Friday, January 28, 2011

Jesus the Messiah - January 30, 2011

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Jesus the Messiah" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on January 27, 2011.

Jesus the Messiah - January 27, 2011

Matthew 23:39 - "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

As the adage goes, familiarity often breeds contempt. Ask those who are hosting in early December, how they might feel when their visitors are still house guests in early January. As Solomon stated, The end of a matter is better than its beginning ... (Ecclesiastes 7:8). In the case of the aforementioned illustration, this is undoubtedly true in many cases. However, the end of something can also bring regret that particular opportunities were not seized, or worse yet, lost altogether. Jesus' woes to the Pharisees regarding their stiff-necked resistance to the Gospel was a manifesto of their eternal doom. Hopefully, a few heeded the warnings. Unfortunately, we can surmise that collectively they remained hard-hearted toward Christ's rebuke. The religious order of that day had undoubtedly taken for granted the Person that none should discount or dismiss. And by their ultimate denial of Christ's Messianic personage, they received a promise yet to be fulfilled from the Lord regarding their rejection. Until the Jewish people could receive Jesus as the Messiah, they would not see Him. Until they could say in all humility, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord", their hope of salvation was hopeless.

While Christ's pronouncements were directed primarily toward the Pharisees, his indictment also rang true for many of those in Jerusalem who were either Pharisaic followers or who were guilty by indifference. Many of those who were looking for a messiah that would ultimately restore the state of Israel and its former glory were undoubtedly dismally disappointed in this "Son of David" who had made his triumphant entry only days before. They wanted a savior that fit into their own lives, irrespective of what God desired or sought on their behalf. When Jesus didn't fit their expectations, many undoubtedly fell in behind the religious order, dismissing the true Savior as another messianic-wannabe. Jesus was quick to point out to all in his heartfelt cry for Jerusalem that they would not see him until they had eyes to see their folly (Matthew 23:37-39). His heart broke over their obstinacies, yet He would never force compliance. By their freewill, He knew that someday the Jewish remnant would cry out with passionate hearts of love, embracing His return with the same zeal as the rest of His end-time Bride. As Paul states in the book of Romans, an end time remnant will be saved (Romans 9:27). However, this won't happen until the fullness of the Gentiles (or the ingathering of the nations) occurs (Romans 11:25). The Gentile church has a remarkable opportunity of "seeing" the truth before the end. It is all about seeing Christ through an acknowledgement that He is the Savior of all mankind.

Jesus told the Jews in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew that they wouldn't see Him until they possessed the humility to do so. Comparably, those who are of the Gentile nations (who is anyone that isn't a Jew), have the privilege of seeing Jesus NOW through the spirit of humility and trust. Many who aren't Jews fall into the same category as their Semitic counterparts by looking for a messiah that will fit into their belief system. Some might say, "Jesus demands too much ... He is too narrow-minded and doesn't give me the power of self-expression. I want a god that will let me be me!" Unfortunately, the devil made this same claim upon the God-head, touting his prideful independence and rejecting humility before the Most High. Every other religion in the world is based on this demonic lie of self-assertion through self-awareness. It's all about actualizing their own "god potential". Jesus rejected this mind and heart-set with the Pharisees and He continues to do so today with everything that would raise itself up against the wisdom of His salvation. This "narrow-mindedness", as labeled by some, is the kindness and mercy of God that leads many into His saving grace (Romans 2:4). Rejecting Christ and the "narrow way", is denying one's blindness and the inability to see Him for who He is. Christ will never be what our sinful natures desire to see, but He will always be the changeless Savior that will restore our sight to see and understand His great salvation if we will only heed His grace.

As Jesus dealt with the stiff-necked Jewry in ancient Palestine, He likewise deals with those in our present age who refuse His grace. Conversely, those who will humble themselves, confessing that the "messiah" they've been seeking is a self-centered counterfeit of the true Messiah, to these Christ has promised to give them eye salve to spiritually see (Revelation 3:18) and a heart to repent. While we still have breath and before His second coming, we all have the opportunity to say, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord". By saying this, we lay down our rights of assuming what our Savior should resemble. We give Him the liberty according to His irrefutable Law to be the Messiah according to His loving will. May we all see Jesus as we bless Him for who He is, as we wait expectantly for His great appearing.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are the Messiah. Thank You that whomever will come to You with humility and contriteness, You will grant eternal life. Help all these who don't know You to acknowledge that You are indeed the Savior of mankind and that You desire none to perish. Help those of us who know You to continue to submit to You as our Eternal Savior, knowing that Your return is imminent. Give us all eyes to see the Blessed One in all of His glory. In Your Name, Yeshua, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 21, 2011

Divine Repentance - January 23, 2011

Isaiah 30:15 - For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. ..."

