Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jesus' Christmas Job Description.

The Angel declared the Job description for the promised Baby. His mission, to save people (among other things). As we finish celebrating Christmas it is a good time to ask ourselves “what does ‘save’ mean”. To help understand this I’ve used four personal illustrations.

When I was about 11 years old I was on a pontoon at a swimming beach and I was pushed into the water. I couldn’t swim. The other Y.P. thought I was fooling around until my mother screamed out ‘Save him’! Someone had to dive in and rescue me. I was saved from drowning.
When the Bible uses the term ‘saved’ it means someone had to ‘dive into that situation and rescue the person who cannot save himself. This is what Jesus Christ came to do at Christmas. That was part of His ‘Job Description’. But there is much more to being saved than being ‘pulled out of the water’ – or whatever other situation. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour He saved me from my sin and judgement.

When I was about 19 years I was going to church but I was only really play acting at being a Christian. After the evening service I was standing on the street corner, alone, and it was as though God said in my heart “Shape up or ship out”! The Lord was offering me the opportunity to be saved from hypocrisy and a wasted life. That wasn’t a fun time I can tell you. I chose to shape up. I was saved from being masquerading and a useless life. The alternative was too terrible to contemplate. This decision two years later led me into Bible College. At that moment my Saviour became my Lord.

My first few days in College were great, until one night. I sat at my desk and felt guilty about being there. Memories of my past mistakes, failures and disobedience flooded the mind. The devil whispered “you are no good. You should not be a minister. You are unworthy”. He was right. He didn’t have to lie or make things up. What was I to do? I opened the Bible and these verses from Colossians 2:13-15 leapt out at me. The Lord was saying to my heart “you are saved from your past. The Devil hasn’t any power to blackmail you. You are forgiven! You are cleansed! You have been set free by Christ’s victory at the cross”.  

Over the years I’ve been challenged by people who believe that all religions are leading you to the same God. However when I looked at the Bible it said something different. Acts 4:12, John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is the only way to know and meet God and call Him ‘our Father’. The Bible means what it says. Therefore if anyone wants to know what God is like, how to meet Him and be accepted in time and eternity there is only one way. It is called ‘Salvation’ and it has been made possible because Jesus Christ came into this World to ‘make it possible’. To do this He had to live as a man and suffer an unjust death. More than that, to be the Saviour, He had to rescue us from sin and judgement by taking it from us and putting it upon Himself. However, if He was still in the tomb there is no way He could be our Saviour, only a failure. However as Matthew 28:6 and other passages tell us, Jesus conquered death and the tomb by rising again and by that became fulfilled His job description, to save all who believe in Him.  . No other religion or Faith has a message such as this, or a Saviour such as Jesus.
How then can you experience the salvation secured for you by Jesus?
First, you must recognise that you are ‘drowning’ in sin, hopelessness, and the wrath of God.
Second, you must accept the fact that Jesus is the only One who is able to reach out to you and place you on salvation’s ground.
 Third, you must invite Him into your life, by faith, and allow Him to be your Saviour and Lord.

 When you do this a whole new destiny awaits to be discovered, enjoyed and shared. You become a new person in God’s eyes. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. That is the Joy promised at Christmas. That is the reality secured at Calvary. That is the gift offered by Jesus Christ on behalf of the Father and it is yours to be claimed by faith. What a great way to end the year and face the New Year.

Today make it your day for claiming Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. 2 Corinthians 6:2
Ray Hawkins Dec 28.2014.)



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Roundup

What are the features most prominent at Christmas time for Christians to hear, read and see? Shepherds, the star, wise men and of course the babe in the manger. All of these grab our attention and fascinate us with their various amounts of mystery surrounding them. However, there is so much more to the Christmas event which so many of us never seem to hear about.

A number of the New Testament books hold various key facts and factors about Christmas. When we put them together, as best we can, an awesome, powerful, majestic and definitely mysterious picture emerges. From Matthew we see the birth of the promise king in the Davidic line. Luke gives to us the fact that the Bethlehem baby is the promised Second Adam. As such, this Jesus is the Saviour of all. John goes beyond the historical and into the wonder of the eternal. He is overwhelmed by the fact that this baby who became a man is none other than Emmanuel, God with us. How this could be has been wrestled with ever since.

Paul in writing to the Philippians tries to help us come to grips with this mystery of grace. His version of Christmas is in chapter 2:6-7: ‘though he (Christ Jesus) was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.’

In Hebrews 2:5 the writer expresses his view of the purpose for Christmas. It was to receive a body without blemish so as to fulfil the symbolisms undergirding the Old Testament sacrificial system. For that body to be free of a sin nature required the virgin birth promised in Isaiah 7:14. The book unfolds the wonder of why Christmas was necessary to the completion of God’s revealed word and symbols from Genesis to Malachi. Again and again through the New Testament we are faced with the reality that the Christmas event is more than an act of God. Rather it is God Himself in action, coming into humanity’s realm to save and lift up to His realm.

When writing to Titus the apostle Paul used the word ‘Epiphany’, which has the meaning of light being shone. Paul in effect says that Christmas became the time when the kindness and love of God lit up and penetrated history. That light was not something created. It refers to the one who is the Light of the world who came into the darkness of Humanity’s existence. As you can grasp Christmas is much more than the cherished account of shepherds and wise men and a manger. When we take the time to look at it from the whole of Scripture we must surely be overcome with wonder.

In the words of Peter, Christmas isn’t a fairy story but fulfilled prophesy. In writing to the Church he wrote ‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eye witnesses of his majesty’. (2 Peter 1:16) Notice Christmas is the power of God bound up in a dependent, vulnerable baby. That power continues today, not because of the events of Bethlehem but of Calvary thirty three years late. However one without the other is impossible.

As you celebrate Christmas enjoy the family time, the Church services and various activities. However, do not lose sight of the mystery, the majesty and the marvel which surrounds this event. It is to draw us into a commitment of our lives to the One who committed His life to us so as to save us from sin, from judgement and eternal rejection. Christmas is the kindness of God preparing a safe place for us before He comes in judgement.

copyright Ray Hawkins 22.12.2014.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Were the Angels kidding

Adam as a modern day angel
The land was occupied territory and zealots (today’s terrorist or freedom fighters) carried out guerrilla raids. So much political and religious corruption existed it made the faithful depressed. Surrounding nations and their leaders played the political power games for their own advantage whilst the common folk suffered.  Across the world today many can relate to the situation in Israel the night the angels sang.
Imagine those shepherds outside of Bethlehem minding the sheep. Those men were very low in the status ratings of the community and considered unreliable or unwanted witnesses in court. Sitting out there and on guard against animal and human predators was probably nerve wracking. Every strange noise could be magnified in their minds as a potential threat. Suddenly the night lights up and an angel appears soon surrounded by a host of others. Did they imagine their earthly days had come to an end?

It is easy to understand why the angel said “Fear not!” as he would have seen their stricken faces. However it is the following words which must have confused them even more. “I bring you good tidings of great joy”. Those men sure could do with some good news and lots of joy in their circumstances. Were they about to be given a map to buried treasure? Maybe they would be transformed into princes? How deflated they may have felt when the angels told them that the Saviour long promised through the lineage of King David had come. Well maybe not deflated but thrilled if they were men who longed for the promises of their Scriptures about the coming one.
How would the announcements of the angels actually work out in their life, the country’s experience and down to our day? For after the shepherds had seen the baby Jesus and spread the news not much joy flowed. Later King Herod who was becoming more and more deranged had infant boys of Bethlehem killed in his endeavour to destroy the baby Jesus. Tears, not joy flowed. Where was the joy, for the shepherds and the nation, during thirty silent years as Jesus grew to manhood? Did the angels wonder at what they said?

Maybe you, along with others, have similar wonderings as you sing carols and enjoy this Christmas time. You probably don’t wonder about the fact of the person called Jesus, but wonder about the joy promised. This is especially true if you have lived through abuse, poverty, war and injustices. How can the Joy promised at Jesus’ earthly arrival infect, affect and inject joy into your life?
The joy promised is bound up in the person and the accomplishments of Jesus. Not as the baby nor the boy but as the crucified and risen warrior Lord of Calvary. His joy was to do the Father’s will. His joy was to flesh out the promises of the Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi. His joy was to see you as putting your trust in Him as your personal Lord and Saviour. (Hebrews 12:1-3) How then can His joy be ours?

Regardless of your circumstances Jesus as the risen Christ (Messiah, Saviour) stands with you, keeps you as His own and has a place for you in His glory. You can find joy and peace in knowing God keeps His promises as recorded in the Scriptures. Sure they may seem a long time in coming but He has His time marked on the Calendar of Heaven, not earths’. His joy in you turns your pain into testimony to your faith that Jesus reigns. You know it by faith, it will one day be tangible. You may not realise it but His joy in you and for you creates a spiritual and moral fragrance that impacts those who enter your sphere of influence.

Story of Christmas as promised in Bible.
The angels weren’t kidding in their announcement that the world was about to be confronted with the Gospel (good news). Nor did they exaggerate that joy would pour out upon men and women around the globe who bowed the knee, not to the baby but to the promised one of Scripture who had come.

Regardless of your personal circumstances may the announcement by the angels be fulfilled in you! May the Joy of the Lord be your hope, delight, strength, comfort and song at this season and all through the year!

Copyright Ray Hawkins 2014.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Jesus = Emmanuel and Second Adam

Christmas time stirs up consideration of the One Christians call Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. The reasons for this are many. One of the main ones centres upon the Biblical claim that within the person of this Man dwelt two natures. This is expressed in the titles 'Emmanuel' (God with us) and the Second Adam (highlighting His humanity.) Controversy has waged over the centuries with  protagonists emphasising one aspect of Christ's nature of the other.

The Bible allows the tension of these two to abide without trying to solve the mystery. It is a faith matter similar to accepting the mystery of the One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in One. From out of the  discussion about Jesus and His humanity arises the question, was Jesus a man of His time? What then would be the implications of, ‘Any understanding of Jesus must be based on the fact that Jesus was a man of His own time’ and also the statement, ‘His knowledge was but the knowledge of His time.’

I understand that Jesus did not know all that the Father had in mind for Him or the future. This is evident from Mark 13:32 where Jesus admitted that He as the Son didn’t know when the ‘fig tree’ would blossom. I understand this limitation of and on Jesus was part of His living the life of dependence on and faith in His Father’s will. He lived out what He calls us to do. What are the implications of Jesus being a man of His time and having His knowledge limited to that time? Does this mean He is fallible in some of His statements? If so what? Does it mean we in this 21st A.D. century can know more that Jesus did whilst on earth? To accept that is to undermine His authority and the credibility of Genesis to Revelation. Jesus upheld creation, Adam and Eve, marriage, Noah’s flood (amongst other matters) all of which today are considered either unscientific or outdated.

May I suggest we gain a clue to Christ’s apparent lack of knowledge on certain matters from John 5:19,20,30. John 17:8.  John 8:28 is a good summary: ‘Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realise that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but speak these things as the Father instructs me.”’ (NRSV) He was in tune with the Father and shared what the Father revealed to Him at that time. He wasn’t doing His own bidding. Was this also an expression of Jesus being the prophet also? Now this puts us into a difficult position if we dismiss aspects of what Jesus taught as simply being due to the knowledge of the time. It makes the Father also fallible. It makes 21st century man wiser than the Father and the Son as well as the Scriptures. Such a thing is not only impossible, it is ridiculous!

The mystery of Jesus as Emmanuel and the second Adam at the same time remains. His testimony as to His teaching must be two fold. A diligent study of His Bible and a dependence upon listening to His Father must undergird what He taught and did. I believe we can build our lives, faith, and hope upon Jesus as being the infallible teacher , the one we call Lord and Saviour.
Copyright Ray Hawkins 7.12.2014.