Sunday, January 28, 2018

The difficulty in being 'dead'!

If I’m dead, why am I still tempted, tested and enjoy the trivial? Can I share with you this doctrine and, for me, the dilemma associated with the Christian life?

The New Testament repeatedly informs its readers about the momentous event at Calvary. Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6 declares that Christ embraced me (and you) when He was crucified. He died! We did too, in Him! But my problem was first written up by Paul. Romans 7:15-24. We know how he felt when he wrote ‘I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I should, and what I hate, I do!’

Why is it so?

The doctrinal implications about my death must be understood first of all from God’s vantage point. Following on from grasping the wonder that talks about we are faced with the moral expression of it in our life and living. As if that was all there was to it we then discover a ‘monster’ in our human nature.

How God views me – you - after a faith commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We, who were unclean, dead in sin and enemies are now alive to Him, cleansed, forgiven, justified.  We are no longer in the kingdom of Darkness but in the Kingdom of His Son1! We are seated with Him in the Heavenly places2. That which prevented us from having a relationship with God and barred us from Heaven eternally has been crucified, removed, buried! Romans 6:6 defined it as ‘the old man.’  God sees me and you as His - now. Trouble for me hovers around the fact that I have to work out in daily life what God has wrought in me. Easy, if we were in Heaven. Difficult as we who are ‘dead’ are still operating in World dominated by the Kingdom of darkness. We are confronted by doubts about our death, how to please God and controlling our very active memories and the twisted tastes of our soul.

What then am I, or you, to do when people claim to have a better way to be dead?

There has always been some who claimed to really be alive to Christ was to become a Jew first. That meant keeping the Mosaic Law as well as believing on Jesus. This was actually refuted by the man who claimed he had kept the law rigorously. Then he discovered the Mosaic couldn’t save him. That was Paul. Read Philippians 3 for his testimony.

This brilliant man didn’t say Jesus had killed the Law. No! It was still operating with its curse on failure and powerless to forgive after condemnation. In Romans 7:4 this upholder of salvation as supremely and solely by faith in Christ wrote believers are dead to the Law. We live in a new realm. The mandate for our life and living is to set our affections on Christ and to unleash His righteousness through our obedience to Him and His will. The Church council in Acts 15 did not require Gentile believers to place themselves under the yoke of the Law of Moses. Why? Because it could only tell us the wages of sin is death but it couldn’t give us life. In our commitment to Christ we have paid the penalty of sin which came when Adam transgressed God’s word. The Law of Moses defined some of the specific areas in which all ‘crash and burn’.

I, being a Gentile, was never under the Law. However, I was bound by my pagan and philosophical traditions with their avenues of escaping judgement. I still am surrounded by them but being redeemed from them I am dead to their influence. As I read the New Testament letters I gain an understanding of those traditions that no longer should dictate to me my views about God and my relationship with Him. I must realise that I’m dead to old and profane wives fables and pseudo-science3.

There is a majestic passage in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. It speaks of our victory over the most dreaded time to come. Faith in Christ makes us share in His death and resurrection. We have new life and new dwelling arrangements. Unfortunately, for those who reject the grace of Christ Jesus and shun joining Him in His cross and resurrection they experience a death to which we have died. In Revelation 2:11 and 20:6 the promise is given to believers that we have no part in what is called ‘The second death.’ In Revelation 20:14 the destiny of those not dead to sin and their ‘old man’ and therefore alive in Christ are delivered into that realm. The ‘Second Death’ is no fun park but a place of gnashing teeth and tears of regret.

 1Colossians 1:13. 2Ephesians 1:3.  31 Timothy 6:20.

Next week: Poem of the month.


©Ray Hawkins 28th January 2018.

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.