Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tha case of Devious Saints.

The local church was meant to be a place of worship, fellowship, discipleship and stewardship of God given gifts. Unfortunately, as in the case of the Corinthian and Galatian churches, it becomes a battleground. The problem isn’t the Devil, although he will encourage the conflict. The turmoil is fought out when God’s redeemed people allow their Ego, prejudices and views seek to dominate, not serve.

Almost every letter in the New Testament points to or hints at how some of the saints behave in a very unsaintly manner. Read Galatians and be warned. Acts 15 was the 1st and most important church council. There it was agreed that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised and live under Jewish culture and the Mosaic Law. This didn’t prevent well-meaning but legalistic saints from infiltrating the churches.

These people were sowers of discord and division by smooth talking and insidious undermining of the congregation’s faith and doctrine. They expected believers from other cultures to adopt their Jewish culture to become fully Christian. This was contrary to the Church Council’s decree. Because their tactics were devious they acted similar to the sneaky, creepy approach of the false prophets. Paul unmasked them and called them for what they were, carnal men causing dissension and division. If they had stood on the street corner and heralded their views that would have been acceptable. Open debate allows for good discussion. Ulterior motives are brewed and promoted in the dark corners of the soul.

The Corinthian church had its individuals endeavouring to manipulate and coerce their ways onto the congregation. When Christ isn’t the focus of a person’s affection, devotion and worship some other factor dominates. This can lead, as it did in Corinth, to chaos and loss of integrity and testimony. Were they trying to siphon off some from the church so as to form their own? That still happens. Romans 16:17-18 says mark such people and avoid them.

In one of the churches with whom I ministered a similar tension and conflict was developing. Some of the church members, who were also my friends, had been attracted to a particular view of worship and doctrine. They were intent upon getting others to accept it in an underhand and insidious manner. I talked with them about their approach. I said they could stand outside on the street and raise the ‘flag’ of their doctrine but don’t use the Devil’s methods to do what you consider are God’s words and ways. They accepted that. We remained friends. My sadness was that for those involved some marriages fell apart and loss of faith developed.

The warning of 1 Corinthians 3:17 is still operational. ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy (Greek word means ‘defile’)…’ Such sneaky, creepy saints may seem to prosper and capture an audience but they are frowned upon by the Lord. By the power of their soul their work will be impressive, but it will not be blessed. Such divisive persons may be saved but they will be losers of Christ’s blessing around His judgement.

2 Corinthians 4:2 is a short and simple principle for leadership and worship in the local congregation.’[We] have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God’.

Jesus impresses me with His openness and honesty. Deceit was not in mouth. Deception and infiltration were not his strategies. His words to inquirers included the cost of walking with Him. The local church is most at risk when God’s people try and do the Lord’s work in a sneaky, creepy way. The Saviour calls us to walk as He walked – in the Light. He was transparent in His dealings. So should be His people.

Next week. What are Christian ‘dead’ to?



Sunday, January 14, 2018

When Sneaky creepy creatures infiltrate

Jude is a book rarely mentioned from the pulpit. It is small but explosive in its denunciation of heretical and immoral creepy creatures infiltrating the Church. We must remember that the Christian Faith transformed people, especially Gentiles, from a depraved and decadent societies (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Their testimony must have shaken family, friends and workmates. Unfortunately Satan and his disciples would not want that to go uncontested. The best attack was infiltration with moral corruption and doctrinal corrosion especially about the Son of God, Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

This letter called upon Christ's people to 'contend for the Faith' and 'to build yourself up in your most holy Faith.' The Greek word means to engage as a combatant. It's a an intense encounter demanding the utmost of a believer's knowledge of Scripture and a personal and fresh relationship with Jesus. In Ephesians 6:11-18 we have the classic example of being equipped to contend for the faith. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 is a lesser known requirement about walking in obedience to and with Christ. At the moment in the Western world the Christian disciple is more likely to be dressed in casual gear of leisure and tolerance.

There is another word describing another creepy, sneaky type of spiritual creature. It is mentioned in 2 Timothy3:6 as perverts in camouflage especially seeking out susceptible  women. The Greek word indicates such creatures 'dress to deceive.' Today, many of this sneaky creepy spiritual vermin enter homes via Television and social media. How are they uncovered? By a person checking their doctrine in the light of God's Word. It is also from the type of 'fruit' they produce. Does it honour the Lord Jesus and uphold His work on the cross. To eat of their 'produce' does it fill you with the fragrance of Christ and enrich your worship and participation in the Lord's Supper?

