Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sickness: diagnosed and its cure

MP900400830[1].jpgYahweh, the health giver is also Yahweh-Tsidkenu, the God of righteousness.  The story of Israel highlights the fact, you cannot have one without the other. The nation wanted abundance from the land, victory of invaders and good health. What they walked away from was righteousness. This meant they walked into judgement. God keeps His word. Four hundred and ninety years after entering the land of Promise, Israel was in bondage to Babylon. The reason is 2 Chronicles 36:15-21. This had been foretold in Deuteronomy 28.

Ill health usually takes time to possess a person. It can be aided by the individual’s poor habits and unhealthy lifestyle which ultimately causes serious damage, even death. A similar principle is noticed in the long slide into the moral, spiritual, mental and national illness and decay of Judah. Isaiah the prophet stressed the cumulative effect of this under the diagnosis of Yahweh. Jeremiah also emphasised this truth. We will get his health assessment another day. The prophets, when speaking about healing refer to God’s work on and in the Nation, not the individual. What they say takes us back to the Leviticus and Deuteronomy readings.

Christians delight in Isaiah 53, and rightly so. Some, with a particular mind-set and teaching concerning (Christian) healing lay claim to the same chapter. Is this justified? It often appears that promoters of healing miss Isaiah’s point and Moses’ warning. Look at Isaiah chapter one. Notice the straight talking of the prophet in describing the Nation’s health. Is it any wonder it was heading for captivity! ‘The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; that have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil.’ Isaiah 1:5-6 (emphasis added).

It cannot be done here due to lack of space, but as you read the prophets make a note of the Nation’s condition. Leaders and the general community imagined God couldn’t see their practices, or if He did, He was indifferent to them. How easy it is to confuse the long-suffering patience of the Lord with indifference. The curse found in Deuteronomy 28 was operating slowly but surely. Sadly, the Nation’s spiritual sensitivity was dead.

One last act of grace was extended to Judah through Isaiah. Yahweh invited the leaders and people to a discussion in Isaiah 1:18. He offered cleansing from their sin (and thereby deliverance from the full force of the curse). The condition, their willingness and obedience. But in chapter six you read they were so hard-hearted they were deaf to God’s appeal. The result, no healing. How could their Covenant keeping God deal with them and fulfil His promises and purposes? Only by the eliminating of their disobedience, iniquities and the curse. What could make this possible? It would require more than the animal sacrifices.

A great note is struck in Isaiah 52. It is a promise to Jerusalem and deals with redemption and the return of the Lord to Zion. That hasn’t happened yet. How could it take place if the curse is still in force? It couldn’t! This is the backdrop to God’s revelation concerning the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He is appointed to be the sin-bearer, curse remover and the healer of the Nation’s sickness. We are prone to taking this chapter to ourselves without realising its primary application. It is dealing with Israel’s ‘infirmities, diseases, transgressions, iniquities.’ Verse 8 sums it up ‘He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.’ (Emphasis added) We believe this took place at the cross of Jesus Christ. The sadness is the Nation as a whole didn’t then haven’t yet realised it. The words of Jesus declare a day when the Nation will have eyes to see and a heart to believe. I cannot read Isaiah chapters 54-57, 62 and ignore such a future reality. ‘I have seen their ways, but I will heal them’ (57:18-19 emphasis added). Such healing requires the imparting of righteousness. That comes from the relationship with Jesus Christ as the suffering, crucified, risen, and now victorious Servant of Isaiah 53.

The wonder of wonders for me as a Gentile is recorded in Ephesians 2:11-22. That which Jesus achieved on the cross for Israel is open for me, for you. We do not become Israeli but members of the body of Christ. Romans 11 explains that and offers insight into the future for Israel.

©Ray Hawkins 24th August 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Yahweh's Health Promise

‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’ is a song from ‘The king and I.’ It expresses some of the reasons why I read the Bible. I want to know the Lord.  He has revealed His character and purposes through Israel and individual’s historical events. In certain cases He added a ‘surname’ to Yahweh. Genesis 22:14 is the first where He is called Yahweh-Jireh.

The second ‘surname’ is recorded in Exodus 15:26. Against the backdrop of Israel’s mumbling and grumbling at the waters of bitterness God graciously gave them a promise. First, He healed the waters. Moses had to throw a piece of a tree into the waters which cured the bitterness. (This is a type of the cross. Israel called the cross a tree in the light of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and Galatians 3:13.) Following on from that Yahweh made the nation a promise. Conditions were attached but it was to be a sign to them of their faithfulness to Yahweh’s commandments.

