— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, I confess today, as of, well on into yesterday afternoon, I really had no idea what the service was gonna be about today. But I just kept…a simple thought just kept quietly coming back to me, and I just let the Lord…I tried to let the Lord just kind of develop it. So, I’m gonna go ahead and share it and I think the closer we’ve gotten to the service the more I’ve had a sense that it’s something for all of us, starting with me.
But I’m want to turn to Luke chapter 12. And, the backstory of these two or three verses that I want to read is Jesus being invited to the house of a Pharisee. And so, Jesus went to dinner with this Pharisee and the Pharisee noticed that Jesus didn’t wash His hands.
Well, that wasn’t so much a cleanliness thing as it was a ceremonial thing in their law. And I rather suspect that Jesus wanted to make a point, whatever…anyway, that’s what happened. And so the guy was immediately…brought that up and wondered why in the world don’t you wash your hands? And so, He goes…He begins to talk about the Pharisees and what hypocrites they are.
And says, you wash the outside but you don’t wash the inside, you’re…He goes on and talks about how they’re like dead men…like they’re graves that look beautiful on the outside but on the inside, you’ve got dead men’s bones. And He goes on and on about how they make such a big deal about little things like tithing of all their little plants, the little pieces of mint and all that stuff, but they neglect the stuff that mattered.
When God gave the law, it wasn’t meant to be just a lot of rituals. In fact, Jesus summarized the law in very simple words. It was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” strength, soul and mind, and “…your neighbor as yourself.” (NIV). That’s the essence of the law. That was what He was going for, and all these regulations that came out of that were just expressions of the central principle.
But what happened was they built a religion out of the stuff and out of the rituals, and neglected what it was really all about. And, they had no idea of their true condition.
So, Jesus really kind of lets them have it, and there was one of the experts of the law sitting there and said, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” So He said okay, well, let’s insult you, too. Let’s tell the truth about you. He says, woe to, “…you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did.”
I mean, He just…really letting them have it and telling them that judgment is gonna come, that their responsibility toward God is so great that God is going to deliberately send them such a clear message, knowing they will reject it, and He’s going to do it to effectively bring the guilt of everyone that’s ever been murdered, in all the history of humanity, upon that generation.
I’ll tell you, it’s not a good idea to reject truth, is it? Because the more we have, the more we’re responsible for. But anyway…of course, they loved Him for that!
In the end of the chapter it says, “When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.”
And that’s the problem with a religion that’s built on externals. If there isn’t something behind it, people don’t take kindly to having their need pointed out. And so, what you’re doing is provoking a strong, negative reaction against the source of truth and that’s what we see there.
“Meanwhile…” beginning in the beginning of Luke 12, that is. “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”
Sounds pretty scary. How many of you would like to have everything you’ve ever said and done plastered for everybody to see? Well, that’s the condition that the world is in. And especially is that going to be true of religious people. I don’t know how many people there are in churches today that this would apply to. I’m afraid that’s the case.
But obviously…I felt, as I read this, and Jesus was talking again to His followers, professed followers, at least, that this really has, this principle has two applications. One of them, obviously, is to somebody who thinks because of what they do in the outward, that they are followers of Jesus and they’re fine and they’re expecting to be with Him on the other side.
Of course, you look back in David’s time and we see a lesson that the Lord…a principle that the Lord wants to make plain. You remember how Saul was anointed to be king and the Lord gave him a job to do, and he sort of did it halfway and then injected his own ideas and kind of countermanded what the Lord had said. And the Lord finally sent the prophet to him to reject him as king.
But what was the Lord looking for? He says it very specifically in that passage. You can look back in 1st Samuel. He said God was looking for, “…a man after his own heart.” Okay? So that’s what God was looking for, down through the ages. It’s not somebody who can outwardly conform to something, but it’s a matter of the heart.
And of course, you remember that same principle coming up when Samuel went to anoint David. And he went to the household where the Lord told him to go, of Jesse, and asked for his sons to be brought, figuring that the Lord, and believing that the Lord was going to tell him which one.
So, he goes down the line and he sees all of these fine, upstanding, handsome young men and the Lord just says, no, none of these. So he has to go to Jesse and say, do you have any more sons? Well, yeah, there’s David out there. We keep him out watching the sheep. He’s the kid. And so, well, bring him in.
And that was the Lord’s word to Samuel. This is the one I have chosen. And the principle that is enunciated so clearly there is simply this: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
The truth is that human nature drives us to put on appearances, to appear to be one thing, and many times, far too often, especially in the human race, I would say, is 100 percent of the time, we’re not what we appear. And if you were to really look deep into the heart, you’d find something very, very different.
And, we’re very good at fooling ourselves. You know, you remember the Word of God to Jeremiah, in chapter 17 when He said, “The heart is…” what?
( congregational response ).
“…Deceitful above all things, and…” (KJV). What is it? Newer translations say, “…beyond cure.” (NIV). There’s no way to help it, no way to fix it. We have a heart that we were born with into Adam’s race that cannot be fixed. And so the only way that we can kind of convince ourselves that everything is okay is to do something about the outside.
That’s what the Pharisees had done. They had hearts that hated God. They were greedy. They were proud. They did everything in the world…they actually found ways to use the law to subvert God’s purposes.
You remember what Jesus said on one occasion that they…God had commanded them to respect and honor their parents. He says, but here’s the way you found a way around that. You take the money that could have helped your parents and you say, no, this is devoted to God, and you relieve yourself of the obligation to help your parents. So, you’ve elevated your tradition above the very purpose for which I gave the law in the first place.
Oh, I’ll tell you, we are good at fooling other people. We are good at fooling ourselves. And, part of this is a warning because throughout the ministry of Jesus, and especially as He approached this portion of His ministry, you’ll find Him talking a lot about His coming and being ready for it.
And so, that’s obviously one area of concern, is that people will feel like they are outwardly conformed to something and they’ll feel like they’re okay because of that. And over and over again we find that Jesus points out people who will expect to be received on the other end, and they’ll be rejected.
“Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (KJV). And what’s Jesus gonna say? “…Depart from me, ye that work iniquity…I never knew you.”
And that point needs to be made. This wasn’t somebody who kind of had a genuine relationship with the Lord, and then He said, nope, you’re out, you messed up. I thank God it’s not like that!
( congregational amens ).
Thank God, that when there’s something really permanent and genuine, that doesn’t die! But the problem was that there are people who mistook their outward works as evidence that they were the Lord’s.
Oh, I’ll tell you, religion has a way of fooling people. And, this kind of thing…you know, when Jesus said it wasn’t just a few, it was many. “Many will say to me in that day….” So it’s not just a handful of people. This is gonna be a brutal wake-up for a lot of folks.
And so, one of the areas where we need the Lord to deal with hearts is, obviously, in this area. Just because people come to this church and sing the songs, and profess to know the Lord doesn’t mean…of itself, that doesn’t mean anything. God’s not looking at you lifting your hands and all of that. I mean, He’s pleased when it comes from the heart, but He’s looking at the heart.
And the problem with these people that we referred to in Matthew 7, where they got there and wondered why in the world they weren’t received, when Jesus said you workers of iniquity, He’s talking about…it uses a Greek word that means lawless. This is somebody who has never surrendered their heart. They have sort of conformed their behavior and their activities to what they thought God expected of them, but they had never surrendered their heart. They were still in charge of their life.
And there are so many people…this is not the new truth here, but this is something that needs to be spoken until the Lord comes. There are people who think that they know the Lord, who need to examine their hearts because they have stopped short. They have never gotten off the lordship of their life. They have found a way to sidestep.
Every time that God’s Spirit has come calling, they found a way to sidestep it. Say, well, I can do this and it will be okay. This is what He wants so I’ll do this, and it’ll be all right, without ever letting Him have the heart.
Boy, when the heart’s right, the other things will begin to…there’ll be a source of something. There’ll be a source of life and of power that will actually change the outside over time. Thank God!
But I’ll tell you, this is the worst kind of hypocrisy, and it’s a self-deluding hypocrisy. You know, one of the things we read about those who reject the truth, who harden their heart when God comes calling, what happens eventually is that God sends them…
( congregational response ).
“…Strong delusion….” A powerful deception. You know, when God…God’s not just gonna keep on speaking forever. There comes a day when He says, all right, you refuse to listen! I have gone overboard. I have gone way beyond anything that is…you can never look at Me and say, You didn’t give me a chance. I gave you chance, after chance, after chance, after chance, and you said no! I’m gonna step back.
There is a powerful spirit of darkness at work in this world if you don’t happen to know it. And I’ll tell you, you wonder…you look around and you see…how can people believe the stuff they believe? It’s because God’s taken His hand off!