Do you recall the joy of your salvation? Do you remember when God lifted the burden of sin from your life. How glorious was that day! The sky looked bluer, the grass greener, and no one could dampen your spirit, for your love-struck heart ascended to God with every breath. And the catalyst for this joyous reunion with God was a total abandonment to Him through humility, or to say it biblically, we repented of our past life and received Christ into our hearts. We turned to God with all our heart and the light of His love. In return, He filled us with the joy of His presence (Psalm 16:11). As the weeks, months, and years slipped by, many experienced a different dynamic occurring when humbling oneself over sins committed. Many times there was an unmistakable absence of the closeness of God after we confessed our sin to Him and desired to move back into His presence. I believe this is why believers often get disillusioned with God and their faith, and many backslide and forsake the Almighty. They feel the Lord has let them down -- that somehow they are doing what's expected of them and He is not delivering by filling their heart once again with His joy.

Simply put, if we are not experiencing the closeness of God then there is a problem on the receiving end, not the giving. And, the scripture is clear that those who come to God must come with humility -- that He desires to cleanse us from all unrighteousness as stated in I John 1:7: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. However, verse seven precedes this repentance verse, which is an important lesson of faith that must accompany humility. I John 1:7 tells us ... if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. This scripture implies that the "Light" is critical to fullness of relationship with our Lord. We may love walking in the light of his love when all is going well, but when we sin, many turn toward the darkness because somehow they feel unworthy to enter His presence with faith and humility. This is precisely what the devil desires -- that we believe God's redemption is conditional regarding how we feel about ourselves rather than what Jesus tells us. Our Lord's promise in Matthew 11:28 is that He will give us rest in His presence. We simply must "come to Him". Our state of coming only requires faith that He will do what He says.

Some might say, this is easier said than done. However, coming to Christ in times of repentance will depend largely on how we come to Him on a daily basis. Are we developing a loving relationship with Him when things are going well? Are we spending time in meditation, gazing into the face of Jesus? Are we spending time in His word and ruminating on His love promises to us? If we will do some simple things to maintain our relationship with Him, then we will not experience our soul withdrawing from Him in false humility. If true contrition is not coupled with faith, then it is sorrow that only leads to darkness and death concerning our relationship with Him. If, however, faith is married with humility and love, knowing that He will never cast us away, then we will come into His presence with confidence that we are forgiven as we bring our sin to the light. Paul states in II Corinthians 7:10: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. God's will is certainly for us to be sorrowful over our sin. However, His greatest desire and will is that we would appropriate the limitless grace that He provides through the death and resurrection of His Beloved Son.

We should ALWAYS turn toward the light of His love, whether in good times or bad. There is no exception. Only as we practice coming to Him everyday, no matter our state, only then will we possess the faith to come to Him in our greatest trials. Repentance of sin should never be without a joyful conclusion, otherwise it is a false repentance that will merely result in more separation from our Savior. Just as we experienced the lightness of load when we initially came to Him and gave Him our hearts, so should we experience His joy after every failing. We must simply keep "coming to Him" no matter how we might feel. We must turn our affections toward Him and believe that His love is incomprehensible and without measure for His beloved. May we all come continually to His light, trusting His word that He has truly paid the cost for our sorrow by becoming the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) for our sin. He only desires to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), if we will but come!

Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of living continually in the light of Your love. Even when we fail, O Lord, You woo us back to the light so that we can once again fellowship in Your love. Help us to know that repentance without joy is a lie from the pit of hell. Keep us continually coming to Your light so that we might experience life abundantly. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 14, 2011

Divine Forgetfulness - January 16, 2011

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Divine Forgetfulness" delivered to the homeless at the Topeka Rescue Mission Chapel on January 12, 2011.

Divine Forgetfulness - January 12, 2011

Philippians 3:13 - Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.

