
Oh, praise God. Do we have Someone to worship? Is worship just a form we go through, or is it something that we need to reach out from the heart and say, oh, God, open my eyes to see so I can love You as You deserve to be loved, and praised.
“…He gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.” Then, there’s a parenthesis. “(It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
“So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Praise God!
I need to emphasize this once again. So many people have this weak, vague idea of grace, but grace is God extending His power, His help, His influence upon fallen human beings who are helpless and undeserving, because if God did not shine His light in your hearts, you wouldn’t know there was a problem. You would have no idea.
But God has to show us our need. He has to show us our sinfulness, our helplessness, and that has to become a divinely revealed conviction! What is it that does that? It’s God by the influence of His Spirit doing that. That’s grace showing us our need, but then, it’s also grace that shows us the answer and what Jesus has accomplished for us at the cross.
That’s supernatural. Every bit of this is supernatural. Only God can do this, but okay, now suppose I get it. I’m a lost sinner. I’m helpless. I’m hopeless. And then You’re calling on me to repent and believe? I don’t have the power to do that.
No, you don’t. Neither do I. But grace is what makes it possible. The same God who enlightens and convicts and calls you to come to Himself is the One who gives you the power to come. That’s His grace. I don’t have that power.
You know, you’ve got the age-old debate about the will of man and the will of God, and the truth is in the middle. God’s grace is the only power by which I have any ability to choose God. That’s why you have to come and call upon Him, when?
( congregational response ).
While He is near, because if He isn’t near, you don’t have the power. You wouldn’t even want to come. But I’ll tell you, there’s a God who reaches out. He reaches the most hopeless people in this planet who would humble themselves and say, yes, Lord. I surrender. I put my hope, I transfer all of my confidence in myself, my will to live and do as I please, I surrender it. I put it in your hands, Lord. You have the power to save me, and You alone. I’m trusting in You.
That’s all He’s looking for. He has the power to do the rest. Praise God! That’s why He says…all right, you can’t take credit for any of this. We already read that. “It is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” All right, it’s not by works, is it?
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus…” What did He do that for? “…So we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Now, you see another dimension of the plan. Yeah, we can look at the big picture and say, yeah, before the world every happened, God made a plan, and I know how it’s gonna come out, but who am I? Where do I fit into all of that? God has a plan for you. I mentioned that last week. Every single person is a unique masterpiece of God, and He has a place for you in His Kingdom, and our place is to look to Him and pray and seek Him and say, God, work in me.
But if there’s something I need to be doing…obviously, we all need to be praying, but if there’s something I need to be doing, tell me what it is, and then help me to put my foot out there, just like Steve talked about walking on the water. He never called me to do that either. But I’ll tell you, whatever God has called you and me to do, we can do, because it’s His power doing it and not ours.
I’ll tell you, we’ve got a God who is over all. But He’s called you and me for a purpose in this time, in this place, and He is the One. He’s the One who is working out His plan, and I guarantee He’s gonna finish it.
So, there’s nothing new we’ve really said this morning, is there? We’ve heard these scriptures many times, but I just sense in my spirit God wants to bring us to a deeper understanding, and appreciation of this, so that it makes a difference on Monday morning and Tuesday morning and Friday evening and every time in between, until it begins to govern our lives, and we look to Him with faith and confidence knowing that we’re not just losers.
We’re not just poor, weak, helpless victims. We are seated with Him. We are God’s children, blessed, chosen from the foundation of the world, seated with Him in heavenly places. We occupy a place where the Devil…he is terrified that we’ll discover these things. He’s the one who’s afraid, because He knows his time is short. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing in the world. He gets it. He’s running out of time. Oh, praise God!
The closer he gets to running out of time, then time will be no more, and all of this will be behind us, but in the meantime, we’re the ones with the high ground. We don’t have to listen to the Devil and be intimidated. We don’t have to run off half-cocked and thinking we’re something, but we can look to God with a simple, humble confidence and say, God, show me my place in the Kingdom, and help me to fill it.
There’s no telling what God might do with people right here. You would never think about God giving you supernatural abilities. Everything about the Kingdom of God is supernatural. No one can get up here unless there’s an element of the supernatural in it! This is not a matter of human ability in any area of the Body of Christ, but it’s Christ in us. He is our hope of glory.
That same Jesus who reigns, reigns over everything for the church. It’s for you, and it’s for me, and it’s every single day, and we need to look to Him with that understanding and confidence. And I’ll tell you, He’s going to lead and empower us to be all that we need to be. Praise God!