And I always have to pray, and bring this in, I feel, because the saddest thing would be if there’s somebody who is in any way a part of this church, and you stop short. God, what a horrible thing!
Look at the…I mean, the Midnight Cry Ministries, named after the parable in Matthew chapter 25, where you have ten virgins, and the imagery there is of virgins who, in accordance with the…how things went in their culture. This was the practice of their culture, that virgins would come and meet a bridegroom, convey him to the wedding ceremony.
And so, you have all these virgins who were all ready to do their job, and then it became midnight. It became a dark time. And so obviously, they needed a source of light. Well, everyone had a lamp! See, I’m one of his. I’m here to do my job. I’m one of the ones. Certainly, they’ll let us in when we get there.
But there was a problem, wasn’t there? They had the outside but they didn’t have the inside. And the only thing that can power a lamp in this world is God’s Spirit, resident in the heart, because the new covenant that God came to…that Christ came to establish, and God established through His Son, is not a covenant of rules. It’s a covenant of a new heart and a new spirit, and where every single believer knows Him.
It gets to be very deep and very personal and very real, and if it isn’t, oh, my God, you need to be crying out! Say, God, show me! God, open my heart! I don’t have the power to do it. I can do my best to give out the Word of God, and just trust God to do the work. Jesus didn’t compel people to follow Him.
And you know, we talked about the fact, we mentioned the fact that this was directed at His disciples. What about John chapter 6? I’m not gonna turn over there but it’s something we’ve heard so many times where Jesus first talks about all the different motives for people to follow Him and to seek Him. You know, some come because of the loaves. Some come because of the miracles. Some come…this and that. They come for all kinds of reasons that stop short of what He’s really after.
And so, He puts the truth in very unusual language. You’ve got to eat my flesh and drink my blood. And if you don’t, you won’t have any life in you. Well, He’s not talking about something literal, but He was talking about the fact that His sacrifice of His body and His blood on the Cross was going to be the only means by which they could…they were gonna have to be all in with that. They were gonna have to partake of that, not just as a religion, but as a heart matter. Okay?
But the way He put it…they didn’t get that. A lot of people didn’t understand it. Jesus has a way of speaking that causes people to go one direction or another, because the only people that can hear His voice are those who have listened to the Father. We read that in other places. In fact, maybe earlier in this passage, in John 6. The people…all the people that…I mean all that come, “…to me I will never drive away.” (NIV). Thank God! What a wonderful promise!
But what a…we need to set that in its context, because Jesus also says all who have listened and learned from the Father, they come to Me. So, Jesus understood how it works. He understood that God…by the Spirit, is preparing and calling and working in hearts and preparing them to receive the Word of God, like the good soil in that parable.
I’ll tell you, we’ve got to have a heart that’s ready to receive it, and not everybody can. Not everybody can understand. And so, Jesus was making a distinction. God through His Son was speaking in such a way that people who just didn’t get this and thought it was really strange and stupid and why are we following this guy? He doesn’t know what He’s talking about. That’s crazy! What happened? They left and went back and said we’re not gonna follow this guy anymore.
Now, we read also where Jesus asked the disciples, “Will ye also go away?” (KJV). And Peter speaks up and says, no, You’re the Son of God, You have the words of life.
Of course, what it doesn’t say, specifically, there is that the twelve, though they were focused on, they were not the only ones who stuck around. Do you know that? There still was a pretty good group of people. But the Word says that, “…Jesus knew…who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.”
So that’s two different categories, isn’t it? In other words, there was a group of people, among His professed followers, who didn’t really understand and they didn’t have…it wasn’t a heart issue to them. It wasn’t revealed to them. They were impressed by the miracles, impressed by something, enough to say, hey, we better…let’s find out about this guy. But they did not have anything from God that enabled them to stick it out when it got tough.
And I’ll tell you, we need something that is real! My God, in this hour do we not need an absolute anchor for our soul? We need something that is real down here, because if we don’t have it, the darkness of this world is not just the lack of light, it is a power, that takes over people’s lives, and fixes them to where they’re blind and they’re gonna wake up one day and Jesus is gonna come, or they’re gonna go by way of death, and they’re gonna realize when it’s too late.
And I just pray that anyone who hears this will recognize, my God, you need something more than outward conformity. You need a Savior! You need a new heart and a new spirit!