Forgetfulness can be both a blessing and a curse. Many believers burden themselves excessively and unjustifiably with the weight of their past sin. Their memory betrays them regarding what they should forget and what they should recall. These would do well to remember that Christ paid their debt and has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls desires us to look through the lens of guilt rather than to focus our gaze through Christ's filtered light. When we gaze at our past through Jesus and what He has done, then we view the past correctly. Satan is not the only one who desires us to view ourselves outside of God's grace, but often there are those from our respective pasts that will always see us as they perceive -- through eyes that haven't experienced the depth of forgiveness it takes to look beyond their own failings. These often project upon others their own feelings of inadequacies because they are trapped in looking through lenses that are demonically tainted.

Probably no one understood the need to appropriately remember and to forget better than the Apostle Paul. The third chapter of Philippians is a testimony of Paul's ability to look into his own past, yet not be excessively burdened by his former life before knowing the Savior. This man of God knew that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ lived in Him (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, he could look with a sort of detachment at his past, circumspectly seeing a person that held no further sway over his resurrected life. Paul notes his past resume' in Philippians 3:5-6, stating both his favorable accomplishments as well as his past crimes. In verse six he admits to being a persecutor of the church, which was the huge irony of Paul's life for those who knew him before and after his conversion. Our first glimpse into the life of Paul occurs when he attends to the cloaks of those stoning the first martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:58). One might say that Paul didn't actually murder Stephen, but most assuredly he was an accessory to his murder. (Much in the same way that a driver or the "wheel man" of a bank robbery didn't hold up a bank, yet still he aided and abetted the holdup.) We are told in chapter nine that this singular act of hostility against the church was not enough to satisfy the young zealot. Acts 8:1-3 tells us how Paul obviously felt empowered to persecute the church in Jerusalem by having untold numbers thrown into prison. In Acts 9:1 we are told that Paul was "breathing out threats and murder toward the disciples of the Lord". He was undoubtedly much practiced and perfected in the persecution, so much so that he received the "nod" from the Sanhedrin to expand his "business" to Damascus. Scripture does not reveal how many (if any) were put to death through Paul's zeal against the church. However, if they were martyred, then Paul's list of heinous crimes became a point of revelation and sorrow on that fateful day on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3-8). The horror Paul must have felt when Jesus revealed Himself to the soon to be apostle! He knew then that God had chosen the worst of the worst to represent Him and His message.

I have often wondered what the relatives of those who were imprisoned or martyred through the hands of Paul had to say to the man after his conversion. Especially, those who were not saved and didn't know the gift of forgiveness in their own lives. How would they have treated Paul? Probably with suspicion and contempt, to say the least. No matter what seemingly good things he might do, there would always be some who would see the "Old Paul". But of course this didn't keep Paul from KNOWING who he had become in Christ. While undoubtedly remaining patient with all men, regardless what they saw or didn't see in him, he continued to preach Christ crucified and newness of life to all who would believe. Therefore, he could speak confidently as he did to the Philippians regarding who he was and whom he had now become. Philippians 3:13 tells us that Paul was desirous to forget the past when it reared its ugly head and required justice for his crimes. Paul would simply point to the cross and declare, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me". Paul had learned the secret of knowing his past and yet not being in debt to it. The Lord had given him divine forgetfulness regarding his past sins -- a forgetfulness of the guilt and shame, but a remembrance of the price that Christ paid to absolve him forever. This is how Paul can say that he forgets the past laden with regret. In his words, it is now time to reach forward to what lies ahead.

Many of us who have come out of sordid backgrounds will undoubtedly have a few folks that will never be persuaded by our new life in Christ. No matter the distance we put between our lives today and that old way of living, there may be some who will be suspect of our change. If Paul were here and speaking with us, I'm certain he would say it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we don't live under the guilt and shame of a life that has been crucified and buried through the Lord's sacrifice. What He did is sufficient for us all, no matter how awful our lives before Christ might have been. The devil, along with others that don't understand, will desire us to look through that lens of guilt to attempt to atone for our misgivings. It can never happen. Jesus already paid the price for us to view our past with divine lenses that forget the shame and remember only what He has done on our behalf. Are you forgiven in the Lord? Then rejoice that the shame is gone and let no demon or man place it on you again. For we, like Paul, possess Christ's reality about our position in Him -- one that looks not with dread at a purposeless past but one that looks to the future with eternal hope!

Lord Jesus, thank You for Paul's example. Thank You for taking the worst of the worst and making an example that we all can follow. For You took a man full of crimes against You, and turned him into an impassioned apostle of Your grace. Lord, we look to ourselves and know that if You can do this for someone like Paul, You can likewise help us to forget the past and reach forward to what lies ahead with great anticipation. Thank You for Your divine forgetfulness and Your holy remembrance of what You've done for Your beloved. In Your Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 7, 2011

Honoring God - January 9, 2011

Psalm 50:23 - He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.

