Friday, March 26, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Cross, Part II - March 28, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Cross" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 25, 2010.

The Cross - March 25, 2010

I Peter 2:24 - and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Peter's humanity is a gift to the reader of the gospels, and even later in the apostle's letters to the various churches in Asia. Through these pages, we are allowed the opportunity to see a man affected by the extraordinary events that changed the world. We are first introduced to Peter as a rough-cut individual that was undoubtedly a raucous, working man of his day that did not darken the door of the local synagogue except for the occasional wedding, dedication, or other familial-social event. After three years of being Christ's right-hand man, we see a passionate man undone over his denial of Jesus (Matthew 26:75). The gospels don't record that Peter actually witnessed the crucifixion, however, one can conjecture that he was lurking at the back of the crowd and saw with horror the suffering his Lord went through on that Black Friday. Not only did Jesus suffer the physical torments of His scourging and crucifixion, but He also bore the sin of the world in His broken body. (His pain undoubtedly climaxed when His Father withdrew His presence for the first time in eternity.) Peter knew that he loved His Master as he saw Him hanging and dying on that cross. While he may not have understood all that was happening that day, in time the Lord opened his understanding to appreciate all that He had suffered. One can only imagine that tears of love and gratitude flowed from the aged apostle's eyes as he penned the words: He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. For Peter fully understood the implications of why His Lord suffered more than any man -- that He might rescue us all from the penalty of sin and give us life evermore.

The Greek word hamartia that Peter uses twice in our lead verse literally means "offenses" or "sins". However, it goes much deeper than that. The implication by the apostle is that Jesus not only bore all of our sins in his body on Calvary, but that he destroyed the "factory" which creates the sin in the first place, our sin nature which we all inherited from our father, Adam. Jesus Christ took on Himself not only all the sins ever committed or would be thereafter, but He also took upon Himself the very sin nature of every human in past, present, and future history. For as through one man sin entered into the world, even so through one Man, the Last Adam, sin and the power thereof was forever vanquished (Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:45). The translators of the New American Standard Bible got it right when they interpreted the second instance of hamartia as inclusive of both "sins" and "sin". For truly Peter understood that it was not good enough for Jesus Christ to take upon Himself all of our "sins" but that He MUST destroy the source or the "production plant". Only then, could we die to SIN. For now, no longer was the factory operational once we believed Jesus Christ for His salvation. As believers, we were now free from both our "sins" and our "sin".

Many have quoted the last part of I Peter 2:24 as referring to physical healing. While that is certainly true, it is a huge misconception to make the leap from the atonement of Christ in the beginning of this scripture and settle for just physical healing at the end. No, Peter's conclusion was that through Christ's death on the cross we are justified (just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned) before the courtroom of heaven, sanctified (set apart to live holy for the Lord) because the power of sin has been dealt with, and finally glorified (transfigured by His power) in both this life and the life to come. Many teach that glorification is just for the other side of the veil, when we all get to heaven and receive new bodies. Some will argue that justification from our sins and sanctification from our sin is our birthright on this earth as children of God. Beloved, God desires that we live glorified lives even in our present state as He so wills. Romans 3:23 sets the standards for the normal Christian life -- that we would not fall short of the "glory" of God. No matter how God desires to glorify Himself in our mortal bodies, it is His business as we walk this earth. He is the One who said through Paul the Apostle that if the Spirit of God lives in us that he would give LIFE to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). In context, Paul is talking about sin and its lack of dominion over a believer that is yielded to the Lord. In the following verses of Romans, he writes that when surrendered to God we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and allowing God to give life to our mortal bodies. This is the healing that Peter speaks of when stating that we are healed by Christ's wounds. The brutality of Christ's suffering through both His scourging and then through His death on Golgotha allowed the full power of the atonement to make us alive to the uttermost, both in this life and the one to come. Eternal life began when a believer first gave his life to Jesus. Life will continue to grow and to build momentum in the child of God as we surrender daily to His life-giving righteousness (Proverbs 4:18).

Both Peter and Paul would most certainly attest that ALL was accomplished on the cross, and was fully testified by the resurrection. The cross is the very power which made Christ's risen life a reality. Without the cross, there would be no power for any of us to live a resurrected life. Life everlasting for His chosen can only be realized by believing the Son of God died for both our "sins" and our "sin". There is no other way to salvation than by accepting and identifying ourselves with first His broken body and then His life raised in victory. Like Peter, we can then understand that His life spent on Calvary's cross meant total justification, sanctification, and glorification over sin, death, and sickness. We can lift our faces heavenward with tears of gratitude and joyous hearts knowing that His love and desire to redeem us was made possible by that glorious crucifixion. May we all embrace the cross for its true significance, thereby living in the life that the Son of God has given us all!

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus ... the Perfect Man who became the Perfect Lamb that spared not His life for us all. May as many as who are ordained for eternal life believe in Him, that You would have many sons and daughters in glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Cross, Part I - March 21, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Cross" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 25, 2010.


The Cross - March 25, 2010

Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

What is the meaning of the cross? While most of the world will never truly know its profound significance, it is generally agreed upon as the most universally recognized symbol. For devout followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it has much more meaning than merely a "symbol". For in the cross, there is the true identification for every believer with the Lord's death. And, if identified in His death, than also partakers in His resurrection. As declared in our opening scripture, Paul as well as all humankind died with Christ in that most momentous event nearly 2,000 years ago . However, the scripture states that only few in comparison with the totality of mankind will ever accept the Savior and know the power of the cross through His resurrected life. Christ shedding His blood for the forgiveness of our sins was truly the way into the Most Holy Place where His blood made that "new and living way" possible (Hebrews 10:19-21). Through His forgiveness of sins, we can go beyond that simple understanding into the realization that we have been crucified with our Savior -- that He has dealt a death blow to our old nature through the work of the cross. Like Paul, we can acknowledge our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Only when we know this fact by the revelation of the Holy Spirit may we live the life that Christ bought for us all with His spent, mortal life.

While the cross is the most universally recognized symbol throughout the world, it is also the most despised. While the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uses our court systems to remove symbols such as the cross from all public and government institutions, many Muslim nations threaten and impose imprisonment on their own countrymen and women for wearing a crucifix. The cross is a direct affront to secular, atheistic organizations such as the ACLU and likewise to Satanically-inspired religions such as radical Islam. Most Muslims will tell you that Jesus was one prophet of many that the Qur'an embraces. Then why do radical Muslims persecute Christians? I believe it is because they are filled with the spirit of hate and divisiveness -- they are sons and daughters of their father the devil! And, as sons and daughters of darkness, they hate the cross of Christ as much as their father! They may not consciously understand why they hate Christians as they do, yet they do just the same. The same can be said for radical Secular Humanists. Their hate comes across as mocking the so-called uneducated "rubes" that continue to believe in a resurrected Lord. They act in a more "civilized" approach, seeking to convince others of the sheer implausibility and lunacy of Christian belief. While Muslims and Secular Humanists seem worlds apart, both of these example groups are working toward one end and that is to exterminate the cross and its influence over all spheres of public AND private life. However, it is impossible to eradicate the cross's power by removing its symbolism, whether it is worn around a believer's neck or it is sculpted into a courthouse facade. In either case, if the devil can't get rid of the power of the cross, he will just as determinably attempt to remove any reminder thereof. For truly, if the prince of darkness had known ... the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Corinthians 2:8). Just as the devil is incapable of destroying the power of the cross, he will seek every opportunity to weaken its influence.

Paul spoke to both the hyper-religious and to the Secular Humanists of his day when he wrote to the Corinthians. In some ways, the Jews of Paul's day were as rabid and zealous as today's radical Muslims concerning their religion, that it ultimately filled them with hate for all others. Likewise, there was an arrogance and intolerance by the Greek stoics of Paul's day that resonates with today's Secular Humanist believers. Paul states in I Corinthians 1:22-24: For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. First century Jews sought continually to stone Paul because of their demonic hate toward his devotion towards Christ. Likewise, the Greeks scoffed at Paul (as on Mars Hill during his visit Athens [Acts 17:18]) much the same way as many secular liberals do today toward the Christian faith. Regardless, both groups possessed the underlying hate of the finished work of the cross. The devil continues to rage and will so until he is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Until that time, he will do his best to incite murderous "riot" in some of his followers toward those who cling to the cross and to its power. In others, he will continue to wage a "civilized" war, hammering away at the very foundation of Christianity through mockery and a dismissive attitude by trivializing the Christian faith. Either way, Satan is determined to make the cross impotent because he hates that it is the symbol of his defeat.

Whether we choose to believe that the cross of Calvary defeated Satan and the power of sin is irrelevant to its reality. Christ died for everyone who has ever been born or will ever be born into this world. As Paul states in Galatians 2:20 and also in Romans 6:6, all of humankind was crucified with Christ. Therefore, it is our choice as individuals whether to identify ourselves with this historical fact and to believe that we have been crucified and resurrected with our Lord, or to deny the power of his appearing to render sin of no effect (Romans 6:11). The explosive power that was able to defeat all darkness is the reason the world hates the cross! Whether it is the religion of Secular Humanism or Satanic radical Islam, the enemy of Calvary will either seek to discredit the cross through absorption into the world's intellectual compromises, or to destroy it though a false religion in the "name of God'. While the cross may be marginalized by the enemy of our souls in his end time push to enslave as many souls as possible, for many its revelation will continue to usher new believers into God's kingdom. While some may refer to us as "infidels" and others may view us as "uneducated fools", the power of the cross continues to empower true believers in the Risen Lord to live resurrected lives. May we all know the power of the cross as we triumph in Christ's victory, once and for all, over sin!

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to be nailed to a cross -- to bleed and die for our sins and to remove the power of sin from our lives. No longer must we walk in the power of the enemy for we have been raised into newness of life with Your Son. Thank you, Lord, for the cross. Thank You that You have defeated our foes -- sin and Satan! No power on earth can overwhelm us for we are more than conquerors through Your Son. We praise You! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Bare Soul - Eternity - March 14, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Eternity" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 11, 2010.

Eternity - March 11, 2010

Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

How does one grasp eternity? Even in all his wisdom, Solomon understood that time and eternity were as different as darkness and light. He knew enough to state the obvious yet not suppose that he possessed any great knowledge regarding the separation or their respective realities. However, he did know from experience that time was the keeper of "everything beautiful" that man enjoys upon this earth. In juxtaposition, the wise king knew that God had also put within the heart of humankind eternity -- a sense that they we are eternal beings yet encapsulated in time-bound bodies. As eternal beings, we groan within looking forward to the redemption of our bodies as they are transfigured into an eternal state (Romans 8:23). Mankind yearns and desires that place of immortality, for its the very center of our existence. Just as we all come from God, we all have a God-given desire to return to Him. Even as a rock when dropped will fall towards its center (i.e., gravitational pull to the center of the earth), so we too long to be once again "centered" within our Creator, the Eternal Father.

Approximately 200 years after the reign of Solomon, Isaiah the son of Amoz describes this place where the Lord God dwelt in all of His majesty. We are told in the sixth chapter of Isaiah that the prophet saw the Lord "high and lifted up" while the heavenly scene of seraphim and the heavenly host played out all around him. The seer saw himself, a time-bound being in the midst of the Eternal Creator that has no beginning or ending of days. Isaiah cried out in this place of eternal majesty, saying Woe is me, I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips ... (Isaiah 6:5). The prophet was changed from that day forward. He was no longer merely an earthly seer but he had taken on the "eyes of the Lord" and saw with broken contrition the plight of the nation of Israel. For the rest of his earthly life, Isaiah found himself standing and prophesying to a perishing nation, yet at the same time seated with the Majesty on High in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Through the prophetic voice, Isaiah declares this eternal position of God Almighty with mankind. In Isaiah 57:15 (NKJV) he states: For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “ I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." The prophet knew that to dwell in the presence of the Most High meant one must live in a humble, eternal state of being. Time no longer mattered because God is the controller of the outcome of all things. The gift of humility (upon seeing the Lord as Isaiah saw) allows the beholder to die to self and to all the preconceptions of what we may think our lives should look like and to ultimately embrace a timeless, eternal life of trust in Him. No more will we wonder what our so-called ministry or "life purpose" might entail, for we will know that we must only live with Him in this place of eternity which He desires to reveal to us all.

St. Augustine is attributed with the quotation: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord ... . So true that rest is equated with dwelling in the very presence of God. For in His presence, we are no longer bound by the cares of this world or our own pursuits in the "Name of God". We have simply and reverently given ourselves to rest in that place of eternal abiding. While we share a place of solitude as we are "hid with Christ in God" in that eternal place (Colossians 3:3), we can also be about the Father's business as those making the most of our time, because the day's are truly evil (Ephesians 5:16). Whoever coined the phrase "That fellow is so heavenly minded he is of no earthly good" must have been working for the devil. Oh, for more Isaiahs that would have their minds and their hearts taken up with God in order to do the work at hand on a sin-soaked earth! That we would see hearts longing to be taken captive once again by the Lord Jesus Christ into that eternal realm, that they might be His agents to release captives of this present life that are like ticking time bombs ready to explode into hell. Beloved, we must experience the eternality of God before we can allow the Holy Spirit within to convince the unredeemed that their time is running out. For as truly as any reality that we will ever know, eternity awaits us all at one time or another. We can either deny its existence (Psalm 14:1), or accept its inevitability. Regardless, eternity will either be something we embrace and love through God and His eternal gift of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, or it will be something that will imprison us with horror upon our passing through the veil.

There will be a day that we will all pass from this life to the next -- that day when we step into our eternal homes, respectively. However, the transition to a heavenly abode can be seamless if we will but cry out to our God for wisdom and understanding while in these "earthly tents" (II Corinthians 5:1). If we will seek the Lord, to understand Him as Solomon or to see Him in all His splendor as Isaiah, then we too will glimpse eternity this side of Glory. Our sufficiency in all these things is God (II Corinthians 9:8). He is the One who will answer according to our cry and our desire. While He has truly given us all things to enjoy while in our "time capsule" bodies, He has also given us hearts to understand that we are eternal beings. We will never be truly fulfilled until we rest in that place of eternity with Him. It is our choice, by the grace of God that He gives to those who ask, whether we will rest in His eternity now or merely in the "sweet by and by". May we all find that place of eternal rest both in this life and the one to come. Maranatha (Come Lord Jesus)!

Heavenly Father, bring us to that place of eternity even now in our time-bound existence! Help us to live in that place of eternal rest, provoking others to desire that place of divine comfort. Cause us to embrace the eternity within us all, that we might lead others to life everlasting. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Impossibility of Doubt - March 7, 2010

Mark 10:27 - Looking at them, Jesus said, " With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

Jesus drew a proverbial line in the sand when speaking to His disciples regarding what man could do compared with that of God. Impossibility, as it relates to faith, lies only in the realm of what the Lord is able to achieve and what people will fail to accomplish. The word "impossible" is mentioned only one time in the Old Testament and that was in reference to man making themselves like gods when constructing the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:6-7). The Lord said that nothing would be impossible to mankind with their one tongue and combined knowledge. The mutual faith of humankind with a common goal was a direct confrontation to God. Humanistic thought of our present age states that we can return to that day before God confused the languages of the earth and achieve the seemingly impossible once again. However, as we know there is only one Creator while the devil only counterfeits God's creation. We were never meant to rely upon ourselves but to believe that by relying upon the Almighty, that all things were possible through faith.

While man can only achieve the possible, God will only move on man's behalf through seeming impossibility. While humankind can be bailed out through man's intervention, God will not lift a finger. And, so it should be. As God is the creator of all things, so He desires to display His omnipotence through His creative power. How can God demonstrate Himself through a situation that is rife with a possible human remedy? For example, God created medicine and doctors to assist with the healing arts. So, why would He heal someone if a person could just as easily visit a physician for their ailments? However, the impossibility of the situation might occur when the doctors have done all they can. Then, God can and often does step in if there is faith to invoke the seeming impossible. When man has exhausted all avenues of healing, then doubt of divine healing must either be broken or embraced. This is the point where God has us choose whether we will spend our faith on what mankind can muster, or instead look to the Divine Healer to create an impossible healing. A wonderful example of the impossibility of doubt is the paralytic that is healed as his bearers lowered him through the roof where Jesus was teaching. In Mark 2:1-12 we are told how four men carried the paralyzed man to see Jesus. Finding no way to get in to see the Healer, they open up a hole in the roof and lowered the man down in front of the Savior. Mark comments in verse 5 that Jesus saw their faith (Mark 2:5). The implication is that not only did the paralytic have faith but also those carrying him to Christ for healing. They had come into collective agreement that all was lost for their friend unless God moved on his behalf. Doubt, at that point, became an impossibility and God embraced their impossibility by providing for the man's divine healing.

As with the paralytic, the impossibility of doubt occurs when God moves beyond any possible explanation, creating a remedy that is conjoined in faith inexplicably between the Creator and the creature. There is such a oneness of trust, understanding, and Godly sympathy that erases any notion of doubt. At this juncture, the impossible has become humanly possible by the imbuing power of the Most High. Jesus stated to His disciples in Mark 11:23 an illustration of this dynamic of the faith of God. For a man to believe in his heart that a mountain could be cast into the sea by his spoken word, and it would happen, is to erase any doubt and make it an impossibility in the eyes of God (hint: impossible situations please our God!) Man cannot eradicate doubt anymore than he can create faith. It is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit as He broods over a man's life. It is the target of the Lord to annihilate doubt by revealing the gift of faith within every believer. In a similar teaching, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). The Lord goes on to explain that faith is not quantitative but qualitative! He states that if they possessed only faith the size of a mustard seed they would similarly cast a mulberry tree into the sea. A man's doubts may seem overshadowing and paralyzing compared to what the Lord requires the size of faith for a man to possess. However, once faith is seized upon, it consumes doubt and makes it an impossibility to dwell in the presence of God-ordained belief.

While many might speak about the possibilities of faith, many forget to mention the impossibilities of doubt once a man truly believes and rests all outcomes on the Lord's shoulders. Doubt becomes ludicrous and beyond comprehension to those who have relied upon the Almighty for the impossible. Always remember, beloved, that God dwells in the impossible from a rational, carnal mind's perspective. Eternity is an impossibility to the unregenerate, just as the idea that there is no eternal life is an impossibility to a believer. We function and grow in God when we dwell with Him in that place of impossibility. In turn, when we abide with Him in that place of wonderful creative power, then we will never doubt His ability. Doubt becomes the ultimate impossibility once we learn to abide in that most holy place. May we all learn the secret of the indwelling God that seeks to perform the impossible continually in our day to day lives. Thank God for the Creator who lives within to do the impossible, and to remove all doubts therein!

Heavenly Father, may we understand by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation how You desire to live "impossibly" through us and to affect the miraculous in our lives continually. May Your faith that You give us for the impossible chase away any doubts of any other conclusion, helping us to never doubt again. Thank you for Your loving faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick