Elevate – Rise Up

This morning, we’re starting a new message series entitled, “Elevate – Rise Above.”  This world, fallen due to sin, is full of challenges for us. 

Before sin, we worked hard, but our work was a joy and very fruitful.  After sin, our work is now cursed.  It is now painfully opposed with thorns and thistles.  Beyond this curse of the consequence of original sin, the devil and a third of the angels were also cast down to earth after their rebellion and now oppose us.

Though we face hardships and challenges every day of many different kinds and severities, we have something greater as well.  God, Himself, chose to lower and humble Himself to become just like us.  He faced all of the challenges that we face, but overcame them all.  Jesus took our curse on Himself and He who was sinless took on the punishment of sin.

Since Jesus lowered Himself in this way, the Father exalted Him and gave Him the name above every name and full authority over everything in Heaven and all of creation.

Though we face challenges in this life, Jesus elevates us and rises us up above it all.  He broke the curse of sin and death and freely gives us life.  He is enthroned over all and invites us to rise up and come boldly before His throne of grace.  Through Jesus, we can elevate and rise up above the challenges of this world!

Even before Jesus chose to do these things, David wrote this of God:

Psalm 40:1-3

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

    out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

    and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

    a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

    and put their trust in him.

To this very day, the Lord is still picking people up out of the slimy pit of mud and mire of this world and elevating them up onto the solid rock of Himself.  He is still today saving and healing and delivering and restoring and reconciling and making all things new!

Paul explained it this way:

Romans 8:18-24;31-39

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ who loves us and nothing can stop us!  If Jesus has elevated us, raised us up above the things of this world, then nothing can drag us back down!  Well, except by our own choice…

We always seem to be the ones who get in our own way, don’t we?  We were created with free will and we get to choose always.  We can choose this morning to rise up, though, and to be elevated!

Colossians 3:1-10

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The choice of life and death, blessing and curses are still ours for the choosing.  We’ve been water baptized to show that we’ve put to death our old selves and been raised up into the new life in Christ.  However, we start to look kind of zombie-like at times.  We allow that old self to come back to life when we need to crucify it and keep it dead.  We must rid ourselves of these things!

A phenomenon occurs for us every four years which always seems to amplify the brokenness of this world that we live in and the flesh that we still haven’t killed off – a presidential election.  Through this process, we see just how deep the mud and mire is and just how hard the candidates can fling it at each other.  Oh, and our political system is pretty swampy!

Unfortunately, we as Christians all too often get caught up in the mud slinging as well.  Instead of rising up above it and allowing God to elevate us onto His solid rock foundation, we wallow in the things and ways of this world.  We canon-ball right into the middle of it and jump right into the mud-slinging battle.  And unfortunately, it leads no one to Christ, but drives many far away…

We get so caught up with who’s heading to the white house that we forget who is already seated on the throne.  We get so patriotic that we forget about our dual citizenship.  We’re proud and blessed to be Americans, but we are first and foremost sons and daughters of the God Most High!  Long after this nation is gone, our citizenship to Heaven will remain.

We allow ourselves to become influenced and outright saturated with things of the world and begin to act just like the world does in response to them.  This is sadly true for us all too often.  Jesus taught us that we are the salt of the world, but that if the salt loses it’s saltiness, what is it good for?  Nothing, it just gets trampled on the ground.  We cannot afford to lose our saltiness out of a passion for the things of this world!

We see a short video clip and we allow it to completely transform how we see things.  We see one person making an awful decision and we stereotype all others based on it.  It can cause us to want to defund the police.  It can cause us to want to send in the National Guard to assist them.  It can cause us to despise those protesting for social justice.  It can cause us to want to speak up for those unheard voices.

Just a simple audio byte or video clip can cause us to believe all kinds of things about someone.  It is almost humorous from an outside perspective just how easy it is to manipulate people during an election season; both republican and democrat alike.  All that you have to do is email out one of those “check out what Trump/Biden just said on a hot mic!” emails and bam, you can infect them with whatever virus you want because you know that they can’t resist clicking on the latest dirt on their opponent.

As believers, we should not be so easily manipulated by the world around us.  We ought to be ones who seek after truth and have a vision far beyond the next four years.  The average person is smart enough to realize that there is more at work behind-the-scenes of these video clips and audio bytes than what we initially see.  There are agendas everywhere and a strong desire to sway others to their same jaded perspective on reality.

Far worse than this, false prophets come from everywhere on social media prophesying what itching ears want to hear about their candidate being God’s chosen one and their opponent the anti-Christ.  Just as anyone can grab an audio clip of someone and make it sound like they said anything, so does God’s word get maligned and misquoted to say whatever people want to hear.

We ought to be ones not so easily swayed by popular opinion nor by our own opinions, but to be firmly rooted in truth.  We ought to have our hope anchored in Christ and our feet firmly planted in the word of God and what it actually says in it’s own context.

We ought to be ones who know and understand that we are to do what Jesus said: give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.  Fulfill your duty to your nation, but not at the cost of fulfilling your duty to God.  The truth is that we can be who God calls us to be and do what God calls us to do under the most Christ-like of leaders as well as under the most demonic of leaders.  NOTHING and NO ONE can stop us!

Just a quick read through the book of Acts reveals to us just how powerful and effective we can be even under governmental leaders who demand that we stop speaking the name of Jesus at the cost of having our property confiscated, being imprisoned, and even being killed.  No one could stop the church from what Jesus called them to do and nothing can stop us, either!

In fact, there is no law that can ever be written against any of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  God’s word says so in Galatians 5.  If we would focus more on living in the Spirit and bearing good fruit, then people would want to know how to live like us and ask us how to be saved.

Think about it.  No one can ever stop you from loving them.  No one can ever stop you from being gentle or kind toward them.  No one can ever stop you from praying for them.  No, prayer has not been removed from the schools in this nation and it never can be.  It doesn’t matter what laws are written, no one can stop teachers and students from praying!

Right here and right now, let’s suppose that I told you that it is now illegal to pray, period.  Can you still sit there and pray?  Absolutely you can and you always will be able to!  The list goes on and on and on.  We need to stop focusing so much on fighting for rights and defending them and just start doing what God has called us to do!  Some are so busy defending rights that they forget to actually exercise them!

You are unstoppable, far more than a conqueror, if you choose to rise up and allow Jesus to elevate you above your stinkin’ thinkin’ that somehow you can’t!  Forget what opposition and challenges exist and just do it!

On the football field, you don’t receive the ball and then approach each individual defensive player and figure out how to get around them, right?  No!  You look to the end zone and head there as fast as you can following whatever path opens up.

What if we lived out our faith that way?  We’ve been handed off a ministry to tell everyone the good news about Jesus.  What if we just took hold of that ministry and did it instead of thinking through all of the details and waiting around for someone else to spur us on into it? 

The days are growing short and time is running out.  The world can’t afford to have us just standing around holding onto the good news for ourselves, we need to get it out there!  Each one of us has a world-wide platform thanks to technology, use it to share some good news instead of the latest conspiracy theory.  Use it to inspire hope instead of fear.  Use it to encourage and build up instead of to tear down.  That valley of dry bones is just laying there waiting on your prophetic voice to speak some life to them!

During this season, and every other season for that matter, we need to rise up above the things and the ways of this world and fix our hearts, our minds, our eyes, our focus on Christ.  The far sighted see better things!  We are called to be a prophetic people who seek after God and share out His truth that encourages, strengthens, and comforts (1 Cor. 14:3).

Sure, we see the same mud and mire in this world that everyone else sees.  It’s not that we ignore everything and act like it isn’t happening.  There are some real problems in our nation, some very serious ones.  There are forces at work to redefine our history and to change our foundational principles and it should alarm us.  There is a battle raging for the heart of our nation and especially for our youth.

It’s not that we ignore these issues, it is that we look through our prophetic bifocals and also see what God is doing in and through the challenges of life.  We see what He is calling us to do and how He is calling us to respond.  His ways are certainly not like the ways of this world, but they are far more effective.  It’s Jesus that we follow.

If Jesus could transform the world through a handful of disciples and if He could begin a world-wide, centuries-long movement with 120 people, then what can stop Him now?  We are not seeing the degree of opposition and persecution that the early church did in this nation, but even then, people were being saved every day even when it meant that it could cost them their life.

We have been entrusted with the same ministry, equipped with that same Holy Spirit, and sent out on the same mission that they were.  If they were so unstoppable, then why are we so ineffective?

Perhaps we’ve lost our vision.  Perhaps we’ve lost the passion of the Great Commission.  Perhaps we’re hearing what our itching ears want to hear and not the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps we’re too worldly-minded, but don’t see it in ourselves.

That’s OK, though.  Confessing the truth is where we start.  Now, it is time to repent!  It’s time to turn back to God and allow Him to elevate us.  Only when He picks us up out of the mud and mire and sets our feet on the Rock can we truly rise up above the challenges of this world and become more than conquerors.

This is what God says about you through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:27-31

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?

    Why do you say, Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord;

    my cause is disregarded by my God”?

28 Do you not know?

    Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

    and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary

    and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,

    and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.

It’s time to rise up and allow Jesus to elevate us above the challenges of this world.  It’s time to stop stumbling and start soaring!  It’s time to shake off the mud and mire of worldly things in our lives and fix our eyes, hearts, and minds on Heavenly things. 

It’s time to elevate!

Next week, we’ll learn how to see what God is doing through life’s challenges.