It has been said, "to sacrifice your happiness for the happiness of the one you love, is by far, the truest type of love". While this is a noble aspiration, it nonetheless smacks of humanistic endeavor. Happiness is contingent upon outward circumstances rather than an inward sense of well-being. Jesus never promised happiness in this life, but He did promise joy as we would abide in His presence (Psalm 16:11). To live a joyful existence is to recognize that Jesus gave Himself as the greatest sacrifice known to mankind. He offered Himself up as the sacrificial lamb to honor the Father with the promise of many sons and daughters. While we can never equal His sacrifice (by living a perfect life and then laying it down for others) we can humbly honor the the Lord by continual thanksgiving for His most gracious gift of eternal life. As the Son honored the Father by giving His life, so we must honor Him with daily sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for His mercy and grace. Giving Him praise is a selfless act that takes time away from ourselves and gives it back to God. To remove oneself from vain pursuits in order to invest time worshipping God, is the noblest endeavor of a child of God. However, everything that is at enmity with our Maker will seek to distract us from this undertaking.

We are all called as priests to serve before the Lord, continually offering up our sacrifice of worship and praise to the Lord (Exodus 19:6; Revelation 5:10). A few take this calling seriously and with earnest, while the vast majority of believers believe that their "priestly" duties, if any, are nominal and reserved for an hour on Sunday morning. What determines a true priest and a false priest to the Lord is our sacrifice of time, or if you will, our very lives in all that we do. The household of Eli in the second chapter of the first book of Samuel gives us a look at the apostasy in 1100 B.C. Israel as well as a parallel to the passion-less, religiosity of much of the westernized church today. Eli lived a compromised life as the chief priest at Shiloh, while he allowed his sons to live lives of robbery and debauchery. A man of God came and prophesied to Eli that surely his priesthood would not endure as the Lord had formerly promised because of the sins of Eli's sons. In Samuel 2:30, the prophet pronounced judgment on the House of Eli: Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, "I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever"; but now the LORD declares, "Far be it from Me -- for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed." This prophetic word declared that very soon the sons of Eli would end their robbing God of the praise and honor due His name, as God was raising up another (Samuel) who would do all that was in the heart of God. No longer would God be dishonored by a priestly order that was at best, compromised. Through the order of Samuel, God would accord Himself honor through a model life that spoke thanksgiving and praise from a heart that was totally the Lord's.

The prophet declared the word of the Lord to Eli with a promise. Samuel was to prove this promise and walk in it all of his life. When God states that He will honor those who honor Him, it is not an idle statement. The Lord raised up Samuel above all others in Israel and made him a judge over the land. There was no other more honored and respected then Samuel. However, this wasn't something that happened overnight. Samuel set this dynamic in motion early in life, allowing it to mature in his latter years. Through Samuel's faithfulness to offer up righteous sacrifices, rather than those taken by robbery by the House of Eli (I Samuel 2:29), he was able to command the people's respect and more importantly, God's. Through his integrity, he offered up sacrificial offerings that "cost something". After all, a sacrifice that is not sacrificial in nature is not a sacrifice, but merely an offering. Samuel knew what it meant to sacrifice daily for the people by living obediently, praising and worshipping the Lord with a heart to honor the Almighty. Thus, no man could dishonor him, for God had first and foremost honored His servant.

Truly, we are all called as priests to serve before the Lord. It is our choice whether we serve as priests of the House of Eli or those of the House of Samuel. Those who dishonor God, He will dishonor. Likewise, those whom honor God, He will also honor. As noted in our lead verse, a life that is sacrificial in giving thanks to the Lord is a life that honors Him. It is not only lip-service, but a life committed to stand in the gap between God and mankind -- a life that is freely given for His glory. This, beloved, costs everything we possess. Are we willing to be priests like Samuel? Or, are we content with compromise and living lives of excessive selfishness? Only as we sacrifice everything will we find true honor. May we all find this place of high distinction before our God as we lay down our lives as Jesus laid down His, both today and throughout the rest of our earthly lives.

Lord God Almighty, help us to honor You with a life of sacrifice. May our worship and thanksgiving be a continual testament of lives that are totally yielded to You. May we honor You always, not looking to be honored ourselves, but accepting it with humility and grace as from Your hand. We give You thanks and praise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives