The Bare Soul - October 12, 2008
The Nature of Things ...

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Nature of Things ..." delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on October 9, 2008.

The Nature of Things ... - October 9, 2008

2 Peter 2:20-22 - For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."

Through the years I have had several pets, including dogs. Some of these dogs were extremely smart and others, well, what they lacked in smarts they made up for in loyalty. Back in the 1980s, we owned a small farm in east-central Kansas. One of our dogs was a Golden Labrador Retriever named Princess. She was a loyal, good friend to the family, but she wasn’t the smartest animal on the premises. I raised a couple of hogs during our two years on the farm, and without a doubt, these barnyard animals were the smartest four-footed creatures on the homestead. The first one was an escape artist and learned how to open the gate of the pen to get out to choice grazing in the vegetable garden. The other hog had a sense of his impending doom when it was time for butchering. When I went to lead him up the chute into the bed of the pick-up, he wanted nothing to do with “taking a ride” to the slaughterhouse. After much prodding and goading, I finally got him loaded, but not before he had turned around and bitten me a couple of times to show his displeasure with the situation.

I nodded in agreement when I read a 1976 article from the New York Times regarding the intellect of barnyard animals, in particular pigs. The following is a short extract from the article:

The pig's intellect is clear and strong. What has been mistakenly called his "obstinacy" is only his intense individuality. ... Before blaming the pig for refusing to be dragged in a given direction by a string tied to his hind leg, his critics should ask themselves whether in like circumstances they too would not protest with equal shrillness against so indecent an outrage.

Those of us who are dog owners, or have been dog owners, undoubtedly love our pets. Whether they are smart or just loyal, they capture a piece of our hearts. While few of us can say that we have loved pigs, we can certainly understand that they are a smart animal that is prized in many cultures throughout the world for both their intellect and their food factor. Yet, it is somewhat unnerving to watch both these animals revert to what seems to us as totally unintelligent behavior. A dog after regurgitating their food will often turn around and consume it again! A pig, which seems so smart in other areas, will find the most grotesque slop heap filled with decaying vegetation, animal life, and feces and will roll around in it without a care! While it is easy to be horrified at such behaviors, we see similar actions taken by so-called believers everyday. Many will “make a decision” for Jesus Christ and then return to the very things that were despicable and degrading in their lives as if they didn’t have a care in the world to do otherwise! However, it doesn’t surprise those of us who know that we are not dealing with a behavior problem, but with a nature problem.

No matter how smart our four-footed friends might be, it is in their nature to do disgusting things that don’t make good sense to us. In the same way, we should not be surprised when we see a sinner sinning. It is the most natural thing for them to do! As a practicing alcoholic, the most natural thing for me to do was drink. Today, after many years of sobriety it is still a miracle that I am not drinking because that was then a part of my nature. The miracle today is that my nature has been exchanged with the divine nature of Jesus Christ who gives me the will and the way not to drink. Often, many get lost at this point and don’t understand that it’s not just about changing their behavior. It’s not good enough to stop drinking, to stop stealing, to stop lying, or even to stop sinning. We don’t have a sinning problem but a sin problem. Our very nature is corrupt and we need a replacement.

Many years ago, when I was still in my teens, I knew that I was in terrible need of something to fix me. That’s why I experimented and became hooked on drugs and alcohol early in life. When I tried to dig myself out of that mess, I tried different religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, Tantric Yoga, Transcendental Meditation to name a few. The problem was that I was trying to fix myself not knowing that Someone had already put the "fix" in for me and I was too blind to see. I didn’t realize that I was trying to reach heaven and bring it down to my experience on earth. Little did I know that God had already done so by bringing heaven to earth through His Son.

Years went by, as I battled my alcoholism and drug addiction. Desperately I was still tying to get better from the outside/in and couldn’t understand that I needed salvation from myself. On one occasion, I was just released from jail. I was a mess from the night before and I was on foot. Walking from the court and police station in a busy downtown area of St. Louis, I encountered a little old lady of probably 80 years. She looked at me, pointed her finger and said “There goes the chosen of God who desires to live in the filth of sin”. I was totally taken aback and convicted to the heart by her words. She didn’t say anything about “sins” but she did say that I wanted to continue living in sin. However, like a pig that returns to its wallowing and a dog to its vomit, it would still be years before I truly knew that Jesus Christ had become sin on my behalf and that I didn’t need to live this way.

For several years after, I would continue to “try” to do better. I would “decide” that I would follow the Lord and attempt to live the way He wanted me to live. However, it’s not good enough to make a decision for Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want our decisions, but He wants everything we are -- our dope possessed bodies, our alcohol polluted souls, our angry hateful minds. He wants it all in order to replace it with His nature. Making a decision to follow Jesus without turning one’s life over to Him is about the same as saying you’re going to fly to the moon in a Cessna -- it’s not going to happen! It’s aerodynamically impossible to do so because it would break all the laws of physics. In the same way, it is impossible to “decide” to follow Jesus without a new heart that has replaced a heart of sin.

Paul the Apostle made a glorious statement giving us all hope in this regard. In II Corinthians 5:21 he states through the Holy Spirit that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." According to this verse, I no longer have to “try” to be good because Jesus Christ says I don’t have to be good. He tells me that He became sin FOR US in order that we might trade in our sinful nature for God’s nature. Then, and only then, will we truly have the power to change. Then, we can truly be right with God and be empowered by His righteousness. Then, can we truly be children of God!

None of us are exempt from failure no matter how much we might believe we are in control of our lives. Romans 3:23 tells us that “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That one verse qualifies us all for hell and an eternity of separation from God. If this was the last word, then we would all be doomed. But God loved us, even while we were sinners He sent His Son to die for us becoming sin on our behalf. Three chapters later in the book of Romans, Paul writes with a synopsis of our predicament but with the glorious hope of our salvation. In Romans 6:23 he states: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God does not expect any of us to become “better”. If we don’t know His Son and have not exchanged our sinful nature with His glorious nature, He only expects us to continue to fail -- to return to the wallowing in sin that befits our nature. There is always hope for us as long as we are alive and able to turn to Him. Ecclesiastes 9:4 states: "For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion." Friends, I would rather be a live dog that has the ability to exchange natures with the Living God and live again, rather than a prideful, dead lion that is regal only in its death with no hope to ever be anything else. We all have the opportunity to exchange lives of sinful repetition with the divine life that will qualify each and every one of us for a glorious eternity with our Maker!

Lord Jesus, thank you for becoming sin for us that we might become the righteous of God by the new nature You have given us. We give You our sin-soaked natures and accept Your free gift of life. May God be glorified for His wonderful gift to us. In Your precious Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Nature of Things ... - October 9, 2008

 

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