God had redeemed them and given them a mission. He had also determined that they would be a unique nation, separate from and distinct to the other nations. When their ways were in keeping with the character of God there would be blessings. These are spelt out in Leviticus 26. Forty years later they are re-issued to the second generation in Deuteronomy 28-30. One feature was that He would not bring upon them any of the diseases brought upon the Egyptians. (Deuteronomy 28:27-28). This was a promise to the Nation. It would have had individual implications but it was a sign to the Nation as to its spiritual condition. It was also tied in with their possession of the land. How they cared for ‘God’s land’ was part of their calling and accountability.

On the basis of His promise, Yahweh ‘surnames’ Himself Yahweh-Rophe, the God who heals. He knew they would fail. He provided a way by which they could maintain their uniqueness. That would be by repentance and the sacrificial system to be given at Mount Sinai. No other Nation had this promise. The other side of the proverbial ‘coin’ was the huge price for treating Yahweh with contempt by trampling His commands. This is clearly spelt out in the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passages. We are witnesses to the Lord’s judgement upon them in their history and their hardness of heart in the land today. However, Deuteronomy 30:1-10 promises a brighter and healthier future for them. We should never forget this. Yahweh is their healer as well as their scourge.

The sadness of this unique nation is in the fact that they didn’t want to be different. In 1st Samuel is the account of them wanting a king. There wasn’t much wrong with this request. It had already been legislated for in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Their problem was they wanted to be like the other nations. This is a constant ‘disease’ attacking people who belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 12:1-2 lays it on the line for us today. We are not to be conformed to this world, easier said than done. The World is ever trying to break us down and put us into its mould. Our power to resist and escape it is by the transforming power of a renewed mind. How does that come about? By knowing Christ Jesus in a fresh, intelligent and obedient manner through His word. Failure to keep our relationship fresh will have a hardening of our spiritual life, a deafening of our ears to His voice and a blindness to His path.

Next week we will look at such a hardening, deafness and blindness which affected Israel with terrible consequences. Isaiah spells it out in no uncertain terms. He also points us to how Yahweh had to deal with His curses upon the nation because of their unbelief and disobedience. Without this sacrifice and its fulfilment there could be no future for the Nation.

In closing, let’s read part of Psalm 103. This is usually applied to individuals in our day. Is it not David’s confidence in Yahweh-Rophe’s promise to which David looked especially on behalf of the Nation? ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits – who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit…’

©Ray Hawkins August 24th 2015.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Beware how you touch.

They had all the spiritual gifts yet they were the most carnal of believers. They had a heart for God (so they would say) but distaste for many of His disciples. They used their tongue to slay, wound or slander and at the same time sing praises to God. It didn’t seem to enter their minds that their professed spirituality was soulish and not of God. Why was their claim to being spiritual an insult to God? Because of the effect their attitude and actions were having upon the Church and witnessed by the community! Paul explained to them that in actual fact they were defiling Christ and His Church. ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17. NIV).  The  Corinthian church’s carnality is running hot and strong in Western Christendom today. It is inviting God’s retributive justice to fall. When? That is His decision.
Temple = the inner sanctuary. This is a picture of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple being transferred to a believer’s inner being. When the Holy Spirit comes into a person he/she becomes the ‘naos’, the inner sanctuary of the temple. It also applies to the Body of Christ on earth, His Church.  Therefore those who seek to corrupt one of God’s people actually touch the whole body. This in turn means that it is Jesus Christ who feels the effects of such action. (Remember Acts 9:3-6)  We all should keep this in the forefront of our minds when we interact, or react to people in worship, dispute, have business meetings or exercise rebuke.

Destroy = to corrupt or defile. The New Testament gives some very definitive examples of what this means. It also warns about Christ’s wrath and judgement upon such perpetrators. Acts 5 has the account of Ananais and Sapphira who tried to deceive the apostles and lie to God. Both were struck down. (If God continued this policy I wonder how many funerals would take place, daily).

There are numerous Scriptures which warn people about assailing, defiling, undermining the Church and its book. Such opposition arises after the local congregation, or an individual has had some wonderful expressions of God’s grace. These could be people saved, baptised, rescued from degenerative life styles. It may be after a new building has been dedicated and Christ is honoured. After God’s glory and grace is shared and witnessed too, the wrath of the kingdom of Darkness rises up.

Reading the New Testament letters it is apparent they were written to protect the Temple of God (the body of Christ) from defilement. The letters of Peter and Jude focus on false preachers and their greed, heresy and immorality. Six of the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 define the infiltrating purveyors of corruption. Also listed is their judgements. James warns against the runaway defiling power of the tongue plus the damaging power of lies, slander and coveting. Galatians unmasks those who degrade God’s grace through outward laws and regulations. Their words are as valid today as when written

The perpetrators ultimate experience is, they are defiled! The defiler ends up as a defiled, degraded and disallowed person in the Kingdom of God? Those who corrupt God’s people end up losing their own soul (Matthew 16:26). Why is the Lord so adamant in His opposition to such deceivers? I think it is because they belong to, or flirt with Babylon. Revelation 19:2 uses the same word as 1 Corinthians 3:17. It is translated corrupted. ‘He has condemned the great prostitute (Babylon) who corrupted (defiled) the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ Those who play by Babylon’s ethos or game plan share in ‘Her’ judgement. This is why the Lord God of Hosts word is ‘Come out of her before it is too late.’

The Body of Christ is being assailed by Babylon. The plan is to reject Biblical morality, the saving work of Christ on the cross, His deity, the inspiration and uniqueness of Scripture, the meaning and purpose of marriage, the sanctity of life, to name a few issues. How can we safeguard ourselves from being seduced or crushed by the Babylonian spirit?

'His (Christ Jesus) divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.' (2 Peter 1:3-4) 

You realise that the place where we find the knowledge of Christ is His word. He and his word are our escape route, our protection and our refuge.

©Ray Hawkins August 17th 2015.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shape up! More than a Gym workout

Before I became a Christian, life was uncomplicated. I was hell bound but oblivious of the fact. I liked going to church. It had good fellowship teas, sports teams, and girls. There were youth groups, Christian Endeavour and camps. The ministers were fine men who taught the Scriptures. Trouble was, I happened to be spiritually deaf to it and ‘blind’ to my condition. That was until God had had enough of my stupidity.

“Shape up or ship out” filled my mind one evening.

Shaping up to the Lord’s expectations has been an ongoing drama, challenge, pleasure and battle. As mentioned last week when I became a disciple something in me died. The ‘Old Man/sin nature’ was crucified. The Saviour gave me new life. Trouble was, it lived in an old body, with a soul nature twisted, stained and motivated by self –interest. It was sometime before I understood my inner conflict. That happened, in part, by reading Romans 7. Paul seemed to have had a similar struggle. A part of the explanation of my inner conflict in regards to shaping up was due to where faith in Christ placed me. When I accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord He enlisted me into His combat team.

Suddenly, life became complicated. I set out to do the right thing and my soul nature came up with all types of excuses why it was a bad idea. ‘Think about your image, your interests, the cost or what will people say?’ My spirit would intervene and warn me that I belonged to the Lord and was accountable to Him. My soul was egged on by the Devil and the World system saying everything was alright. Whenever I yielded I found all three to be deceivers. I failed. I was miserable. My testimony was scarred.

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t dishonourably discharge me. Disciplined, yes, but not forsaken. He had made that promise for which I am eternally grateful.

How did Paul express his sense of relief and confidence in not being ‘drummed out’ or left to ‘rot’ in self-pity? ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Romans 7:24-25). What does our thanks include? The very fact that the Lord doesn’t abandon us. We had been seduced, tripped or tricked into ungodliness and disobedience and now we recognised it. Sorrow leads to repentance. Repentance leads to restoration. Although we have unseen but real scars on our mind the Lord Jesus renews our relationship. It seems to me that proof of our ‘Old Man’ being crucified is a sadness about how we have failed the Lord and his calling. 1 John 3:9 makes the point that the crucified believer does not continue in sin. When he falls (or jumps) into it he is unsettled and disappointed because he has let Jesus down. Repentance is the attitude which allows the Lord to reach down and pull us out of the guilt, shame and recriminations of the accuser. Sure, we will need a good ‘washing’ of our inner life which God’s word unleashes. It's our responsibility to make sure we get into its ‘bath.’

Romans 7 needs to be read into chapter 8. ‘There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ We will have our regrets and memory flashbacks but we cannot be blackmailed by the powers of Darkness. Christ Jesus has dealt with it on the basis of His crucifixion and being our Advocate. We can only overcome our ‘flashbacks’ by filling our heart and mind with gratitude for His grace and following Philippians 4:8’s advice.

When I was a new recruit for Christ Jesus I thought my calling would become easier as I aged. Silly boy! The ‘shaping up’ process merely takes on different dimensions. I’ve likened my calling by Christ into His fellowship as a spiritual ‘boot-camp’ which leads to life’s battlegrounds. Fortunately, I was not left to my own devices. The Lord God of Hosts gave me His Holy Spirit as my personal trainer (and Sergeant Major). Into my hands was placed the Warrior Lord’s manual to know and obey. He also placed me into a company of other recruits, all of different spiritual maturity and national heritage. I sure have had need of them over the years.

After sixty years I look back in wonder at the grace and patience of my Commanding Officer and Lord. Jesus never gave up on me – nor will He give up on you! He still confronts me with the challenge, ‘shape up’ but there is never the slightest threat or hint about what made me ‘shape up’ six decades ago. Thank you Lord Jesus for making me and keeping me yours!
Ray Hawkins. August 10 2015.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

I've been crucified - yet I'm alive

Heaven, however defined, seems to be the heart’s goal after life on earth. Most people imagine it to be an improved version of earth in which they simply make an entrance through death. Trouble with that is Heaven would quickly become the type of Hell we have made earth to be.

According to the Judeo-Christian Bible holiness is the atmosphere of Heaven. That poses a problem for Humankind. None of us would pass the moral and spiritual ‘X-Ray’ investigation of our heart and mind. Also, from the Bible’s pages it is evident that there is only a certain quality of life capable of enjoying the atmosphere where God dwells.

What does the Scriptures reveal about our inner condition that makes us unacceptable to scrutiny by the Lord? ‘Sin’ would be the most common descriptive word. Fair enough. But what causes this offensive moral, spiritual, relational force? Romans 6:6 defines it as ‘The Old Man.’ We may not like the Biblical explanation for the ‘Old Man’s’ existence, as given in Genesis 3, the sad fact however is, we are infected and indwelt by It. People try all types of moral and spiritual cosmetics to soften, dilute or disarm ‘the Old Man’s’ expressions and power so as to pass Heaven’s ‘X-Ray’. There is only one way to pass the test. That is to have this indwelling Heaven offending ‘monster’ removed.


This would require a death and removal experience and at the same time a replacement to fill the void created by the ‘Old Man’s’ expulsion. All this is beyond our human capacity. For it to happen the Lord God of Heaven must choose to do it on our behalf and give us an indication that it has worked. Here again is another aspect of the wonder, the mystery and the power of the cross of Christ. The words of Galatians 2:20 unveil to our mind what Heaven has done to our soul: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me…’

When Christ was crucified He accomplished and fulfilled a myriad of Biblical symbolisms, prophecies, justifications with death dealing removal of the ‘Old Man’. In Romans 6 Paul says we were ‘co-crucified with Christ.’ It was there on the cross Jesus saw you down the tunnel of time and reached out, embraced you into His agony, death, burial and resurrection. For you that only became a personal reality when you heard and believed the good news of Jesus and the purpose of His crucifixion and resurrection.

What was left behind when Jesus rose from the tomb? The ‘Old Man’ of our soul. For if Jesus embraced us on the cross, He held on to us in His resurrection. Faith infuses us with the knowledge that we share in His resurrection life. He shares our life through the presence of His Holy Spirit. That answers the question raised above as to the quality of life required for Heaven. It is resurrection life! It also solves the problem of the ‘X-Ray’ investigation of our inner life. There is no evidence of that corrupt, offensive and antagonistic presence of the ‘Old Man’ of the soul.

How do we celebrate this unseen yet very real life and destiny transforming reality? Roman 6 links it with baptism. The Holy Spirit takes us in a moment of time when we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord and puts us into Christ and his experience on the cross. This then is expressed outwardly by a personal immersion in water as a testimony and identification with and for Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 and 8:38-39 plus 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Where does all this lead us?

We begin a journey of discovery, worship, service and spiritual battles with forces opposed to Jesus Christ and His purposes. Some of those matters we have looked at before and others are still to come. However, in the concluding words of Galatians 2:20 ‘the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’


©Ray Hawkins August 2015.