Jude and Paul and the other Biblical writers may express it in their own style but they all point to Know the Lord Jesus through His word, continually. I like the way Peter expresses it, 'Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen' 2 Peter 3:18.

We are to uncover them and dissipate their influence by naming and shaming them. We are not to 'burn them at the stake' but leave them for the Lord to deal with as foretold in Matthew 13:24-30.

It is wise advice for those I leadership of the local congregation to set an example in behaviour, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity and take heed of the doctrine. This has been delivered once and for all time.

Next week. Saints beware of  being a 'termite'.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Running on the Narrow road

I like to be on time, even early. However, it sometimes happen that I am late for appointments. 2018 came in on time but it found my blog writing time asleep. As they say to such as I "Better late than never!" So the first blog for the year now appears.
For the 'elite' few who read it will notice a change occurring once a month. I will be sharing one of my poems with any of you who care to read it. Actually the journey into poetry writing still surprises me for at school poetry and me (or is it poetry and I) didn't like each other. What change me many years later was Studdert-Kennedy's W.W.1 poems in the book 'The Unutterable Beauty.'
My first endeavours were thrust upon family and the long suffering congregation of Maitland Church of Christ. Their tears did not stop me from trying and hopefully one or two can dry their tears and crack a smile or nod in approval at some of the latest attempts.
So, the first one I share with you looks at running along the Narrow Way stumbling and getting back up to finish the race.
I was running well, then…!
The road was narrow, but straight.
I’d entered it through a unique gate
Formed by a cross upon an empty tomb.
It was well traversed, but I had room
To learn its ways, how to sit, walk and run
From the manual compiled by God’s Son!
I started well on this narrow way
Confident, well over-confident I’d say
I thought I knew how to run this track
Not needing my unseen coach’s tact.
I was running okay, until, unfortunately
I took broadway’s detour to carnality.
My focus shifted. My mind drifted. I fell
Disorientated, confused, I couldn’t tell
Right from wrong, which road I was on
Seduced was I by the carnival’s song,
Enraptured, I was blind to my capture,
Unaware my spiritual life was ruptured!
Wounded and with seduction’s chains
The race, for me, I couldn’t maintain.
My coach called, approached me
Hope revived, feebly I cried “Mercy!”
His manual smote, broke, broadway’s charm
Then Christ’s power lifted me out of harm.
Humbled, wiser, I re-entered life’s race,
The scars I carry speak of Calvary’s grace
And Christ’s presence with me always.
His mercy is to all on the narrow way
And lifts up the fallen, strengthens the weak
Then at road’s end, face to face they’ll meet!
©Ray Hawkins Jan 7th2017.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Who is He?

Light causes a shadow to be cast when it shines from behind an object. The shadow is our clue to a greater reality. There are numerous shadows cast our way in the Old Testament which Jesus said pointed to Him. The New Testament letters further explain those shadows which we call types. The letter of Hebrews is masterly in its explanation things surrounding the Jewish Tabernacle.
Every aspect of that construction points to some feature relating to Jesus. We understand the Sacrificial system as the 'substance' of the cross. The furnishings inside the tent speak of certain aspects of Christ's ministry. Even the curtains which comprise the ceiling and roof point to Christ and how two groups of people perceive Him
The roof was comprised of skins from badgers (A.V.) or sea-cows (NIV), Exodus 36:19.On the inside however was another covering which only those who entered could see and appreciate. It was made of rams' skin and dyed red. Those who officiated within the tabernacle served in a beautiful and impressive setting. It comprised gold fittings and colourful and embroidered  curtains enhanced by candlelight and incense.
What does the roof and ceiling tell us about people's views of Jesus? The plain uninspiring roof of skin is how the World sees Jesus. There is little to excite their interest. The Gentile world sees Him and the cross as foolishness. The Jewish people find Him and His claims a stumbling block. However, when anyone puts their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord they look at Jesus with new appreciation. 1 Peter 2:7 explains it this way: 'He is precious.' 
When we live, worship, serve under Him we understand the significance of the rams' skin dyed red. We are under the crucified life of Jesus, covered by His poured out life, His blood. At the same time we are overwhelmed by the glory and fragrance of Him who has saved, transformed and kept us. 
So much more we could elaborate upon and bear testimony too. That must wait for another day.

Who is He?

Who is He in Bethlehem’s manger?
The one promised, no stranger!
Who is He who trod this earth?
The Nazarene! A man of worth.
Who is He whom they crucified
When under oath He testified
To being the Rock of Destiny
Foretold in Daniel’s prophecy?
Who is He who rose from the grave?
The Lord of Glory, with grace to save!
Who is He who broke Death’s reign?
The Saviour, Jesus is His name!

Who is He, we contemplate?
He is the Bible’s story!
He is the disciple’s glory.
His person vindicated.
His mission consummated.
His name is Jesus!

Who is He, please elaborate?
He is the Lord of hosts,
He is the king of glory!
His throne awaits,
His rule to dictate.
His name is Jesus!

Who is He we celebrate?
He is the Creator.
He is the Redeemer!
His kingdom awaits
His reign to initiate.
His name is Jesus!

©Ray Hawkins 2016.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

More than a name - Immanuel

Do you know the meaning of your name? There is something fascinating about why you were given your name and what it means. Those I know who have done family history, especially with family links to England, are constantly amazed at who it includes. Of course, Biblically we are not surprised at the importance attached to being given a name, or having it changed. We see that in such cases as Abram into Abraham, Jacob into Israel, Cephas into Peter. There is also the prophetic aspect inherent in names.

As Christmas creeps up on us one name will emerge and linger for a time. Immanuel! However, is this merely a name or is it a prophetic description defining the person? Both! Isaiah 7:14  is where the name emerges and points beyond that moment to a future event. That was fulfilled with the announcement by Gabriel to Mary that the child she was to bear would be Jesus, and also be Immanuel.

In the Old Testament  the Creator is seen as being keen to share in the life of His chosen people. When the tabernacle furnishings were complete the ark of the covenant became the symbol of His presence. When the Nation was on its marches the ark was carried in the midst of the tribes who travelled under their respective banners. That underlies the meaning of Immanuel. It is 'God with us' God in our midst.'

At Christmas time when we apply the name to Jesus it arouses certain strong feelings. Is it merely a name or is it descriptive of the very nature of the Man? "Who do you say I am" was the challenge of Jesus to His disciples. Peter's response showed his growing awareness "You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God!" (Matthew 16:16). That would be challenged repeatedly until after the resurrection from the tomb Thomas reaffirmed it most emphatically. He said ""My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). From that moment on the awareness grew about the babe of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee, the Rabbi of Nazareth and the crucified one. He was Immanuel in the flesh. The mystery of the Godhead revealed in the one designated as 'The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world' (John 1:29).

Of course there are those who disagree. That is their privilege. It should be treated with respect. It is also their danger. That should make us sad on their behalf. Why? Because of what Peter talked about from the day of Pentecost. There is no other Name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This is reaffirming what Jesus said about Himself prior to the cross (John 14:6). That salvation embraces numerous factors and most would be expresses of His Christmas name and designation, Immanuel. For it is His desire to turn our lives from 'slum city' into the 'Temple of God' by His indwelling presence. It is His promise that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is in their midst. It is the declaration of Scripture at a future point in God's purposes Jesus will reign in the midst of the Nations  - that will be from Jerusalem!

Jesus is Immanuel in both name and person. The question all will face again at Christmas time is 'do I believe it?' If so how do I live out that relationship in my life?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The 'Body prepared required the Virgin Birth

Did Jesus go to physical workout at the local gymnasium? Unlikely. Not a very acceptable place for a young Rabbi to attend. Be that as it was, the physical strength of the body of Christ should astound us all. More than that, there was the moral tone to his physic. In John 8:46 Jesus challenged the crowd to level and short-coming evident in His life. Was there any commandment, statute or judgement damaged by His behaviour or voice? But there was one other facet of His nature, housed within His body, no one could see but was essential for Jesus’ physical health and strength. Did He possess a sin nature?

The importance of this lies at the very heart of the person, prophesy about and work of Jesus. In Hebrews there is much written about Jesus as the fulfilment of the Jewish sacrificial system! In chapter 10:5 ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’ What was the purpose of this ‘body prepared?’ To fulfil the shadow cast by the sacrifices. When you read about the qualifications for the ‘shadow sacrifices’ each of them had to be without spot or blemish. Therefore, if Jesus was to be the real sacrifice He too must be without blemish or spot.

Impossible. That is, if He was sired by Joseph (or any other person.) Why? Because when the first Adam betrayed God’s commission to him certain things entered the human lineage. One of course is death and decay. The other is described by Paul in Romans 6:6 as ‘the body of sin.’ If this resided in Jesus He was automatically disqualified as the fulfilment of Isaiah 53, and other shadow sacrifices. Who then could sit in judgement upon the inner life of this Man of Galilee? God! How could the Lord God Almighty do that and get the information out to us?

Through a severe, intensive, thorough test upon His body! The word ‘prepared for me’ ‘Katartizo’ speaks about being free of eternal blemish. In 1 Peter 1:19 the writer says Jesus was without internal defect (amomos) and (aspilos) external spot. This was proven through great trial and testing. From the time the Devil was let loose on Him for forty days in the wilderness to the barbarity of Roman soldiers’ torture and crucifixion. However that might simply reveal Jesus as a brave, unflinching martyr. What is the undeniable evidence according to Scripture, to the early disciples and the fledgling Church?

The most wonderful words spoken by an Angel, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” Luke 24:5.

How was it possible for Jesus to escape the curse of the first Adam? By becoming the 2nd Adam. That is, by passing the birth process of male and female union. He needed a ‘body prepared.’ That was the promise to Eve and the threat to the Serpent (Genesis 3:15.) Hundreds of years later this promise was again foreshadowed in Isaiah 7:14. The wonder of the Christmas event is the fulfilment of this promise through Mary. Luke 1:26-38. Only in this manner could the body prepared be unblemished by the indwelling sin nature.

Then too, this is often overlooked. The human lineage of Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, was under a curse. Jeremiah 22:24-30. Joseph or any of his descendants could sit upon the throne of David in Israel, ever! This is another factor in the virgin birth and ‘the body prepared.’ Mary’s line came through David’s son, Nathan. (Luke 3:23-33.)

Christmas cannot be separated from Calvary. The virgin birth cannot be dismissed as a non-essential. The resurrection cannot be spiritualised.

The ‘body prepared’ bore our sin and judgement. The Body of Jesus surely was physically, morally and spiritually strong and unique. When Jesus arose from the tomb He had a glorified body. The old one was consumed. No remains were seen in the tomb only the grave cloths and napkin.

What a privilege Christians have of celebrating this ‘body prepared’ and its achievements in the sacrament of Communion. However, there is a warning attached. Do not treat the symbol of the bread, His body, with dishonour. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32.)

Romans 1:1-4 expressed the wonder associated with Christ Jesus and His ‘body prepared.’ [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning His son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

©Ray Hawkins December 3rd 2017.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The day God sings solo.

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Those who hold the Bible as God’s Word telling of promised events, some fulfilled, others still to take place, are aware of a great tragedy unfolding. Everyday rumblings of this coming event can be heard, a nightmare in the making. The fact of it being detailed is to prepare God’s people to face it with the confidence of His victory. Following what various prophets and the Lord Jesus spoke about concerning the nightmare to come Zephaniah presents a most tender finale. What he wrote about the Eternal God and Jerusalem surely can find a similar experience in your life, my life, when the nightmares of existence come to terrorize.

            The Lord is with you. Unseen, often unfelt yet He made a promise to be with those who have called upon His Name. We overlook such verses as Isaiah 63:9 “In all their distress he too was distressed.” When Saul was persecuting the Church Jesus confronted him with these words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Every time a disciple was afflicted it cut into the heart of Jesus.

            He will take great delight in you. It’s as though when you enter His presence through the furnace of oppression the Lord desires to make it up by enjoying your company in a special way. The picture to the heart is one of the Lord with the individual sitting together looking at a sunrise and the Lord listening to the person’s story.

            He will quiet you with His love. The turmoil, tears, tragedy which haunted and harmed body, soul and mind begins to subside in the Lord’s presence and compassionate understanding. It has a renewing affect in the goodness and grace of the Eternal God. Isaiah looked down the tunnel of history to make this observation “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (32:17). The reality of Christ’s imputed righteousness is the basis for future, as well as present day peace and confidence in the sovereignty of God and His companionship.

            He will rejoice over you with singing. What an amazing promise waits to be the experience by those who greet the Christ on His return. The Bible is filled with the redeemed singing praises to the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Zephaniah is the only place where God sings. What does He sing? It is untitled but it is a song of joy and victory, of pleasure and love. Maybe Isaiah 62 gives a clue. For there the Lord gives an illustration of a bridegroom rejoicing over his bride. A love song from the Lord over His people. Wow! Can you imagine what a glorious solo this will be on their behalf? This is specifically promised to Jerusalem and the redeemed of Israel. Surely it also embraces all who find salvation and security in Christ Jesus.

            The voice of the Lord will be heard from one end of the universe to the other and will begin a festival of celebration.  What a fabulous victory concert is in store. We may live through sorrow, grief and pain but with Christ as our lord and His word as our guide we look forward to hearing the Lord God burst into song.

©Ray Hawkins November 26 2017